Posts Tagged ‘protective custody’

For years I have tried to convince inmates that those men in protective custody (PC) were just like them.

“Listen, teacher, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Those guys are all sex offenders or rats who squeal on other cons.”

I knew that to be untrue. An inmate I know was beaten in his cell before anyone else was awake. Three guys jumped him with homemade clubs and weapons while he was still in bed. What did the prison system do? They moved the man to a PC prison.

This was often done when there were fights – the people in the fights were moved to PC prisons. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince people that the guys in PC were human beings. I even pointed out that every group in society seemed to need a group to be lower than them. Society considers inmates to be the lowest of the low, but inmates can say, “At least we’re not PC.”

Recently the Canadian prison system has come up with an answer to this problem. They put general population men and PC inmates in minimum security together. And they let it be known, that if there are any fights or any bullying, people will be sent back to higher security.

I couldn’t accomplish this by talking, but the system did it by mixing the two populations.

Last night an inmate called me from this area’s Protective Custody prison. I worked with this man in PreTrial, talking to him two or three times a week. He long ago reformed of his crime (in my opinion), but he still has a few more years of his sentence to go.

I don’t call him, he calls me and he has to pay for the call. He works as a tutor in the institution and makes a few dollars a day. I don’t know how much he paid for the phone call, but he talked to me for 45 minutes.

He told of his struggle with depression, a battle he’s been fighting as long as I’ve known him. I suggested he talk to a counselor there, one on one.

“There isn’t anybody here like that.”

person attention

Personal Attention = Success

“What? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No, there just isn’t anyone here like that. I talk to one of the religion volunteers and a woman who helps me with my studies and you.”

“Come on. There’s 4-500 guys there. Many of them need help, I’m sure.”

“There’s no one.”

one on one

One on one

I was amazed. Many things help rehabilitate a man, but there has to be personal involvement. We understand that in a school environment – counselors help students from elementary school to post graduate. In the medical area, scientists are at the verge of a new age of individualized medicines.

It seems to me that a critical part of effective help is individual attention.


Isn’t that right? What’s wrong with the prison system?

Images courtesy of:

  •  // personal Attn.
  •  // one on one

A few years ago two creative men stirred my creative writing class in prison with idea after idea. They came up with creative writing projects, with proposals to the prison administration, and even with ideas for TV shows.Creative People

They were good friends not only in the classroom but in the gym and in sports. Jack was the boxer and the storyteller, while Andrew was the humorist. Andrew didn’t have the physique Jack had, but he tried hard. (not their real names)

One night Jack heard a disturbance in the cell next to his. He got up and saw three men beating up Andrew. Jack broke up the fight.

Prison officials followed usual procedure and put everyone in segregation until they could figure out what had happened. It turned out that Andrew had made enemies in the prison, reason unknown, but some suspected that his success in criminal ventures had stirred jealousy.

Jack was released from segregation the next day. Andrew was moved to the federal prison set aside for those who needed protective custody.

Officials scheduled release for the two men at roughly the same time, but Andrew got out first. I met him for coffee and we talked. I knew he was headed back into crime and I argued and pleaded with him. A few weeks later we were to meet again for coffee. He stood me up and I knew my influence was over.

Jack got out almost a year later. He was a changed man, but he said it was the writing that had helped him, more than the prison. That, and our friendship, for he and I had become good friends. While he was in prison, we wrote a book together.

We met for coffee when he was released. He told me that Andrew had set aside a gift for him in the tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, I opposed him accepting it, but Jack already had reservations about it. He knew the money came from crime and accepting it meant he would join his old friend in new criminal ventures.

Jack turned the money down. He struggled for a few years, but has now built a little entertainment company. He works hard, but he’s happy.

Andrew did well in crime. He made a lot of money in drugs and in financial crimes. He had a child with a young woman Engagement Partyand he’d planned an invitation-only engagement party in a downtown restaurant. Guests started arriving for the evening event. A friend drove Andrew and his fiancé there, but as they neared the restaurant, a volley of bullets slammed into the car, killing Andrew, but sparing his partner.

I planned to attend the funeral and I asked Jack if he’d like to come with me.

“I’m so bleeping mad at Andrew. A creative guy, gunned down and it’s his own bleeping fault. No, Ed, I can’t go. It will be a gang event and I want no part of it.”

He was right. The pallbearers looked like the muscle from a gang and the usual undercover police stood outside the Pall bearerscemetery taking pictures of who was there.

Every time I drive by the cemetery, my heart aches for Andrew. I guess I should be mad at the prison system for failing to change him over his seven-year sentence, but I’m just sad. Creativity is buried there, innovative ideas in business or the arts, dead in a gangland shooting. How sad.


Images courtesy of: