#12 You Can Only Laugh – Part II
Every Thursday, at the United States Penitentiary Terre Haute, the administrative level staff of the prison do a tour of the lockdown units. Wardens, Associate Wardens, Captains, Lieutenants, heads of departments (and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) all troop through the place like tourists, oblivious to the fact that they have interrupted all the usual operations of the unit. Due to their self-perceived level of importance, all the non-administrative staff, who usually do the actual work required to keep the prison running, must attend upon them while they are around. By the time they finally exit, the meals, visits, recreation and all else normally scheduled is an hour or more behind.
Among the participants, this event is known as "Executive rounds". For all others, prisoners and staff alike, it is simply called "Liar's Club", and for a very good reason. The putative intent of the walk-through is to give prisoners an opportunity to address problems or issues, and have them resolved by those in charge. In reality, it is only something that administrative staff are forced to do by policy, and it occurs for the sake of appearances. Their only real aim is to get out of the unit as quickly as possible. In service of this goal, each administrator has a set of stock answers, which may be applied to any circumstance. "I see." (Fingers steepled, nodding wisely.) ... "I believe we are aware of this." ... "We are already working on that." ... "I am monitoring the problem." ... "That is soon to be resolved."
With hundreds of prisoners involved along the way, no one could possibly recall all of the names, or the issues brought up. But no one intends to. On the rare instance when platitudes are not enough, each is willing to tell any lie they believe will placate the prisoner for the moment. All they need is enough time to walk away, because as soon as they are out of sight, it becomes someone else's problem.
Once in a while, someone new to their position actually tries. Notebook in hand, they mark down the various complaints, as each person speaks to them in turn. They fall behind the group, further and further, till everyone else has disappeared, and they are left behind. Afterwards, this person is chastised for not keeping up by their superior, sneered at and derided by the rest of their peers. In very short order, they learn to give non-answers, and stop caring, or they disappear from the rounds, never to be seen again.
The status quo will always reign supreme. Problems will continue to go unsolved, administrators will continue to draw their bloated salaries, increasing the federal budget, and being a burden on the taxpayers, while making no appreciable contribution. This seems to be the way of all government executives, and I doubt it will ever change. You can only laugh.
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