Few things in this world anger me more than grown men who attack or torture small animals and think it’s acceptable. Sadly, I’m often reminded of how much I hate this occurrence due to the apparently large population of animal abusers who reside at FCI Petersburg, the medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia where I am incarcerated. Tonight was no exception.

This evening I spent a good two hours playing Ultimate Frisbee on the recreation yard. At 8 pm, when we finished playing for the night, I was on my way to the gate and had to pass the basketball courts. I witnessed a grown man, who had just finished playing basketball with his friends, throwing rocks at the sleeping pigeons up in the rafters of the overhanging roof. Yes, you heard that right, a grown man, with his friends cheering him on, attacking small animals with rocks. I was furious.

I was so angry I walked right out onto the basketball court and confronted the man. Obviously not a very good idea, but I couldn’t allow such reprehensible behavior to continue and I didn’t see any of my friends present to back me up. So, I, the one white guy confronted a group of perhaps eight basketball players. All of them looked at me as if I was the crazy one since I thought torturing small animals was outside of the range of acceptable conduct. Perhaps they thought me as crazy for confronting them alone. Words were spoken and we went our separate ways, but when I left my blood was boiling.

My cellmate is the leader of the Buddhist service. He’s also a bird lover. In fact, he’s the one who taught me to enjoy feeding the birds and to recognize the individual pigeons here at FCI Petersburg. His opinion is that violence should never be used to stop violence. This includes protecting the pigeons. His usual tact is to step in between the animal abuser and the animal and animatedly say, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” I often take a different tact. I like to confront them and ask them, in not very diplomatic terms, what their problem is. This is something I struggle with because I feel that these worthless humans, who attack small animals, are worth less than the animals themselves, and that the animals need someone who can fight for them to do so. My cellmate disagrees. I can see both sides of it. I can agree with both, to a certain degree.

I suppose that this is the type of dilemma that does not have a good answer or a good ending. Either I’m angry about prisoners at FCI Petersburg abusing animals or I’m putting myself at risk stopping it, risk of harm and risk of being locked up. It’s just that seeing this sort of behavior makes me want to put a stop to it, but is the risk worth the reward? Could I even be successful in stopping the abuse? And, perhaps most importantly, it is philosophically correct to stop violence with violence?

As always, I welcome your input. Continue the discussion by posting your comments below.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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