Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Seizing Harry Potter

[This was written sometime in May while I was in prison.]

For the second day this week, a CO seized my Harry Potter book while I was on the way to work.

Technically, the rules do not allow you to take any reading material to work. (There is an exception for inmates who work at Eglin AFB -- an 80-min bus ride each way every day.) I'm sure there is a good reason for it; I just can't think of what it might be. Most COs probably agree with me, which is why the rule is rarely enforced. The general procedure when there is a petty rule that COs would just as soon not enforce is simply to be discreet about breaking it, making it easy for them to not see you.

My work detail is B01, which is groundskeeping on Saufley Field. Each morning, after congregating at the Bus Staging Area at 7a, we would walk the short distance to the B01 garage and toolshed (designated by the green asterisk * west of the camp on the satellite map at the bottom of the page). I typically stored my book and water bottle under a gazebo near the bus staging area and would simply pick it up on the way to work after my name was called. This had worked well for several weeks.

Until Arnold.

Arnold (last name, not first) is probably the most disliked CO at FPC Pensacola (although "Peanut" is not far behind) because of his authoritarian manner (his mustache is almost Hitlerian) and inflexible application of the rules. He seems to take special pleasure in catching inmates violating petty rules. He once banned an inmate's wife from visiting for 6 months (!) because he claims to have witnessed (via the closed circuit monitor) him groping her breast in the visiting room. The man was 55 and he had been married for 30 years with 7 kids. They were devout Mormons. (I also believe he was wrongly convicted but that is a story for another time.)

I have been reading the Harry Potter series for a few weeks (I am on Book 4 now) and bringing it with me to work in case we have a little free time. Last Monday was the first day he called me on it as I left roll call to begin the 5 minute walk to work.

I decided to wait a few days to give it another try and got called on it again. (As I am walking down the road, I hear "Bailey" being shouted from 50 yards behind me in a voice that could only be Arnold's.) He gave me a rather stern verbal warning. I kept saying "yes sir." He then said I would get a "shot" if I did it again. (A "shot" is a rule violation charge. You can read the entire list of rule violations and code numbers from 100 to 400 range at the end of the Admission and Orientation Manual - 14MB.)

He seemed quite serious but it all struck me as quite silly (in keeping with my "off-with-her-head" Alice in Wonderland theme).

I considered casting a Harry Potter-like curse on him - "kissmyassimus" - but thought better of it :)

As much as I would like to write about the machinations of BOP disciplinary procedures first hand, I think I have quite enough on my plate as it is.

PS By the way, I was able to recover the book at the end of the day. The CO (not Arnold) gave it back to me upon my return. There was an extra copy in the library anyway.


Anonymous said...

First of all want to thank you for this blog - I will be staying at this fine hotel In January of 2008 and really appreciate the blog
The link to the manual is not working and would like the orientation manual to get ahead on reading

Bill Bailey said...

Good luck.

I have fixed the link.