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Friday, July 28, 2006

We Found No Body, But We Found the Black Box

This was an exceptionally odd, exceptionally exhausting week. It is grossly hot in San Diego, at the border with Mexico. Enough said.

I walk into the office, and as I am going down the hall I notice, like birthday presents, a red box is on everyone's desk. When I arrive at mine, I find the red box contains a black box that is intended to be a "portable desk." On the front is a clip to hold paper, the top lifts to reveal a pull-up easel-stand to hold papers, and all-in-all, it is intended to store papers. The point? Somebody thought this would make us HIPPA-compliant in carrying records. I am betting that no one even investigated if you are allowed to take this thing into a prison (you can't, for example, carry a backpack). Secondly, isn't a briefcase or zippered binder HIPPA-compliant? I'll bet they got a good deal on the purchase, and I'll bet they try to force me to use it. "What's in the black box, man?"

Wednesday, I am working in AdSeg with the cuffed and caged. It has been so incredibly hot here that, with inmates taking showers in four locations (single unit stalls with bars into which they are locked), it was like a sauna. Making it worse, they were out of the light-weight, stab-proof vest, and only had the thick bullet-proof/stab-proof vests. I was about to see my 4th patient when the CO's asked me to back up against the wall while they brought another man to a cage. I ended up backed into a corner as they passed, and when the patient began to struggle and fight, WHOOSH, and we all got pepper sprayed.
I would note (as I have previously) that CO's don't carry the little hand-sized cans that you can purchase as a "civilian," but rather in a size more likened to a small fire extinguisher. And more than just an aerosol, it is in the form of a bright orange-colored gel. I have been told, and recently seen demonstrated, that some individuals do not react to pepper spray; rather, they are not subdued. I am not one of those individuals. My eyes were immediately burning and I began to cough. A CO pulled me out to the front door, and as a group they were highly amused. Being asthmatic, I always carry albuterol and I hit it hard, washed my face, and got out. On the way home, I bought and drank 2 liters of Gatorade. Chili, my ass.

Today I did a lot of walking; "protective custody," reception, AdSeg, and the Psych Unit. I can't adequately describe what an experience it is to be on the "yard," walking from building to building. There are several hundred men outside, and, at most 20 CO's, standing in small groups talking. A man I've seen before was in the center of the yard, dancing in a wide circle, shaking a plastic bottle filled with some stones, and repeatedly singing into a paper towel roll, "Your battle!" It also struck me that numerous men (obviously enough for me to notice) walked the circle of the yard with a single crutch. Were they sharing or was CDC out of canes? I have no idea. I also was reminded of the beach: men who ordinarily would not be seen without a shirt, or if they were so bold, would appear objectional, walked among the tan, tattooed, and fit. Pasty white skin, seriously out of shape, shirtless in the heat. The joggers are every conceivable age and body shape; sunglasses, cd players, tape players, breathing heavily and soaked with sweat. The saddest sights were the elderly, never together, some walking very slowly on their own, some struggling behind wheelchairs. White hair and beards, bent over, limping, undoubtedly much younger than they appeared. How hard it must be to spend your life surrounded by young, violent thugs who care about no one. As I left the yard of the psych unit, it struck me for the first time amidst a basically desolate yard, at the gate was a large, well-maintained sign on the ground made of grass letters surrounded by hose that said, "Facility One." Apparently, someone took great pride in maintaining this perfectly green space.

Murderers, the violent, sex offenders, those who torture, robbers, pimps, drug dealers, burglars, gangsters. I even sat with a colleague today who charted on a man caught having sex with a dead body he had found in a dumpster.
It always amazes me that it isn't until I leave that I, again, become aware of where I have been, what I have seen, and who I have been with. As I sit in the car, I feel the tension in my neck and shoulders. I also never lose the sense of sadness that comes from observing the worst than can become a human being.


Blogger Wrkinprogress said...

Do you have any particular strategies when it comes to maintaining your own sense of balance when your work is so out of the ordinary? I can't help but think one would be on permanent depression watch.

July 29, 2006 6:55 AM  
Blogger On the Same Page said...

Writing helps me sort out and understand circumstances for what they are. But, it gives a "one dimensional" portrait. I have, for example, about 2,5000 photos (and growing) which I rotate at about 50 at a time. It's a nice, relaxing hobby. Actually, outside the fence, I rock!

July 29, 2006 2:59 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

Hey Foo;

I found you through a comment left on that Dr "Charity" blog. Man, you got his panties in a bunch but you're totally right on with it. He's no doctor.

I left some words of my own. It wasn't as inflammatory as yours but he moderates comments and I'll be really surprised if he lets it through. He's surrounded by a bunch of sycophants who believe his distorted fantasies and it's obvious that God doesn't like to be questioned.

I read a few of your entries. You know what it's about. As fucked up as they are, they're still people.

July 30, 2006 7:15 AM  

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