Archive for the ‘Police Procedure’ Category
A recent news story about the abuse of inmates in some U.S. jails and prisons reminded me of a conversation I once had with a former federal prisoner, a person we refer to as Mr. X.
Mr. X is a former business professional who committed a crime that landed him in federal prison. He’s out now and has shared a few of his prison experiences with the readers of The Graveyard Shift. I contacted Mr. X to see if he’d seen or experienced abuse of any kind at the hand of corrections officers. Here’s what he had to say.
Mr X: I have heard many horror stories of CO’s beating and torturing inmates, but I’ve never seen it. Of course I was locked up in low security facilities my entire time in the system. Things march to a different tune at the higher levels.
But abuse and abusers come in many forms. What devastates one person may be like water on a duck’s back to another. I say this because I’m about to describe some things that happened to me and I’m sure they’ll seem trivial to you, but to me the events were humiliating. Yes, I considered this as abuse. Abuse with no way to stop it.
My abuser was a female CO with jet black hair, a face full of acne scars, and a torso like a tree trunk, complete with arms and legs as limbs. She wore shiny black combat boots and she wore her uniform shirts with the sleeves rolled up to mid forearm. A crude tattoo of a giant scorpion sat halfway between the elbow and wrist of her right arm.
Living quarters in the camp was set up dormitory style. My dorm housed just over 200 men, all in one big room with six-foot-high cinder block walls dividing our two-man cubicles. We all used a common restroom and showers. Both the shower and toilet stalls had individual doors (this was odd because most prisons don’t install doors in restrooms to help prevent hidden activity).
This particular officer, the abuser, made it a point to be in the restroom at the end of the work day when most of the guys were showering. She watched as we removed our clothing or towels. Then she’d walk to each shower door and just stand there gawking. When we turned our backs to the doors she’d order us to face her.
It wasn’t long before she seemed to zero in on me, and that included when I was in a toilet stall. She’d order me to unlatch the door and then she’d hold it open and stand there looking at me until I was done. She was not one bit shy.
I vividly recall staring at her boots, which were only two or three feet away from my feet, while she was there. The toes were incredibly shiny, and slick. I remember thinking about how much time and energy she must have put into getting them that shiny. I thought she must have a military background.
I complained about her to sergeants and her other superiors but they said she was doing her job, watching inmate activity at all times. Funny thing about this was that not one male officer ever, not ever, did either of the things she did. They’d make their rounds, of course. And they’d look to see that all was well and as it should be. But they wouldn’t walk up to your stall and stand there staring at your privates. This woman was downright creepy.
An older prisoner who everyone knew had heart trouble, collapsed on his way to the dining hall. Several inmates ran over to help (there were a couple of medical doctors incarcerated in the camp) but Officer Creepy walked up and ordered the inmates to move away. She announced, “He’s faking so he can get out of work. He can lay there all day for all I care.” And she left him there. An inmate finally ran to the medical department to see if a nurse would help. She did not. A sergeant walked up and Officer Creepy repeated the “faking it” story. He walked on. Eventually an ambulance crew showed up (well over two hours later) and took the man away. He never returned. We later heard that he was DOA when the ambulance crew arrived at the camp to pick him up.
One night I woke up with an excruciating toothache. I spoke to the CO working our building, but he said I’d have to fill out a sick slip to request an appointment to see the dentist, who only visited the camp one day per week. When my appointment finally rolled around, I was sitting in the chair with my mouth wide open, overhead light shining inside, and with the dentist preparing to dig in, when in walks Officer Creepy. She was assigned to guard the medical offices that day. So she comes chair-side and begins to talk to the dentist about how degrading it must be to work on the teeth of a piece-of-s*** prisoner.
The dentist, a retiree and an extremely nice man who treated everyone as people, not animals, told her that he loved his job and he enjoyed helping others who really aren’t in a position to help themselves. For some reason that really set her off. She told him I was faking. He contradicted her saying his exam proved otherwise. She then ordered me to open my mouth really wide. And then, and I couldn’t believe it, she jammed her bare, who-knows-where-it’s-been index finger into my mouth and started forcefully jabbing at my teeth, saying, “Does that hurt? Does it? Well, does it?”
The doctor protested meekly, but she continued her tirade. Clearly she intimidated the frail dentist, and he did nothing to stop her.
When she finished poking around she placed her hand on the side of my face and pushed my head to the side. She ordered me back to the dorm. The dentist pleaded my case to her and she finally consented to let him finish the filling.
One night the officer working our dorm told me to mop and buff the hallway floors in the administrative section of the building. It’s the part of the building where the counselors’ and ranking CO’s office’s are located. There’s no one back there at night. I grabbed the tools and supplies and the CO let me inside. He told me to knock when I was ready to come out. Each of the office areas were securely locked and there was nowhere else to go so it was not unusual for them to lock us inside the hallway to work.
As I was getting ready to begin, an office door opened around the corner. I turned just in time to see Officer Creepy and another female guard come out. Both were adjusting their uniforms and securing buttons. Creepy kissed the other officer on the cheek and turned to head back to the dorm. That’s when she saw me and I prepared myself for a trip to “the hole.” I was certain that she would come up with something that would land me in solitary for a long, long time, just to save her own skin.
However, she surprised me by walking past without saying a word. Nothing. Not even eye contact.
The night passed and nothing happened. I didn’t see her again for at least a week. Then nothing. I never saw her at the camp again. I don’t know if she quit, or what. All I know is that it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. No more “visits” from her.
Like I said, to some these incidents probably seem minor. As far as I’m concerned, though, Officer Creepy was a bully and a sex offender. Sadly, the system supports her type of behavior.
Superhuman strength, aggression, violence, paranoia, yelling, bizarre behavior, and hyperthermia. Those are the symptoms of a person in a state of Excited Delirium, a condition that, especially when combined with drug use, can result in death.
Excited delirium is most often associated with users of cocaine, methamphetamine, and PCP, but may surface in non-drug users as well. The condition surfaces suddenly, without warning, and can be extremely terrifying to bystanders and family members.
A person experiencing a bout of excited delirium may experience an alarmingly high heart rate, incoherence, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and body temperature to go as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit. They often feel so hot that they disrobe in an attempt to cool down. Similar conditions are seen in people who use/abuse Bath Salts.
In the past, law enforcement officials simply assumed the violent behavior was the result of drug use and met the suspect’s aggression with the necessary force needed to terminate the threat and effect an arrest.
Typically, to quell extremely violent suspects who are obviously experiencing excited delirium or a similar event, officers employ, for example, the use of Tasers, pepperspray, batons, or the piling on of every officer available (the Polyester Pile). Unfortunately, people have died while being restrained by so many officers at once the case of Eric Garner is a perfect example).
It’s not that officers mean to harm anyone during these attempts to restrain. Not at all. The deaths resulted from officers trying every means possible to gain control of extremely violent and abnormally strong criminal suspects. Again, I cannot stress enough the extreme strength of these individuals. And, they seem to feel no pain whatsoever.
A Polyester Pile (slang) is formed when every officer piles on top of an unruly suspect in order to bring that person’s violent behavior to an end. This is not a method that’s taught in any training. It’s normally a knee-jerk reaction to an action.
Now, as more information comes to light, officers are taking a different approach to handling people in states of excited delirium. And the approach involves careful planning and the assistance of trained medical professionals.
First, officers are trained to recognize the characteristics of the condition. If they determine their suspect is indeed in a state of excited delirium then they should immediately call for back up (4-6 officers are optimum) and emergency medical personnel (local EMS must also be trained and prepared to deal with these situations).
Officers should gain control of the suspect’s arms and legs, immobilizing them. This restraining tactic should be practiced over and over again until they have it perfected. Each man should know what he’s going to do before the technique is initiated (who grabs which arm or which leg). Sure, sometimes it may be necessary to use a Taser, but never after the suspect is on the ground. That’s the time for gaining control of the limbs. Besides, what’s the point of more shocks after a suspect is lying on the ground. Just handcuff them for goodness sake!
Once the suspect has been Tasered and restrained, medical personnel can then administer a sedative, such as Versed (a knock-out type drug used prior to surgery). Then it’s time for an injection of iced saline to keep the body temperature down which prevents overheating (overheating may be the actual cause of death in these situations). Now it’s time for appropriate medical treatment in a hospital, not a trip straight to jail.
Now, after saying all that I have a solution for those of you who have problems with excited delirium…Stop Using Drugs! Your family does not want to attend your premature funeral. Police officers certainly don’t want to be the means of your early demise simply because you couldn’t refrain from smoking crack. I know it’s not easy, but neither is burying someone you care about.
NCADD _ National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
244 East 58th Street 4th Floor New York, NY 10022
phone: 212/269-7797 fax: 212/269-7510
email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.ncadd.org
Have a problem? Please call:
HOPE LINE: 800/NCA-CALL (24-hour Affiliate referral)