Several weeks ago I had a brief but genuine and eye-opening conversation with an employee here who approached me after observing a minor dispute between me and a corrections officer whom I felt was intentionally creating drama in the unit. My initial response was to express my objection in a somewhat rude manner. But, I let the moment pass and later called the officer to my door where I was able to smooth things out respectfully and peacefully. I’ve always tried to defuse any disputes I’ve had this way and I encourage other convicts to use the same tactic.
But, as we are expected to accept an inferior or subhuman position in the hierarchy of guard and convict, this show of humanity is often rejected. Fortunately this time my effort was appreciated. I had no clue I was being observed so I was surprised when this other individual took time to explain things from a CO’s perspective; how many of them see the same shit we see. The sadist CO’s who enjoy harassing people. The insanity and psychosis manifested behind these doors; locked down 24/7. The incompetence of the administration lead by E.K. McDaniel, which institutes policies that only serves to create confusion and conflict. And the officers are powerless; any who speak out against policy do so at their own peril. Many have either quit or have been fired for not falling in line.
Most CO’s are good people who have families and bills and who struggle themselves with the same questions of how to hold on to their sanity and humanity working in this madhouse of human suffering. Having to deal with mentally disturbed prisoners constantly creating disturbances; many of them driven crazy by these lockdown conditions and filled with anger and hate from being harassed or because they have nothing to live for. On top of that, CO’s must accept the embarrassment of being humiliated and berated by their superior officers whenever anything goes wrong. So it’s not easy for them either and it is not fair for all CO’s to be lumped together and blamed for the flaws in our system.
I personally can attest to some of these things as I’ve seen them. I remember to this day, back in 1996 the one CO who I have met in all my years that I truly admired and respected; his name was Jinx. I’d just been beaten by five guards while handcuffed and shackled and left naked and bloody in an empty cell with a concussion and a fractured spine. This was in retaliation for successfully defending myself in a separate incident several weeks prior when two CO’s attacked me for my part in organizing a peaceful protest against the conditions. All of my property had been placed in a storeroom where an inmate informant working for a senior CO’s was sent to destroy all of my property. Officer Jinx was present and witnessed this and after refusing to lie about it; which in turn forced the officer responsible to pay for all of my property. Officer Jinx was fired.
So yes, I know for a fact there are some good people who work in these prisons. But I will not apologize for failing to separate them from the sadists. Men are dying here, both mentally and physically. There is real human suffering here. So, I say to the good people working here: If your paycheck is worth more than my life and the lives of thousands of young men who come through this prison then your beliefs and your morals…If only these tortured souls who come to work here each day dreading what they may be asked to do or what they might be witness to, who see these men losing their minds, suffering in these cells from painful, life-threatening illnesses, denied proper medical care; the people who see these sadist CO’s that enjoy brutalizing defenseless prisoners in handcuffs and shackles. If only you would speak out, give testimony to what you have seen; the intimidation you have endured from the top down. If you would speak out then we could get a new warden and change this shit for the better.
What will it take for you to see that not only is your silence a sin but that it only makes things worse? Watching these men suffer and die who could be saved; each with children or other loved ones who mourn their loss. Trust when I tell you that that is not a burden you want to carry. I love every day with the guilt of wrongs I have done. Things I didn’t do but could have stopped. More nights than not I can’t sleep because of the nightmares. If you feel somehow that the fact we are convicts absolves you of your moral responsibility as human being to speak out for the humanity of all, then that is something you must live with. And just as the perverse logic of your boss’s call for us all to be punished for the actions of a few then you too bear the burden of your sadist coworkers lest you remain silent.
You should know that you don’t have to tremble in fear of being fired for speaking out. There is a movement building, as more and more of these abuses are exposed. Not against the convicts, but against all Nevadans and you, too. Some of these sadists and hopefully this crooked warden are going to be prosecuted and sitting in cells of their own. And if by some chance E.K. escapes the current investigations taking places, he is going to end up getting this place shut down anyway while those who did not speak out against the corruption they knew about still end up suffering. Speak out now and know that there are many people willing to stand by you, including lawyers who will fight for you. And if it is true that there are more good of you than bad then you will bond together and it will be only the corrupt among you who are held responsible…
All that said, CO’s also need to speak out on how working in a prison affects you, personally. There is a reason that prisons are the #1 breeding ground for hatred in our country. The way we address crime in general is backwards. You cannot cure an illness with more illness. Were there to be a study on affects of long term employment in prisons, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse, emotional and psychological issues like depression, eating disorders, etc., I guarantee that we would find these things are rampant among prison guards – which shows just how perverse and unnatural our use of prisons is. If merely working in a prison does this to you, try to imagine what it is doing to those incarcerated here.
I am not against the individual guard, per se. I am against the corrupt system that the guard represents in his employment. And if it is the guards’ hope that we will just shut up and take it as a consequence of our conviction – whatever abuse, dehumanization or violation of our human and civil rights, well then he can keep right on hoping. As these are things men must stand on ‘til death.
I am a human being and I will surrender that to no one…
Ikemba S. Mutulu
S/N Marritte Funches # 37050