From the Inside: Merry Drunken Christmas

I hadn’t been working at the bastille very long. About six months, if memory serves me correctly. It was Christmas day. That didn’t really matter much though. You see, on the inside, there wasn’t really much celebrating that took place. Holidays came and holidays went. We had to work regardless of the holiday unless, of course, we had the seniority to take the holiday off. Clearly I didn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have this story to share with you.

I was working day shift at this point in my illustrious career. The day’s activities progressed much like any other day.  Inmates were fed, taken out to rec, fed again, those receiving meds were medicated, and countless numbers of requests and grievances were collected. As it turns out, an idle mind really is the devil’s playground and these guys were as idle as they came. All they had to do was sit around and devise ways to make our jobs as inconvenienced as possible. Now don’t get me wrong, there were inmates who were there doing their time peacefully. But those aren’t the inmates who I’m talking about in this story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe end of my shift was nearing, it was approaching 7:00pm. The Satellite officer had noticed some strange behavior out of several inmates who were being housed in G Pod. G Pod was our cell block used to house inmates of lesser offenses, typically our “short-timers”. They were mostly there for petty crimes. This was the pool of inmates from which we generally chose our inmate workers. Anyway, they were acting different than normal. The Satellite officer believed that several of the inmates were intoxicated. Intoxicated, you ask? Yes. In jails and prisons across America (and the world) inmates have been brewing up their own alcohol using different methods. This jailhouse alcohol is commonly referred to as hooch. It’s quite potent and stinks like nothing you’ve ever smelled!

So, as I mentioned, it was nearing the end of my shift, which meant the night shift was getting ready to come in. We decided that we would wait for shift change, when we had the most officers on duty, then conduct breathalyzer tests on the inmates who were suspected of being intoxicated. Any inmate who failed the test would be moved to Book In and placed in one of our drunk tanks. The drunk tanks are just large cells made of concrete, steel, and a smidgen of glass. Inmates don’t get mattresses or blankets in the drunk tanks, just in case anyone decides they need to vomit.

PBTWith six officers on duty at the time, we began conducting the breathalyzer tests. A few of the inmates voluntarily took the test. Some of them passed and some of them failed. The ones who failed were escorted to Book In and sat in the drunk tank until the alcohol had been metabolized. There were a couple of inmates who were obviously intoxicated and were refusing to take the test. One of the inmates continually asked to speak to his attorney. That wasn’t going to happen at 7:00pm on Christmas evening. He finally submitted a test and moved to Book In without further incident.

Then there was one last inmate who we knew had been consuming some of this hooch. He was being passive aggressive and was acting like he was sleeping in his cell. It was at this point when I first met Deputy Walter*. I had heard stories of this deputy, but I had never actually met him. Deputy Walter came into the pod like he owned the place, walked into that inmate’s cell, gave him verbal commands to get up and walk to the front of the pod, but was met with the same resistance the inmate had give the jail staff. Deputy Walter seemed to have a very short fuse and gave the inmate verbal instructions once more. When the inmate still refused to get out of his bed, Deputy Walter grabbed the inmate by his shirt, dragged him out of his bed and delivered him to the front of the pod, where there were two jail officers waiting. I was one of those officers.

Once the inmate was lying on the floor in front of the main door, the other jail officer and I took hold of the inmate and tried to get him to his feet. He was still resisting, passively, at this point, so we each took him under one arm and dragged him all the way to Book In. The entire time we were making our way to Book In, the inmate was beating his head against the concrete floor chanting, “LAW-SUIT, LAW-SUIT, LAW-SUIT!” The inmate was so intoxicated that he apparently didn’t feel his head profusely bleeding, more and more every time he bashed his head onto the concrete floor. Once the inmate was put into the drunk tank, he stood up and began beating on the cell window. Surprise, surprise – he wanted to talk to his attorney too.

We walked back to G Pod to see if we could find any of the hooch that might not have been consumed. We were met at the door by another inmate who had been consuming the hooch, but tried to hide that fact from us. What he did was, when we were testing the other guys in the pod and moving them back to Book In, he went to his cell and tried brushing his teeth. Like a champ, he still had toothpaste completely surrounding his mouth. We gave him a breathalyzer and he failed. He willingly went to the drunk tank without further incident.

All in all, after getting the drunk inmates to Book In, then writing my report, the entire incident only took a couple of hours. What a great way to end my shift, and what a great way for my brothers to start their shift. Babysitting drunk inmates who wanted to get wasted on Christmas. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that if you’re working in a correctional facility on a holiday, you can almost rest assured it’s not going to be a “normal” shift. Ever!

* – not the deputy’s real name.


About John Shue

Just a normal guy in pursuit of happiness.
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