By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy www.glogster.com

Today, at 11:00 AM, I approached my unit team area — F-North in FCI Petersburg — seeking to submit a form which authorizes the Federal Bureau of Prisons to send money to a friend of mine from my commissary account (BP-199).  Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM is the designated “Open House” time period for my unit team.  This is when inmates housed in the F-North housing unit are allowed to make inquiries with our counselor, case manager, and unit manager.  Today, like many Tuesdays and Thursdays, my unit team decided that it just wasn’t a good day to have open house, so they simply didn’t bother to have it.  Naturally, no advanced notice was made and no rescheduling will occur.  Same old, same old.

While disappointed about not being able to submit the money request form, I’m used to such inconsistency at FCI Petersburg (more specifically in the F-North housing unit), so I just brushed it off and decided to carry the form around with me until my counselor decided to make an appearance.  My opportunity came at 4:36 p.m., right after my cell door was unlocked following the 4:00 p.m. count.  It’s the interaction which subsequently transpired which motivated me to write this personal exposition of my experience.

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By Christopher Zoukis

Today I put a water container — like a plastic shaker cup — down on a table in my prison’s housing unit and walked over to the computer area to check my email.  I was on the computer for perhaps 10 minutes, then I returned.  Upon my return I was very disappointed to find that someone had broken the plastic which connects the water container to its lid.  Since nothing was missing, the only motivation for doing so, that I can imagine, is that some inmate in my housing unit was feeling like being sadistic.  That someone was feeling like making another’s day a bit worse, for no other reason than to do so.  While this is not new to me, I still found it disappointing.

A lot of the work I do is thankless work.  I advocate for prisoners and their rights.  I do so for free and am often disconnected from the response to the work due to being imprisoned and not able to be online or use normal email.  While I have had a good response from those outside of prison, inside prison is a different story.  Inside prison I’m just some young white guy with red stars tattooed on his hands.  Inside, I’m simply some sort of target which fellow prisoners feel that they should try to take advantage of, not because of the color of my skin or because of my age, buy because I’m a fellow prisoner.  For some reason, prisoners seem to feel as though it is ok to screw one another over because we’re in the same position.  It makes no sense at all to me and it is very disheartening.  It’s as if the guards aren’t kicking you or putting you down, a fellow prisoner is more than willing to fill the void.

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By Christopher Zoukis Prison commentator George Hook recently published an article at PrisonEducation.com entitled “How Should An Inmate Deal With Troublemakers.”  The article suggests that the prisoner should first try to understand the conflict (analysis), then seek input from knowledgeable persons (either plainly intelligent, or those who have relevant experience), try to resolve the matter…

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