I recently had the opportunity to read Volume I of your newsletter, and found it very intriguing. I was so impressed by the pure premise of your organization that I was inspired to join the fight.
First, in order for one to fight and defeat an opponent, one must first attempt to understand one’s opponent. Some insight:
The people who work in this establishment whether in or out of uniform are a major part of the problem. The problem that is faced, in one word, “bureaucracy.” This organization is the quintessential bureaucracy. As with any and all bureaucracies over time the initial goals are lost. The objective changes and everyone begins to feel entitled. Entitled to to do the least amount of work as possible, which is the crux of the problem. The majority of the employees who work in this establishment feel as if working for the betterment of the profession or the inmate is above and beyond the call of duty. Easily 96% of the employees who work in DCJ are under this disillusion that the less they do the more pay they will receive. Which is the opposite of the real world. But it is the culture that is perpetuated here.
The problem begins at the top. An antiquated leader will render any organization obsolete and dysfunctional if he does not change with the times. Name one business/organization that thrives on antiquated theories…none. OK, here is what I am going to do, because the plight of the inmate is so enormous I will break my correspondence down into maybe 5 or 6 parts.
So, where should I begin? Well, I guess I will begin at the top. There is a total disconnect from leadership through subordinates on basically every level, hence why there are so many different issues. A new rule may come from the top of the chain of command and by the time it reaches the next link in the chain it has already begun to mutate. Therefore by the time that rule finally reaches the bottom of the chain (the pod officer) the premise is no longer clear, and therefore ignored. Every rule in this facility is open to interpretation because rules are rarely written down, and when they are written the objective is not clear. If the rule is unclear it is hard enough for the average person to follow, let along someone who is not motivated to begin with. Then you add the lack of follow up and the knowledge that there are no consequences for not following the rules. You end up with an interesting phenomenon: an environment where nothing gets accomplished. You get a system that is reactive and not proactive. By the time they react that miniscule problem has become enormous. Here is an example:
Problem: Defacing of cells
Their solution: Take all pencils; leaving pod with ten.
Backstory: From the beginning the rule has been if someone defaces a cell that person would receive a street charge. That is simple enough, right? A pod officer does his rounds twice an hour and if he finds anyone defacing a cell he would simply write the inmate up. Over time the pod officers realized that there are no checks and balances, no consequence for not doing their job correctly, the rest is just human nature. The pod officer begins to feel empowered, and begin to interpret their rules so that they best fit the needs of that particular officer. So, because the pod officer failed to do his job, and supervisors failed to do their jobs, because the system lacks checks and balances. The inmate ends up paying the price for the ineptitude of an antiquated system.
Now because of the knee jerk reaction of the problem of defacement they have created more problems. The simple solution would have been pod officers do their job, but that was too easy. They decided they needed a bigger challenge and created even more problems.
Problem one: 10 pencils for an average of 50 inmates per pod, on a first-come, first-served basis. With no way of sharpening pencils. Great idea, right? The inmates are supposed receive sharpened pencils every time they are granted access to the dayroom. 5 times out of seven we do not have ten pencils, let alone sharpened ones.
Problem two: We are not allowed in our cells with pencils, and we have limited access to the multipurpose room. That leaves the inmate without a quiet place to write a loved one or legal representation.
Problem three: Without pencils in the cell, what is left for an inmate to do over sixteen daily hours locked in a cell? Remember the inmate has very limited access to the library. So, when access to the dayroom is granted, the decibel level is so high one can hardly hear oneself think. Can you imagine trying to write a letter?
Problem four: The ineptitude of the pod officer to control his pod. With elevated decibel levels, the younger inmates running around as if this was some kind of playground, the pod often seems out of control. Which is why there is so much violence and most of it undocumented by staff. Because the staff hates doing paperwork. It is so bad at times that you hear inmates scream fight night when certain officers are on.
In closing, you would be hard pressed to find any officer who is following the spirit of the rules, or any supervisor who consistently enforces them. This is just a microcosm of this flawed system.