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Prison Guard's perspective

Original post made by anon on Aug 13, 2009

As a California Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) employee, I
have had my fill with the statements being made in the media about how
the overpaid state employees (prison guards) are draining the state's
budget, and how the poor inmates (convicted FELONS) are dropping like
flies due to substandard medical care and brutal living conditions.
Allow me to cast some light onto these shadowy areas with my ten plus
years of insight behind the walls.

California spends approximately $50,000 a year to house each of our
170,000 inmates. Roughly $12,500 of this is on their "substandard"
medical care. In contrast, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
spends about $1,400 per veteran. You read that right. That's nine times
more money being spent on convicted felons than on our nation's
veterans. Texas, which ranks second in the nation in inmate population,
spends about $5,100 a year, per inmate, on health care. In California,
if an inmate has a health complaint, he fills out a form and may be
subject to a $5 co-pay, unless it is deemed an emergency by health care
staff. If that's the case, there is no co-pay and he is seen
immediately. If an inmate claims a pain level over a 6 (on a scale from
1 to 10), he must be seen immediately by a registered nurse, and
scheduled to see a doctor. I don't recall the last time I heard an
inmate claim less than a 6. I don't know about you, but the last time I
went to the ER it took me five hours to get in and cost me 50 BUCKS!

On the educational front, California ranks 29th in the nation on
funding per student, and 49th in "student per teacher" ratio. Over the
last two years, $11 BILLION has been cut from education. Add to that
more than $5 BILLION in proposed cuts over the next two years. I have
friends who have told me that their child's school had to cut the
library program due to budget cuts. My own child's school had to cut the
music program, although we still have a library. For now. And the few
athletic programs we still have are run by volunteer-coaches, as there
is no money to pay someone. The prison I work at has several paid
coaches, in addition to a "recreational coordinator". There is a staff
of who knows how many teachers, while my child's school had to lay-off
two. But let us get back to these poor, fragile creatures we lovingly
refer to as inmates.

The typical day in an inmate's life consists of being awoken at around
6:45am for chow. They walk to the dining hall, where they are served
coffee and/or juice and a FREE balanced breakfast, that would cost my
child $2 at school. They sit and eat breakfast, and socialize with their
brethren, for about 15-20 minutes, and on the way out receive their free
bag lunch. Then, if they have a job, off they go (the average workday
for an inmate is about six hours). If they aren't employed, they go back
to their housing unit until the yard opens at about 8:30 or so. Once out
to yard, they have a myriad of recreational choices in which to indulge.
Some inmates play basketball or run the track. Others prefer handball or
tennis. Less adventurous fellows may choose to throw around a Frisbee or
participate in a game of horseshoes. Some simply lay their blanket out o
n the grass and sunbathe. There are softball tournaments to compete in
for prizes (sodas, ice cream, etc.). This scenario is repeated three
times a day for a total of about 8.5 hours of daily recreational
opportunity, seven days a week. Wouldn't that be nice?

I have read numerous articles about the state prison guards making
outrageous amounts of money in overtime. While it's true that I did make
about ten thousand in overtime one year, what isn't known is that I
didn't volunteer for a single overtime shift. Due to a hiring freeze and
the usual attrition, ALL of my overtime was mandatory because of short
staffing. In other words, much like the inmates, I was not allowed to go
home after my shift those days. Unlike the inmates, I could not play
horseshoes.

Up to this point, I have been "given" three furlough days for a total
pay cut of around 15%. That was roughly equivalent to my mortgage
payment. I am, however, no longer saddled with that burden as, due to
said cuts, the bank has relieved me of that responsibility by taking
back my house. The hardest part to swallow is the fact that while I'm
losing everything I've worked for, the inmates have not had one program
or privilege cut thus far. As a matter of fact, they gain new rights and
privileges with every new lawsuit. Speaking of lawsuits,
prisoner-initiated lawsuits have cost the state more than $ 191 million
over the past six years. How many homeless veterans would that feed?

I hope I've opened some eyes as to what really goes on inside the
walls of California's state prisons. Voters have made themselves heard
with the three-strikes law and other get tough on crime issues. The
people of this state demand justice when one person takes another's in
cold blood. The problem is, once that person is convicted and locked
away, he is portrayed as a victim of the system. Suddenly he is
guaranteed rights that neither you nor I enjoy. Like the right to
instant medical attention (despite what the media says); for free. The
right to three balanced meals a day.. The right to their own personal TV
and radios. The right to buy Ramen soups or Snickers bars or Dreyer's
ice cream. We, as the citizens of this state, need to pull our
collective heads out of the sand and see what is going on in this state.
We are taking money from our future, our children, to repair the damage
these inmates have caused to themselves over a lifetime of drug-abuse
and self-neglect. Instead of blaming Corrections staff and other state
employees for the budget problems this state faces, let's take a hard
look at what we're spending to care for and coddle the inmates in
California. I'm not denying that basic medical care is a basic human
right, but would you rather spend your $40,000 on a convicted child
molester's total knee replacement, or pay a teacher a year's salary to
educate 30 of our children?

So, in closing, let me just ask you this. If prison is such a
barbaric, inhumane, insufferable place, why do 80% of them come back
after their first term?

Comments (7)

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

We need an Arpaio, and we need an Attorney General who vigorously fights these prisoner "Quality of life" lawsuits. Very often, in the brotherhood of lawyers, opposition is pro forma, as in the "defense" of 187, where we gave away billions of dollars without a fight.
I was at Camp Cook, later Vandenburg, in 1952. The disciplinary barracks were 7 miles away, but we would often be awakened by the sounds of prisoners counting cadence at midnight for some defalcation. Let's knock off the fiction of correction and rehabilitation, and construct a program that takes the joy out of a prisoner's life.


Posted by Stuart, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2009 at 1:24 pm

anon,

My cousin works in the CA prison system, and he tells me exactly the same thing. He has been viciously attacked by prisoners, with no forewarning. He has the scars to prove it. Prison guards are not paid too much. Prisoners are pampered. I agree with Walter, bring in someone like Arpaio. The chain gang would be healthy for them, and they can purchase their own sunscreen, if they want it.


Posted by leader, a resident of Stanford
on Aug 13, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Is Arpaio really the person we want here?


Web Link

"New reports show that the county may be improperly clearing as many as 75% of cases without arrest or proper investigation.[49][50][51] According to recent reports, the sheriff's office has failed to properly investigate serious crimes, such as the rape of a 14 year old girl by classmates,[52][53] the rape of a 15 year old girl by two strangers,[54][55] and the rape of a 13 year old girl by her father.[54][56] These cases were "exceptionally cleared" without investigation or even identifying a suspect in one case which are not in accordance with the FBI standards for exceptional clearance.[54][57] The case of the 15 year old girl, the case was closed within one month and before DNA testing was even complete, the 13 year old's because her mother didn't want to "to pursue this investigation," and the 14 year old's because a suspect declined to come in for questioning.[52][54] In a statement to ABC15, the Sheriff's Office claimed, "The Goldwater Institute's report cites the FBI's Uniform Code Reporting handbook, which is a voluntary crime-reporting program to compile statistical information and reports. The UCR is not intended for oversight on how law enforcement agencies clear cases...The Sheriff's Office has its own criteria for clearing cases."[58]"

"Family members of inmates who have died or been injured in jail custody have filed lawsuits against the sheriff's office. Maricopa County has paid more than $43 million in settlement claims during Arpaio's tenure. "

"At a December 17, 2008 meeting, four audience members at a County Board of Supervisors meeting were arrested for suspicion of disorderly conduct and trespassing, after they applauded an anti-Arpaio speaker.[8"

I can see why Wallis would support someone like Arpaio--they seem to share a love of fascism.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2009 at 5:34 pm

"construct a program that takes the joy out of a prisoner's life"

So why are you still on the outside instead of enjoying your own slice of Nirvana in Soledad?

"I can see why Wallis would support someone like Arpaio--they seem to share a love of fascism."

Arpaio is good at promoting himself by clowning around and bullying people who cannot fight back, but not much else. But, like The Force, he can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2009 at 2:24 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I am on the outside because I am a responsible adult. Numbers, to be relevant, need referent s and comparisons. Statistical analyses are not the ideal analytical tool since they usually have the "all other things being equal.." implied, all other things ain't equal. What is the crime complaint clearance rate comparison with frisco or or LA or New Orleans? My love of individualism and my unremitting opposition to the mindless terror of a mob, combined with my skepticism of the leaders are not consistent with Fascism. I would make the trains run on time by improving the plant, not refining the term "on time".


Posted by Don't be a Chump, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm

sounds like another email put out by Corporate PR firm. The guards have an incredible job and are in extremely dangerous job both physically and mentally.
But the wording in this email just sounds like the same ones spewing misinformation and/or hate about healthcare. They know a bunch of chumps would fall for it and us it as another ralling cry.

It was probably put out by the CEO's of the Prison Corporation because the goverment is looking at the books and seeing how much they are profiting off the tax dollars.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2009 at 2:11 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Unless someone is intercepting the checks in my mail, I am nobody's paid stooge. Advocates of any issue tend to gravitate to similar points since issues do have points. It ill behooves anyone to, in the arena, seek to demean the means others use to access that same arena.


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