A Tough One to Explain
For the past month I have been “keep locked” which in correctional terms is getting grounded after you break a rule. Your cell is locked for a specific period of time and your food comes through the slot in the steel door. In some facilities, to ensure your cage does not open by mistake, they actually chain the bottom of it by putting the biggest, most ridiculous looking padlock on it you have ever seen.
There is a long list of reasons to get put in jail while you’re already in prison. It can be something as simple as not waking up for the morning count bell, to a host of things most would never think about, like not showing signs of life. When the guards do a middle of the night walk and shine a flashlight in your face you are supposed to move so the C.O. knows you are alive.
Normally after the last count, you never see them, except for one “ball-breaker” officer who routinely gets harassed worse than I have ever seen a human being harassed in my life. However, if you drop dead in the middle of the night, they will just find you in the morning anyway. More often than not, aside from a rare dead guy, you constantly hear a C.O. yelling at the top of his lungs for someone to wake up. The reason for this is many inmates are now medicated with things I can’t spell, which brings us to why I was keep locked in the first place.
In the past several years, someone trying to cut their budget came up with the bright idea of putting mental health patients in regular prisons. Instead of treating them, they’re medicating to the point they resemble zombies. I am not one hundred percent certain, but they say it costs the taxpayers in the neighborhood of one hundred grand a year to hospitalize someone like this, versus twenty-five grand to lock them in a prison. I guess on paper this makes all the sense in the world, plus some of these new inmates are not as crazy as they’re portraying while going to court.
The problem is some are worse. They initially put them all on one tier and tried being a bit more understanding towards their special needs. I will never forget seeing the first group of these new inmates after they arrived in Comstock, which is a very ugly, very secure max facility. I happened to be standing on the end of a tier when they let them out for their trip to the mess hall. Now you can call most of us what you wish, animals, hardened or your plain old garden variety convicts, but the second we saw them, you could hear a pin drop. More than one of these alleged hardened individuals held their hand to their mouths in disbelief.
Each one of the new inmates did the Thorazine shuffle, and for those of you who’ve never seen it, it’s when someone is so medicated their feet never come off the floor while walking. It’s like ice-skating in very small increments on concrete. When one of the guys – who I can only describe as Corky’s twin brother waved at us in a child-like manner, several of our group had to walk away. I was certain it was because no one wanted to get emotional in front of the next alleged tough guy.
I saw my share of heart-wrenching shit in prison, but this one had to be in the top three. Fuck if I knew what crime he committed. I didn’t know his history, and I am sure he belonged somewhere, just not there. Here’s where it gets really cute, every State agency is trying to trim their budgets. So they start taking these “dangerous criminals” and slowly wean them off their medication to cut the state’s overwhelming pharmacy bill. Sometimes – if they’re not that nuts to start out with – it works. However, when you have someone who came to prison because they heard voices or saw little green people talking to them from the back of a Froot Loops box, chances are they actually need the stuff. But, they’re taken off meds anyway.
Here’s where I got involved. Someone, who I will leave unnamed, while they were free decided to go into a local college and take a room full of hostages with a musket! Obviously this guy was a little touched prior to trying this and thankfully the swat team realized he only had one shot in his flintlock. Even if he fired at them, by the time he reloaded they would already have him in cuffs, ate lunch and punched out of work; so they decided not to shoot him.
Now after putting him in prison and taking him off his much needed medication, the guy constantly thinks people are plotting against him, me included. What the hell did the state think was going to happen? True, he is not doing the shuffle and true, he actually shows far greater intelligence than a lot of other inmates, but paranoid skitzo people are not exactly all dumb. After having one of his little “incidents” as we will call it, he decided to tell ‘em he was going to attack me in the yard and he actually did! Crazy people – in case you didn’t know – are kind of strong, but thankfully I am not as old as I thought I was and was able to chase him around a little bit. Think old school Batman, “Kapow-Bam-Boom” before crazy got rescued by a few C.O.’s and I got handcuffed for the billionth time!
In the end, I sat in my cage for a month getting my meals through a slot in the bars. I managed to gain ten pounds, from not smoking and eating too many mayonnaise sandwiches, and the state saved about three dollars in not medicating someone who truly needs it.
I can end this with this: N.Y.S. Department of Corrections saves three bucks on their budget, one old convict gained weight from eating too much mayo, and a crazy person was able to have a nice month-long conversation with the brown people swimming in his toilet bowl.
And the winner is… no one.