Some people live in a world that the rest of us can't even begin to recognize.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 12: Who runs this place?

Each day in jail we have at least 8 different officers rotating through shifts as our guards. There is also an Emergency Response Team that can be called in at a moment's notice for an emergency. I haven't seen too many fights where the Emergency Team has been called in, but they sure look scary, wearing helmets, bullet-proof vests, steel-toed boots, and carrying clubs and Mace. All of the Officers and the Emergency Response Team have a highly extensive vocabulary of curse words that they utilize quite frequently, and usually at an ear-piercing volume. They mean business!

I suspect that these people (the officers and the Emergency Response Team) think that they are running the jail. After all, they wear official uniforms, carry weapons, and get a paycheck for the many hours they spend in the jail. Little do they know that it's the prisoners who really run the place. To us, it's pretty clear who is in charge.

A 19 year old girl named Moniqua is the loudest, filthy-mouthed bully of all 80 inmates. In spite of her age she runs the place due to her anger, threatening demeanor, and ability to both bully maliciously and beg sweetly, both of which she has perfected. She has a posse-- a group of girls who hang out with her, probably more so that they aren't the target of her anger than because they actually like her. Moniqua's posse knows that the rest of the group will support them if they get into any arguments or fights with others.

Moniqua's power is also present in the preferential treatment she receives from the guards. Any inmate who treated others the way she does would end up in segregation. Somehow, the guards tend to overlook her behavior. Moniqua stands in her doorway all day swearing, pounding on the door, and gesturing at others. She bullies others into giving her their food. When it is 'count' time, however, she sweetly greets whichever guard is starting their shift. When the guards aren't looking, she is angrily harassing her next target. I would feel very sorry for the roommate who has to live in the same cell with her, except that roommate is in jail for shaking her own baby to the point of severe brain damage. I hope she rots in prison for the rest of her life.

I have several theories as to why Moniqua receives preferential treatment from the guards. First, a higher percentage of women in the jail are African American, which results in a higher percentage of African American women being punished or put into segregation. I've been told that there have been complaints of racial bias in the past, and wonder if the guards have decided to make Moniqua (who is African American) their example of a lack of racial bias. Another theory of her preferential treatment is Moniqua's ability to turn on the charm, and get whatever she wants. She is often let out of her cell to spend hours in the middle of the night watching TV in the Day Room. Some assume she is a 'snitch,' but won't suggest that to anyone as they fear Moniqua's posse will come after them.

The inmate food workers also receive preferential treatment-- from the guards because the guards often order them to do menial tasks, then reward them by allowing them to eat leftovers. Also, from the inmates in order to, hopefully, get a decent tray of food, some hot water for coffee, or an extra bag of chips.

Some inmates receive special alone time in the shower (either by herself or also with a 'friend') while their friends stand outside the shower letting others know they cannot go in there.

Gwinny (the girl from the holding cell) uses her power to control what gets watched on TV when we are out of our cells. She also gets preferential seating near the TV. I've seen new girls try to watch what they want, and the threatening look they get from Gwinny, and the looks of fear from all the girls around her make it clear that Gwinny controls what is watched on TV. (I never knew Maury was on so many times each day...ugh.)

Finally, there are several young, sweet first-time inmates who cry often and are obviously scared to death. While they do not attempt to run the place, they receive motherly treatment from many of us to make sure they eat regularly, they have someone to talk to when needed, and to try to keep their spirits up. As a matter of fact, there is always someone available to try to cheer up anyone when they are sad. Amazingly, in a place as depressing as jail, the basic human emotion of empathy and helping others is present to a surprisingly strong degree.

No comments:

Post a Comment