Wasted Honor -

Carl R. ToersBijns is the author of the Wasted Honor Trilogy [Wasted Honor I,II and Gorilla Justice] and his newest book From the Womb to the Tomb, the Tony Lester Story, which is a reflection of his life and his experiences as a correctional officer and a correctional administrator retiring with the rank of deputy warden in the New Mexico and Arizona correctional systems.

Carl also wrote a book on his combat experience in the Kindle book titled - Combat Medic - Men with destiny - A red cross of Valor -

Carl is considered by many a rogue expert in the field of prison security systems since leaving the profession. Carl has been involved in the design of many pilot programs related to mental health treatment, security threat groups, suicide prevention, and maximum custody operational plans including double bunking max inmates and enhancing security for staff. He invites you to read his books so you can understand and grasp the cultural and political implications and influences of these prisons. He deals with the emotions, the stress and anxiety as well as the realities faced working inside a prison. He deals with the occupational risks while elaborating on the psychological impact of both prison worker and prisoner.

His most recent book, Gorilla Justice, is an un-edited raw fictional version of realistic prison experiences and events through the eyes of an anecdotal translation of the inmate’s plight and suffering while enduring the harsh and toxic prison environment including solitary confinement.

Carl has been interviewed by numerous news stations and newspapers in Phoenix regarding the escape from the Kingman prison and other high profile media cases related to wrongful deaths and suicides inside prisons. His insights have been solicited by the ACLU, Amnesty International, and various other legal firms representing solitary confinement cases in California and Arizona. He is currently working on the STG Step Down program at Pelican Bay and has offered his own experience insights with the Center of Constitutional Rights lawyers and interns to establish a core program at the SHU units. He has personally corresponded and written with SHU prisoners to assess the living conditions and how it impacts their long term placement inside these type of units that are similar to those in Arizona Florence Eyman special management unit where Carl was a unit deputy warden for almost two years before his promotion to Deputy Warden of Operations in Safford and Eyman.

He is a strong advocate for the mentally ill and is a board member of David's Hope Inc. a non-profit advocacy group in Phoenix and also serves as a senior advisor for Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council in Chino, California As a subject matter expert and corrections consultant, Carl has provided interviews and spoken on national and international radio talk shows e.g. BBC CBC Lou Show & TV shows as well as the Associated Press.

I use sarcasm, satire, parodies and other means to make you think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Who am I? I was a monster or is there such a thing?

There was a time when I was young and a monster I was, because of what people had done to others and me. Today, forty years later, I am no more, the monster which I was because as I admit it, I have changed, I am older and I am more lenient now. I admit it, I am not as strong as I was before, I am weak compared to who I was when I was stronger. There was a time I could stay awake for days and pump as much iron as the strongest man around, and now, my body gets weak after only lasting a day but no more. I knew it was time to retire and fade away and put those weights aside.
When I was young and sharp in mind, I kept up with the smartest of them all. I ran circles around those gifted with ideas and although never a genius or a man possessed with a high IQ, I had a photographic memory, an instinctive intuition, that carried me through the hard times, without struggles like today, when I lose my memory and cannot sleep and a riddle my mind can no longer keep.
Today, I struggle to run with the young lions that around me they keep. They now call us old warriors, but warriors nevertheless and still hardwired and made of steel. And yet, when I look around, I see my old friends, still loyal to the honor bound. Some have died, some have disappeared or faded away, but some of these friends stayed with me to what I suspect will be my dying days.
Together we fought the enemy, many in number and twice as strong. We shredded them all and we could do no wrong. We were warriors then, and we are warriors now, but we carried no swords, only the radio, the cuffs and an occasional container of OC gas, that we dispersed at them to impair their eyes, and fought them all for most of the day to come out the best.
They came at us like vultures, expecting to be picking the flesh off our bones if we let them touch us, so we fought them hard and kept them at bay. There were no remainders, no one straggling as we had a code not one left behind - for we would stay until they could walk or be carried away. The odds were always ridiculous, the numbers were overwhelming and the mood was also sour or mean. Each day we worked our tour of duty, they tried to withdraw me from the life I had chosen, until the day of my retirement came.
As I would walk among them, without fear or dare and tow that thin line, they would hide from me but I would always find them hidden in the dark or shadows of the walls. Even in my dreams, I would find their souls plotting to take me out, but never succeeding because I knew them better than they knew themselves so I remained to be free from the harm of them all.
Some days were engulfed with hate, anger and wrath for those who targeted me to be killed. They would try to pollute my environment and choke me to suffocate but even when I walked the walls with loneliness, I fought them all. I fought them all without end or reason other than to survive. You see a man like me has to breathe free air, unlike those who wear the chains on their legs and struggle to move out to the light as the darkness kept them chained and bound.
There were days where I would shout, “go ahead, kill me if you can!" It was this arrogance of life that kept me motivated to be as strong as I was to defend myself every time I was confronted with anger or death. Every day was a test of life, and only the best would survive this test of life inside this gladiator’s pit where the value of life had been diminished to ashes and dust to dust.
My mere existence was always enough to offend you, to anger you or to cringe you if you exposed your weakness to me. But do not forget that as you raise your ire and show your weakness of emotion, I say to you, you flatter me, I see you fear me and that is all I need to take control of the matters at hand and serve you the punishment that you deserve.
Some call us mere henchmen of the prisons, some call us the whores of the system that is designed to keep men in ball and chains and kept in the darkness of the world they live in. Shit, we knew you had to do your time and your time you would do, no matter how hard it was, your time would be served or you would be killed if necessary to end that time, but time you will do. For you it was depressing, for us it was depressing as well. There was no joy in dying, there was no thrill in seeing you do the time but it was ordered you serve so serve you will.
We knew you could not continue like this, we knew your weaknesses would reveal how strong you really are. If you refused to come out of your cell, or ordered at will to obey and stand your body still, we would come and try to kill you for no one was allowed to disobey the henchman's will. So it was clear, it was us versus them, they would kill us first but they would have to overcome their own fears and get stronger than our strongest will to survive and be the one who would have to lay down or die, until the last man followed and obeyed the last command and do what it was to be done, with a broken spirit and fractured will. Until the last day worked or the last day waked we were monsters.... still.
Not a politically correct poem - take it or leave it, sometimes it was just like this and nobody can deny the mean spirited ways it took to survive the ordeal day in and day out. Some will like it, others will be revolted but then, I never wrote what others liked - I always wrote for own pleasures. How selfish is that?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Survivor's Guilt - A Hell of an Experience

Survivor’s Guilt-
the Eternal Struggle for Peace

Carl R. ToersBijns
Combat Medic, 1967-1969


Survivor guilt (or survivor's guilt; also called survivor syndrome or survivor's syndrome) is a mental condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not but it doesn’t end there. It leads into a physical disorder as well for it impacts all your senses and your energy in numerous attacks on the soul, the heart and the mind.
There is nothing easy about this disorder, as it is an infectious disease that tears the flesh, brings out the tears and jams up the emotions inside you like nothing else you have ever experienced except maybe death of a loved one.  Hence the connection between the two reactions and passions of life and death.
Following the deaths of numerous known and unknown soldiers in the Vietnam War, there is an aftermath that nobody can prepare for. Even a severe injury, traumatized amputation or loss of limbs of a fellow combatant who you know only by a nickname or last name, it is not unusual for you to feel the shock, the responsibility for the even occurring in your life as a combat medic in the Army and deal with the remorse of surviving what was bound to be a life or death situation for someone at the time of the critical incident or in my case, the fire-fight of hell to survive a very wrongful war as battles fought were often without reason other than taking back what we had lost the day before.
If I had to guess how men had died, crippled or suffered under my care, I would have to say there were many. Too many for me to remember each and every one of them by name but clearly, I can see their faces before they passed away and before the battle as they laughed, cried, read a letter or just expressed their humanity amongst the others dressed for combat and war.
I accepted my responsibilities as a medic. I had been trained to do the best I could under the circumstances permitted and although it is reasonable to say that more were saved from death than the number who died, it doesn’t matter much when you lose someone and wonder why you are still living.
Every day of your life, whether it has been 24 hours past the moment of death until the eternity of human life as God graces it to be, this feeling, or emotional reaction is what has been called “survivor’s guilt.
One can only imagine how many times you must endure such an episode of guilt and shame. Every time someone dies or is airlifted away with mortal wounds via the helicopter, you experience the guilt of surviving while others died.
This guilt is not limited to death or the passing of friends or strangers. It follows every member of the military who is wounded or killed while you are there with them, at home thinking about them or re-deployed to another location to do it all over again.
Individuals coping with survivor guilt may find themselves wondering questions such as: why didn’t I get hurt or killed? - why did I live when other people died? - what could I have done differently to prevent it? These are the haunting conditions surrounding your guilt and there is nothing you can say or do to make them go away until the healing process has taken a stronghold and gives you the answers to your questions.
These expressions and feelings are common; they are part of how we as human soldiers or survivors’ grief. There are rare exceptions and the degree or intensity depends purely on the circumstances surrounding the death of each and every person who has died in your arms, your care or your presence. It has a cycle of torture that cannot be explained without expressing the pain that is lodged deep inside you where nobody can reach it and pull it out. You can’t erase it out of your head as you fall asleep with the subconscious mind bringing it back over and over again, as you sweat and scream with the agony of an emotional pain hard to understand by anyone who never walked in those same boots as you have.
To say that this kind of pain is common does not do it one bit of justice. What some call common, we, those who walked those shadows of death, call it horror as we see those faces of death over and over again. Intense is not the right word either, but it is a step in the right direction. It is more than intense; it is frightening real and heart-grabbing struggles of shaking and trembling proportions.
It cannot be erased from the mind and those who claim to have recovered are partial recovery patients holding on to their self-control by a thin thread. There are triggers that break it loose all over again and the fear that it will, is just as real as the fear of experiencing it over and over.
There is a healing process – although it is time consuming and lengthy and complicated. It can be done and many have survived the ordeal with a recovery of their own senses that allows them to breathe freely again. Others, like me, are not so lucky. We suffer this madness every time we close our eyes. Every time we hear the helicopter hovering above us and every time we see their faces with pain, as they hang onto life the best they can.
So I say to you, it is important to know that guilt is a common and usual reaction to a loss of someone either unknown or special to you. The level of guilt cannot be explained but by the person suffering and on a case by case only. This is something that has to be addressed at one time or another. It has serious complications and implications to your health and well—being.
Before you go any further, I can tell you that you will feel sick, you will retch or vomit till your stomach unwinds and you will shake for the longest time until your mind finds an island of peace inside your brain.
Your life will change to epic proportions that cannot be explained or described to anyone else who hasn’t stood by your side when the event unfolded. Losing someone, unknown, or very familiar to you takes its toll in every way possible to grab you by the seat of your ass and take you down to the lowest level of humanity in the terms of disgrace and shame. It is the harshest kind of self-inflicted pain and sorrow a man can experience without the ability to defeat it or stop it from attacking you.
This guilty feeling is more than a state of depression, apathy or generalized anxiety. It is a methodological way to tear yourself apart mentally and physically as it works on both sides of the body – internal and externally. Simply put, the experts will tell you to acknowledge these feelings and not deny them.
They want you to understand that whatever you underwent or experienced was not uncommon to the circumstances given at the time of death or mortal wounds inflicted. They want you to accept it as being ‘normal’ when your own brain rejects such a notion. They will tell you to find other people for support and caregiving.
The idea, suggestion or notion to seek and promote or talk about positive inspiration to share with a spouse, a peer, friend or family member is an unrealistic expectation until you find the strength to accept it for what it is and does to you first. Encouragement can only take a foothold if the denial is set aside to give it room to co-exist with your other emotional baggage driven by the pain of war and death.
As a medic, I was overwhelmed and overcome by such emotions and I carried it on my sleeve as I tried my best to keep everyone I touched alive. I never took the time to mourn their death, I defied that emotion. I didn’t join a group or support circle to talk about my situation. I decided it was too private and too hard to talk about to anyone else.
There was no positivity in my life other than focusing on preserving life and doing the best I could under the circumstances. This followed me into the civilian part of my life as well. I never sought to deal with it in any shape of manner because it hurt too much to deal with it. There were times where I never felt good about myself or the chore given to serve a greater good.
It was in many ways, a personal failure that may have been exaggerated by myself under most circumstances but nevertheless, a failure to turn my feelings into a positive aspect in my life. If I wanted to blame something else other than myself, I had plenty of options laid before me. I could have said, we were outnumbered, outgunned, outflanked and out maneuvered.
I can blame fatigue, combat stress, carelessness or recklessness on the part of the group I was with and smooth the errors over to justify the end. However, in real life, most of us who trained for being a medic, didn’t work it that way. We accepted the fact that we had been put there to save lives – no exceptions. Medics are not men of steel hearts or steel warriors dressed different with a red cross or medic bag – we blended in and did whatever it took to get the job done. There were no exceptions and there were few special privileges that were bestowed upon us only because of our balance to the unit and the value we brought to the group.
Keep in mind this struggle is already set in on top to any other combat related trauma or stress. Claiming PTSD as a reason to be unable to perform is not acceptable – it’s a cop out. Feelings such as this last forever, not months or years, but for an eternity.
In combat, while still within the same group of men or individuals who were there during the events, interacting with them who have experienced traumatic events or loss can be a helpful part of the grieving process.
It takes a long time to understand the grief experienced. While guilt is an emotional reaction, grief is the healing process people experience following a life-changing traumatic event. Like I have tried to explain before, grief can have physical and psychological effects and may impact performance during combat and other military operations, as well as your long-term health after you leave the military service. The symptoms and behaviors associated with grief include: Shock and disbelief this is happening to you; a temporary loss of control of emotions (e.g., anger and aggression), difficulties sleeping for long periods of time without waking up in a sweat or nightmare, withdrawal from others creating an anti-social personality appearance but triggered by emotional means.
The hardest parts of this ordeal is the relentless and never ending recurrent nightmares or frequent painful remembrances about the deaths or traumatic events that are illustrated in a most exponential manner inside your head. The presence of an anger; some people, like myself, may have urges to get revenge (“payback”) for the death or traumatic event and lash out at innocents to satisfy their own guilt.
It is unexplainable but normal to do so. The guilt drives disorder of the brain. You will experience a severe difficulty to be able to do some positive or meaningful concentrating of basic tasks or responsibilities or sustaining a mental focus that may be necessary to perform a job or task in your everyday living routines.
As the nightmares continue, the propensity to bring negativity and harmful thoughts to yourself comes and goes and triggers an avalanche of suicidal ideations that may grab hold to reality t0 commit suicide or homicide (involuntarily harm others) if there is no intervention or alternative to the negative power.
Grief itself will generally fade in time as you mourn your losses. The time frame various but the more deaths you have experienced, the longer the grief as you separate the faces from the events and mourn each one of them on their own merits or happenings. Whether you want to admit it or not, the craziness, chaos and madness never goes away completely but it can fade slowly as you deal with it, rather than denying it exists.
War veterans seldom admit that the grief subsided within six months or a year after their discharge or change of tour of duty. For many, it lasts much longer than a year. Connecting to others and with others is a key factor in dealing with grief.
Sharing your loss makes grief easier to manage but keep in mind, there are no guarantees in this process. The advances you make are essentially limited to those steps you take to deal with the matters of heart and mind and keep it focused on the positive side of living.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Correctional Officers and Labor Day

Labor Day, the first Monday in the month of September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic feats and successful attributes of the American workers. It constitutes a yearly celebration as well as a national tribute to the contributions all workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country and as detention or correctional officers, your contributions run deep and silent without the recognition of other law enforcement agencies or entities. In this matter, you stand alone as we recognize your contributions do matter.
Often forgotten and commonly referred to as the ‘forgotten cops’ corrections and detention officers perform their duties under very multifaceted and difficult conditions. As the statistical analysis conducted are revealing, officers are working longer hours now as well as being shorthanded in an already overcrowded and hostile workplace and charged to manage or supervise a wide array of special needs prisoners ranging from the predatory species to the seriously mentally ill offenders.
The strongest tribute we can give these officers is respect – for a job well done. Given the unique psyche of these officers, we have to respect the increasingly heavy moral and legal burdens imposed by the systems that oversee such statutory responsibilities and recognize this profession to be an area where decisions and performances require unique skills and expertise knowledge on human behaviors of those incarcerated.
The priority that prison administrators place on promoting orderly and safe institutions has generated numerous stressors that correlates to the various prisoner cultural diversities, individualities or non-compliance of rules and regulations. Officers are forced to cope with countless incidents of inmate collaborative [manipulation] or confrontational characteristics, constant changes or upgrade features of facility environments and their associated technologies and of course, the upper managing practices – all relevant to an orderly and safe operation of a jail or prison. Related specifically to management practices is the fact how inmates perceive the rules designed to maintain facility order and the correctional staff who enforce them.
That is, for all practical purposes, whether inmates perceive the rules of a facility and its staff as legitimate. Whether inmates perceive the rules of a facility and its staff as legitimate could be linked to the chances of misconduct via inmate (dis)respect toward authority. In today’s trend of incarcerating younger offenders, this is a big challenge. Despite the theoretical and policy relevance, however, this particular issue has received little empirical attention in the prison industry, putting correctional officers in a continued risk of being threatened, assaulted or targeted for misplaced anger and other emotional or institutional reasons.
Not every person is suited to be a correctional or detention officer. The kind of mental and physical preparation for working inside jails and prisons are detailed and refined for handling all those complex issues that arise in these settings. This psyche deals with the penal structure ranging from the processes involved in the booking, detoxification, court hearings, convictions and incarceration and then elevated into chapters or concerns in law, human rights, ethics and organizational cultures and priorities.
Closer and further examinations reveal dealing or handling a broad array of management issues, emergencies not limited to levels of custodial care, medical and mental health care, malingering of systemic addictions and adversities and much more. Their knowledge of this unique formulary management is unquestionably deep and intense to handle their daily duties and tasks assigned.
More than just ‘prison guards’ or even street cops, they deal with repetitive critical incidents of aggression, sexual assaults or rape, extortions, hostage situations, various types of injuries or fatalities stemming from accidents, homicides and suicides, as well as other behavioral e.g. antisocial personality misconduct and behavioral challenges that is barely covered in their training. This demand or requirement forces them to deliver and perform unique situational and critical assessments as well as various treatment needs of many distinct inmate populations.
In fact, correctional officers are ardent in spirit to apply current and best practices in an environment that would cause failures if not for their individual devotion, dedication and commitment on the job. The range of tasks, responsibilities and duties covered and the high number of successful and prominent contributors applied to this profession sets them apart from other available law enforcement resources.
Officers assigned at all stages of their careers have demonstrated the willpower to gain the depth of understanding and practical information they need to approach all of the common operational and functional systems of their organizational, and ethical challenges they face. Not much has been said about the negative impacts of working inside such a negative and stressful environment.
This professional group keeps their heads above the morality of the job’s expectations with their own personal emotions close to their hearts but seldom speak out about self-inflicted damages created by the very nature of their work scope and responsibilities. Stress, sleep deprivation, physiological and psychical harm is seldom addressed until it’s too late as silence runs deep among the rank and file that keep our jails and prisons running.

Mass Incarceration versus Education and better Social Policies

Mass Incarceration – Public Enemy # 1

I read an interesting view on the myths of ‘mass incarceration’ by Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, in the Arizona Star opinion page, that prompted me to write this opinion on her most eloquently and accurate statement on these ‘significantly increased incarceration rates” and the facts behind them. She articulates the situation well enough for most to understand but she left out one big portion of the national debate on ‘mass incarceration’ - the solution to the problem.
Mass incarceration was part of a policy making by a group of DC based ‘think tanks’ that favored jail, detention and prison time for those who violated the law. Shortly after the end of the Vietnam War, these think-tanks promulgated penal policies for federal and state governments to impose ‘stiff drug-sentencing laws’ that carried over to repeat and habitual offenses that carried a three strikes and you’re out kind of consequence. Unfortunately, these policies have failed us badly and has taken a large amount of funding from other important element of federal and state budgets to finance and support our expanding prison systems.
There has been a major shift in Arizona law since 2006-07 that has impacted our state’s funding for prisons in the order of competing with our educational and infra-structure systems. I don’t blame the laws for committing more people into jails or prisons, that burden falls on the people who committed these violations.
County Attorney LaWall states that “Violent and repetitive crimes are the main drivers of incarceration-rate increases in Arizona.” This is true but she failed to show what drives these violent and repetitive crimes in our state. As a prosecutor, she enforces the law and does not recommend them but she has a public obligation to be part of the solution to the problem when she can articulate the reasons for our prison growth so well and clearly understands the dynamics of the criminal justice system process.
Her referral to read and understand the “complete and accurate analysis of the offenses” listed in this report titled “Prisoners in Arizona: A Profile of the Inmate Population” (azsentencing.org) to uncover the truth” is not the answer to the problem. An analysis says nothing about those incarcerated and the incarceration business is about people, not numbers. Her defense of people not being locked up for drug offenses takes away the attention why people are being locked up in the first place.
County Attorney LaWall states those inmates serving time are basically people who have “histories of felony violence, their prior criminal records and other material factors. The report shows that relatively few prisoners are locked up for drug offenses.” She then articulates who is really in our prisons but fails to state why they are in there locked up. She identifies “murderers, rapists, armed robbers, child molesters, kidnappers, prohibited possessors, gang-bangers, drive-by-shooters, repeat career burglars, auto thieves, arsonists and narco-traffickers”
Again, an accurate statement and relevant to who is being locked up. She failed again to explain, why they are locked up and instead delves into statistics that eliminate the human factor entirely.
When discussing crime and incarceration we must remember the root causes of such failures. The fact is that since the mid-80’s our schools have failed our children badly. It has in essence become a pipeline for prisons by design and operational methodologies. Social and political policies have abandoned all of us in the rural and urban areas, as we see our children struggle with finishing their schooling and lacking in academia or vocational training; impacting graduating and finding a decent job. Most children drop out and end up being incarcerated as they barely reach an 8th grade educational level. Although some get their GED inside prison, their abilities to find a good job has been hindered by the fact they are ex-cons looking for work.
Drugs are a problem and so is idleness due to unemployment rates. Gangs have grown over the last few decades as families suffer and endure stress and anxiety that are mentally related to the lack of care for those who need medical and mental health care. Mental hospitals have closed due to lack of funding and those who suffer serious psychotic disabilities, find themselves homeless or seek other means to cope and deal with their illnesses by self-medicating themselves with drugs. These all fit the profile given by the county attorney. Finally, if the state would have spent more money on our children’s future, our educational systems and our social and economic growth for a sustained level of consistency and dependability, our mass incarceration rates would be reduced and the money spent would be a better investment in our children and their future.