Log in

06 November 2014 @ 04:08 am
My Halloween at work  
I was nearly late for work. I'd made enough food for my shift, but because I was in a real hurry, I left it all behind. Then when I got to work (knowing I probably wouldn't get to read much anyway), I left my book in my car (normally, not a big deal, but the shift was starting, there was drama in the pod that I needed to be informally briefed on, and I would have to go out the sallyport doors, through the gate twice, then back to the break room to deposit my car keys in my locker). My friend, Jonathan, received the keys first, thinking he would go into Foxtrot pod before I showed up. He briefed me that a former-and-current county kid, James, is starting his usual posse of three or more other kids. James has stolen pencils, tags ("gang graffiti"), annoys/bullies/incites other kids, and he's smooth, charismatic with the staff, etc. He's real trouble and smart enough to get other idiots to do his dirty (or violent) work for him. He's recently been inducted into a gang based on his tattoos (and his time in county with the adults). All I have to do is walk into the Foxtrot, see his name, and know I couldn't have read my book and know that my day is going to be hell. You really have to watch him.

The first room search is with Allen. He's either mentally slow or purposefully ignorant or just too much of an immature boy to pay attention to any rule to his benefit. He's got pieces of bread, a mustard packet, two pieces of food garbage, and a full carton of milk in his room. Detention has an ant problem and it's in the rules, "No storing of food in your rooms." I recall this kid doing this before because he's a frequent flier. His story? "It was all there when I got here!" Uh-huh. I told him, "Then you should have cleaned it up or at least told the staff. You can clean things up." I took his room search points. He's part of James' gang.

My next issue of the day is a "face off" or staredown, whatever you'd like to call it - where two kids get in each other's face, staring into the other's eyes full of machismo with the possibility of a fight. I've never had one of these before - in fact, I've never had to reach for my OC spray, not that I did today. It's in the rules, in capital letters, in bold, "NO GANG BEHAVIOR!" John, one of James' gang, a frequent flier who gives varying amounts of trouble depending on who he's buddy-buddy with, also has new tattoos - someone's name on his neck as far as I noticed. In "rec" (recreation), I get John and a first-time detention inmate, Kalson (poor kid - his parents must hate him to name him that along with his last name). They have a face off over...Kalson getting his hand smacked, or "fouled," during basketball and John, an honors/high level inmate starting shit. I start to walk over and yell at them to quit and move along. Kalson does, John does not. Kalson is visibly upset and he comes to talk to me, John continues shooting hoops like nothing is wrong. I sent John to his room with the intention of giving him 24 hours of room time - which is essentially solitary confinement, coming out only for food, restroom/water, attorneys/visits.

Around this time, Jonathan, who is floating officer, tells me a kid in my pod who is on Orientation (a 24 hour period of acclimation to detention regardless if the kid has been here before or not) that this kid has thrown up. Jonathan cleaned it up and as such, he wrote the report on it later. I'd never had that happen before, either, and wouldn't have known what to do. This kid was perfectly fine (probably drugs), was checked by the nurse later that day.

Rec is over, back in the pod for "pod time" where the inmates sit at tables in a community setting. The pod is all fired up about this face off business, convinced I'm wrong for everything I'm doing. I've got James' suspicious letters with L/R (or possible L4) on them. Remember, he's in a gang - complete with the four dotted tattoos on his hand standing for "14." There's a gang whose initials are "LR." James gets all over me for "reading, not scanning" his letters, for "withholding" his letters, then proceeding to loudly confront me in front of the whole pod about how he was "okay with you telling me why in front of everyone." I could lose my job/be sued for talking about his business in front of people who are not need-to-know. We recently had a complaint about our facility about just that. I tell him, "I'm happy to explain it to you, but there are rules for me that I can't talk about this stuff in front of everyone. I'll tell you in private if you like. I need to talk to the supervisor about them." He kept on, muttering and gesturing angrily, "I don't see what's so suspicious about them. I wanna talk to the supervisor." (James always has to talk to the supervisor about something every shift because James thinks he knows the rules better than anyone else). James continues to ask about his letters and his supervisory request throughout the day.

I have another mentally slow kid who speaks in a whisper in the loud pod, Alejandro. He's been in detention before; he's been a pain before. This kid feels like the sky is falling because he had a court date today, but he wasn't called. Another kid tells him that happens sometimes, I tell him the same thing. Alejandro just can't seem to understand this. "Why didn't I have court today? Can I talk to the supervisor? Can I make a call? Can I talk to my attorney?" On a freaking loop. I tell him, "I already told you - they don't need you to be there for the court to do their job. Yes. Yes. You need to fill out a slip to talk to your attorney." Later in the day, he comes up with some baloney, "I wanted to talk to my attorney so she can call my mom so my mom knows when my next court date is. That's what I said earlier." He said nothing of the sort. This kid is perfectly able to call his own mother or call his attorney (most kids are too stupid to know who their attorney is, let alone how to contact them). Still, he wants to talk to the supervisor; wants to contact his poor, overworked attorney over some baloney. I take his staff ponts for being an annoying turd. Near the end of my shift, I have Ken talk to the kid, and I'm not kidding, a few loud sentences from Ken and this kid grasps it, "Oh, okay. Thank you." After pestering me ALL DAY with nonsense. I am not diminishing the importance of the kid's issues, but learn to listen and understand that I am an appropriate authority figure who knows the answer. And fucking accept it.

Now, Allen wants to fax an apology/thank you letter to the judge or something. Apparently he gets out on the day he wants the judge to receive his letter. I tell him to mail it, he wants it there by Monday..."I wanna talk to the supervisor." Yeah, get in flipping line. Not two hours in and half the pod of 12 kids wants to talk to the supervisor about something, most of it ridiculous. Allen's already lost points for walking around without asking or stating his purpose, having his shirt untucked and the food mess in his room. Earlier John literally picked up the pod phone and started dialing without saying anything. John comes out of his room for a restroom break and takes the time to complain about why he's getting punished, claiming he has no idea what he did wrong, he's not in a gang, etc. Back and forth crap from him. I explain and argue and finally ignore him - getting him in his room, I got fed up and literally told him, "I'm done talking to you - go to your room." And had to repeat myself.

I have to get two different sized sweatshirts because one is ripped, the other a request for a too-large sweatshirt. I have to hunt throughout the facility. I've got reports to write because of all the drama. At some point, I get called to Central Control to do a strip search on a newly arrived girl from another facility. Fun times. I don't take my first break because I have no food and luckily I'm not starving or passing out yet (I need to eat every few hours). I wait to contact the next supervisor because the current one is so lazy; I never bother him with anything at all because he won't do a damn thing. He whines that my report of the face off sounds biased, with unneeded information. The next supervisor, Ken, overturned the 24 hours Room Time decision after letting the kids talk it out, which he normally does. If neither of them was gang-involved (which they both claimed they weren't), there is the technicality.

A kid (I suspect his charges are making detailed plans to kill three other students at his school) draws up a labeled, "Smoke Bomb Launcher" which looks like a giant crossbow (oh, the creativity) complete with measurements and different viewpoints of the weapon. He's not smart enough to throw it away, instead he leaves it on the table for me to find and report. Original, Lazy Supervisor does nothing about it. Nice.

John is writing a letter to his girlfriend, about how some other guy "needs to leave her alone. Tell him, I'm gonna do XYZ to him when I get out. I'm gonna do XYZ to him when I get out, he'd better watch his back, you tell him that." Which sounds like calling a hit if I ever heard one. I put the letter in his personals after Ken almost signed off on letting it pass - I convinced him otherwise. I took plenty of points from him and James.

James finally gets his letters - apparently L/R is "Love and Respect" (what criminal brother uses that to his younger criminal brother? I'd never heard of it before). He sends out his letter to his supposed "brother" who is asking all sorts of fishy questions about "James' (their) mother": "What's your mom's number? Her address? How's she doing? Hope she's okay. Can't wait to see her, really need to talk to her." James's response includes his explicit charges, which is against the rules and he knows it. I let that one through and make a note that this loon is supposedly James' brother.

Later, James and John are sharing James' commissary popcorn - against the rules. It should be a mandatory drop to Level 1/lowest level and 24 hours room time. Ken, in all his wisdom, suggest an alternative punishment: no honors movies for one week, and they keep their honors level. It is the technically correct thing to do in our manual, called the "soft-to-hard" method of punishment. I'm still pissed I agreed to it. Even other staff disagreed with it. So John got away with shit, how many times in one day? Seriously.

I've rarely been so flustered, written so may reports, had so much chaos going on and so many unruly kids, or taken so many points.

I finally get my food and take a break. I can't remember if that was before or after the fire drill that was supposed to be for the next day - it was my first one (and I've worked there over a year now). I couldn't tell if the alarm was, you know, THE fire alarm, but the kids knew, so I followed their lead. The kid on Orientation didn't come out of his room for a good minute. Everything else went smoothly. Ken, who appreciates me and my work, said I was calm and did well - he chose to do the drill today because I knew it was supposed to happen the next day.

Now I have a cold from my father who refuses to do anything to prevent his bi-annual colds and he's being more of a jerk than usual without even trying (I usually never catch his colds) and I have to return my first vibrator because it's huge and horrible.

game_byrdgame_byrd on November 7th, 2014 04:04 am (UTC)
Oh wow, after all that crap, and the vibrator wasn't what you wanted either. That sucks!

I'll have more to say later. You have my sympathy!
game_byrdgame_byrd on November 9th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC)
I've wondered a lot about your work, so this is fascinating to see a glimpse of it. Thank you for sharing this! I get that this isn't an average day, but it's still very intriguing. The 'NO GANG BEHAVIOR' is interesting, too. I'm sure there's a subset of kids who constantly push the limits on that. It's just human nature, like if you said, "No words that start with L are allowed here", someone would be over there asking if elephant counted, or elevator.

I imagine it must be mentally tough to police people, or at least I think it would be. It would tie me in knots to work out that delicate line between too much and not enough discipline. I'm lucky that my son is very straight forward - no deceit in him and generally very interested in knowing and following the rules. My daughter is a bit different and it drives me up the wall at times. To be in charge of dozens of kids already selected because they couldn't follow rules would be too trying to contemplate. You have my respect.
means2bhumanmeans2bhuman on November 10th, 2014 01:28 am (UTC)
Feel free to ask about my work.

The holidays can be a mixed bag - staff doesn't want to be there and neither do the kids.

The No Gang Behavior thing is something Washington State and my city is doing, so kids will do some mandatory time in detention for graffiti. There's a whole explanation of what gang behavior is (because that's most of the problem - the government cannot - or rather, will not - define or decide what a gang IS, so therefor it can't write laws or enforce them. Which is why the gov't isn't doing anything about gang infiltration into the military, and when those gang/military members are dischraged, they turn on local law enforcement. States and cities do it differently). It's a lot like pornography, "I'll know it when I see it."

It's not so much out of a real desire to be a complete pain in everyone's ass as much as it is sheer boredom. The pod officer (me) becomes a target for entertainment or competition: who can piss off the pod officer first/the most? It's fun for them to rattle you. They have nothing better to do. And you put pre-teen and teenaged boys with an attractive female officer…well. They want your attention at minimum and they show off more than they usually do and stupidity increases exponentially. The pod officer is also a gateway to everything that they want: food, the bathroom; time out of their rooms; recreation; permission to do things they want, etc. They have to ask so you will be bombarded with questions because they're required and because you can't enforce their speech. Much. I also can't deprive them of many things as much as I'd like to. Yes, I can make the wait for it and I certainly don't rush to do it because I'm not their slave; whatever their issue (except medical), it is never important enough to rush.

My job isn't difficult to learn at all. Anyone can perform the tasks. Not everyone can do this job simply because of their personality and inate skillset. There are plenty of people who work there who shouldn't because of that, and many more people who are lazy with everything including their own safety. I've had moron classmates come in on tours and ask about getting hired here. It's different with adult corrections as adults are more set in their ways, but kids are still growing and learning so you have to try to shape them…'better.' Set a good example and all that.

As someone who generally dislikes people and kids of any age, I surprisingly love my job. The kids entertain me and I always learn something - about them, about life, about myself. I probably like it because few people could/should do it and because it's a major challenge. It takes a lot out of me, but I like that. It's people and legal and medicine and education and law enforcement all in one.

I was told to approach disicpline as I would with my own children and remember that in the event of a riot, you may be held hostage (so if you're cruel and rude, well…). Assess the kid and decide how accountable he/she is and punish accordingly. Remember that kids have different motivations for doing crimes and breaking the rules. You have to remember *and* forget that these kids are criminals of every sort. And they ARE criminals. Sex offenders are the only ones I have real trouble with and not usually because of their behavior. Treat them as people, and how you want to be treated because you do not know who they are as a person or where they've been in their life and don't pretend to. I do use the soft-to-hard method, warn 3x and then take points unless it's a serious offense to begin with (or if they piss me off, which is rare). Use discretion and pick your battles. Apparently I'm the toughest, "meanest," (and youngest) officer, though I rarely have to take points and almost never give room time or put kids in holding (for them to cool down) so I think the results speak for themselves.