Last weekend I was very disappointed. Someone went into my cell and took the remote for my TV. This is the first time anyone has stolen anything from me and I’m more disappointed than angry because I thought everyone in F gallery respected me enough to not steal from me. For the majority of guys in here that’s true but apparently there is at least one (more likely a few) who don’t. When I started asking around for it, explaining that mine had been stolen, the vast majority of guys, especially the Hispanic guys, were furious. Some even did a check of everyone’s remote who had an RCA TV like mine. Of course, whoever stole it had it tucked away so it wouldn’t be found in an immediate search so it wasn’t found but a few days later someone noticed a broken old remote in the trash, which is probably the one that mine replaced. Unfortunately, they were wise enough to remove their inmate ID from it so we couldn’t trace it back to the guilty party. I was lucky to be able to find a replacement so I wasn’t inconvenienced though I did have to pay for it. Though I can’t prove who took it I am pretty certain I know the guilty party and it disappoints me even more because he had opened up to me about him being gay but having to be closeted in here. I thought we had a mutual respect as he opened up to me, but perhaps that was just a play to try to get my sympathies so he could “use” me. It’s a shame to have to be that cynical. The prison environment will expose the raw good and bad in people, but it’s more conducive of the raw bad. *sigh*

As a positive example though, this past week one of the ex-gangbanger guys stopped by my cell at lockdown and said he wanted to talk to me privately sometime the next day. He and I get along well, he had been one of the main people upset that someone would steal from me, so I wasn’t worried about a call out like that as one usually would be in here. The next morning, while the day room was as empty as it gets all day, he started what was clearly an awkward conversation for him to initiate. Whispering and almost apologetic he asked if I was gay, mostly just to confirm it as I don’t attempt to conceal it. Then he proceeded to tell me how he had recently been reconnecting with his son and daughter. His “babies’ momma” was letting him into their lives for the first time in 14 years. I had helped him write an appeal of his punishment for a write-up which had taken away his phone privileges for a month. We asked that his punishment be switched to canteen restriction instead as he was just beginning to reconnect with his daughter for the first time (so really to connect). So I knew something about how much it meant to him. What I didn’t know was that he had a 14-year-old son whom he was attempting to connect with too but the son was telling his mother he didn’t want to talk to his father… because the boy was gay and feared his father would judge him. The guy was asking my advice on how to communicate with his son and let the boy know that he would accept him no matter what. The catch was that the mother had told the guy about the son’s reservations without his knowledge so the guy had to make his son feel at ease without letting on that he knew his “secret.” (Yes, I get the irony of him asking ME for advice on how to communicate with his teenage gay son :/ ) I told him that he shouldn’t focus on his acceptance of the boy but rather turn it around and tell him how grateful he was that his son was learning to accept him in spite of the guy’s past. Focus on how his attitudes on life had changed since he left the gang life and came to PC. That would lay the groundwork for the kid realizing his father might be willing to accept him, as the kid had accepted his father. I hope it works out. *smile*

I’ve been doing my Christmas letters and sending them out with Christmas origami to everyone who’s address I have. I wasn’t fast enough to send Roz hers; she left for Malaysia a couple of days before it arrived. I haven’t learned to account for the delay in going out from here. At least the mail room hasn’t thrown a fit over me sending out origami in letters. I have a hobby card so I should be allowed to send it out but I was worried they would deconstruct each piece to make sure there wasn’t anything in them. Apparently they are arriving intact. *cheer*

My offer to teach the Christmas origami to anyone in the gallery who wants to make some for their kids or family is going well. I require that they make extras which I collect for my mother to take to the Lincoln City Mission as gifts/decorations for their residents. Some guys are just learning to make origami and giving them all to the mission. I’ve spent several evenings this week in the day-room with a full table (4 of us) of guys (mostly Hispanic) learning to fold so there’s getting to be a nice collection of origami for the mission. Last night Danny, who gave me the book with the Christmas projects in the first place, watched us do a few pieces and commented “they’re never going to let you out of here.” I was a bit taken aback and asked “why?” He explained that it was because I’m actually organizing F gallery to do something productive or a change. LOL! Not everyone in the gallery is being productive though. This past week 4 guys were taken to the hole for threatening and/or assaulting a 5th new guy in the gallery. *sigh* One of the guys, Cadillac, was the gallery’s inmate council representative. With him gone our gallery no longer has a rep. on the inmate council so I asked around to find out if we voted for a new one or what. Apparently the admin. just picks someone and if they refuse they pick another until someone accepts the position. I decided to write a kite to the unit administrator offering to fill the position if they were looking for a new rep. I haven’t heard back yet but it would be nice to have a semi-regular opportunity to speak with the warden…though the Inspector General’s report makes it pretty clear that not all the institutions pay any attention to their inmate councils. Well, that would be the first thing I would have to work on. *grin*

Speaking of the IG’s report, my dad got me a copy but I had already read through it at the library. The IG sends a copy to each institution’s for inmates to read but you can’t check it out to take to your cell or mark it up with notes and highlighter so I needed my own copy. This years report is even longer than last years and the IG makes some excellent observations like: NDCS and the Board of Parole need to start making plans for what to do if/when the overcrowding emergency is automatically declared in 2020, they should not aim to reduce the pop. to 140% but to 100%, they need standardized procedures across institutions for handling inmate councils, and many others. My 2 major objections carry over from last years report: the report focuses first and foremost on increasing staffing which is a symptom of the overcrowding and not the cause, and the report needs more hard data/statistic. Everyone who discusses the overcrowding starts by talking about staffing but ultimately understaffing (in most cases) is a symptom of the overcrowding, not the cause. Address the root cause and much of the understaffing issue will (slowly) evaporate. With the report I also had much more hard data and statistics. I have offered to do number crunching for the IG but I suppose there are issues with giving an inmate access to real data about the system. Personally, I think that it is a creative use of otherwise wasted resources. Plus, who else would be as committed to finding the underlying patterns and issues hidden in the data than one of the data points himself? *grin*

I do want to make a special note about the new librarian here at TSCI. When I read the IG’s ’17 report it mentioned an “NDCS Status Update, 2016-2017” put out by Director Frakes almost as a rebuttal to the IG’s report. I asked the librarian if the NDCS report was available like the IG’s but she said she hadn’t seen or heard of it. I expected it to end there…but it didn’t. She found the NDCS status report online, printed it out for me to review (while in the library) and has even found another report she thought I might find informative (which I haven’t yet seen because she left it in her trunk this past Thurs. LOL!). I have to say I never expected her to go to the effort looking for the NDCS status update let alone finding even more information for me so I am thrilled and grateful. It doesn’t replace the effort and support my dad gives but imagine if I didn’t have him on the outside helping me. Her efforts would be extremely meaningful. I had decided to give some Christmas origami to the club coordinator, Gigstad, and to the MRT instructor, Beethe, in whose class I am a mentor, but now I’m going to give some to the librarian too (I’ll give her name in another post as I don’t know it off-hand). Those 3 (women) actually show a desire to try to improve the situation in here, as opposed to those who are burnt out and don’t care, like my case manager (name excluded on purpose). They give me hope for change in the system.

Speaking of change, I have 2 grievances out currently. I was going to say 2 important grievances, but I don’t grieve something unless it is important. The first is the ongoing attempt to get the Clinical Sex Offender Review Team (CSORT) to comply with NE statutes and screen their 600 person backlog immediately. Though NDCS is improving the number and availability of programs it is a moot point if you aren’t screened by the relevant review team in time to actually take the programs. CSORT’s backlog of cases has increased from 550 last year to 600 this year and they are only screening people who have less than 2 years to go before their PED (parole eligibility date) which isn’t enough time to get through the waiting lists and complete most of the programs. The admin at TSCI is doing their best to deny my grievance without addressing it. My initial step 1 formal grievance was denied because I hadn’t attached the informal step. When I attached the informal step, they denied it because I took too long to file after receiving the informal response. There’s no recourse after that so I started over with another informal grievance, which they ignored, so I’ve filed another step 1 (within the proper timeframe) without a copy of the informal one explaining they hadn’t responded. I expect they will deny that, preventing me from getting to the final step 2 where it actually goes to the central administration. *deep sigh*

I am also grieving their set of collective punishment. They have repeatedly removed the microwave from our gallery in order to punish the entire gallery for offenses of individuals whom they had already written up. First, that denies due process, especially for those who had done nothing. There is no chance to plead our case or to appeal the decision. Second, and most importantly, it increases the likelihood of violence. By denying due process it increases disrespect for staff and increases the likelihood of inmate-on-staff violence. Additionally, by punishing the group it is almost explicitly telling people to “regulate” other’s behavior…or get punished for it. This is just like the boot camp scene from Full Metal Jacket where the Sgt. punishes the whole unit until they whip the troublemaker in to shape or drive him out so they assault him at night. While some hold him down others beat him with bars of soap in socks. For an institution with a recent history of riots I would think they would do everything in their power to discourage group violence rather than actively encourage (if not demand) it. When I raised this issue with the Ombudsman he agreed with the concern for increased violence but excused the admin’s practices because “TSCI is a troubled institution.” But their practices are exacerbating the “trouble,” not helping it. The fact that they are removing something as “trivial” as a microwave (though a microwave is of significant importance when you have no other means of heating food) it is about the result of increased risk of violence, not about the microwave. Collective punishment, no matter what the punishment, is unjustifiable on “safety and security” grounds. *herumph*