At certain points during the day, inmates are locked into their cells and counted for security and accountability purposes. It is pretty standard really. We do it several times a day, every single day.
On one such day, another officer and I are conducting a count. We always have two people to count. The other officer is walking ahead of me counting as I walk behind him, also counting. We are counting his unit first, and then we will go next door and count my side.
We finish the lower level of the unit. We go upstairs and begin in the same pattern. We get about ¾ of the way around, and we come across an unusual sight. Two inmates, cellmates, are standing apart, like two bulls about to charge. We stop. We question them. They say they are cool. We continue counting. When we finish, we walk back to that cell and again look in. They are still acting odd, but they say they are fine.
It’s not as if we try and purposely mix match inmates into the same cell. We certainly do not try and create chaos. We wouldn’t mix a Hispanic gang member with a black gang member. We wouldn’t put a skin head in with a black guy. Really. The two inmates in this cell were black and in the same gang as far as we could tell.
We go downstairs to record our count. Neither he nor I were satisfied with the actions of the two people in that cell. But we had already checked them twice. They said they were fine. I locked the office door as we prepared to go count my unit. The other officer had walked away from me towards the passage to the other side. I had just locked the door and was in the center of the unit when I heard a bang coming from the area of that same cell. Both the other officer and I turn and head in that direction. He cannot see from the way he walks, but I can see the cell. I look up and I see it. The two inmates are fighting. I push the alarm on my radio and tell the control officer what I have… an inmate on inmate fight in cell #(blank) in Unit #(blank). She calls for help for us, as we run up to the cell. We want to see if there are weapons involved. There are not.
I run down and open the main door. Staff is coming from every available location. When there are five of us, I open the door and we rush in. At that same time a bunch more people have arrived. I am small, and a large officer literally picked me up and placed me out of the way. About five staff members now have one guy pinned to the back wall and cuffed. But the other guy doesn’t want to give up. He is still shouting at the other inmate and struggling with staff. It took about 6 staff members to finally get him pinned to the ground and cuffed.
No staff is hurt, only my pride a little. I hate when other officers assume I can’t do anything because I am small. However, the next day, that same officer who moved me, who I already know is a really nice guy and who doesn’t think I am incapable, told me what a good job I did. I saw the fight, I gave clear directions, and I accurately recorded the whole thing in memos and reports. Sometimes when you are in a struggle, you forget some stuff. When you are just observing it is easier to remember and record. Since there were plenty of big beefy men willing to get in there and break up the fight, why not have me take care of something I am good at? Sometimes you have to go with what you’re good at.
The inmates are a little bumped and bruised. They were taken to medical and assessed, then to a disciplinary segregation for the fighting. Just another day at work.