Saturday, December 28, 2013

Getting old

I watched a documentary yesterday about geriatric units in prisons across the country.  The number of elderly and disable prisoners is exploding due longer sentences for crimes in general, and sentencing policies like "three strikes".  Seeing these old guys brought back memories of prisoner D.  He told me he stole cars for a living, and occasionally he got caught.  He was doing is fourth of fifth bit when I met him.  He had never tried to escape and had no history of violent misconduct reports, so he was at secure Level I prison. I always saw him for things like refusing to report to his work detail.  He got tired of them after eight or nine months, so he would quit.  Prisoners are not allowed to voluntarily quit their work details.  So he would get a major misconduct for Disobeying a Direct Order or Out of Place.  Then he came to see me.  He never denied any of the charges.  He pleaded guilty, then took a few minutes to reminisce about stealing cars.
But one day everything changed.  Prisoner D got locked up in one of the temporary holding cells because he completely went off on an officer, yelling and threatening to kill the officer, causing total disruption of the housing unit.  When he came in for the hearing, he denied everything, like he did not know what the officer was talking about.  He got two or three more of these misconduct reports, very similar, each time totally denying the allegations.  He ultimately got sent next door to a higher security level, ended up in the segregation unit facing charges of Threatening Behavior.  It finally dawned on me how completely out of character the behavior was for prisoner D.  I noticed signs of physical decline as well, poor complexion, a wet spot on the front of his jumpsuit.  I wondered if his brain was breaking down along with his body.  So I called the psychiatrist in one of the mental health units, described all the symptoms and the sudden drastic change in prisoner D's behavior.  I wanted to know if he was suffering from dementia or some kind of brain injury.  Dr. K expressed great surprise at my question, appreciation for my "humanity" toward this prisoner.  I was just doing my job.  Hearing officers have to determine if a prisoner was mentally responsible for the behavior at the time of the incident, which I strongly suspected prisoner D was not.  Dr. K. confirmed my suspicions that prisoner D could very well be experiencing some form of dementia.  After that my hearing investigator and I made sure he got a physical and psych evaluation.  He ended up going to a prison in Coldwater, to a geriatric unit.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

This evening we went to my daughter (Tonya)and son-in-law's (Carl) house for dinner.  Tonya did a great job, everything tasted wonderful.  My grandson Lance was there with his daughter Aeva, four years old.  She is enrolled in pre-school.  I asked her if she was learning her ABC's.  She said no, then proceeded to recite them for me anyway.  She started in fine, ABCDEFG....concluded WXYZ.  I complimented her, told her she had the beginning and end down just fine, all she had to do now was work on the middle.  Then I went to use the bathroom. Tonya's place is small so I left my cane in the car.  My granddaughter Miriana helped me out walking down the hallway.  Of course Aeva had to help too, she wanted to hold my hand.  So Miriana was letting me hold her shoulder while I held Aeva's hand.  Little ones are so wonderful.  It only takes twice as long to do anything when they are helping you.  I got in to the bathroom, sat down, felt a little off-kilter so I squiggled around trying to get comfortable.  Next thing I know, I hear a cracking noise and the toilet seat slides off the toilet and bangs onto the floor.  Miriana called out, "Nanna, are you OK?"  I said yes.  Then my phone rang.  My sister is calling me from Oregon.  My older brother is there visiting her and her husband.  We planned this family phone call earlier in the week.  But I had to tell her I would call her back.  I finished up my business, managed to get the toilet seat partially re-attached, washed my hands and sat down to a great ham dinner.  I told Tonya and Miriana what happened, and Miriana said "Oh, is that the loud noise I heard?"  I confirmed that it was.
So this Christmas will go down as the year that Nanna broke Tonya's toilet seat.
Merry Christmas ( Happy Holidays to all of you who celebrate other holidays at this time of year ).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Save the babies

My FaceBook friend RG posted Terrible Parents photo collection.  It reminded of an incident from work.  My friend Inspector D told me about a situation she faced one time.  Every day she would go sit in the chow hall at dinner time.  Prisoners would just come up and talk to her about things that were bothering them.  She listened to a lot of petty complaints and so forth, but every now and then a guy brought a really serious situation to her attention.  One day a guy told her he needed to talk to her about his kid.  She could tell he was really upset, so she told him she would call him out the next day so they could talk in private in her office.  The next day the prisoner told her that his son ( I think the boy was about eight years old ) was being abused.  The child told his dad that his mom would go out with her boyfriend and leave him with the boyfriend's brothers.  They would get drunk and use him as a punching bag, some kind of sick game they had going on.  The kid told his mom, but she just brushed him off.  Inspector D pulled the recorded phone conversation and concluded that the child was in serious trouble.  The kicker is that she had lived in the area the prisoner came from for a long time and actually knew the characters involved.  The family had a really bad reputation for drinking, carousing and general mayhem.  So Inspector D got copies of all the phone calls and called Protective Services.  She turned everything over to them and the child was taken away from the mother within a day or two.  I think they were able to place him with the prisoner's family.  He was getting out fairly soon so he could go home and be with his child.  Needless to say, his gratitude was huge.  Inspector D is such an awesome woman.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bell ringing II

So I did another two hour bell-ringing stint today for the Salvation Army.   I guess my energy level dipped, because this old guy wearing a cop with "Army" embroidered on it, started giving me suggestions.  He said I should put the bell on a rubber band, then pull the band taut and let it go.  Then the bell would just keep ringing for a while.  Then he suggested tying it to my walker, which I was sitting in.  He said I could just move around in the chair, get my exercise and ring the bell all at the same time.  He impressed me so much I said, "Wow, you're just full of good ideas, aren't you?"  He responded that some people have said he is full of something.  I laughed and said, "Well, apparently there's still plenty of room for great ideas!"  He laughed.  Then another lady stopped and said my bell didn't sound as loud as some others she has heard.  I explained that I put my finger on the bell to mute the sound.  We are allowed to sit in the entryway, shielded from the worst of the weather.  But as customers enter, the doors open into the store and the cashiers are right there.  The bells drive them crazy after a while so I try to tone it down.  Then said it would be nice if they had a bell that played Christmas songs.  I agreed.  I told her I wish I be like some of the bell ringers I have read about in the paper, who dance and/or sing as they ring.  But if I tried to sing, we'd probably be kicked all the way outside and I didn't want to do that to my fellow bell-ringers.  Either that, or the baggers would start throwing cans of vegetables at me.
I was happy.  People were shoving that money into that bucket.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Taking care

My co-workers in Corrections were incredibly generous people.  They were always ready to step in an help each other out.  One officer had a child who was very sick.  She faced the possibility of a bone marrow transplant.  The family all tested to be donors, but they were all incompatible.  When her dad, who worked at Gus Harrison Facility, asked his co-workers to test, something like 200 people volunteered.  Fortunately, the child got better and did not need the procedure.  Staff was also humane to the prisoners for the most part.  My hearing investigator at Gus Harrison was like that.  She had an old guy come over for an interview.  It was late fall and he had no coat.  He said it was lost or stolen or something.  She took him right over to the quartermaster and got a coat issued.  She muttered to herself that an old man can't go without a coat with winter right around the corner.  I teased her, told her she was getting soft.  She snapped at me, that she was not, she got the old man what he had coming.  ( True but she didn't have to go out of her way. )
My hearing investigator Stan at Huron Valley Facility told me about a young guy there who had to fend off predators and bullies.  He was in the unit for developmentally delayed prisoners.  Stan intervened to reduce access from some of the dangerous prisoners.
I had a guy come in for a hearing for failing to report to work.  He said he couldn't work because his knee was messed up, causing a lot of pain and he couldn't stand on it for very long.  I asked him a few questions about it.  His work record was good, he had always reported before this.  The officer in the room to monitor hearings for the day had supervised work details.  She asked if we could look at his knee.  He pulled up his pant leg.  It was pretty swollen.  I asked if he had sent a health care request and he said yes.  I asked him if the knee was getting worse, he said yes.  I asked him if it was red or warm.  He said yes to both.  At this point, I became very concerned because infection seemed very likely. I asked him if he had reported these symptoms in his health care request.  He said no.  I sent him back to his unit and told him to go to his unit officer to ask for a pass to health care.  Then I called the unit and told the officer he needed to make sure that health care was informed that the prisoner had redness and inflammation in the knee.  The prisoner got sent over right away.  A couple of days later, I exited the gates and saw this prisoner being escorted back from a medical run.  He had an IV hooked up.  I asked him about it and he said he was getting antibiotics.  I guess it was serious.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fear of success.

In honor of the holidays I am trying to think of positive things I did while I was working in corrections.  I think there was one or two times I might have actually had a positive effect on a prisoner.  One young guy used to come in for hearings for Disobeying a Direct Order, or Insolence for going into a tantrum/rant cussing out an officer.  He always managed to do it about a month before he was scheduled to see the parole board.  Of course, he would be denied parole.  He expressed great frustration with himself and couldn't figure out why he kept sabotaging himself.  Once again, I experienced the urge to indulge in a Teachable Moment!  So I said to him, "You know, seeing the board is a stressful thing.  It may be a good stress, but it is still stress.  Maybe you are afraid.  If you actually get parole, you will get out of here and be free again.  But you will also be facing the expectations of society and family.  They will expect you to do things for yourself, to get an education, get a job, take care of yourself.  It's hard to do that stuff.  Maybe you're afraid you can't do it so you are subconsciously screwing up because you are scared."  He looked at me for a minute.  Then he said, "I never thought of that."  After that, he got paroled and I never saw him again.  I like to take credit for that.
I tried saying that a few more times and the guys just looked at me and said, "Lady, you're crazy!"  Oh well.  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas lights

Lots of people have been posting pictures of Christmas lights on Face Book.  I've been driving around town looking at them.  But I find that I start looking past the lighting displays, into people's living rooms.  It's a great cover for my voyeurism.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pole dancing

I visited my daughter in law Joy today and the subject of pole dancing came up.  I wish I could pole dance.  Some of those dancers on Jerry Springer amaze me, how strong and athletic they are working the pole.
The first time I visited my my grandbaby in Milwaukee, his other grandmother was at my son's and former daughter in law.  While I browsed a local weekly newspaper, we talked about stuff we could do together.   I saw an ad for pole dancing lessons, so I suggested that we sign up and do it together.  ( This woman is a professor of nursing. )  We both had a good laugh with that one.
Last Christmas I visited my brothers and sister.  We were at a little cafe having brunch.  When I went to pay my bill, I pulled about twenty ones out of my purse.  The cashier/waitress looked them, and asked, "Are you a dancer?"  Then she laughed.  So I showed her my cane, and I said, "Yeah, and I even brought my pole with me!"
I had a hearing on a woman charged with sexual misconduct for allegedly engaging in a provocative pole dance while  working in food services.  The prisoner explained that the crew had been working overtime a lot, while the other side of the prison was being converted from men's to women's.  The supervisor told them they had done a good job, so when they were done,they could have some cake left over from the day.  This woman was happy to get cake.  She could have been my twin, chubby, blond, apparently loves sweets.  She said she skipped up to the serving line and swung around a support beam like it was a pole, but she denied any sexually provocative movement.  I watched video from the surveillance camera covering the area.  I couldn't see her do anything, and nobody seemed to be paying attention to her at all.  She said she was just happy to be getting cake.  I could relate to that so completely.  So I found her not guilty of Sexual Misconduct.  Her only sin was cake gluttony.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Love the babies

When I came out of the store tonight, I heard this sound, like a cross between a thud and clunk, a thunk, I guess you could say.  I looked around, and found the source of this sound.  A little girl, about five or six years old, skipped along beside her daddy toward their car.  She wore pink rubber knee high rain boots that hit the pavement, thunk..thunk..thunk.  Needless to say, it was adorable.
When I worked Wayne County Juvenile Court in Detroit, a scene like this could heal all the despair and stress of the day.  A happy child.  I used to come home from work and hug my boy.  Nothing felt better than feeling his arms around my neck and his warm little cheek pressed against mine.  I used to put up an emotional shield to protect myself from the things I had to deal with at work.  I adopted a very clinical approach to investigating and assembling the evidence of the pain and neglect inflicted on my little clients.  When I came home, I could disassemble the shield and just be a normal parent and woman.  Except it did not always work.  Sometimes after I let my guard down, something would penetrate the storage bin of anger and despair I had locked away in my brain and I would end up sitting on my couch, crying or screaming at the TV.  Stories about the famine in Ethiopia, with footage of the children with their swollen bellies, starving, would reduce me to a crying mess.  I hated getting caught off guard like that, losing control.
I thought I left all that behind when I left the Juvenile Defender Office and went to work for UAW-Legal Services Plan, then on to the Department of Corrections.  But once in a while, something would come up during a hearing that would bring it all back.
I did a hearing one time on a young woman charged with Insolence and Creating a Disturbance. Control center was announcing the ten and five minute warning for count time.  She did not want to end her phone call and go to her cell for count.  The officers were going up and down the halls, telling the women to say goodbye and get ready for count, go to the bathroom, etc., before they had to lock up.  This girl kept talking and would not hang up.  She was starting to mouth off at the officers when they told her to hang up and go to her cell.  She ended up yelling at them, calling them names, and trying to get the other prisoners to join in with her,claiming the officers were singling her out and picking on her.  After the unit was released from count, this girl got back on the phone and called her mother, her children's grandmother, to demand that her mother call the prison to report this mistreatment by the officer.  Grandma was caring for this girl's two children while the girl served her sentence.
At the hearing, she demanded I listen to her phone to Grandma call so I could hear how awful the officers were treating her.  All the phone calls made by the prisoners are recorded.  So I agreed, and the hearing investigator pulled the tape and set it up on the CD player in the officers lounge, which was the quietest place in the unit.   The phone rang, and a little girl, I'm guessing she was around five or six, answered.  When she heard her mother, she squealed, "Hi Mommie!".  You could hear see her smile and the shine in her eye in her voice.  Her mother immediately barked at her, "Go get Grandma!  I don't want to talk to you right now!  Get you grandmother!  I need to talk to her!"  It was like a kick in the gut. I imagined the light in the child's face fading away.  I gasped out, "Oh my God!"  An officer had come in the room and heard that portion of the call and my involuntary response.  She just said "yeah".  Compared to the cases I did in Juvenile Court, it seems like a small thing.  But experiencing it more or less first hand was completely different and so much more disturbing.  How do those police officers, nurses, doctors, social workers teachers who see the abuse and neglect of these children first hand stand it?  I just don't know.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
I feel very unmotivated about everything for the past week or so.  I used to get into these moods about work a couple of times a year.  I just felt overwhelmed with sadness about the state of the world in general  and about the prison system in particular.
So, I have to think positive thoughts.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


So one day I went to segregation to see a prisoner for a hearing on an Assault or Threatening Behavior misconduct report.  The prisoner was very verbal, very animated, very irritated.  He spoke in a very agitated manner.  I conducted the hearing, listened to him, reviewed all the evidence presented, and found him guilty of the charge.  He exploded.  He started threatening me, and telling me he was going to get me, that we were inextricably bound together now, that he would never leave me a long, he would beat me down, slit my throat, on and on.  Finally, he said "I'm going to tattoo Chicago on your asshole, 'cause that's my nickname, Chicago!"   Hearing officers don't normally write misconduct reports, unless they involve assaults or threats like these.  So I had to write him up.  Sgt. K had to review the report with the prisoner and asked me to stand by as he read to himself.  When he got to the part about the tattoo, he started laughing.  Then he read it out loud to everyone around him and me.  They started laughing.  My hearing investigator, Chris, brings up "Chicago" to this day.  It was truly the most colorful comment any prisoner ever made to me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


As my knees got worse, I started using  a walker to get myself and my lap top and brief case around.  I had to go to the segregation unit almost every day at the Huron Valley Women's Facility.  It was a short  walk up to that unit.  One night I was walking back up to the control center at the end of the day, ready to go home.  There were two women who were assigned to work as porters in control center in the afternoon.  I was pretty slow at this point.  One of the porters was on her way in to work.  So she pulled the door open and waited for me.  I was still fifteen or twenty feet out.  I called out to her, "I'm going as fast as fast as
I can!"  She responded, "Don't worry about it.  I've got seven more years to do!"
Thanks for reminding me of this one Wanda.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chris Brown revisited

So the latest thing I heard on Chris Brown is that he left his anger management rehab early.  Then a few days later, I heard that he was kicked out of the program because he threw a rock at his mother's car and broke her window.  He got mad because she agreed with the treatment program that he should not leave treatment yet.  Hmm.  I think he just proved mom's point.  The guy is just a first class jerk.  I still say he's really going to hurt someone some day during one of his temper tantrums.

RU a Yooper?

My last few posts have been kind of dark.  Don't know what's going on there.  So I made an effort to think of something lighter.
I did a hearing on a guy charged with sexual misconduct one time.  The officer said he approached her right at the count taken right before the units closed down for the night.  He said he had to talk to her about something serious.  So she instructed him to wait in the day room and told him she would talk to him when she completed her count.  The officer did her rounds, confirmed her count, then went into the day room.  She asked the prisoner what the problem was.  He then stood up, and she noticed his fly was unzipped and his genitals were exposed.  If I recall correctly, she said he had an erection.  At this point, she ordered him to zip it and go to his cell immediately.  He tried to talk her out of writing him up, but she was having none of it.  So he came in for the hearing and pleaded not guilty.  He explained, with a straight face, that the officer mistakenly perceived what had happened.  He said that he is from the U.P., and up there it is a common practice for men to put their fingers into the waistband of their pants, with their thumbs hanging out.  That, he claimed, is what he was doing when the officer came in to talk to him.  Oh boy.  I found him guilty, he became indignant and I sent him on his way.
Then I looked at the officer and said, "Gives a whole new meaning to the term "Thumbs up!".

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Watching Major League Baseball channel today.  Darryl Strawberry answering interview questions about his current work.  Darryl Strawberry had a serious cocaine problem for quite a while.  It damaged his career a lot.  I saw him several years ago on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.  I know, I know, trash TV.  I thought this show was going to be really cheesy and melodramatic.  Actually, I found it compelling.  Those people for the most part really struggled with their addictions.  Anyway, Darryl said he is doing well now, engaged in a lot of productive activity with baseball and preaching.
I thought about some of folks I saw in prison who were caught up in drug addiction.  One woman had been "turned out" to work as a prostitute when she was twelve, because of her mother's addiction.  This woman developed her own hard core heroin addiction at a very young age.  She was in corrections center.  When her parole hearing did not go well, she decided she was leaving anyway.  She got up into the ceiling and got out of the center undetected, but one of the agents chased her down and brought her back.  She was quite a little firecracker, arguing with staff and the parole board member at her parole hearing.  She was very upfront about her addiction and what she needed to do, but she was still working on controlling her impulses.
Another young woman I saw at the women's facility had a serious addiction.  When I looked her up on Offender Tracking, under description, it said she had scars, track marks, all over her body.  She was actually a pretty young woman who had no intent or desire to cure her addiction.  One day she came for a hearing along with another young woman who had just barely come through the prison door.  She was definitely a "fish".  They were the last hearings of the day.  They sat out in the hall waiting for me.  I asked who wanted to go first.  Prisoner S, the drug addict, told the other girl to go first.  The new kid said she was really scared and nervous.  So I said, "Yeah, I'm a really scary person!"  Prisoner S started laughing, saying, "Oh, Ms. Falkenstein, you are not scary!"  Then she told the new prisoner, "She's really nice."  I was a little disappointed,  A little while later, I came to work one day and learned that Prisoner S had committed suicide by hanging herself when she was taken to segregation.
Another prisoner, a man, often worked his grounds maintenance assignment up around the administration building where my hearing room was located.  He really worked at it and all the plants he took care of were amazing.  I talked to him a little from time to time when I went outside for a breath of air.  He told me he worked in landscaping/gardening on the outside, but he blew it because he had a cocaine problem.  I thought about what a shame it was that the world was being deprived of this guy's talent for creating beauty. One year, I planted dahlias in my yard, but moles ate all of their roots  and they died, so I decided to ask this guy about it since he seemed to be a really good gardener.  He told me to find something that contained coyote piss and spread it on the flower beds to keep critters away.  I liked that suggestion, although I admit I never got around to trying it.
Drugs are the scourge of this society.  Just recently there was a long article in the Monroe Evening News about heroin flooding that community.  There are two ways to attack the problem, 1. Reduce supply.  2. Reduce demand.  The War on Drugs addressed supply, with little success.  We need to put a lot more resources into reducing demand, treating addiction.  We have to reduce demand AND supply in order to have any impact.  OK, that's it for today.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mercy, Mercy

I read an article posted on Facebook about a woman who got a clemency release four years before she was eligible for release through regular parole procedures.  She killed a pregnant woman thirty five or forty years ago, and was now in her sixties.  The victim's family objected strenuously, of course.
The story got me thinking about a  couple hearings I did at the women's prison.  The first hearing involved a woman who was a "frequent flyer" who engaged in temper tantrums when she didn't get her way.  She would simply go into a "no" mentality and would not do anything she was supposed to do, or that the officers told her to do.  Like a two year old. I'm going to call her Baby.  Baby came in on a ticket for Disobeying a Direct Order or something like that.  She had some physical disabilities, so another prisoner was assigned to push her wheel chair and be her general aide.We'll call her Mom. Mom aide clearly inspired Baby's total trust.  Mom was very attentive, and very authoritative but gentle with Baby.  Baby responded well to Mom and followed her instructions without question.  I was very impressed with Mom.  I thought about how lucky an elderly person would be to have an aide like Mom taking care of her.  I talked to the hearing investigator, Miss C, about this prisoner.  She told me that Mom was in prison for first degree murder.  I looked the woman up on Offender Tracking Information System and learned that her victim had been a Good Samaritan.  Mom had approached the victim and asked for her help, a ride someplace.  Mom was only sixteen years old at the time, and looked younger.  The victim's husband was an editor at the Ann Arbor News, and I recalled reading about it when it happened. Her defense at trial said she had been influenced, persuaded, coerced into the killing by her boyfriend, who was in his twenties or thirties.  He was also convicted of the crime.  They robbed the victim, took her money and car.   Miss C told me that Mom had a clear record in prison, and had completed school for GED, performed her work details well, and engaged in generally productive activities offered by the prison.  Miss C said there were various organizations trying to petition for clemency for Mom. These organizations were trying to assist women who had been in abusive relationships, who had killed their abusers or committed other crimes like Mom did, under the influence of men.  Based on what I had seen, which was admittedly brief exposure, I thought maybe Mom was a candidate for clemency.
I saw Mom a few months later.  Mom had recently been assigned to work as a porter in the medical clinic. She got written up for assisting a staff member with providing psychotropic medications to prisoners. The prisoners did not have prescriptions for such meds, or they were getting more than prescribed.  Mom admitted what she had done.  She explained that the staff person, who supervised her work detail in the clinic, asked her to tell some story which exonerated the staff member.  Mom went along.  I was struck by how similar this statement sounded to the statements she made at her murder trial.  It occurred to me that Mom was not ready to be released into the world despite all of the positive things she had done while incarcerated.  She still could stand up for herself to people who wanted to use her to do wrong.  It saddened me deeply to realize this, but the conclusion was inescapable.  I did grieve for a while over it for a while.  When you work in Corrections, you hope to make a positive difference in people's lives.  This case chipped away at that hope a little more.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Guns and ...Tampons?

My daughter-in-law Joy demanded that I write up this story for the blog.  My granddaughter Miriana also says this one is her favorite.  So here goes.
This incident occurred when the west side of Huron Valley was being converted from a men's to a women's prison.  Of course, the women had been there for a year already and they were finally getting around to the unit where this prisoner lived.  Prisoners were being moved out of the unit to numerous other locations in the prison while the renovations were taking place.  So whatever friendships the prisoners had formed with each other were being disrupted.
Prisoner G, a young Hispanic woman doing time for drug related charges, came into my hearing room in segregation for a charge of Possession of Dangerous Contraband.  I saw her on previous occasions.  She was always polite and soft-spoken.  The misconduct report stated that when the reporting officer did a routine shakedown of her cell, the officer found a piece of cardboard hidden in a box of Tampons.  The cardboard was shaped like a pistol, and had been colored black using a black marker.  Any item made to resemble a weapon is defined as Dangerous Contraband.
The prisoner explained that she and some of the other "girls" decided to have a little party, with treats and such from the prisoner store.  They also came up with a little play.  The fake gun was a prop for the play.  She was saving it as a souvenir.  She claimed the unit staff were fully aware of what was going on.  Well, this story was so bizarre I was having trouble not believing it.
Well, I decided I had a "teachable moment" in front of me.  I found her not guilty of the major charge, but I lectured her about why such items were considered dangerous contraband.  I pontificated about what would happen if she were out in the street and started waving around an object like this.  She could be mistakenly shot by someone else with a real gun, like a policeman.  While I talked, I glanced at the officer present and she would nod her agreement.  I stopped talking and looked at prisoner G, waiting for a response.  She looked back,

and waited.....

and waited...

 and waited....

Finally after about ten long seconds, she said, "Can I have my tampons back?"

I was floored at this response to the wisdom I had tried to impart to her.  I stared back, then looked at CO Franklin.  Then we both burst out laughing.  The prisoner just looked at both of us and said, "What?  They're expensive!"
I gave them back.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Agree to disagree

One of my Facebook friends recently posted that one of her Facebook friends, a Tea Party follower, unfriended her.  Susan is very liberal, even more liberal than me.
I have several Facebook friends who espouse Libertarian, Tea Party, and Republican opinions.  I espouse Democratic, liberal, and sometimes (gasp!) Libertarian opinions.  I have never had any of my Facebook friends un-friend me, nor have I un-friended anyone over political opinions.  One of things I love about Facebook is the diversity of opinion my friends express on a variety of issues.
Generally, I think we all have a lot more in common than we have differences.  Most of us want what is best for our country and our citizens.  We disagree on how to get there.
A good example is my massage therapist, Cathy.  She is a born-again, Evangelical Christian.  You would think that a political liberal like me would have no common ground with her on an issue like abortion.  It's true that I am not ready to go back to the days when abortion was illegal, and she would like to see it outlawed today.  Some of my liberal friends think that clinics discouraging abortion are just political fronts for misogynistic male Republican politicians.  I disagree.  My friend Cathy volunteers at a clinic that counsels young girls against abortion.  But they also provide emotion and financial support to the girls that choose to put their babies up for adoption, or keep them and raise them.  These people are truly Christian in my opinion.  We have common ground on this issue.  I agree with Bill Clinton when he said that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.  I think babies should not be viewed as a punishment for girls who engage in sexual relations.  Cathy agrees with me.  Babies should be loved and valued, regardless of the circumstances of their conception.
So let's think about it people.  Let's try to find things we can agree on and work on together, and put aside our disagreements while we do so.

Friday, November 15, 2013

So my friend Pat commented on my Health post that she had been threatened by an officer who tried to smuggle drugs into a facility.
I had a hearing at Huron Valley one time on a prisoner who managed to get out of his locked cell and stroll up and down the "rock" at will briefly.  It turns out the officers who wrote him up were not the first ones to observe his behavior.  He had done the same thing a few other times within the last few weeks prior the incident leading to the hearing.  I asked questions about why these reporting officers had been unaware of the prior incidents.  My hearing investigator informed me that first and second shift were "beefing" over some work issues.  I was floored.  This prisoner had a history of officer assaults.  I could not believe that some staff would expose other staff to risk of serious physical injury just because of some argument over work stuff.  I had not been at Huron Valley that long, but I had worked at Gus Harrison/Parr Highway in Adrian for 16 years and had never heard of anything like this.  I am happy to say I never felt that I was personally at risk.   Although a few prisoners acted out in the hearing room, the officers addressed the situation efficiently.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blogging about the prisoner who liked to belly bump made me think of another prisoner who did that.  He was also a tiny short guy.  He thought of himself as a white supremacist.  Actually he was an idiot.  He decided one day he had to prove he was a superior white man, so started harassing and bullying a black prisoner.  He refused to leave the guy alone.  He got up in the black prisoner's face and belly bumped him, which finally provoked the black prisoner into pushing him away.  The officer saw what happened and went into the day room and told both of them to just go to their cells.  Well, dumb ass white supremacist couldn't leave it alone.  When the unit went to chow, he complained to Sgt. K that the black guy had assaulted him.  He said the unit officer refused to write the black guy up.  The officer kind of did violated policy.  The disciplinary policy says that if any staff person witnesses a non-bond charge (anything that requires to prisoner to be locked up in segregation pending hearing, fights, assaults, possession of weapons, etc.), a misconduct report MUST be written.  Technically what the officer witnessed did fit the definition of fighting under department policy.  So Sgt. K. talks to the unit officer and orders him to write fighting misconduct reports on both prisoners.  I had to find both of them guilty, since there is no provocation defense for fighting.  But if Mr. Brilliant white guy had just kept his mouth shut, everyone would have been better off.  The unit officer knew that.

Health issues 1

So I haven't been feeling so great the last few days.  Fatigue, weakness in my legs, stiffness, some pain, not excruciating.  I'm thinking about calling my neurologist to ask for some 'roids.  I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1992, two and a half years after the Department of Corrections hired me.  The diagnosis frightened me a bit, but I felt extreme gratitude for my health insurance.  Six months later, during one of the state's periodic political shake-ups, I got laid off.  The lay-off lasted for a year, then I got called back.  That frightened me even more, although I still had good health insurance through my husband.
After my diagnosis in 1992, I experienced a few exacerbations  over the years.  Once my right leg stopped working,  I could stand up on it, but I couldn't walk.  No coordination at all in that leg.  I didn't panic.  I finished my work day, but I had to hang on someone's arm to limp from one place to another.  Sometimes it was an officer, which caused me some concern over appearances.  The physical contact with the officer might give the appearance of too much closeness.  Prisoners are astute at picking up any hint of bias on the part of hearing officers. Then I decided it wasn't than different from asking for an escort for my personal safety.
Another time, I lost coordination in my left hand.  It became obvious when my sentences came out looking like they were written in Polish, you know, one vowel to every twelve consonants.  I had one other flare-up in my other leg.  I think that was it.  My other "medical vacations"  were for non-MS injuries.  Slipping in the bathtub resulting in a broken ankle; I was disabled longer with that than any MS thing.  A trick finger, I think that's what it was called.  It would not unbend when bent, it would not bend when straight.  Since it was my right hand, I couldn't do type my hearing reports.  I had t have surgery but I had to be off work for a couple of weeks for it to heal.  So I decided I would heal much faster in Macon, Georgia where my sister and brother-in-law lived at the time.  It worked!
I always felt safe in the prison, no matter my physical infirmities.   The vigilantly guarded my safety.  I am eternally greatful for that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I have been thinking more about the Clockwork Orange story.  There was a prisoner at Huron Valley who made me think about it a lot.  He was a very small Hispanic guy, very young.  He constantly got up in everybody's face, staff and prisoners.  He liked to belly bump people. So he caught a lot of misconduct reports.  He was in the mental health program, much to the chagrin of the mental health staff'who found him very difficult to handle.  They vacillated between letting him go and facing the consequences, and medicating him to the point they could control him.  He usually came into the hearing room all bouncy and energetic.  He always admitted what he did.  He tried to explain it, he tried to understand it, but he just didn't have the off switch he needed to stay out of trouble.  Everyone worried that someday he would face off with the wrong person and get seriously hurt.  I kind of liked him, he had a spark of life that had not been extinguished in prison.  He just couldn't control it.  One time he wanted to get out of his cell.  He got impatient ( a common state for him ) and tried to crawl out the food slot.  He got stuck.  The staff took a picture of him before they helped get him unstuck.  It was posted in the sergeant's office.   
One day he came into the hearing room completely changed.  He barely talked, he could barely stand up or sit up.  He kind of weaved in his chair.  His eyes appeared glazed over.  His personality was completely gone.  He would no longer be troublesome, he would no longer be anything.  It hurt to see the loss of a human being.  How far should we go to alter a person's behavior?  That was the question posed by A Clockwork Orange, a profoundly disturbing book.

Other prisoners  exhibited radical changes in behavior that surprised me.  One of my "frequent flyers" was always polite and soft spoken to me in hearing.  One day I saw him in segregation where officer had to be present for the hearing.  I was reading the misconduct report and all of the sudden he hissed at the officer, "What are you laughing at?"  He spoke very aggressively, jerked himself around to stare down the officer.  The officer's only offense was smiling slightly.  This behavior startled me a lot.  I talked to him for a minute and got him calmed down, but I always saw him differently after that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Met up with a couple of my former co-workers today for breakfast.  We talked mostly about work, even though Cheryl is a retired parole agent and I am also retired.  Cheryl had commented once before that people who work in corrections become so saturated with this environment that you never leave it all behind.  It is the prism through which we observe the world.  I remarked today that it is like a stain you just can't get out.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bell Ringing

Well, I did my first shift bell ringing for the Salvation Army last night, from 7-9 pm at Kroger.  As usual it was entertaining.  One family gave their little boy, about five years old, money to put in the kettle.  As he approached, he had his tongue out the side of his mouth.  He was concentrating on getting the money in the kettle.  It was pretty full since it had been there since nine o'clock.  But I was thinking, "Geez, he's only five and he's imitating Miley Cyrus?"
Then another boy, about ten, came up and put money in.  We always give the kids a piece of candy.  So I offered him an Almond Joy.  He said, "I don't like that kind."  So I put it back in my pocket and offered him a Reese's Peanut Butter cup.  He said, "I don't like those either."  Back in the pocket.  Before I offered him anything else, I asked if he liked Hershey's Kisses.  He said yeah.  So I gave him a couple of those.  But dang, he's a candy gourmet at age ten?
The kettle was set up right next to boxes of Halloween candy that was marked down 75%.  Some young people came out of the store with one of the girls who works there.  They were pawing through the candy.  One of the guys said, "It's nice they put it out here where it's easy to steal."  I was eavesdropping of course.  So I said, "Actually, this bell-ringing gig is just a ruse.  I'm the candy guard, and if you take any, you will be in big trouble.  Unless, of course, you give me money.  Then you can take all you want."  Another guy asked how much a bag was going for.  Then they went into the store and paid for the candy, gave me the change on the way out.
Great start to my bell ringing for this year!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blogging about the guy who tried to relieve his sexual frustration with a plastic bottle got me thinking about inflation.  My car has been sending me a message for a few days now that my tire pressure is low.  I always ask my wonderful grandson Michael to take care of things like this for me.  I think the change in weather causes this message to show up, you know.  When things get cold they tend to contract.  Air included.  So the tires have less pressure.  Then I started thinking, maybe if I put ice packs on my butt it would contract.  Probably not.  I'd probably just end up with freezer burn on my butt.  Then I started thinking that girls with tiny boobies could blow hot air on them with a hair drier and the tiny boobies would expand.  Probably not.  They would probably just end up with wind-burned tiny boobies.  Not attractive.
This post doesn't have anything to do with prison, or grandchildren.  It's just an example of what happens to a normal person's mind when you work in corrections for too long.  
Getting ready to go vote.

Monday, November 4, 2013

So one of my Facebook friends just posted a thing saying she was going to be the one who caused trouble in nursing homes.
One time I had a hearing on a young male prisoner in segregation.  He was still young and full of piss and vinegar.  He had gotten into with a corrections officer and ended up locked up.  I did the hearing on him.  The officer assigned to monitor the hearing was a cute young female officer.  So as the hearing went on, the prisoner did not like my findings.  He said something to the effect that he and his crew were going to come find me when he got out.  I was curiously not intimidated by this statement.  I asked him how much longer he he had to serve.  He said like, twenty years.  I responded, greatly amused, "Twenty years!  I'll be in a nursing home by then!"  He said, "No you won't.  You'll be sitting right there at that typewriter, locking guys up!"   I said, "Yeah, I'll be locking up old people in their rooms."  Then I started laughing, the officer started laughing, and neither one of us could stop.  Finally the prisoner started laughing too.  Then he got into it.  He said he would trick out my wheel chair with gold rims.  We got so loud the unit manager came and looked into the room to see what was going on.
Friday night due to a paucity of choice, we watched Hawaii 50.  The plot involved some quack doctor injecting a virus into people's brains to stop or alter criminal activity.  I remember reading Clockwork Orange years ago.  It frightened me.  I never saw the movie because I could not imagine watching those things on the screen.  Later on, working in the mental health units in corrections, I sometimes thought of Clockwork Orange.  Our attempts to alter behavior seem so pathetic sometimes.
Some of my hearings with the mentally ill prisoners demonstrated the law of unintended consequences.  I saw one older prisoner several times in a short period of time.  He had been in minor court ( minor court is run by the unit managers for less serious rule violations ).  He got a sanction restricting him to his room.  He kept violating the sanction by coming out of his room for seemingly frivolous reasons.  Violation of any sanction is a major misconduct violation so he ended up in front of me.  The third time I saw the prisoner I realized his defenses to the charges were not really making sense.  They weren't quite addressing the officers' allegations  in the misconduct reports.  It sounded like he was quoting what someone else ( probably other prisoners ) told him to say.  I decided I needed to check out this oddity.  I called the housing unit and spoke with a couple of the officers.  This was on day shift, when the officers with the most seniority worked.  These experienced unit officers knew the prisoners in their units.  So I asked CO M. about this prisoner, if he was on any mental health case load that they knew of.  CO M wasn't sure.  I asked about the prisoner's behavior. CO M told me that this guy would often wander out of his cell.  He and CO H would just tell him to go back in his cell, he's on sanction.  Prisoner would obey with no problem.  They never wrote him up for it.  I checked the misconduct report.  It was written by a young officer on second shift.  He was not a regular in the prisoner's unit.  I was starting to get the picture.  I asked CO M if this prisoner was exhibiting other odd behavior.  CO M. said the prisoner was prone to pacing.  He would walk a steady path back and forth in the day room until it was time to lock up or go to chow or whatever.  Sometimes he would start to get a little agitated and one of the other prisoners would give him a cigarette and he would calm down. The other prisoners just stayed out of his way, let him pace.  On the yard, this prisoner would sit on a bench and rock, back and forth, back and forth.  At this point, I decided that a call to outpatient psychology was in order.  The psych told me the prisoner had been under treatment, but had been discharged.  I described everything CO M had told me.  The psych got really concerned and thanked me for calling.  She assured me that she would call the prisoner out and get him back into treatment.  A couple of months later, this prisoner came in again for a misconduct like Disobeying a Direct Order or something like that.  He was cranky, surly, and rude, but his comments were to the point and made sense.  I asked how his treatment was going and he uttered an expletive of some sort.  I thought to myself, "I think I liked you better when you were sick".

Friday, November 1, 2013

Yesterday, I wrote about dumb things prisoners have said to me.  Which made me think of my own dumb sayings over the years.  Before I started working in the corrections department, I worked for UAW-Ford Legal Services.  One of my a clients wanted her husband to adopt her child.  I explained that the biological father needed to be notified of this petition.  She kind of stammered and said she was not sure who the biological father was.  I blurted out, "Well, I assume there's a limited number of possibilities!"  Oops. Before I retired, I didn't watched Maury that often.  (Still don't)  Up until that time, having no clue who the bio dad of your child is was a completely foreign concept to me.
I often chatted with staff when I had the time. At the women's facility, there was a really cute young female officer who was talking about her son.  I asked how old her son was.  She said 16.  I exclaimed, "Wow!  You must have been like 12 when you had him!"  She said she was 14.  Oh, heck.  I said, "OK, I'm gonna go into my office and begin foot-from-mouth extraction operations".  She was pretty good-natured about it.  When I worked at Huron Valley Men's Facility, they had a large mental health population.  There was one prisoner who was nicknamed Baby Hughie, for obvious reasons.  I saw him occasionally for hearings for stuff that was basically kind of dumb.  He had to be handcuffed at this particular hearing, because he must have threatened someone or something like that.  Anyway, due to his size, the quartermaster had a hard time finding prison blues that fit him.  On this date, they were too big.  He held them up with his hands when he came in.  After the hearing, I started to write up my report.  He must have forgot to hold onto his pants, because when he stood up, I heard CO W., in his gravelly voice, bark out, "Hughes, pull your pants up!".  They had fallen to his ankles.  All the officers and other prisoners called this guy Baby Hughie.  One day I accidentally called him Mr. Hughie instead of Hughes.  It was really embarrassing.
Another time, I went up at Jackson, filling in for another hearing officer.   A prisoner came in for a hearing, very attractive, blond, feminine.  I thought she was a female.  Well she was a female, she just had not completed the transformation yet.  It never even occurred to me that this prisoner was man.  So I called him Miss, until the corrections officer gently corrected me, saying that the Department still classified the prisoner as a man.  Which should have been obvious since it was a men's facility.  I can only plead extreme mental fatigue as a defense.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I was thinking about the dumb things prisoners have said to me over the years.   They always thought they could shock me easily because of how I look.  One young black guy said to me in front of four or five other prisoners, "Have you ever slept with a black man?"  Several answers slithered through my brain, none of which I could really say.  Somebody had to remain dignified in the situation.  My first thought was, "no, I'm a virgin".  Then I thought "No, I'm a lesbian" would be an even better answer.  Best of all, I decided was "no, I'm a lesbian virgin".  I just looked at him, thinking, "Really?  that's the best  you've got?" and walked out of the room.
There were other prisoners who weren't trying to embarrass me.  Some of them, a very small number I'm sure, just liked me or had a crush on me.  An officer told me one time, that one of the guys in the mental health unit where he worked would get misconduct reports just so he could come up and see me.  There were a couple of other ones like that.  One guy in the low security unit was always taking apart radios and tvs.  He kept getting caught with boxes of parts.  Prisoners are not supposed to alter anything like that.  He made extra "money" repairing radios, tvs, etc. for other prisoners.  I convinced that he liked me.    
There was a porter who used to work the segregation unit.  Since there were a lot of guys getting in fights, and doing assaults, etc., at that time, I used to see him fairly often.  I had to go to the segregation unit to do hearings on prisoners there.  This young porter came into my hearing room one day and shut the door.  That is a big mistake.  There is no way I wanted to be in a windowless room with the door shut with a prisoner.  I told him to open the door, now.  He said he just wanted to talk to me.  I said to open the door first.  He did.  Then he said he just wanted to tell me he thought I was attractive.  I could see he was going somewhere I did not want him to go, so I told him, "You don't want to go there".  He repeated himself so I told him more emphatically, "I mean it.  You REALLY do not want to go there."  He wasn't getting it so I changed tactics and asked him, "How old are you?"  He said he was 26.  I said, "oh, two years older than my son."  He got this really funny look on his face.  Then he said, "Ok, well have a nice day", and he got up and left.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

OK, one more sexual predator story.  This very young Hispanic prisoner was charged with a misconduct for making a false report that another prisoner was pressuring him and threatening him, trying to coerce him into a sexual relationship. He told this to one of the unit counselors.  But then he got cold feet and retracted the statement, so he was charged with Interference With Administration of Rules for lying.  I did the hearing, and as I was doing something, writing something down.  When I glanced back up at the prisoner, he had a tear drop running down his face, but he wasn't making a sound.  This kid looked like he was fourteen or fifteen years old.  I think he was actually seventeen or something, but he had been in for a year or so.  It was quite obvious to me that the kid was not lying.  He fit every criteria for a perfect victim for a sexual predator; young, slight build, cute or "pretty".  I had no doubt that he had been coerced, but his harasser obviously got to him and persuaded him to retract his statement.  I found him not guilty.

Gramma Alert!
Today I was visiting with my daughter-in-law.  They had a bunch of candy for Halloween so we ate some.  When darling little vixen Olivia got home from school, she headed straight for the candy.  She ate some, then brought me a piece.  A little later, she brought me two more pieces, and sternly instructed me to MAKE SURE I gave it to Pop Pop.  So I promised her I would give it to him.  I did so when I got home.  He was very appreciative.  I told him to make sure that he told her.

So my last post about the animal abuser got me thinking more about Special Designation hearings and other hearings regarding assault risks that result in limitation of programs to prisoners.  There was one one designation called Homosexual Predator designation.  I always disliked that term because it was too limited.  The predators who preyed of others were just sexual predators, whether homosexual or heterosexual.  Rapists of women on the outside preyed on female staff, but also younger and weaker prisoners.  The important word did not describe their sexual preference.  The operative word was predator.
I had one hearing where two prisoners were working together to harass this attractive young female officer.  She passed him some mail over the top of his door.  He kept sliding it back out under the door, trying to get her to bend over and pick it up.  He was doing this for the benefit of his pal across the hall, trying to get her to assume a submissive physical position with her back side prominently displayed to the guy.  She refused to cooperate and wrote up the prisoner for disobeying a direct order when he pushed the papers out in the hall again.  It wasn't hard at all to figure out what they were doing.  It made the guy mad that I called him on it almost immediately.  The prisoner wanting to see her butt was a rapist.  No surprise there.
I have more stories but I'm tired, so I'm going to watch TV now.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

So I heard on the news that Chris Brown just got arrested AGAIN for felony assault.  He punched some guy who tried to push his way into a photo.  Allegedly he said something like "I'm not into any of this homo shit" or some such totally offensive comment.  This man is just a thug.  All the crap he went through with Rihanna, supposedly doing anger management, blah blah blah.  He is out of control, he thinks he can abuse people with no consequences.  He has an inflated sense of his own importance.  I guess you could say I don't like him.  He is going to really hurt someone some day.
One of my FaceBook friends posted a news story out of Detroit today.  Some bastard had thrown a puppy into a yard with hungry pit bulls.  The pit bulls attacked and killed the puppy.  The neighbors were horrified and called police and animal control but were unable to get any help.  There was a video showing four or five dogs in the  yard.  I hope those responsible are prosecuted.
It reminded me of a hearing I did on a guy once.  He had been given a Special Designation as a violent offender.  Prisoners with this designation are not eligible for certain community placements allowing their sentence to be served on tether in the community.  This guy claimed he was not a violent offender because he had never attacked a human being.  He had, however, attacked and beaten his estranged wife's dog, then left it suffering, mortally wounded to die a slow painful death.  He wanted his wife to find the dog.  He was punishing her for leaving him.  He had the attitude, "it was just a dog not a person".   Amazingly enough, I had no trouble upholding the Designation.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

We had to turn on the furnace for the last couple of days.  I think we need our ducts cleaned.  I'm all stuffed up, sneezing, eyes itching.
One time I was sent to fill in at Huron Valley Men's before it was changed into the mental health facility.  I had only been there once or twice before.  I had to go out to the segregation unit to do some hearings.  When I went into the hearing room, I started sneezing, repeatedly.  By the time they brought the prisoners in for hearings, my nose was dripping and my eyes were watering.  I'm not sure what they thought of me in that state.
They had a wing on segregation at that time that they referred to as the Cutter's Wing, for prisoners who did self mutilation.  They had to find implements to cut themselves so they broke the sinks ( pre-stainless steel installation ), or pull wires from the bunk bed platforms. The staff wrote them up for destruction of property.  I routinely ordered restitution, which was routinely never collected. The first hearing I did that day was on a guy who inserted said wire into his penis.  The reporting officer had taken a picture for evidence.  Oh, yea.  I looked at it, and thought to myself, "Oh, crap, I forgot about these guys."  I was very proud of myself for not reacting at all.  There was one guy who was legendary for cutting his abdomen open and exposing his intestines.  He cost the DOC thousands of dollars in medical care.  The shrinks were never able to come up with a way to convince him to stop.  This unit has since been disbanded.
There were several women prisoners who did self mutilation.  Sometimes they would become a couple, and cut each other.  That was more disturbing to me than anything the men did, although the men tended to do more medically dangerous cutting.  There was one couple I saw frequently.  The dominant woman reminded me of the character Angelina Jolie played in Girl Interrupted, evil and manipulative and sadistic.  The other woman was a petite half Asian woman, very pretty.  She worshiped the dominant woman and kept going along with her antics which was jeopardizing getting a parole.  Both the hearing investigator and I tried our best to get her to cut loose from her partner with little success.  She finally got paroled.  I hope she can stay out.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One of my early experiences working in the Department of Corrections concerned race relations.  One morning I did a hearing on a white prisoner.  I found him guilty of the major misconduct charge.  He told me I was biased in favor of black prisoners.  Or as he so eloquently put it, "I guess you like dark meat."  Gross.
That afternoon, I did a hearing on a black prisoner.  I also found him guilty.  He complained loudly that I was "the queen of the Ku Klux Klan".  I figured nobody was happy, I must be doing something right.
Later on in my career, I became pretty good friends with one of my hearing coordinators, Stan.  He is African American.  He was an Army MP for twenty years before retiring and joining DOC.  I asked him for advice one time about a prisoner who hit another prisoner in the head.  She and her victim were both black.  The prisoner admitted to assault, saying "I cracked her head open all the way down to the white meat!".   I asked if that was a common statement in the African American community.  I also asked him one time if he thought I was racist.  He said no, I was just "pigmentally challenged".  I promptly asked him to be my race relations advisor.
On another occasion, I had a prisoner charged with making comments to a corrections officer, intended to demean, degrade etc.  The prisoner admitted making insulting comments, but stated he was not talking to the officer.  He was talking to another prisoner in the immediate vicinity.  He explained they were "doing the dozens".  I decided to talk to the officer to find out if this claim could possibly be valid.  I called on the phone and explained what the prisoner said.  The officer, who was white, said he did not know what "doing the dozens" was.  So I explained that it is a verbal game common in the African American community.  Guys trade insults, gradually escalating to more and more degrading statements.  The players are supposed to increase the verbal aggression incrementally, going to more and more taboo subjects, like their mothers, gradually.  The goal of the game is to maintain control of one's temper, to be the last one to get angry. The prisoner just sat and stared at me, dumbfounded.  After I hung up, he asked me how I knew that.  I just said, "Oh, I worked in Detroit for a while."  He was completely shocked that I was familiar with this ritual.
I like surprising them like that.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Remembering more about the early days in corrections.  When I first started, I looked pretty much like a suburban housewife.  One day I had finished a hearing on a guy, and I was starting to write the hearing report.  The prisoner pleaded guilty to the ticket, saying "I'm telling you the truth this time."  So I said, "Oh!, I have to put that in the hearing report.  Prisoner says he is telling the truth THIS TIME!"  I was chuckling, so he started laughing to.  Right then, Inspector W. was walking by the hearing room.  He looked in like he was really interested.  But he kept walking.  Later, he approached me and told me he had been a little worried about me, but now he knew I was going to be OK.
I'm not gonna say I was perfect.  I'm sure I got played more than once.  I was vulnerable when the younger prisoners would give me a sob story, especially with the women.  I had one young woman who said she had gone off on an officer because she had just learned her sister had been murdered.  I kind of gave her a break on her sanction.  Wouldn't you know that a week or so later, another prisoner came in with a very similar story?  Hmmm.  OK I got played.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I've been thinking about my early days with the Department of Corrections.  My first week, a new prisoner had come in.  Apparently, he became sexually frustrated and decided to use a shampoo bottle to address his problem.  Once he was inflated, however, he was unable to remove the shampoo bottle.  He finally had to be taken out of the facility to the local hospital emergency room.  It's all anyone was talking about.  I decided right then and there I was going to like this job.
I remember the first time I opened my desk drawer, it came all the way out and landed on the floor.  It was a harbinger of things to come.  One time at the women's facility the I could not connect to the department intranet, my printer died and I could not find a functioning copy machine.  I told my boss I felt like I was working in a third world country sometimes.  No luxury in the DOC.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I hate money.  I mean, I like having money.  I just hate managing it.  Maybe that's why I'm a liberal.  I can manage money fairly well, but it is not pleasurable for me.  My sister is very good with money.  She got the money gene I guess.  I don't know why my Kiwanis club voted me in as treasurer.  Probably because nobody else would do it.  Every time I go to the bank to make deposits, they find an error in my calculations. Fortunately, they usually find more money than I noted on the deposit slips.  So I can't be accused of embezzling or anything.  It's really quite pathetic.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Today is Olivia's birthday.  We went over for a little party.  She crawled all over her Pop Pop.  ( My husband, whom she is trying to steal from me as my Face Book friends all know. )  She got a tiara, which is so appropriate since she is extremely girly.  I asked her to let me try it on, which she allowed.  I said it did not feel very comfortable on me.  I must not be royal enough.  She said "You're right" and took it back.  She got several Monster High dolls, and a Cinderella doll.  The next thing I know, she is removing the skirt of the Cinderella doll.  I said "Is that a Cinderella stripper doll?"  Then her dad said, "It's a Striperella doll."  Our family is really quite twisted.
Then we all had cake.  Happy Birthday Olivia.
Well, I am grieving last night's loss by our beloved Tigers to Boston.  We really needed Cabrera to be 100%, which he hasn't been due to injury.  Fielder is somewhere else, at least his bat was not in the game.  Martinez was the only reliable hitter in the series.  It was good to see the line-up change wake up Austin Jackson, but it was a little late.  Poor Alex Avila probably thought he should have signed up with the NFL instead of major league baseball.  Finally, from this amateur's seat, the bullpen looked pretty weak.
So speaking of the NFL, I am watching Lions. ( That Matthew Stafford is pretty darn cute! )  They just recovered a fumble, and Suh ran into the end zone, but there was a flag on the play.  Bummer.
Guys used to gamble a lot on football in the prison. One of the inspectors, Ms. D., told me right off that guys were gonna gamble.  There was no point in trying to eliminate it.  Her goal was to just keep it under control so it did not become a security issue. She had a lot more years in that I did so I always kept her advice in mind.  Betting for anything of value in the prison system is a major misconduct.  I used to do a lot of hearing around Super Bowl time, and basketball play off times.  Not so much on baseball or hockey.  Of course, there were always the Threatening Behavior and Assault misconducts resulting from losers who could not pay their bets.  That's the main reason gambling was prohibited in the first place, in my humble opinion.  On the other hand, it could be that the rule writers were just puritanical.  Maybe both.  I had one guy come in with a gambling misconduct.  He readily admitted that he was guilty.  He asked for mercy, citing his lack of any prior misconduct.  He only wanted one thing, he wanted his punishment to start on a Tuesday rather than a Monday.  He said he had a really important phone call to make on Monday.  I asked him, "Who do you have to call?  Your bookie?"  The officer in the room started cracking up, so did I.  When the prisoner realized I was joking, he started cracking up too.  I started his sanction on Tuesday.   Gotta give a guy a break sometimes.

Friday, October 18, 2013

So I was trying to clear out some space in my closet when my granddaughter Miriana ( 18 years old ) came in and started talking to me.  I told her I was looking for stuff to take to GoodWill.  She asked if I had any sweaters, so I was able to unload five or six on her.  I found two swimming suits I had forgotten about.  I bought them when I started physical therapy after my first knee replacement.  They have a therapy pool so I was going to use it.  Unfortunately, it is kept very warm for their clients with sprains, arthritis and things like that.  But I am very heat sensitive, due to MS.  I had a great time in the pool but when it came time to get out, I couldn't make it.  It took half the staff pushing and pulling me up the last couple of stairs.  So scratch that.  Anyway, I digress.  So Miriana and I were talking about fashion in general.  She told me she and a couple of her friends were at the mall and went by the Vera Bradley Bags store.  For you guys, Vera Bradley makes quilted handbags, etc.  One of her friends looked at a bag and exclaimed, "Thirty dollars for that?  Your Nana ( that's me ) makes these bags and they're a lot nicer!  She should open a Cynthia Falkenstein bag store!"  I told Miriana that I had thought about selling some bags online, but I would call my store "The Old Bag".  She thought that was pretty funny.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

One of my former colleagues at Gus Harrison Corrections Facility posted things on Face Book today about going to work.  Chris posted a picture of how beautiful the sunrise was over the prison grounds property. It made me think of how the fence would glisten in the sun, like diamonds glittering in the light, after an ice storm.  Small blessings like this could get you through a bad day.
In the spring, I used to watch the Canadian geese out of the window of my hearing room.  The goslings would hatch and both mother and father geese would herd them around looking for food.  One spring, the mother had laid her eggs in a depression in the grass.  During the spring rains, the hole filled with water.  One of the eggs had still not hatched.  It was the last one, all the other goslings had been running around the yard for a couple of weeks.  The mother kept sitting on this egg, waiting for it to hatch.  The father had given up on it, and started hectoring her to get up and leave it.  She refused.  Finally, after another week or so, the egg hatched and this tiny little gosling was up and running.  It was small, and I don't know if she ever caught up with the others, but she survived.  The staff often commented that it's too bad human parents aren't as dedicated to their offspring.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

So I guess I should give a little background about the name of this blog.  I was hired by the Michigan Department of Corrections to conduct hearings on prisoners charged with major misconduct rule violations.  So I went to prison, but not to serve a sentence.  I got to go home after eight ( or nine or ten hours.  I once worked sixteen hours, punched in at 8 AM on first shift.  Punched out at 10 PM with second shift.  It was after a riot, oops, I mean disturbance. Naturally, the riot, oops, I mean disturbance, generated an unusually large number of misconduct reports.  We were instructed not to call it riots, riots. )  Anyway, I worked at this job for almost 20 years.  I was a gramma when I started, and I still am, only more so.  I am also fatter than when I started.  In a disturbing way, I really enjoyed my career working in the prison system.  I always say you have to be a really stable person, or totally insane, to survive a career unscathed in this environment.  I haven't decided yet which description applies to me.
Generally, I got along pretty well.  One day, I went back to visit my old place of employment, the UAW-Legal Services Plan office in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  One of the women there asked me how I liked working in the prison system.  I told her that it took some getting used to the prevalent use of curse words, profanity, yelling, insulting language.  I thought that was bad, but then there were the prisoners!  
When the prisoners did not like my findings at hearings, their favorite insult was FAT BITCH!  I never got mad about it, I just told them, "Well, you're half right."   Humor always worked better than anger.  I learned that early on.
Hello all.

My friends have finally bullied me into starting a blog.  I am totally intimidate, but I'm going to give it a shot.  Hope I can make you laugh occasionally.

 Keep watching, this blog will be filled with magical tales of prison, grandchildren, family and life in general...but funny. :p