Most prisons produce their own training of defenders and create their own internal culture as a general rule. What is produced as mindset, traditions and customs is based on leadership principles and ethics. Integrity is a vital part of the training for defenders as it must withstand the challenges of the prisoners as well as the courts. Culture and integrity must uphold mission statements, strategies and desired outcomes. All are important to have a professional outfit.
Prison defenders are very special people who work in the various prison systems in the country. For purposes not alienating and combining spirits and attitudes, this system includes large jails and detention center for purposes of identifying their required needs, operations manners and existence in county, state and federal institutions.
These defenders are correctional officers by profession and are known for their exceptional bravery, professionalism and skill working with convicted felons who are incarcerated and kept inside the prison walls for any length of time.
Defenders are unique law enforcers, they carry no weapons on them while walking the various cellblocks, dormitories and open spaces. They are trained to excel in verbal communications to acquire compliance from very volatile and difficult people. They are often pushed to the edge of sanity when dealing with these kind of prisoners and not much is said about their successes as more is focused on their failures.
Crucified by the media whenever something goes wrong, they are rarely praised in public and therefore carry a heavy burden with them wherever they go in uniform or off-duty. They are often referred to as knuckle draggers and undeveloped homosapiens when in fact, many are intelligent, college educated and very well skilled in many trades required to work inside a prison.
When you compare these unarmed persons in the environment they work they are indeed well proven defenders of the criminal justice system as they proof everyday they can handle their population with much less than verbal and on hands force whenever the need arises.
That is not to imply they don’t have weapons to work with when on duty. They are trained in weapons such as shotgun, handgun, rifle, Taser, chemical agents, baton and other instruments that are used to control and restrain violent inmates who need corrective action and behavioral modifications applied to their way of making decisions.
The evolution of these defenders began centuries ago when the rulers built dungeons to house and contain their enemies and criminals. Their tactics were simple. Persons found to be in need of incarceration were chained to the walls with devices and kept there until their time of sentence was served. Some lived and died inside these prisons. There was no glory for these dungeon warriors. They worked out of sight, out of mind much like today and received the same lack of respect and recognition offered today. These defenders wear normal clothing on most of their duty times.
Some were combat fatigues when they are participating with special response teams and some wear polo shirts and khaki shirt and pants. No matter where they work, they all carry a badge representing the agency they work for and identifying them as peace officers carrying special law enforcement certification and credentials.
From this environment came a culture that is complex and difficult to understand. It is by no means simple or easy to grasp unless you worked inside one of these prisons and see how the customs, traditions and practices are determined by the cultural influences of the workplace.
Each culture is born through leadership qualities and principles and as leadership changes, remnants of the old culture remain but a new culture develops. If the leadership sends tacit approvals of misconduct, then misconduct becomes rampant. If the leadership sends messages of zero tolerances for misdeeds, their record is cleaner and associated to accountability and transparency products.
For centuries, these defenders have engaged in this game of dominance, physically and mentally, prison management is based on the principle of dominating other people and controlling behaviors as much as the environment and rules allows by law. Some go beyond the law to ensure compliance but that is generally not an acceptable practice and draws scrutiny to the profession.
These defenders were trained to perform with perfection whenever a riot or disturbance occurs. They are taught to defend in place regardless of the odds and must defend others to preserve life and property. They are sternly disciplined and rigorously simple in needs, equipment and frugal in numbers.
Defenders are usually outnumbered by a ratio of two or three hundred to one and at certain times when mass movement occurs the odds are even greater. Thus defenders must be brave and undaunted in their work and performance.
The selection of defenders begins with a hiring process that covers their education, moral character, mental capacity and moral turpitude. The screening process removes those with ill or immoral character and imperfect, or deformed mental thinking that creates problems for others inside a prison.
The hiring process focuses on physical, mental and spiritual toughness. This training can be brutal for those not prepared to become defenders and many don’t cut the preparation or teaching standards and are released from hire. In training, they are pitted against each other to test their toughness and observed by their instructors.
While in training many live in the employer’s quarters where they are evaluated and scored for proficiency and character. In desperate times, older defenders are considered as there is often a very high vacancy or turnover rate for this kind of work.
Defender of the walls are traditionally high spirited and high strung. Combating stress daily, they have to be resilient and fit to come to work daily and fight the environment negativity as well as their challenges. Unlike the cops on the street, they have no place to go when the going gets tough, they have to face their enemies empty handed and deal with them in the most effective manner possible without escalating the situation.
They carry no armor. They are not soldiers and they are not police who wear body armor or vests to protect them from projectiles and bullets. They are in fact, dressed in Spartan armor. Unlike the Spartan soldiers who wore a bronze muscled imprinted breastplate, a helmet with cheek plates and shin armor, defenders wear no armor or protective gear unless they are assigned to a cell extraction team and then the armor comes on.
Defenders working is specific maximum custody cellblocks wear helmets and face shields to prevent injuries to their eyes, their neck and their exposed skin. They wear stab vests with steel plates that prevent them from being stabbed by sharp instruments or homemade knifes or shanks as they are called in prison.
Defenders are subject to attacks by darts, hot liquids, feces, urine, spit and many other weapons that are aimed at their eyes and face or neck to inflict maximum damage. They carry no offensive weapons like cops wear guns, batons or Tasers most of the time.
They only carry firearms and the other gear if they are assigned special duty or assignments that require them to be armed or able to defend others around them in case the prisoner goes crazy or tries to take a hostage.
Defenders all have a legacy. Each are inspired by their actions from the past and throughout history, the reputation and respect for prison defenders has grown but has not yet matched the glorious position police officers have attained in society. Here in their own captive world, they do the best they can with what they are given to work with which is very often, very little and most of the time, insufficient for what they have to do on a daily basis.
Modern interpretations of defenders have typically stereotyped them as more brutal than they really are. Society portrays them to be devils of the abyss in the criminal justice system, the prisons.
Although some is not entirely undeserved, there are many more good men and women defenders than bad but the media has extinguished that light of positivity, along with hateful reporting of their own personal perspectives of the defender’s role and abilities to do their jobs.
Defenders have built one of the closest relationships between coworkers much like the military. Their culture bonds them as family even when not related by blood but since many family members follow their relatives into the occupation, families are multi-generational in many places. Their bond is the trust developed with their austere way of life and their sense of duty. Defenders created and build a sub-culture to the culture and undergo extreme hardships that could only be understood by a fellow defender.
They work and live under a strict moral code and short of being accepted as full time law enforcement, they accept their roles in society based on their perceived need to be there for public safety. Defenders are expected to prove their mental and physical fitness daily and are subject to fitness for duty tests or exams. They are working in deep chasm of misfits and a world filled with anxiety, stress and violence.
Defenders are expected to adhere and function in a para-military environment which means they have a chain of command hierarchy and system to report for work and duty. This system is designed as a supportive system but also to instill discipline and order in their performance and techniques in the workplace. Defenders are tough individuals. They must be able to withstand internal strife and pressures that includes hazing, fighting and other hard elements of life rather than the softness of life. They are trained to endure the violence by their peers and superiors alike.
During their operational stages, they learn to withstand the cold, hunger, and pain associated with sleep deprivation, stress and long hours of standing on duty. They are subjected to a development of mindset and physical fitness that allows them to survive, avoid cowardice and intimidation. Defenders expect to work there for a long duration. There are many who serve twenty to thirty years as defenders as they have chosen an occupation other than the military but still a public service.
Defenders expect to be ritualistically beaten and assaulted by the prisoners as a means of carrying out their duties as assigned. The reason for these beatings are the cultural differences between the two codes of defender and prisoner that defines them as an “us versus them” philosophy.
Last but not minor in importance, defenders are taught to never quit or surrender. Surrender or quitting is an act of disgrace and subject to more punishment than one can imagine as it is imposed by co-workers and supervisors to ostracize them or force them to quit their jobs.
They are expected to back up and provide solid support for the others regardless of the odds against them and running away is unacceptable under any conditions. Surrender in any confrontation or disturbance was the ultimate disgrace for any defender and usually the end of their career.
Defenders were subject to many of the same laws and social conventions as their partners in the free world outside of prisons. However, when found guilty of misconduct, the offending defender is punished severely and sometimes censured for seemingly trivial misdeeds.
So how did defenders end up working in the catacombs of darkness of the underground cemeteries of the stone-walled castle-like prison located here in the valley? The history of the use for catacombs goes back to the days of Rome as there was a shortage of land and cemeteries were hard to come by thus they used the land they owned and buried their relatives there on their own land rather than common cemeteries.
The concept grew and after a design was developed in the state of California called Pelican Bay, prison administrators decided that catacombs were a unique way to save space and use the land underneath the prisons as cellblocks, tiers and cages for lock up and storage.
The state, granting more land ownership for the purpose of prisons allowed the construction of new prisons in a similar design as Pelican Bay and other super max prisons which housed their prisoners under the ground rather than up above on land. Just like Christians were burying their dead underground, the prison systems began to bury their living underground. The differences were slight but regardless, the concept of catacombs in the darkness were developed and used excessively today and staffed sparsely with defenders or officers because most of the living were locked down 23 hours a day and some even never left their cell.
These living tombs were uniquely cost effective in the manner they were spread out and while nobody could see these catacombs, the mere existence of such underground tunnels, chambers, pathways and caves created opportunities to house more prisoners in the space allocated below the ground rather than above the ground.
These catacombs were natural fortresses. They required little upkeep as they were made of steel, concrete, stone and more steel. Hence the resurrection of catacombs to house the living ended up being a plan to house the dead, the living and the undead. Underground prisons are literally out of sight, out of mind structures. Although many have above ground cellblocks and dormitory like living there to support the service needs of the prison, these catacombs were dug deep and used to store away the bad and ugly of the prison systems.
Those who were hard to manage and needed to be isolated from the other populations. Many were mentally ill and incapable of functioning or coping with others around them as they were easily manipulated to mule drugs or perform sex for other prisoners.
Their stigma of being mentally challenged alone put them in a class of prisoners that served no value to the slavery for labor and put them at the end of the vital or needed species continuum of prison labor sources.
No prisoner may walk unescorted or unrestrained. They are shackled wherever they go and that is rare since it takes manpower to conduct such tasks. If it was up to the bosses and defenders, they would leave these persons inside their cage and forget about them.
The catacombs served that purpose well and as such a benefit, is used to house those undesirables in rows of catacombs under the ground. Resources are sparse and although denied to be cruel and unusual prison practices, catacombs are used excessively and expressly for the purpose containment and control.
Once buried alive under the ground, their human rights, their dignity and their mere existence ceases to be a concern and time will take its toll on many who die while living inside these catacombs stacked with incorrigibles and misfits of society.
Some prison use a multi-tier housing system. Most tiers number between 3 and 5 tiers and since catacombs are stacked tiers of rows of tunnels situated in a maze like setting, it can manage to house thousands of persons underground without much of a problem for spacing.
The only drawback, strategically and operationally is the need to feed, shower, recreate and move them to and from services required to maintain their stability and wellness. These catacombs do not provide such logistics and if any services are required the service must come to the cell front to deliver.
However, the danger of doing so exceeds the practical element of such a delivery system thus the defender and support employee must design a venue to deliver but not impose on the support system to overburden it. The obvious solution is to neglect and avoid any deliveries and leave them be.
Neglecting them and not offering them any service except feeding them would require a paper trail documenting the opposite. Many records in these catacombs are never kept up to date or even recorded since the frequency of personnel making their rounds is rare and dangerous. Thus the practice of pencil whipping or falsifying documents is common and difficult to detect during security checks or audits.
In defense of the defenders of the prison, they have been put in a very difficult position when they are assigned to these catacombs which are rows and rows of tunnels and cages located in a wide and spread out area.
Their sheer numbers outweigh the ability to run it like it should be and many die because the defenders can’t be there when they are in distress or under attack of another prisoner.
Their bosses set them up for failure and the turnover rate is higher in the catacombs than anywhere else. Nobody can survive working there for a long period of time and if not rotated out of there, they themselves go crazy just like those housed there for long periods of time.
Catacombs of darkness is a place where only the strong survive. Strong physically and strong mentally. The weak suffer quicker than the others and are quickly preyed upon by the predators in the group where they are housed.
Catacombs used to facilitate single cell or cages. That has changed due to overloading and the need for more space in them to house the mentally ill, the most violent and the personality disorder individuals who are manipulating others to commit criminal acts while incarcerated. Catacombs are solid housing assignments for those who commit homicides inside prisons, take hostages and have a total disregard for the value of life whether it be a defender or another prisoner.
Catacomb style living can be accomplished with perfection if they reduce the population and select only those extreme cases to be housed there as the criterion for such housing has been politically altered and based on social and political reason rather that best practices and security preventive methods.
Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact, though often with the exception of members of prison staff. Catacombs facilitate such housing arrangement best.The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group described these catacombs best as:
Solitary confinement of prisoners exists under a range of names: isolation, control units, supermax prisons, the hole, SHUs, administrative segregation, maximum security, or permanent lockdown.
Prisoners can be placed in these units for many reasons: as punishment while they are under investigation; as a mechanism for behavior modification, when suspected of gang involvement; as retribution for political activism; or to fill expensive, empty beds, to name but a few.
Although conditions vary from state to state and in different institutions, systematic policies and conditions of control and oppression used in isolation and segregation include:
· Confinement behind a solid steel door for 23 hours a day
· Limited contact with other human beings
· Infrequent phone calls and rare non-contact family visits
· Extremely limited access to rehabilitative or educational programming
· Grossly inadequate medical and mental health treatment
· Restricted reading material and personal property
· Physical torture such as hog-tying, restraint chairs, and forced cell extraction
· Mental torture such as sensory deprivation, permanent bright lighting, extreme temperatures, and forced insomnia
· Sexual intimidation and violence
Recent history of isolation - Beginning in the early 1970s, prison and jail administrators at the federal, state, and local level have relied increasingly on isolation and segregation to control men, women, and youth in their custody.
In 1985 there were a handful of control units across the county. Today an estimated 44 states have supermax facilities confining more than 30,000 people. Prisoners are often confined for months or even years, with some spending more than 25 years in segregated prison settings. As with the overall prison population, people of color are disproportionately represented in isolation units.
Mental health effects of isolation - Increasingly, isolation units house the mentally ill who struggle to conform to prison rules.
An independent investigation from 2006 reported that as many as 64 percent of prisoners in SHUs were mentally ill, a much higher percentage than is reported by states for their general prison populations. Contrary to the perception that control units house "the worst of the worst," it is often the most vulnerable prisoners, not the most violent, who end up in extended isolation.
Numerous studies have documented the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners giving them the name Special Housing Unit Syndrome or SHU Syndrome. Some of the many SHU Syndrome symptoms include:
· Visual and auditory hallucinations
· Hypersensitivity to noise and touch
· Insomnia and paranoia
· Uncontrollable feelings of rage and fear
· Distortions of time and perception
· Increased risk of suicide
If one is not mentally ill when entering an isolation unit, by the time they are released, their mental health has been severely compromised. Many prisoners are released directly to the streets after spending years in isolation. Because of this, long-term solitary confinement goes beyond a problem of prison conditions, to pose a formidable public safety and community health problem.
Solitary confinement violates basic human rights - Prison isolation fits the definition of torture as stated in several international human rights treaties, and thus constitutes a violation of human rights law
For all these reasons—for the safety of our communities, to respect our responsibility to follow international human rights law, to take a stand against torture wherever it occurs, and for the sake of our common humanity—prison isolation and segregation must end.
Outlining what the AFSC describes fits the catacombs and their structure. Its design and construction has been hailed as a solution to prison violence but nothing guarantees the reduction of violence inside these catacombs as staff are shorthanded and often reactive rather than proactive in most critical situations that hinge on life or death.
Defenders, no matter how well trained they are, no matter how diligent they work their shifts or duties and no matter how they conduct themselves around the clock, cannot keep up with the duties, responsibilities and outlines of best practices that guarantee constitutional and civil right enforcement yet, through the debilitating nature of these catacombs, it is impossible to make it a better place to be for defender or prisoner.
In the meantime, their bosses focus on number crunching and not improvement of services, staffing and other logistical development that could aid in the use of the catacombs as they are and have been an acceptable mode of housing maximum security inmates who need isolation from others.