"The Lessons We Learn- Part One"
In order to live sanely and safely in federal prison, you have to learn and apply a few big lessons to guide your behavior. These lessons are mostly informed by the fact that you cannot trust the system in any way, shape, or form. The authorities are not here to help you and if you play by the rules they set at best you will end up socially marginalized and psychologically miserable or on the far end of the spectrum you'll literally end up dead.
Hyperbole? You think I'm exaggerating? Not in the least. Recent very sad and personally upsetting illustration to prove my point... I have a friend here named R.C.. Big guy, friendly, respectful, has a legitimate rectitude streak a mile wide. He and I lift weight together five days a week. I like him. He's a good and trustworthy person (which here means a whole hell of a lot) and he treats me with that core decency even though he fully knows that I'm a recalcitrant and unrepentant total piece of opportunistic dangerous shit.
Some months ago R.C. tells me that his back hurts. This already is a big thing because he has a tremendous off-the-scale pain tolerance. He chalks it up to maybe he threw it out or pulled something lifting weights. Problem is that the pain doesn't get any better. It slowly increases. He has to stop exercising. As the weeks go on the pain continues to rise even though he does the standard rest, ice, and compression schpeel. After almost a month, he is forced to go to medical.
Going to the medical department is an exercise in absolute pass-the-buck time wasting stroke inducing futility. They do not give one teeny-tiny solitary shit about you. They (like the majority of other prison staff) are only concerned with getting you the fuck out of their face. Obstructing your forward progress and putting off any actual work or assistance is the name of their entire operating principle on every level. You'll go down there and sit crammed in a room full of people who are sneezing and coughing and laying on the floor like a scene from "Outbreak" (and get sick yourself from exposure) and then tell the medical staff whatever is wrong with you. They'll write it down and then hopefully put you on a "call-out" for a few weeks later. That's if you're lucky. Sometimes (like with this current example) they'll hit you with some arbitrary off-the-top-of-their-head medical misdirection to keep you from even being seen by a doctor or nurse or PA. They are the delusional self important asshole bouncers outside an exclusive club that don't want to let anyone in. Immediate medical attention is unheard of unless you need to be taken to the hospital right then because you have a jagged piece of bone sticking out of the skin or your spleen is hanging out of your asshole.
R.C. heads on down to medical as the pain keeps increasing and his mobility is dropping off day to day (problems negotiating the stairs and walking super slow with necessary rests every so often). He is seen by the most lazy, despised and openly hostile medical staff member that I have ever seen in my 23 years in the federal system. This guys middle name should be changed to "Deliberate Indifference" and his only redeeming quality is that he does not try to hide his incompetence or personal contempt for those in his care behind any facade of professionalism, he just lets that shit flow open and unimpeded for everyone to see. He is emboldened like this because A) no one in the whole wide world gives a shit about us, and B) none of his antagonism or neglect has any potential for any blowback- he, as a staff member is beyond any criticism or correction.
R.C. tells Deliberate Indifference that his back is in serious pain and has been like this for well over a month. He tells him that he has serious mobility issues. He tells him that since this has started he has begun loosing weight. He tells him that the pain at times seems to shift from the back to the sides and front and then sometimes even to inside the abdominal pelvic cavity. Sometimes it even shifts to the spine itself. He'll break out in cold sweats and shiver at night when he's in bed. Weird stuff that seems to be getting worse. Deliberate Indifference tells R.C. that he only pulled a muscle in his back and to do some stretching exercises. He decides in his great wisdom that R.C. needs no exam or scheduled time to see anyone else. Deliberate Indifference is omniscient and tells R.C. to come back in six weeks if the problem continues.
R.C. being the lovable rule following rube that he is, actually does as he was instructed. He stretched, to great pain and distress, several times a day every single day to absolutely zero improvement. Six weeks plus goes by, by which time R.C. has lost over 25 pounds. Things are steadily getting worse. He does not go to the chow hall because the walk is too taxing. He stays in the unit and hobbles around in obvious agony. Finally unable to take the increasing pain, weight loss, weakness, and mobility issues he tells me that he's going to go back to medical on the next sick call.
I ask him what the best case scenario of that action would be. Rhetorical question of course. The best case scenario would be that he somehow gets past the medical attention denial of Deliberate Indifference and gets put on the institution call-out weeks in the future. I ask him if he can wait more weeks for initial attention (which will without doubt be followed by more months of delays and follow ups). He says he definitely can't. It's all encompassing and intolerable. I tell him what he has to do if he wants to get attention from actual Hippocratic Oath following medical professional: he has to fall down and not get back up. Just lay there, totally still and scream real loud if they try to touch you or pick you up. Feign complete immobility. He has to force the hand of the prison medical department to take him to the outside hospital.
And, long story short... that's what happens. After a short rehearsing confab ("Listen, I'm going to pour some water on your crotch when you're on the ground so it looks like you pissed your pants when you fell down. Whatever you do, don't get up! We've got to sell this shit if we're gonna get you some real medical help...places everyone...background action... annnnnd ACTION!") he "falls out" in my cell and I press the medical distress button. Medical comes and gets him and praise God takes him to people who care if human beings are in constant and increasing agony (can anyone say 4th amendment violation for Cruel and Unusual punishment?). That place, of course, is the fuck away from here at the local hospital.
So R.C. is taken out to the heavenly free world that many people take for absolute granted. It's been just about a week and none of us are informed about his condition or what happened. But thankfully, prison staff talks. A lot. Like vapid high schoolers. Usually to each other with no sense of who (like sneaky ass me or other real professional malcontents who have the base skill set of any cold war era spy) may be listening. These are the words I keep hearing in relation to R.C. at the local hospital, "...cancer", "...kidneys", "....metastasized to other organs and structures", "...very bad". Generally serious shit like that.
So here is the question that first pops into my mind: With the same symptoms in the same situation would a regular run-of-the-mill doctors office or ER tell a patient what Deliberate Indifference told R.C.? Of course not. But we're in the BOP ("Backwards On Purpose", remember?) and this is the day to day potentially dangerous status quo for almost all aspects of our life.
And these are the lessons that we learn and how we learn them... we cannot trust the authorities... we cannot follow the rules... we cannot be blindly obedient to those in power... we cannot go along to get along... we cannot be quiet and hope things get better by themselves. If we do, we place ourselves in real and constant peril. More on this and how it effects recidivism and public safety in Part Two.
In closing, R.C. is a no shit good person. No one is perfect and he ended up in prison. So the fuck what? That does not change the fact that he is a man who is first and foremost concerned with maintaining a strong moral code. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I do not hand out complements to my peers freely. I am just as critical of the incarcirated as I am of the system. However, you'll never catch a sideways word coming out of my mouth about R.C. Great sense of humor. Accepting of his friends even though they are riddled with faults (me). Concerned with positive self improvement. Rejecting anything he considers sideways or wrong. Someone you can trust totally. So please, I ask everyone, secular or spiritually inclined or full blown card carrying religious: Send a positive though, an inner smile, or a prayer for my friend Robert Charles Massat for a strong recovery or peaceful resolution to this horrible turn of avoidable events.