Friday, April 09, 2010

A Day In The Life

Officers Can Be Wrong

Despite what some people believe, inmates are people and have rights. We cannot just stick them in a cell and leave them there, feeding them only bread and water.

On a random day I am standing outside housing units during a regular move. Inmates are going to or returning from recreation areas. I am standing with another officer. He is a nice guy. I have not met him before. (There are a lot of people working there. There is no way to know them all. Plus new people start regularly.) As we are standing there chatting about the rainy weather, an inmate approaches the other officer and starts asking him questions about something that was taken from his cell. Officers regularly go through cells and remove contraband. It is part of our job. The officer tells him that he took it and no, he wasn’t giving it back. He also informs the inmate that now is not the time to discuss it.

After the inmate leaves, I ask the officer what he took. I happen to know that inmate and I also happen to know that he has a bit of a mental disorder. He is very OCD and can get rather belligerent when his order is messed with. However, he is usually a big rule follower and his cell doesn’t usually contain contraband. I have searched it myself previously. (That’s how I learned about the OCD. I left a speck of dust on his blanket and I slightly messed his perfectly made bed.) The officer tells me that he took stamps. Stamps, though seemingly boring, can be contraband. Stamps are regularly used by inmates as a way to buy and sell things to each other and to gamble. Both of those practices are not allowed. Therefore, we limit the amount of stamps one inmate can possess. They are allowed the equivalent of three books or 60 individual first class stamps, which works out to $26.40 worth.

According to the officer, this inmate had about 100 stamps. Anything over the limit is contraband. Therefore, the officer took them. There is nothing wrong with that.

However, the inmate had complained to a case manager that he was not over the limit and the officer was wrong and had made a mistake. So the case manager asked to see the stamps. Well, it turned out, the inmate was right. A lot of his stamps were one cent stamps and when added together, he only had about $22 worth of stamps. His stamps were then returned to him. I also found out that the officer was new and was only aware of the 60 stamp limit and not the value limit.


  1. It's good to be reminded that you're not always right. And he learned something new besides. A good day.

  2. It's good for officers to remember that they are there to keep the peace, not feed their own power egos.

    Come visit me.


  3. I don't think it was a power ego thing. Like I said, he was new and didn't know the rules. Also, inmates are not exactly trustworthy. They are criminals. But he learned the rules, no one got hurt and the inmate lost nothing. It was good.


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