Friday, March 12, 2010

#87 Definitions of Prison (retro)

Definitions of Prison

I think this is my 5th post today, so I have reached my limit for Soulcast, since I can only post 5 for every 24 hours. I posted my first of those five just after midnight, so after this I can’t post again there. And because I want to make sure all 7 blogsites have the same info, I won’t post on the others either until I have the ability to do so.

Before I begin, I urge you guys to email me and ask me about my books or how to support my writing. I am getting close to 100 blogs, which is about 300 pages of writing. Not bad, especially since I have restarted this only a couple of months ago.

But I also want to make sure you understand what you are reading as well: you are reading opinions based off experiences of a guy that has done time in prison. By no means have I ever implied that prison was “cool” or that the victims of any crime should be ignored. Nor have I attempted to mislead anyone to send me money other than your own free will.

Prison writing is a unique art, and a condemnable one as well. People are not going to believe that any ex offender can turn his life around, nor are many going to even give him or her that chance. Yet at least HALF of this country suffers from either someone being in jail/prison or being there themselves. Millions and millions of people have been in and out of prison in the last 10 years alone, multiply that by the families of those inmates, or friends or loved ones. This folks, is a TREMENDOUS number.

Yet in all this, so few guys talk about prison, leaving it up to the imagination of others, and second or third hand information passed around on sites. There could easily be 10 million guys and women free right now that can share experiences on prison, but the smallest of fractions are doing so. I don’t blame any person for not doing it, I never intended to do it myself, but here I am.

At any rate, I hope you support whomever you get your info from. If it is me, then my email is derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com to ask about support of my writings, or my books or even questions about prison.

Ok, let’s share some definitions on prison.

I have my Rules and Policies booklet, known in NC prisons as the “green book” since it is green (duh). I got this when I entered the prison system and kept it even now. I told you guys I wrote a lot and came home with several bags full of prison writing and information; this is one of them.

I want to take some time and go over some of the definitions with you guys and discuss some things about prison as we go. Now I realize you could just as easily go online and find this info yourself, but that is not the info you are looking for.

I actually had an argument with some idiot on a NC forum about these rules, and challenged her on the thought that she wasn’t basing anything on the actual rules, rather what she THOUGHT she knew. I argued her case about work release by quoting word for word the text in the Rules and Policies handbook. I told her that if she had that book, she would have known what the rules were.

She came back with the link to the DOC site, with the Rules and Policies and tried to counter to me by saying, “now everybody has the same information”.

Not quite.

See, just because you have the info about prison does NOT mean you know as much as someone who has been there, because DOC tells you what THEY want you to know, not what actually happens in the life of an inmate.

I hope to prove some of that today, so let’s define some terms for you:

Administrative Segregation: An assignment status that temporarily removes an inmate from the general population and places them in a single cell on a short-term basis to provide the control or protection of the inmate pending final classification or disciplinary action.

A lot of you guys have heard of “seg” or “the hole”, and for most, this is where they put the problem inmates. If someone starts a fight or is in a fight, they put him here. Or, of an inmate feels he may in some form of danger, he can ask the prison to place him here too. Most times when an inmate is caught on a charge (whether guilty or not) they put him in seg cells.

This is a very fluid term depending on how the prison decides to use it. When I was put in the hole from Sanford Correctional, it was based on control, but not legally. By policy, when a person is moved to the hole, he is supposed to be told of his charge and sign some papers before he goes to the hole. When I was sent, no officer would tell me why I was suddenly being shipped to Guilford County Correctional. I even said to one officer, “I don’t even know what the charge is” to which the officer said, “I am not sure either, but I think you know”.

It took me about a week before I even knew the charge, which is highly against procedure because it puts me at a huge disadvantage at defending myself. Many prisons use the seg cells as a way to control inmates that are either a problem to other inmates… or a problem to the prison as a whole.

Community Volunteer: Persons from the community who give their time to help inmates. Under certain conditions, a volunteer may take an inmate out on pass for short periods.

This is the basis of CV passes, or Community Volunteer (or Visit) passes. Most times you are not going to hear of this in higher security levels, as most times it involves those in minimum custody.

Of the more desired benefits of minimum custody, this is not the best, but a very valued prize to get. Most guys will take work release first, then home passes, and then community volunteer passes, in that order. I knew a few guys that had that privilege, and they get to wear normal clothes and can go off the camp. Note that they get to wear it only when leaving the camp (their own clothes) and must remove them within an hour when the return to the prison. Some people get confused to think they are wearing real clothes all the time…yeah right. Not in NC prisons.

Still this is a great privilege if an inmate can land it. Usually a local church might sponsor an inmate, or even the prison itself. Keep in mind that any outside organization that wishes to participate must be reviewed and approved by the prison first, you just can’t take your church bus up to the prison door and ask them if you can take an inmate to church with them.

Disciplinary Segregation: The classification status of inmates who are subject to punishment after being found guilty of a rule violation.

Now, some of you are wondering what the difference is between disciplinary and administrative. The answer is in the phrase, “after being found guilty”. It can be kinda confusing because you are in the hole while they determine if you are guilty, and if you are found guilty, there you are.

I also realize some officers will argue that under administrative seg, you may have a couple more privileges, such as you may be able to use the phone once, or you may be allowed to keep a few more things in your cell, but this is highly subjective. When you are in the hole, you are subject to the officers on duty. If they want to let you use the phone, they can, if not, you don’t.

Now basically speaking, when you are found guilty of a charge, you can lose privileges for a period of time, like no phone for 30 days or no visits for 30 days or no canteen privileges for 2 weeks. But for most, it is pretty hard to see the difference between administrative seg and disciplinary seg.

Investigating Officer: A person who gathers the facts when it is felt that an inmate may have broken the rules, or some incident has happened.

If you don’t mind me saying this…that is a pure joke.

To me, the process in prison focus on the idea that any inmate in a situation must be considered guilty unless he can prove his innocence. If an incident occurs, the first order is to lock the inmate in question up. Then they send an investigating officer to try to get the facts from you, while he is also working for the prison. Understand what that means. If I had a problem with an officer, or a ranking officer, I don’t stand a chance of winning my argument if the investigating officer works for the prison. Most times the IO is a regular officer, not a ranking one, so he’s not going to challenge his superiors. That does not bode well for me if my argument is against a sergeant or lieutenant or any person working in the prison.

Another major problem I have with this is that these officers are not there to help you prove your innocence if you ARE innocent. They gather “facts” and then suggest you to give up and plead guilty.

But what if you are NOT guilty?

I ran into this problem while at Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, when I was written up for getting extra clothes. I documented all this in my journal so it would be no problem for me to find it and share it, but that is another time.

Anyway, the IO (also known as Idiot Officer) said he so called “investigated” and suggested that I just plead “guilty” and get a lesser charge. I looked at the guy with an incredulous look and said, “but I’m NOT guilty”.

At that point, you’d think he’d want to know why I felt that way, but he seemed hell bent to live and let live. He seemed sure that my only option was to simply give up on this bogus charge. Some help he was. I did beat the charge, but I remembered that guy’s face and promised myself never to trust him.

The rule of thumb is this; investigating officers are actual officers of the prison; do you really think they are going to go out of their way to find facts to prove an inmate’s innocence? It’s a huge disadvantage because the inmate has no resources except memory because he’s stuck in the hole, while the IO can gather whatever info he wants, usually on the side of the prison.

Residence Plan: The place where inmates plan to live when they get out of prison.

Many call this the “home plan” but to me it just seems like a marking. No prison really cares about what happens to inmates when they leave, it’s not like they are going to send him a coupon to save money on food, or a bouquet of flowers on their one year anniversary of being free. To me, this is only marking purposes so that law enforcement officials can keep tabs on the criminal…oops, EX-criminal, but who really knows.

I’ll be honest, I don’t see any legitimacy in the prison establishing residence plans for inmates. Prisons don’t help inmates change, they make is virtually impossible for them to better themselves, and when it’s time to leave, they want to know where they live. No info they get is used to help the inmate. I can see if they got the location of where the inmate is living, and pulled up a list of jobs that are available in that area. That would help a lot to a guy needing financial help. But prisons don’t do that, so I only think it is only for keeping tabs on the inmate.

Work Program: All inmates are expected to work either at the facility or under certain conditions inmates may be allowed to leave prison during the day to work. They must return to the prison at night.

This includes a few things, one of which being work release, which is unsupervised work. There are a few things that I might argue though. The first sentence isn’t actually true; not all inmates are expected to work. Most are, but if an inmate is too old, or is handicapped, they are not EXPECTED to work. Many prisons are so big that not everyone CAN work, even if they wanted to. Now, I did know a handicapped inmate who did work, but that proves that if an inmate wants to work to pass time, there is always something that he can do.

The other debate I would have is the idea that prison inmates who work off camp must return at night…define “night”. That is when the sun is down, right? Well, in all the camps I have been at, inmates usually return before the last meal of the day on the camp, which is about 5pm.

This might be slightly different with a CV pass and certainly a home pass allows you to stay out for a longer period of time, but generally guys on work release go in in the morning and work an 8-4 or a 9-5 schedule. I am not saying there are no exceptions, but in my experience, I have never seen an inmate come in “at night”…

Unless you want to count the fall season, where the days are shorter. If so, then yeah, guys returning about 5 would be coming in at almost night time….but outside of that, that definition is kinda vague.

And that’s kinda my point on all these definitions, they are vague to a person who has not been in the system. So when a person tells me they know all about prison because they read it off the DOC site, I laugh because I know that even as an ex offender, I don’t know it all, so how can someone who has never been there know anything?

Oh well, just some things for you to think on, remember to email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com and ask how you can support my writings, or ask me about my books or other works. Or, make a nice comment. That is always appreciated.

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