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COOPS Weekly - Life from Kansas #41

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

I wanted to share something about my newsletters...I focus a lot on how we interact with our guards/co’s/staff...because frankly I think it is super interesting (and it is a very big deal to is probably biggest single thing we discuss).

It is a mystery to me why most of the staff work here. They don’t appear to like their job. They certainly don’t like the inmates (for some it seems like downright hatred toward us). On the flip side I do understand why some of them work here...they get paid well, have zero accountability, and face no repercussions for avoiding doing their job. But keep in mind this is not just what I think...this is what the CO's/staff say. I have had this conversation with a number of the staff on multiple occasions...They would be the first people to give this analysis.

That being is not all bad...there are some good ones. I have several CO's I work with in the kitchen and they are good people. My boss in the kitchen is a good boss (tough but fair). One of my other bosses from the kitchen literally came by while I was writing this week’s newsletter and I read this paragraph to him. He shares fun stories all the time and is a hard worker. The head of the food warehouse goes the extra mile when he can. Lastly...The RDAP DTS's all have their strengths and I think it is fair to say they do genuinely care about our treatment. My DTS Ms. Katz is a wonderful person anywhere in the world (especially in here) ...she is smart, works hard, and shows genuine empathy to the inmates (when it is deserved...which I’m sure is hard to determine). Just like there are some brutal staff I will acknowledge there are also some brutal inmates.

Until recently I have never thought about what it is like for them.... I can’t imagine working in a prison is easy. I know I lean on the side of inmates because I am one...but I also try to be as objective as possible. Unfortunately, most of the BOP workers I see or hear about just aren’t pleasant people. Nobody smiles, says hi, or even speaks normally...If you could be treated worse, I would like to see how. It is just how it is.

I celebrated my 48th birthday this week.

Going to be hard to top this venue next year. It actually was really fun. Everyone chipped in and we cooked for most of the upstairs and downstairs (we all bought Doritos & tortilla chips, cheese, chili, veggies from the garden, etc.) and made a feast. We pushed several table's together and made a huge NACHO table for everyone to eat. After the nacho's we had burritos (another Scott was cooking all night...He made over 25 monster burritos we cut in half).

One of the funny things about being in prison is it forces you to be creative.... I got some very clever gifts. Monogrammed hanker chef (made out of dish towels) with the letter C (ha...super funny), a crossword puzzle with all RDAP terms, a wooden spork (sporks are gold around here since we are not allowed good silverware), & homemade raspberry cake (Think raspberry twinkie).

This place is overrun by flies. We have flies EVERYWHERE. Fly’s when you type, Fly’s when you eat...Fly’s when you sleep.It’s sucks

Every day we program in the gym for RDAP. RDAP hours IN THE GYM are usually from 7am to 8am (then we program in other places from 8am to 10:30am like the visitor center/ DAP activity room/Outside, etc.). The Dog program (education runs the dog program) uses the Gym sometime after 9am. They have group classes where all the dogs run through an obstacle training course (it is fun to watch). Keep in mind various staff in RDAP also work with the Dog Program (education) so there is overlap (they decide who gets in the program/interview candidates). So you would think everyone (the staff) is all friendly.

So, from time to time, we need to use the Gym after 9am which conflicts with when the dog program needs to use the Gym.

This causes some friction which the inmates know about but I am not sure are DTS/Dr. know about. Yesterday the head of the dog program was furious that we were in the gym when he was supposed to be in there. He told the dog program inmates to come in with all the dogs and start practicing with them while we were in our big meeting. They didn’t do it (that would have been hilarious). The ended up going outside and working with the dogs...but this happens quite a bit. A horrible position to be in as an inmate is when you are told to do something by staff but that action will potentially cause problems with another staff member. A showdown over the gym is coming soon I can feel it.

The SHU (special housing unit) is so overcrowded they are letting people out in droves. so, people that would have probably never come back to the camp are coming back. There continues to be chaos up at the Leavenworth medium prison since it has become more of pre-trial center for offenders that still have trial TBD. Because it is pre-trial there is no CARS that maintain order. CARs basically are just your race in a group that maintain control for the inmates. I have mentioned this before but most people run in CARs. Black. White. Hispanic...or they can go by location. CA, Texas, Etc. If you have a problem or on the flip side you cause a problem the head of your car deals with it. Since the people in pretrial aren’t there for long (supposedly) the CARs don’t really form.... therefore, inmates are breaking the rules they usually would not at other prisons. Hopefully that made sense.

One of the crazy things I noticed seeing some inmates come back from the SHU is they were finally OFF of drugs. Some of these guys I have ONLY seen high on meth. When I first got here, I didn’t know what someone looked like super high. I just thought they had some weird tendencies. I really have never had any exposure to meth (which is by far the dominant drug here). Fellow inmates pointed it out. While on meth inmates do all sorts of things...draw, play cards, or work all day (or drink/party) really reminds me of seeing someone on Adderall (there super focused). Others who have been on it for a long-time twitch and/or make dramatic facial expressions. Some look completely normal and you would never know they were using. Anyway, one individual who just got back looked like an entirely different person. I never thought I would see this guy again. When he was last at the camp he overdosed and was drug outside by one of the Kitchen CO's and NARCANED (drug to help with overdoses) ...Not once....4 TIMES!!! Thats crazy. He was dead. He is a nice guy...I’m hoping he can stay off everything in here. It will be hard.... drugs are so prevalent here. There are plenty of people that really didn’t do drugs until they got here. They try Meth thinking it will help pass the time and they get hooked. People you would never suspect. Sad.

Craziest thing I have heard or seen at the LPC this week

This one is probably one of the craziest stories I have heard yet (well a story that blew my mind). Wives/girlfriends have some crazy experiences of their own visiting prisons/camps. There interactions with guards can be less than ideal. Several wives passed on eerily similar stories of situations where when they came to visit and were hit on by guards. These stories take a while to make it to the husbands since significant others are obviously worried about something going down that could prolong incarceration if they told their spouse about these incidents...and messing with spouses is an area that could cause people to lose their cool. Wives are asked out repeatedly in the parking lot/visiting room/CAR...given ultimatums that if they didn’t respond positively, they would take it out on the inmate. There are wives that simply don’t visit anymore because they don’t want to deal with this situation. As crazy as this need to understand how powerless you are here to deal with situations like this. Even if the issue is reported nothing is done...Wives complain and their husband will be punished. That is nuts...

OJO is back. OJO was released from the SHU after a couple days. He was an absolute wreck. He thought he was facing another prolonged stay there. Once there you have the right to see the Lieutenant. He went in front of the Lieutenant (he is the ranking officer that overlooks your situation) and explained his situation. The l Lieutenant figured out that there is an issue between OJO and the CO. He told OJO to avoid staff (which he is trying to do but it is not easy). OJO needs to be perfect.... Like so many things I am only able to tell you half the story. I did want to tell you he is back and we are grateful...He is a good guy. This situation is anything but over....

A friend of my father and I (someone I became close to since coming to prison) just landed at the BUTNER prison camp (supposedly the JEWEL of the BOP) in North Carolina. He has been in lockdown since day one at this point a month. I asked dad to include his email about his experience to show everyone it is not just is everywhere. My advice to him going in was that he be prepared for chaos...and he was. I get countless stories every day from inmates who transfer in from different places and the stories blow your mind.

His story is below...and it is fascinating.

Hi Don! As an update, we were still under full lockdown until Tuesday, and things were getting pretty ugly. Tough to be locked in all the time except for chow, and commissary was cut to $25 from $180 so I really wasn't able to get anything. The COs were really hassling everyone with incessant standing counts and cell tossing. On Monday morning the inmates finally had it and went on a hunger strike. No one showed up for chow causing the kitchen to throw away hundreds of pounds of food (if that's what you want to call it). Phones and email were turned off immediately (this has happened numerous times, as well as for 4 days when I arrived). The Camp Counselors and COs came into the units and offered food but all passed. Tough for me, because my deepest desire is to lay low and not get involved with this sort of thing. By noon the second day the assistant warden showed up with other directors, captains, lieutenants and about 50 COs in riot gear, tear gas and rubber bullet guns, and three school buses. There was a lot of heated back and forth with the captain taking my way or the highway stance, and then the edict was to get to the chow hall for 10am lunch with IDs, go in and get food trays, or get charged with unlawful assembly and inciting a riot (good for extra years) and get on the busses to be taken to the SHUs of surrounding FCIs. It was tense to say the least, and I was scared shitless. It was a rock and a hard place moment for me because I wasn't about to go to a SHU, and also didn't want to get called out as a scab/snitch. As it turned out, after a small number pushed back and were immediately cuffed and taken away, about half the camp sat down (as did I with a group of older guys I usually hang out in the library with - I didn't eat, "I'm on a diet" [and have already lost 20lbs, so my story was easy]) with their trays (few ate) and most of the other half took trays and then promptly dumped them.

We were then asked to go back to our units, but not before a group of 5 people were chosen to air grievances. At about 3pm we were all called to the visiting area for a town hall meeting with the Butner complex warden, and after waiting for more than a hour he showed, lit in to everyone, but then softened his position saying that if there were no more contraband for the rest of the week, and if the Camp were cleaned up (this is a filthy bleep hole on a good day) that he would come off of the full lockdown next week, open up commissary, etc.... As a good faith gesture, he opened the yard up for the rest of the day. It was the first time I saw it. Run down, everything falling part and ramshackle, but it was glorious to be outside.

Hopefully all of this part of the Butner "Crown Jewel" nightmare will be over soon. Hell, I didn't ask for this but hey, this is the BOP, and when, during all of the webinars they always said to expect the unexpected and be prepared to pivot, those statements really hit home. You can share that as well!

On a happy note, I had my first unit team meeting with my case manager and the camp director, and instead of the cursory two minutes that most cynically talked about, I was in for nearly half an hour (it could have gone a bit longer but they cut the meeting short for fear that it would raise suspicion), and after they gave their spiel for about five minutes they asked if I had any questions at which point I took out a two page list I prepared the night before, started asking and much to my surprise, they engaged. At one point while the Camp manager was answering a question, the case manager was writing, and I told him that I thought I had much of what he needed in my bag, and then slyly and with great joy gave him my release plan which he skimmed, smiled and said he would read. It was a great moment indeed.

(NOW I READ THIS and thought to myself this will not end as well as he thinks it will. Something will go wrong again and this special relationship he perceives will fall apart. Sure enough that is exactly what happened. The case manager has been gone for almost a month).

On another note, how is Scott doing? I always chuckle, because of the many things he's had to endure thus far, I'm now in a position to say that my residence is just as bad, or are they all terrible. I suspect, for the most part, the latter.”

All the best, Randle P. McMurphy (a nom de plume)

Scott again -- I MISS EVERYONE...

Dad Comment I am asked by some what a SHU is (Special Housing Unit). It is also known as “the hole.” The SHU is basically a jail within a prison.

Weekly newsletter.week 41
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