Monday, February 10, 2014

Mother Crane

Over the week-end, one of my Facebook friends posted an article from a Denver newspaper.  The article described how working as a corrections officer changes a person.  It made particular note of some behavior that is directed primarily at female officers.
The article made me think of an officer I worked with at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility.  CO Crane was a life veteran, as opposed to a lot of the new officers who came into Corrections fresh out of school.  Crane worked in various other jobs before becoming a Corrections Officer.  She told me she loved her job.  CO Crane worked the segregation unit and Level IV higher security primarily, since she was an experienced officer.  During one major disturbance in one of these units, several prisoners fought with several officers.  During the hearings on the prisoners, I read the Critical Incident reports.  They described CO Crane, 5'2" or so, maybe 115 to 120 pounds, jumping on the back of a big prisoner who was beating on her partner.  The prisoner threw her off, she hit the wall and fell to the floor.  She then crawled back to the prisoner and grabbed his leg in an attempt to neutralize the prisoner's aggression.  At that point, I knew that if I ever got in a fight, I wanted her on my side.
In segregation, they called CO Crane, "Mother Crane", due to her ability calm down upset prisoners by talking to them.  There was one young Hispanic prisoner who routinely worked himself up to long bouts of yelling and hollering for hours.  Mother Crane would go talk to him, get him calmed down so he would stop disrupting the unit.  This prisoner came to see me for a hearing one day.  I noticed that the bridge of his nose was flat, his eyes were somewhat almond shaped.  When I worked Juvenile Court, I learned that these physical characteristics are common in people who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  I asked CO Crane about it.  Adrian is a relatively small community and the officers sometimes know the prisoners, and their families.  CO Crane confirmed to me that she knew this prisoner's mother and she was a serious alcoholic.  It explained a lot of the prisoner's behavior.
One young guy in segregation had what he thought was an original idea to harass CO Crane.  When she was doing her rounds of the unit, he was sitting in full view with his genitals exposed, masturbating.  When CO Crane looked in, he smiled at her and blatantly continued his activity.  She told him to put it away, and she wrote him up for Sexual Misconduct.  Of course, this had happened to her more than once during her career.  When the prisoner came in to see me for his hearing, he offered the usual lame defense, claiming he had just been putting on some medicinal cream for a rash.  The "itchy rash defense" was so common that I came to expect it from prisoners charged with this type of behavior.  ( One of my hearing officer colleagues told me once that she used to see a particular prisoner for this about once a week.  He officer the itchy rash defense to her, and she asked him if he was sure it wasn't a callous, not a rash. )  M prisoner denied having an erection, and said CO Crane must have been mistaken about that detail.  I found him guilty of the charge since he clearly had deliberately exposed his sexual organs to CO Crane, and directed sexual behavior toward her.  In my hearing report I had to explain why the officer was credible and the prisoner was not.  I struggled to come up with wording that did not sound like  "CO Crane knows an erection when she sees one because she's a slut who's had sex with a lot of men".  I finally settled on the phrase, "CO Crane has sufficient life experience to know whether or not a man has an erection".  When my hearing investigator read the report, she cracked up and immediately phone CO Crane and read this portion of the report to her.  They started joking about it to each other, and finally decided that CO Crane would be designated to fill the newly created position of Erection Identifier, or E.I. , for Gus Harrison Facility.
CO Crane never appeared to suffer from the rigidity and emotional damage described the newspaper article.  I believe it was due the "life experience", maturity, and sense of humor she brought to the job.