By George Hook
Before a targeted inmate goes off half-cocked, gets physically aggressive and winds up in more trouble than an antagonistic inmate or Correctional Officer has caused or can cause other, better options should be considered as alternatives. Physical retaliatory aggression would constitute a crime subject either to official judicial or administrative action and punishment. So that should be out completely. What might be even more troublesome is ever escalating retaliation. “Kicking one’s can down the road,” to paraphrase from the current Congressional Fiscal Standoff, is not a viable solution.
First, figure out what is causing the antagonism. Parsing the cause is possible from observation, inquiry, and reputation. Everyone will know something, at least, about a targeted inmate’s antagonist. If the cause can be eliminated or modified, that should be done as the best, most expeditious solution. A manner of speaking, an objectionable expression, a misperception may be easily corrected. Self-awareness is a virtue, especially in prison. Anger is not.
Something as simple as asking “What is wrong?” and apologizing may turn a bad relationship into a tolerable one. This works, of course, only if the antagonism is discreet, and not part of a campaign of troublemaking, or premised on race, color, creed, or other unalterable aspects of being. If the objectionable something cannot be readily changed, who else might have the objectionable characteristics should be explored, and whether seeking advice from them might provide insight, or even alliance, and be more useful than any unilateral action.
Best advice as to bothersome inmates: make special effort to “get along.” If that’s not possible, next best may be merely to avoid the troublemaking inmate. Some would say this is always the best policy: Stay to yourself. Avoid getting involved with anyone. Just “do your time.”
Worst advice is telling the CO; do so only to avoid murder, maiming, or mayhem. Otherwise, involving the CO will be regarded as “snitching,” and result in the Snitcher being shunned by every other inmate who becomes aware, the CO told, and all other COs made aware. This may taint a targeted inmate for all time and cause greater, permanent damage than that original harassment.
A general rule for inmates: the CO’s job is to ferret out improper conduct and violations, not the inmate’s. It is not an inmate’s job to “snitch.” COs may try to compel inmates to snitch; but an inmate who resists, especially the one who does it with finesse, will be more respected by everyone, including brow beating COs, than a blabbing Inmate.
Best advice as to COs: stay clear of bad ones; all of them, good and bad, as a matter of preventive prudence. This should not be as difficult as it seems. Each inmate is one of many that a CO has to be concerned about. This is true until one stands out. Don’t stand out. Merely being the newest inmate is often enough. Every new face to a group may be subject to unpleasant testing. To the extent that this is attributable to human nature, there is little that can be done, except to grin and bear it, minimize its impact, and hope that being a stranger to the group will quickly pass. Important countervailing aspects are gang affiliation, multiple defendants, and like circumstances which the BOP attempts to alleviate by “Separtee” designation. As these deserve special consideration, they are outside the scope of this general comment. They will be addressed separately in a forthcoming blog. Comments and opinions that add different perspectives to this discussion are invited and welcome.