July 30, 2007

Column 44

One question I am asked a lot is what are the guards like in this place. I answered that question in the letter section of this site, some years ago. It seems things have changed a bit since I wrote that. I have heard when the economy is good, it is harder to find people who want to be prison guards. I suspect that is the case in the last few years. In the time I have been here, the guards have behaved in a professional manner for the most part. There are a few who didnít, but it seemed to be an exception. In the last few years it seems guards are less professional acting. I am not saying all the guards are less professional, because that isnít the case. I am saying there are more guards who are less professional than in the past. But MOST still do act professionally.

For example, in our cellblock there are these large speakers (a tannen system) like you see in public places. This public address system is very loud. Even when you have your headphones on, you can still hear them blasting away on the speakers. The PA system is supposed to be used to announce when someone has a visit or medical appointment or for making other announcements. In the last year some guards have started treating the speaker system like it is a toy. They will turn the volume up all the way and instead of speaking into the microphone (which is the whole reason for having a public address system) they will scream into the microphone. They also will pound on the microphone so it will make a reverberating booming sound over the speakers. The most annoying thing is, a few guards forget they are prison guards and thing they are comedians. They will make weird noises over the speaker system, then they will start giggling and laughing. It is pretty childish and not very professional at all.

Annoying as all that is, the games they play on the PA system here is nothing compared to when I was in the Country Jail waiting to go to trial. I was in a part of the County Jail called the Pro-Per Module, which has a law library. Pro-Per is short for In Propria Persona. It is the area where prisoners who were representing themselves (acting as their own attorneys) and awaiting trial, are kept. Also some prisoners facing the death penalty were given a co-counsel status with the courts, were kept in this module. This is so the defendant can assist his attorneys in the preparation for trial. Most of those in the Pro-Per Module donít have an attorney and they acted as their own lawyer.

Many prisoners in this Module had to get up around 4 am to be transported to court. Court hours started at 8 am. What the Deputy Sheriff's† (County Jails are run by the Sheriffís Department), who worked in the Pro-Per Module, would do when Pro-Per prisoners had to get up early to go to court, is to turn the Public Address system as loud as it would go. When this beeping started they would put the PA microphone on the phone, so they could blare this noise all over the Pro Per Module. The reason was to keep the Pro-Per prisoners awake all night, so they would be sleepy and not alert when they were representing themselves in their court proceedings or in trial.

I havenít been in County Jail for many years. I heard they have moved the Pro-Per prisoners to another location, so I donít know if they still do this sort of thing. I would like to think they stopped. Unfortunately I suspect they still do this though.

That is all I have to say this time. A little anecdote to share with you. Thank you for listening and my best to all of you.

Best Wishes,
Dean /i>

p.s. Recently a friend (thanks Irma) sent me an article that is very interesting. If you would like to check it out: