#13 You Can Only Laugh – Part III
Although many prisoners never learn, and continue to waste their time and effort in trying to reason with prison administrators, I normally avoid all contact with such individuals. When the administrative staff - also known as "Liar's Club" - do their weekly tours, I get a book and read, never looking up, not acknowledging their existence. This saves me a myriad of hassles. Even so, it is not possible to insulate myself completely from their nonsense.
One weekend in the not too distant past, I was sitting at my desk, eating lunch. Everyone in the Special Confinement Unit eats every meal in their cells, which are delivered on a plastic tray through a slot in the door. As I ate, I was interrupted by a knock at my window, accompanied by the words "Hunger strikes will not be tolerated in this unit!"
The Unit Manager was at my door, glaring at me. She had an unobstructed view of both the food tray, and of myself. So I expected her to deduce her mistake on her own, with little trouble. All I did was say "You are at the wrong cell ", and continue to eat. It turned out that I was vastly overestimating her intellectual abilities.
As you may guess from the title, the Unit Manager is ostensibly in charge of the entire unit. As such, this person would be expected to know the most about the proper operation of the unit, and about the prisoners housed therein. However, it usually turns out quite the opposite, and they know the least. They are almost universally unwilling to hear, or consider anything that comes from the mouth of a prisoner. To top it off, they also usually ignore the non-administrative level guards, who do all the actual work in a prison. The individual I was dealing with on that day proved no different than most.
Her response was to flare "Don't you try to tell me I'm wrong! I know very well which cell I am at. I know you are on a hunger strike, and I can tell you right now, you aren't going to get what you want by acting out like this!"
Around that time, the regular guards began to show up. One began "This isn't...“, clearly intent upon telling her that she was at the incorrect cell, as I had already told her, and the prisoner on a hunger strike was elsewhere. (It turned out that she was not only at the wrong cell, she was on the wrong floor entirely.) She cut him off abruptly by thrusting a silencing hand into his face, and snapping "I am handling this, thank you very much!"
Four officers stood by silently, and watched as she began to list for me the rules I was breaking, the ways in which the prison would respond, and the punishments I would receive, due to the hunger strike I was not on. As she droned on about prison policy, I picked up my food tray, stepped to the door, and continued to eat. If it were not for the plexiglass between us, she could have reached out and touched the tray. At one point, I made exaggerated "Num-num-num" noises, and smacked loudly, as I spooned food into my mouth. Although this started several guards snickering, it somehow failed to make any impression whatsoever on their illustrious leader. She merely continued her speech, telling me how I would be weighed every day by medical, and once I had lost 10% of my body weight, I would be strapped down for force feeding. I did not want that, now did I??
Finally, a nurse showed up, and asked irritably what they were doing, because she had been waiting upstairs to deal with the prisoner on hunger strike. The Unit Manager stared at her for a moment, looked at the guards, then glared at me, and demanded "Why didn't you tell me?" before storming away.
A "shot", as it is known among prisoners, is a formal write-up on paper, to notify a prisoner that they are being charged with rule violations. Everyone must be heard by a Disciplinary Hearings Officer (DHO). The next day, I received an entire stack of shots. Apparently, I had both been in a hunger strike, and lied about being in a hunger strike, though I am not sure how both could be true at one time. I was also charged with "insolence", "participating in a group demonstration", "assault", "failure to obey an order", and "endangering the safety of the institution".
None of the write-ups were done properly, with the description of the event for each incident being totally omitted. The DHO said he could not make heads nor tails of them. The Unit Manager declined to be present at my hearing, to avoid having to explain. As rare as it is for any staff member to support any prisoner against another staff member, in any circumstance, all four of the officers present spoke for me, and said none of it had ever happened.
I was cleared of all charges, and everything dropped. But it made for a rather annoying week.
What can you do in the face of that sort of ignorance, absurdity, and vindictiveness? You can only laugh.
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