October 28, 2008

Column 46

Many things in prison leave you scratching your head as you try to make sense of it. Here is an example which I think of as 'The Odyssey Of Theá$10.000 Shoes'. No names mentioned, but I have personal knowledge of what I am about to tell you.

Last March a prisoner needed to get some new shoes. Both, athletic shoes and prison issued shoes/ boots. Most prisoners are allowed to purchase personal athletic shoes through an approved outside vendor. This saves the prison system a lot of money and prisoners can purchase athletic shoes that are better than what the prison provides the prisoners for exercise. The prison shoes/boots have to be made in a shoe shop in another prison, by special order.
The prisoner has large feet and the prison system didn't have shoes that fit his feet. The shoes he owned had fallen apart and he had never had prison shoes/boots issued to him before.

When there is anything out of the ordinary needed, in prison (extra large shoes in his case), the prisoner has to get a doctor's okay. First you have to schedule an appointment to see a nurse. The nurse will listen to your problem and then schedule to see a General Practice Doctor.
If the doctor agrees your problem is legitimate you will be scheduled to see whichever doctor is supposed to approve your individual requirement.
In the case of larger than standard sized shoes, it is a podiatrist who is seen to get his approval.
With the approval from the proper doctor in hand, this paperwork was presented to the prison to start the process to acquire the prison shoes/boots.

Meanwhile this prisoner was having to use shower shoes or bedroom slippers for walking. It was not possible to exercise while wearing the slippers or shower shoes, because this prisoners feet had been injured from trying to wear shoes, which were too small. Not being able to exercise, the prisoner started putting on weight and because of this, other health problems started occurring.
Now the prisoner had to see the doctor and medical people on a regular basis. He started having medical tests done in order to find out the case of the health problems that were now evident. An interesting note, this prisoner had seen the medical people less than 10 times in the previous 15 to 20 years.

After 6 months the prisoner finally got the special made prison shoes/boots to wear and it has helped his feet considerably. As for the athletic shoes, there has still been no success in getting those. Every time an attempt was made to get the approval to order these athletic shoes, the prison would then need additional approval. So this is an ongoing affair.
For example, one vendor the prison said the shoes could be ordered from doesn't have the athletic shoes in a large enough size. At most this ordeal should have taken a week or two with only a couple of prison employees involved in the process of approving and acquiring the shoes.

At the time of writing this, it has taken around eight months (and counting) with numerous people in the prison medical department, as well as those in the prison administration being involved.
I have no idea of how much it has cost the prison so far and it is still an ongoing debacle.
It has gone from incongruous and ridiculous to the absurd in the process.

I know this example is not an isolated case. It is possible to see this sort of thing happening in many aspects of prison life. It's as if the system doesn't let common sense and good practices get in the way of bureaucracy and seems to be more interested on the system, rather than results.

Take care,

Dean Carter
p.o. box C-97919
San Quentin Prison
San Quentin, California 94974