The picture is one from inside one of the maximum security cell houses at Lansing Correctional Facility where I was an Officer. It is from inside Cell House B1, which housed a lot of the inmates with mental health issues when I was there. Mental health is a huge problem within our nations prison systems. I wish I could give a solution to the problem, but i only know of one that is sure to work, and as it is the state has not executed anyone since the death penalty was reinstated back in 1994. This sounds quite harsh, but there is a revolving door of inmates who serve time, get out only to victimize someone else. Doing time is not a deterrent as most of them actually seem to enjoy being inside where they are among friends and have no real responsibilities other than being in their cell during count times. Hell, an inmate might be someone important within a prison gang while they are serving time, and then face the reality of just being a nobody once they get out. Odd as it is, they find prestige by holding leadership positions within the gangs. They can more easily run their extortion rackets from inside and can make a lot of money off of the sale of contraband, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and prostitution. Older convicts who are gang Shot Callers can actually make a pretty decent amount of money while doing their time. Besides the sale of contraband and inmate prostitution, there can be a steady source of income by charging child molesters, or Chomo’s as they are called, rent for living in the cell house. The Chomo has no say where he is housed and the Shot Callers charge him rent for being there. They collect by getting the inmate to get family and friends to put cash on the books for them, or by giving up their small paychecks they can earn through different jobs available to them among other illegal means.
The stress of working in a prison will do odd things to your body. You will find yourself binge eating and or drinking alcohol excessively. It is a kind of stress that can make you not able to have a bowel movement, or you might have the opposite effect and have little control. Thankfully, I never had that problem, but I have seen it. And I am only fortunate in that I did not have this. It was not because I was devoid of emotions.
Walking inside the walls gives you a sensory overload as soon as you pass through the secure gates inside. Working in max, officers would first pass through a metal detector, then have our belongings, usually your lunch box, searched for contraband. Truth is, most contraband in the hands of inmates comes in from dirty staff. That is another story for another blog post. Once being searched, all officers gather for a briefing by the shift captain where you find out everything you might need to watch for such as planned riots and assaults etc… This is a scary time, when you come in and you find out that a few officers have been assaulted or stabbed with shanks. You might get briefed to be prepared for a planned inmate uprising against staff, or maybe two or more of the gangs have plans to take control of another gangs turf inside the walls. Hell, turf can be something as simple as a few tables in the chow hall or a larger issue such as the drug trade. You never know what is going to happen, life is cheap inside.
Once briefed, a Control Officer opens a heavy duty gate which is made the same as a cell house door, and the officers pass through. Once all are through, that gate is closed, all officers present ID to Control, then a second gate is opened and you walk inside the walls. To me, the air always felt thick inside the walls, and there was always the lingering smell of the chow hall, and warehoused bodies in each of the cell houses. It was a stench that seemed to permeate not only my uniform, but my exposed skin too. Inmates everywhere, they have more freedom of movement inside than I had ever envisioned.
I would always try to take in every sense I could when entering the prison as you never knew when the shit was going to hit the fan. You had to be keenly aware of everything. The sounds, the quiet, smells, full moon etc… You had to rely on your every sense. A quiet cell house always meant all hell was going to at some point break out. A cell house can be much louder than a dog kennel, which is what they reminded me of at times. Inmates hollering back and forth to one another between tiers. They could be engaging in a game of chess with one player housed on the lower level, called the Flag, and another on a third tier half way down the house. Then there was always the inmates hollering for you, the officer, wanting to know if they could get a shower that night, or when was ice going to be passed, or just any other need or want they might have such as toilet paper or clean linen.
During the time I was an officer, my wife would always ask me how work had gone, and other than the times where I served as a Tower Officer, I can not say I ever gave her a truthful answer. Most of what would happen on shift was nothing you could ever discuss in polite company, let alone your loving wife. My standard response was “It went alright” when the reality was I could have easier eaten began popping open beers while eating ice cream or something in order to quell the stress I was feeling. It was in B1 where I experienced dealing with my first prison gang rape.
The cell house is a very chaotic place, but the reality is that a lot of the chaos is very well orchestrated in order for gang business to go down. The prison gangs actually run everything inside, staff has only the control the prisoners allow. Do not ever kid yourself it is different. At Lansing, we could have a officer to every eighty five inmates in a cell house. The odds are strictly against you should the shit hit the fan. Through the use of OC pepper spray, inmates can be corralled back into their cells, but the chaos will last as long as they want it to.
One night on shift, there was an inmate scuffle in B1 which of course drew our attention away from the rest of the house. Which, this being a diversionary tactic, was exactly the desired result. We officers were played for a few minutes, but that few minutes was long enough for a few gang members to brutally ass rape a Chomo who had either not paid his rent, or had become too far in debt to the gang for drugs. I’m going to say it up front, I would support the speedy execution for all sex offenders, with Chomo’s being right at the first in line to receive a cocktail of death pumped into their veins. I have no use for sex offenders in general, but the child molesters are the worse, and also the most manipulative of all inmates. I had never thought I could see anything remotely human with a Chomo until I have seen one raped by multiple inmates.
I will never forget realizing there was something bigger going on at the other side and end of the cell house than the scuffle we had just broke up. As myself and the other two officers ran down to the other side, inmates were scurrying back to their cells, it was too much happening to really know what exactly had transpired, and who the perpetrators were. All I know is we found this naked inmate in an open cell with blood and feces everywhere.It was all over him and it seemed on everything inside of his cell. What we found was a man who had been so forcefully ass fucked that his rectum had torn and was prolapsed. And even with nasty bodily fluids every where, our jobs as officers was to protect and to save his life, even if he was the scum of the earth being a child molester.
To this day, I still feel no real pity for anything that happens to a grown ass man that would harm an innocent child. Not really even this one. How ever, there was a look in his eyes that said he had been totally destroyed inside his head. I want to think I am cool with that, but I can’t. He was held down and anally penetrated by either three or four inmates and with such force that he was critically injured in the colon. The inmate was in the infirmary for quite a long time after being hospitalized. Eventually he was placed on suicide watch before he was transferred somewhere else in the state. I have come to the conclusion that while I feel no pity for what happens to a Chomo behind the walls, I would just as soon see them face a rapid execution than to live a tortured existence such as this. Some might want to argue this point, but I would venture to say those that would argue have never witnessed a brutal prison gang rape up close and personal.
In closing this post, I want to say I am most thankful that I had already dedicated my life to physical fitness, and my health and wellness before becoming an officer. I am thankful that my military experience had helped me through hard times, because as much as it sucked, and no matter how much stress would build within my inner psyche, I could always get myself re-centered and focused through vigorous weight lifting and cardio vascular exercise. Physical fitness will always help get the mind right when it is really want to drag you into a dark pit of despair. Hard core physical training is how I keep myself together in times in which my Post Traumatic Stress is giving my sanity a run for the money. Hard core training is an integral part of my life. I treat it with as much importance as my job. And thankfully, with this life behind me I feel self actualized as I live my life completely on my own terms. Eating healthy and physical fitness is a very large part of how I live on my own terms.