Staff morale was abysmal at the for-profit jail. Underpaid, overworked and at times in physical danger is bad enough, but there was also a sneaky, back-stabbing undercurrent that only made matters worse.
The amount of paperwork was ludicrous and to save money they worked short-staffed. Case managers had to fill in for absent guards for half the day and do eight hours of paperwork in their spare time. Oh well, it was a job and the country was in a recession. Besides, I loved the kids.
At a staff meeting, it was announced that we were going to have empty beds in the upcoming month and we had to fix that. How? By extending some kids sentences. Did I hear that right? A couple of staff members said they could arrange that. “How?,” I naively asked. “How can you know ahead of time that some kids will act up?” They just smiled.
At the next week’s staff meeting I asked for clarification. “Some of these kids have short fuses,” I was told, “and some of you know how to light them.” “Do you mean provoke a fight or something?” “Watch me, look and learn,” a male staff member said.
Back in the office I told him, “That’s BS. These kids count every day until they can go home.” “You want to keep your job?,” he asked. Sure enough, he started being extra harsh with the kids and some lost their temper and got written up. Some kids were taken off camera and roughed up.
Early one morning I heard a “SLAM”-and a heavyset guard hustled a kid past my office, out of camera range. I jumped up and ran outside and observed “the altercation” as my report would state. Let me be clear-I called my kids “angels” and they were not. The kids sometimes got violent and there are standard procedures for restraining them.
Thing is, if you follow standard procedures, there is no need to do so out of camera range. To my surprise, the guard suddenly got up and hustled right off the premises! I was told to write up an incident report. They mentioned that they didn’t want to fire the guard. I told the truth, which resulted in an investigation. It was not the first investigation, either.
I realized I could not keep working there. But how could I say goodbye to my guys?
Continued Chapter 6/7