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