Prison and jail retaliation manifests itself in many different ways, and comes from many different causes. The result may be anywhere from inappropriate lethal force to very subtle passive aggressive behavior. The retaliation that results in physical violence often is exposed due to the media being anxious and willing to report on violence in prisons. However, seldom is the true root cause of this violence ever exposed. Now don't misunderstand, retaliation is not the only cause of prison violence, but it is a large and important cause that is often unrecognized, and is the topic being discussed in this paper.
Why is the true cause of prison problems unreported? It is often covered-up due to misdeeds. It is analogous to who wrote the history books? The winners of the wars--the conquerors of course. The misdeeds of the winners is never reported, as the losers rarely were allowed to write their side of the story. Similarly, whenever there are misdeeds by prison or jail guards or officials, the administration, or the prison guards' union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association ("CCPOA"), employ their spin doctors to do their best to divert any blame for any problem to the prisoners and away from themselves. Regardless of the spin put on reality, truth, and the actual facts--retaliation is a very big problem in jails and prisons.
Retaliation by officers and other staff is unprofessional, it is technically illegal, it costs taxpayers a great deal of money, and it clogs the court systems. When physical violence results, there are often huge medical costs and sometimes court settlements. However, seldom are the truly culpable held accountable. Why? Because what is really happening behind the walls' of the prison system is kept secret from the public.
Why is there seldom accountability? The guards, for the most part, tend to use passive aggressive techniques to achieve their retribution. To understand, one must first have a grasp on how this works. One of the self help gurus used an analogy to describe passive aggressive: Picture a large dog standing on his hind legs with his front paws on a person's shoulders. With the dog's face at the same level as the person's face, the dog is licking and kissing the human's face, and appears to be affectionate and loving. However, at the same time, the other end of the dog is urinating on the person's leg, but of this the person is unaware. Later he asks, how did my leg get wet?
Similarly, the prisoner is often unaware of retaliation at the time it happens, and from where it has originated. Some examples: The inmate's mail gets "lost" or maybe just "misplaced" for a period of time; his name gets "accidently" deleted from the telephone call list; his visitors are left standing around for two hours before they get around to paging the inmate to visiting; he gets paged to medical when they knew he has a visitor waiting, but fail to inform him of the visit, or force him to choose between the visit and medical treatment for which he has been waiting for three weeks to receive; fail to open the inmate's cell door at the appropriate times, for example, when he is outside the cell and needing to get inside to use the toilet; and a myriad of other subtle, deniable, and mostly unprovable oppressive actions.
Then there are the group punishment methods, where a group of inmates are punished, then the name of the targeted inmate is leaked to the group with the inference that when he is "taken care of" the group harassment will cease. While the group harassment often begins very subtly, it has high potential to end with physical violence against the targeted inmate. A common practice in the Shasta County Jail is whenever an inmate needs to speak with the guard at the other end of their intercom system, which can only be done by standing in front of their security camera and waving until you attract their attention. Then the guard will often shut off the community television set, and leave it off for extended periods of time. This is nothing more than retaliation for being bothered and requesting they perform one of their ministerial duties. Their shutting off the television is simply to discourage inmates from bothering them to do their job. The requesting inmate then reaps the wrath of those who were watching television. This sounds trivial, but when done often it becomes irritating causing tempers to flare.
These are just a few of the ways in which guards retaliate, and guard retaliation is almost always done passive aggressively, whereas, quite the opposite is often true when the inmates become frustrated to the point of retaliation upon their oppressors. Then it is almost always a violent reaction, be it directed against staff or another but targeted inmate--and this is often after the appeals and legal systems have failed them. Oh yes, the retaliation runs both directions. Let us not be so naive as to place blame only upon one party. However, the guards retaliate because they can--they know they will get away with it. The inmates, on the other hand, retaliate from frustration knowing they have no other form of redress.
Some totally arbitrary and oppressive action will be taken against the inmates, and when they complain, they are commonly told, "If you don't like it, don't come to our prison (jail)!" With the high percentage of inmates being functionally illiterate, they have no realistic access to the formal grievance system. They often solicit help from other inmates in filing appeals. That however, often results in the assisting inmate also being retaliated against. Notwithstanding that this retaliation is technically illegal, it is mostly done so subtly the inmate often does not know from where it is originating, making legal redress nearly impossible.
Throughout history, every oppressed group has been faced with members of their own group aiding their oppressors; selling their souls to their oppressors to gain personal favor for themselves. They had various names. For instance, during the Holocaust, Jews who were willing to work for the Nazis by guarding and informing on other Jews were called "Kapos." In the American jail and prison systems, they were called "Trustees." No matter what they are called, prisoners overseeing other prisoners is now technically illegal, but on a subtle plane the practice still exists. Guards often use favored inmates to do their dirty work.
An example would be the situation where a favored informant provides a guard with information. The same guard in a totally different situation is angry at some other inmate. In order to reward the informant, and at the same time, to retaliate against the disfavored inmate; the guard will "accidently" leave the disfavored inmate's cell or locker unlocked, then look the other way while the informant burglarized the disfavored inmate's personal property. The guard killed two birds with one stone, and miraculously, no one saw a thing. The disfavored inmate has no idea of who to blame for his stolen property. He knows some other inmate stole the property, but he doesn't know the guard was conducting that orchestra.
When inmates retaliate, it is often through violent attacks on their oppressors, and sometimes carried-out outside the prison. Years ago, a group called the "Weathermen" bombed four different California Department of Corrections ("CDC") Offices, including the CDC headquarters. In the early 1990's, an officer working at the California Training Facility ("CTF"), the State Prison located at Soledad, California, was murdered by a sniper as he left work one night.
Officer Rudy was an older guard who had retired from the military before coming to work at the prison. His age an maturity made him professional and fair in performing his duties, which resulted in him earning respect from the inmates. Yet, one night after leaving work he was murdered in front of the prison. Officer Rudy got in his vehicle and entered Highway 101 which runs by the prison. He was shot with a high power rifle through the front windshield as he approached the next overpass. Why? He was respected and never bothered any inmate who was undeserving.
But wait, there's more. At the same time a California Highway Patrol ("CHP") Officer was similarly murdered several miles away. Was there a connection? Although not obvious at the time, perhaps so, as the CHP Officer had been married to a female guard who worked at CTF. My memory is failing me on this, but I believe this Officer's name was McBride or something similar. His wife was also a respected Officer known for fairness, which makes one continue to wonder why.
The answer came over a period of time through the inmate rumor system. It seems that several "bad apple" guards at CTF had become progressively more unprofessional, petty, and oppressive in their handling of inmate problems. Shortly after the two killings, the rumor was circulated in a manner the guards were sure to hear, that if the good guards didn't rein-in and control the bad guards, we will get some more of you. We don't care who we get. This, of course, explained why the respected guard was killed--it was random, but meant to deliver a message. This was ironic because the inmates copied a common guard tactic of pitting one inmate, or group of inmates, against another.
Over the years, the newspapers have reported numerous blatant attacks on prison guards, however, due to Governor Davis' removal of media access to prisoners in California, the truth about the cause behind these attacks are never made known to the public. The public only hears the guards' union tell how its members "walk the most dangerous beat in the state," which is followed by pleas for higher wages. The guards' union has spent a great deal of money on public relations and the defense of guards. Everyone who reads the news remembers problems at Corcoran State Prison. One of the most notorious being when guards retaliated against disfavored inmates by placing them in a cell with the "Booty Bandit," who would rape and sodomize whoever was placed in his cell. The guards knew this and used it for retribution. When some guards were placed on trial for their misdeeds at Corcoran, the guards' union not only hired expensive out of town lawyers, but utilized a form of jury nullification by running a blitz of radio and television ads with their toughest beat in the state rhetoric. It is interesting that these ads were only run in the media market where the trial was being held, and only during this same period of time.
The appeals system fails the inmates, and in so doing also fails the taxpayers' interest in having their prison system properly run. The appeals system has guards investigating guards, or promoted guards, who are now administrators, investigating guards. There is nothing fair or impartial about the system, even though by design it looks good on paper. Then the court system fails the inmates because the guards' union is omnipowerful and manipulates the outcomes. All of this appearing proper on the surface, but not in its application. The prison administration could solve many of these problems, and save the taxpayers a great deal of money, by simply doing away with the unwritten policy of categorically denying all appeals and having them instead decided by fair and impartial evaluators. But they won't, the administrators are nothing more than promoted guards protecting their own.
The sad thing about retaliation is that most of the time it results from the inmate attempting to use the appeals system, a right the courts have said comes from the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The right to petition government for redress of grievances. However, the guards became angry when their authority to take, or failure to take, certain actions is legally questioned, and they subtly retaliate. Eventually a few inmates retaliate back. The media receives only the guards side of the story, never learning the true why. They only hear about some inmates, or ex-inmate, going berserk and committing some heinous act. Shooting a cop. Blowing up a building. Trying to drive a big rig into the State Capitol, and so on. They've all been in the news.
The California Legislature has declared that the prison system is for punishment--not for rehabilitation. Therefore, the many things the prison system does to people are all negative, such as lengthy Lockdowns, isolation cells, etc., and these all cause emotional damage, and you may very well create an unstable wild animal. Society would do well to remember that most of these people eventually must be released. When one of these is so emotionally damaged that the person finally goes berserk, the public stands there with their thumb in their ear and asks, "Why would anyone ever do that?"
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