Thursday, January 30, 2014

Random memory

I had a conversation recently with my daughter-in-law, Joy.  We ate at Leo's Diner, ended up talking about drug testing.  How did we ever get on that subject?  Anyway, the lunch hour was over, we lingered over another cup of coffee.  The waitress heard us talking and made a few contributions of her own.
Working for Corrections, I learned more about drug testing than I ever wanted to know.  ( One year, in a misguided fit of enthusiasm, I actually toured the drug testing facility we were using at the time.  I was on the West Coast visiting my sister.  She worked for the welfare department in California.  They were considering requiring drug testing for recipients of various types of welfare so we both had a professional interest in the subject. )  Anyway, DOC provided periodic training sessions from the lab doing our testing.  Their science staff would come talk to us about recent developments and answer our questions.
During one session, the scientist running the training session said that there were certain very limited legal uses for cocaine in medical procedures.  Of course, the government strictly controlled acquisition of the drug for any purpose. But I learned that it is used in certain microsurgeries because it causes blood vessels to constrict so that bleeding is much more easily controlled.  I never heard of this before.
Several years later, I did a hearing on a prisoner charged with substance abuse.  Urine tests showed cocaine and morphine in his system.  He had been out to hospital for surgery, repair of a deviated septum.  The prisoner denied using anything not administered by the hospital.  The prisoner had script for morphine, but he could not explain the cocaine.  Well, repair of a deviated septum, part of the nose, face, is one of those microsurgeries that qualifies for use of cocaine since the site of surgery is small, and the location in the head is delicate.  So I actually contacted the hospital in order to confirm that cocaine might have been used in the prisoner's surgery.  The doctor confirmed that this surgery is one for which cocaine is regularly used.
I found the prisoner not guilty.  A very unusual hearing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Rest of the Story...

Today I visited my grandchildren for a while so my daughter in law could drive my car to the CVS and grocery store.  Olivia, age five, climbed into my lap and proceed to do a complete autobiography of two of her Monster High Dolls.  Apparently one of them could do some kind of magic thing so that the other one would be popular.  I asked Olivia what it meant to be popular.  She said it changes you.  So I asked, you mean it makes you into someone who is not really you?  She said yes.  Very interesting that she already knows what it does to you to chase popularity.
Then we did "Tell Me A Story".  I started the story with "Once upon a time, there was a really cute little girl named Olivia.  She went to school, and her teacher announced they were taking a field trip to the zoo."  Then I turned the story over to her.  She told me all about the animals she saw.  Then she said they went back to her school.  She said "and that's the end".  Then she said, " And I will finish the story when you come back on another day."   I laughed.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Let it Snow!

Winter is finally wearing me down.  It has been so cold for so long.  The snow fall already broke the record for January in Michigan.
Many years ago, when I was still working, we had a huge snowstorm.  I tried to drive to work.  It took me 45 minutes to go five miles.  I turned around and went home.  Doesn't take me long to catch on, right?
Other times I did make it to work.  The last few years I struggled more and more with the snow and ice, getting in and out of the buildings to my car.  One morning, I got to work at the women's prison.  The prisoner on work detail had totally cleared the walkways with her shovel.  She scraped away at the last few little snow patches as I approached the building.  I told her what a great job she was doing, that it made me feel safe to walk up to the building.  I said this because it was true.  It made my life so much easier when the snow got cleared.
Another time, I did a visitor restriction hearing on a mother of a female prisoner.  She arrived at a bad time and had to wait a long time.  She got a little short with the front desk officer ( not the regular officer in this position ).  The officer handed her something, or was taking something from her, I don't recall.  But mom kind of snatched at the thing and hit the officer's hand.  The officer wrote up a visitor restriction notice, alleging that mom assaulted her.  At the hearing, mom said she had come in contact with the officer's hand, but she had not intended that.  She and moved too quickly and accidentally hit the officer's hand.  I talked to the regular officer who said that this woman was always polite and never caused any problems.  So I did not continue the restriction.
At the end of the day, as I left for home, I struggled to my car with my walker.  More snow fell that day, covering the parking lot and my car.  The mom and her son, the prisoner's brother, happened to be coming out of the building at about the same time.  They hurried over and helped me clear the snow from my car and made sure I could get out of the parking lot.  Sometimes life is OK.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Feminism II

Following up on my previous post.  There were a lot of manly corrections officers who made me feel safe in the prison environment.  Some of them were women!  LOL!  The officers treated me with respect.  The folks with military background always called me "Ma'am".  I never liked it until I heard it from these guys ( and girls ).  There were numerous instances when the officer assigned to my hearing room stepped between me and an angry prisoner.  Once a prisoner protested my guilty finding with some pretty aggressive language.  The officer with me immediately stood up, facing the prisoner, with his back to me.  This officer was very young, slender build.  Later on he worked out and filled out quite nicely.  It didn't matter that he was relatively small and young looking.  His attitude firmly demonstrated that he would do his job and protect me.
Some prisoners felt compelled to behave in a "manly" way toward officers, confrontational, and uncooperative.  The behavior was exaggerated by the fact that staff was so completely in control of their lives.  Many prisoners did not feel this same compulsion toward female staff.  One guy I was scheduled to see for Disobeying a Direct Order had built quite a reputation for himself for arguing with staff, always demanding to see policy before he complied with orders.  He got into a lot of trouble.  One of the guys who worked in my area told me the guy was a real jerk.  So he came in and started explaining that he the officer's order violated policy.  I explained to him that the disciplinary policy required that prisoners comply with orders first, then if they questioned the order, they could engage the officer in conversation, or they could file grievances.  I explained the paramilitary basis for corrections.  He said no one had ever explained that to him before.  After the hearing, I talked to Sgt. K., a female officer, and the unit manager Ms. D.  They told me they could usually get compliance from this prisoner, but sometimes it took a little discussion.  Sgt. K. was a solid looking woman, not fat, but definitely not a delicate flower type.  Ms. D. was just plain chubby.  So am I.  We probably reminded him of the grandmother who was the only person who was ever nice to him.  So a chubby, blonde female could get this guy to do anything we wanted.  


The talking heads on Fox news have gotten a lot of comments on Facebook lately, talking about the "feminization" of society, whining about how difficult it is now days to be a "real man".  So amusing.  I benefited a great deal from the feminist movement.  It was gathering full steam when I applied to law school.  I got recruited by several.  My class at Wayne State was about 25% women, the first class with such a significant number.  At that time, how women were addressed was a big deal.  We were all supposed to object to appellations, like "honey", "dear", "sweetie",  "girl", etc.  However, once I passed the bar exam and got my first job at the Juvenile Defender Office, I found that this issue dimmed somewhat in importance.  One older gentleman attorney had worked Juvenile court for fifty years.  It was immediately clear to me that he had forgotten more than I knew.  He always called me honey.  I never took any offense at all.  He really liked all of us young crusaders from the Defender office.  He would have done anything to help us do our jobs.  His manner was so dignified and courtly it impossible to feel diminished, no matter how he addressed me.
Another attorney, a middle aged man, called me "young lady" and similar endearments.  He was another veteran of Juvenile court who mentored me.  Sometimes we'd just talk about our families.  He told me an old Yiddish saying, "Small children, small problems.  Big children, big problems."  Boy, did he get that one right.
These two gentlemen, Max Barahal and Loren Goodman, were "real men".   After I met them, I got a lot less strident about the little things.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Daily bread

Hearing all the stories about reductions in food stamps and cessation of unemployment benefits got me thinking about some kids I represented in juvenile court.  There were three or four of them, all boys, cute little freckle faced strawberry blond boys, like stair steps, youngest to oldest.   The cops picked them up when they shoplifted some bread and bologna.  They were apprehended as they were ingesting the evidence.  The officers were unable to locate the mother, so the kids got a free night at the Wayne County Hotel for Wayward Youth.  By the next morning, Mom showed up for the preliminary hearing.  Since the oldest kid was only twelve or thirteen, the referee ordered them released to the mother without any bond.  As the hearing concluded, the oldest kid whispered something to his mother.  She got the referee's attention, and told her "They want to know if they can stay for lunch." We all laughed at that.  ( Once I visited a client when they were eating lunch, and another kid came up and showed me his split pea soup, with a cockroach doing the backstroke.)
This whole situation triggered some concern for these kids.  The kids stole the food because they were hungry.  Cops could not locate mom.  They want to eat lunch at the youth home, maybe because they didn't know when they would get the next meal.  I got to talk to the kids, and gave the oldest one my card, told him to call me if he had any problems at home.
Turns out mom had an open neglect file with Children's Protective Services (CPS).   I found out who the social worker was and she explained that the kids had been returned to the mom not too long ago, after spending some time in foster care.  Mom had a heroin addiction, but she was supposedly clean at the time the kids were stealing their dinner.
A few weeks later, I get a call from big brother.  He says he wants me to come to their place, so he can show me the mom's "works" (syringes, tubes for tying of the arm, etc.).  He says she and live in boyfriend are back on the junk.  So I set up a time, go out.  Mom proudly shows my the fridge packed with food, and all the rooms neat and clean.  Then, as soon as mom is out of sight, my client, the boy, takes me to a closet packed with clean linen, and picks up a stack and shows me the syringe, etc.  So I told him to sit tight, I was going back to my officer to immediately call their worker.  They ended back in state custody.
I hated it.  They were so darn cute, and such sweet kids.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I am watching trash TV again today, one of those shows that find ridiculous videos ,made by people with cell phones.  One showed two old guys in Japan or someplace, stick fighting with each other.  I had an old guy once at the Adrian prison I worked at, charged with assault.  I saw him from the window walking across the yard to the building containing my hearing room.  He walked with a cane.  I first thought, "He probably attacked the other guy with that cane."  The CO escorted him into the hearing room, got him seated.  I read the misconduct report to him, asked him what happened.  He said, "The guy said something that made me mad, so I hit him with my cane."  Oh my, I struggled and lost the fight to maintain my professional demeanor and burst out laughing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Play time!

Our schools were closed for four days last week due to inclement weather, re-opened on Friday.  My daughter in law slowly got crazier and crazier with the two younger ones home all day, unable to go outside.  So I told her I would pick them up and take them to McDonald's, feed them, and let them play in the play space for a couple of hours.  Our local McDonald's has a really good one.  Then I decided that we could just take them overnight.  Joy and I texted back and forth about me picking them up.  She told me they were excited.  Understatement of the year.  I get to their house and Nolan age 11) and Livvie age 5) are sitting on the front porch, in their coats and boots waiting for me.  As I pulled into McD's, Nolan looks over at Arby's next door, and says "I think I like Arby's better".   Hah! Arby's was out of the question because they did not have a play space.  The play space was the whole point.
So as soon as we get food, get settled, another family with a girl about ten or eleven came in.  Daughter went up on the play structure and proceeded to get a cramp in her leg.  She started screaming and crying and couldn't move.  Other kids were trying to help her, but finally her mom had to climb up and get her calmed down enough to move and crawl down.  Fifteen minutes of super drama.  Nolan said, "Well that kind of spoils it for me!"   I told him the girl was gonna be fine, he would be fine, go play.  Livvie was pretty oblivious to the whole thing.  She just avoided the tube that the girl was in and kept playing.  After a while Nolan got over it.  Livvie tried to take her tablet and marker onto the structure with her, but I told her no.  Immediately after that, Nolan tried to take his sketch pad and pencil and I told him no.  He tried to bargain, but I wasn't going for it.  I could just see some kid getting poked in the eye with a pencil, or having to drive back because one of them for got it on the structure.  Not happening.   He came running up to me at one point, stopped and announced, "I was never here!".  Then he ran off.  After a while they got tired and came back to the table to draw for a little while.  Livvie drew a noodle person, ( kind of like a stick person, but with curbed limbs).  She named it something like AAVRUM 3.  Nolan and I started trying to pronounce it.  Nolan explained how he liked the drama of drawing out the "A" in a name.  Like saying, "Oliviaaaah!"  Or "Cynthiaaaah!"  I told him we could say his name, "Nolaaaaahn!"   We repeated it a couple of times, Nolaaaahn, No-Laaahn!  I was like No Lawn, you mean you don't have any grass?  He got it right away, and said y\"Yeah, I don't hardly have to mow!"  Then they went back on the structure.  The next thing I know, I'm hearing fart noises.  Nolan has the kids gathered in one of the intersections of the tubes, explaining to them how he makes the noises.  He just kept going and going, getting louder and louder.  I looked at the other mom at the next table, and said, "He had to get THAT talent!"  Another kid, who was probably 13 or 14, was at the table on the other side laughing his head off.  I was enjoying being a Grandma, feeling like I didn't have to to anything about it.  But finally, I told him it was time to knock off the noise.  Nolan is a born haggler, so of course, he was like, "Just one more!"   I said OK.  He made it a good one, but then he did stop.  Such a good boy.  Livvie is working on the haggling too, she just has a lot more work to do to get it right.  We had a great week-end.  I asked Nolan what he wanted for dinner, he said he liked salmon, so I got salmon at the store for dinner.  They stayed up really late, because they could.  Gramma and Grampa weren't going to make them go to bed.  They slept late today, we fed them breakfast and lunch, then took them home.  Livvie had a cheese sandwich with dill pickle and mustard on it.  Hmmmm.  She ate it, so I guess it was OK.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Well, we got hammered by this polar vortex thing.  Late Monday afternoon, our furnace stopped working.  It was running but not blowing out much warm air.  The temperature fell a degree every fifteen or twenty minutes.  So I dragged out our two tiny space heaters.  I like them because they are pretty safe for space heaters.  They plug right into the outlet, no cord to trip over, or for the dogs to chew on.  They have a thermostat so they automatically turn off when the set temperature is reached.  Less likely to cause a fire as long as you don't put stuff too close to it.  I put one in the living room, one in our bedroom.  My grand daughter was on her own!  LOL!  I also turned on the oven ( electric ).  Then the water line to the toilet in the upstairs bathroom froze, so we couldn't flush.  I dragged out my hair dryer, turned it on high and aimed it right at the pipe coming out of the wall.  Getting it set up and aimed right was quite a challenge.  It took about an hour and a half for the pipe to thaw, but it finally did.  I would have gone to bed, but I had to finish watching the Lifetime movie.  About three o'clock I finally turned off the oven, and went to bed.  When I got up this morning, the damn line was frozen again, but I had left the hair dryer in place.  I figured it would happen again since it is going to be just as cold today.  It only took about half an hour to thaw it this time.  I told my husband I would get up early and call the furnace place.  He said he would call right away, Monday evening around 7 or 8 pm.  Someone actually answered the phone and a service guy called back right away.  He came today and fixed the furnace.
YEA C & C WEST Heating and Air Conditioning.  Good work, fast response and reasonable prices.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

More gettin old

I'm really stuck on the geriatric thing the last few days.   The older prisoners often had medical issues like enlarged prostates, or the women with menopause.  These conditions often caused problems with body functions like urination or bowel movements.  Older prisoners also took various medications which cause side effects like frequent or urgent urination, or diarrhea.  I had a conversation with one of the doctors one day, in which we both lamented how much of our professional lives were dedicated to listening to prisoners tell us about their urinary or bowel functions.  They caused problems for these prisoners during count, when all the prisoners were required to be in their cells, or specifically designated areas.  Nothing causes corrections staff more problems than errors in prisoner population count.  If a prisoner is not in his/her designated location, the prisoner gets written up for Out of Place, a major misconduct.  Then they got to come see me!  What a treat!
One woman I saw was taking diuretics.  She had come out during one excessively long morning count.  She told me she was on a strict schedule.  She took her diuretics, then she would urinate within about half an hour or something like that.  Then she could go to her work detail. I asked if it happened this way every single day and she said yes.  On this date, when count ran over time, she left her cell to pee.  She explained all of this to me very seriously.   After she finished, I said, "I envy your regularity".  I even put that in the hearing report.  A few months later, I got an email from another hearing officer who saw this woman at another facility.  He said she showed him my hearing report, and he burst out laughing.
Another prisoner I saw was charged with Out of Place when he had walked out of his unit during count to go to the segregation unit.  He was also charged with Creating a Disturbance, allegedly for hollering and yelling when he wanted to go to the restroom, and Disobeying a Direct Order for refusing to turn to his cell.  He explained to me that his medication caused diarrhea and he really needed to use the bathroom.  He was not a youngster, he was in his fifties, I think. He had no prior misconducts so he wasn't one of those young guys suffering from excessive testosterone.  The unit count had not cleared yet, so prisoners were supposed to remain in their cell.  Count usually takes about twenty minutes to half hour to clear.  On this date, it had been over an hour, at least.  He said he had asked a couple of times to use the toilet, but the officer on his wing said no and told him if did not return to his cell, the prisoner was going to segregation.  So the prisoner finally just left his cell and walked out of the unit and headed to segregation, since he figured he was going to end up their anyway.  I asked him why he didn't just go into the bathroom instead of walking out of the unit.  He said the officer was standing in the doorway.  He was afraid if he bumped into the officer, he would end up with an Assault charge.  Halfway there, he lost control of his bowels.  When he got to segregation, he asked Sgt. K if he could shower, because he had soiled himself.  Sgt. K knew this prisoner well.  He got the prisoner into the shower, and got clean clothes for him.  He confirmed the prisoner's statement.  The young, female, new officer ( we called them "green tags", the color of their name tags which indicated they were still in training ) assigned to my hearing room that day, spoke up and said she had worked the unit that day and had witnessed the incident.  She confirmed the prisoner's statements.  She said he was upset, but he had not been insulting or out of control.  I ended up finding him not guilty of Creating a Disturbance based on the green tag's statement.  I found him not guilty of the other charges based on physical inability to comply.  The defense was not really a good fit, but  I figured the guy had suffered enough.  I never saw him again after the hearing.  But about a week later, a real young guy came in for an Out of Place charge, leaving his cell during count.  He presented me with a copy of the hearing report I had written on the older prisoner, and claimed he had the same problem, that he had to go to the bathroom.  Of course, count had not gone over, and he was a young, healthy man who had no documented medical history of illness or medication that would cause urinary frequency or urgency.  He was stunned when I found him guilty.  Go figure.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Gettin old.

Following up the subject of geriatrics.  While cleaning the bathroom yesterday, I managed to strain my back. I recall several prisoners who gave me various medical excuses for their misconducts.  One young guy explained to me that he got off his bunk during count, because he was sleep-walking.  He had the biggest grin on his face, thinking he had hit on a sure-fire defense.  Of course he had no previous history of sleep-walking, and no medical documentation of sleep walking.  Not sure where his optimism came from.
The opening of stores selling recreational marijuana reminded me of a guy I saw who got busted for a bad drug test.  He had THC in his system.  He admitted smoking weed, and said he was doing a 40-60 years, he just wanted to get away from it all sometimes.
I did so many misconduct hearings involving claims of injury, illness, etc. that I felt like a nurse or a doctor sometimes.  Which was ironic, because I used to get mistaken for the nursing supervisor sometimes.  She told me that sometimes the prisoners thought that she was me.  I told her that whichever one of us got to work first should be able to pick which job we wanted to do that day.
Most of the time these medical excuses were silly.  But I have to admit, as I got older, I was more sympathetic to older prisoners experiencing the usual "old people" infirmities.