It takes one Shift to Ruin a Future

We received the following reality-check from someone caring for a person in prison:

To the Reader:

My friend in a Colorado prison wrote this essay. Candy is grandmother, not a master criminal, and sees what is happening. As a troubled teenager, she first went into a system that did not want to prevent crime, only to punish after its commission. 

She asked me to help her show people how the government is wasting our tax dollars and ignoring chances to prevent recidivism. Employees who don’t care what happens as long as they get a paycheck, are as detrimental working in prisons as in any business. Would you want them working for you? They are.

IT TAKES ONE SHIFT TO RUIN A FUTURE

By Candy Ra Coppinger

There are many lives sitting here in prison today. All have made bad choices. Many still do. Many come from all sorts of dysfunctional backgrounds—all sorts of abuse. We cry out for help.

The system places people in power or authority to see to our well-being. You may ask, “Are they still being neglected and abused behind the walls?” There is the aggressive, controlling officer who downgrades you; the one who uses unnecessary physical force on you. How about the officer, who, as a woman was having a violent seizure, was screaming and cussing at the individual on the floor with convulsions? Or the one who knows you are having a conflict with another inmate, instead of trying to diffuse it, keeps the strife going? What about the officer who brings in contraband to exchange for sex with a prisoner?

Your taxes are supposed to provide better medical care, education, and security. Instead, the administrative offices here were redecorated. You should see the beautiful cherry desk in the warden’s office. They can’t afford medical staff or teachers.

A COPD hearing is the due process given to inmates who break facility rules. The Colorado Code of Penal Discipline has rules that cover violations from not making your bed, to smoking a cigarette, to bartering and trading items you purchased from the commissary. Do you have any idea how many people are convicted at these hearings by an anonymous “kite?” (An unverified note saying, “Inmate #123 is guilty, but I can’t testify in public.”) So much for trying to do right if someone dislikes you.

Many inmates have no outside financial support. All inmates are required to work. The average 40 hour per week job pays $12.60 a month. Twenty percent of the $12.60 goes toward paying restitution and/or child support. That leaves approximately $9.00 on which the inmate must live for a month. If you have a civil case, such as a tort or a lawsuit pending, that takes another 20%. Don’t have a medical emergency. There goes another $5.00. Need hygiene items? What happens to the personal care products that religious organizations donate? Items must be purchased from the canteen. With little money, their convenience store prices redefine the term indigent.

Official policy says having affirmative family support is important. Explain this to your 75 year old grandmother who had her letter returned because she forgot to put the unit number on the envelope. Then, you recall the night when your spouse got drunk and loud. The neighbors called the police. Now, you can’t correspond or visit with him because of the domestic violence dispute. That you’ve been married for ten years and he’s trying, alone, to raise your two children doesn’t matter. If you can’t write him, what makes you think you can parole home to your spouse and children? It’s hard to maintain family support when you can’t communicate.
All the instability you had growing up—the inconsistency of what you could do or not—don’t worry. You’ still have all that instability and inconsistency in prison.

Everything depends on who, what, when, where and how. Right and left do not connect. Once you settle into a room with people with whom you’re compatible, you’ll get moved to a room that is chaotic. What is stability? Where do we get it?

You may ask how these kinds of things ruin a future. They are keeping a person in his or her distorted thinking. They are continuing the cycles that led many to incarceration: instability, inconsistency, lack of communication. Every time you cut educational programs, or use that funding for something else, you are taking away a person’s opportunity to grow and become a productive member of society. When you can’t or won’t provide an individual adequate medical care, is that not telling him or her they don’t matter? Are we not continuing to keep these individuals from having the hope and desire to have a better life within the legal parameters of our society? When you hire substandard employees, you are placing lives in their hands.

Ask yourself, is that shift I’m running ruining a future or raising prospects for a better future?

CRC 5/12/13

Write to Candy for support:

Candy Ra Coppinger #59072
La Vista Correctional Facility
PO Box 3
Pueblo, CO 81002
USA

Also posted on Prison Watch for Imprisoned Women

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