Good behavior often goes overlooked in prison

Out of approximately 300 women that are held in Montgomery Women’s Facility, its estimated that 80% are active drug users. This includes smokers of Marijuana and Spice, alcohol can be obtained and even intravenous drugs are acquired and consumed.

How is this right? How is this allowed or even possible you may well justifiably enquire? The answer is insidiously simple. The officers know who the troublemakers are and they tend to let them get away with illicit activities to keep the peace among the inmate population. Inmates who maintain model conduct in order to have an impeccable institutional record are unable to distinguish themselves in any significant way because the correctional officers pays them no mind. Simply put, It doesn’t pay to be good.

Good behavior often goes overlooked in prison. Let me re-state that again, Good behavior often goes overlooked in prison.

Women bond in groups, some women adopt a “state child”,  often younger inmates they show the ropes to, someone that they can share their experiences with and they help to steer them out of troubles way, they show them how to adapt and to maintain some semblance of a normal life during their incarceration, they get called mom, it builds that family unit so often craved, caused by the want and desire of being a parent, but being absent from their own biological offspring. Some officers have “state children”too, that they use to do their bidding.

Some women become “gay for the stay” entering into relationships, not always sexual, but a relationship none the less, often fulfilling the role desperately sought outside of prison walls, some women revel in the limelight, being wanted, desired, cared for, provided for…some will engage in sexual activities, some will have sex with officers, after all, they know the best times and the best places in order to make it happen, in some cases its exciting, for some its done for extra privileges or extra canteen purchases, for most, they are a pawn in a game of abusive power. Knowing which groups to socialise with and those which should be avoided at all costs soon becomes apparent and before long you will probably find yourself having to choose, before the decision is made for you.

Montgomery Women’s Facility is considered a work camp although it does hold women up to the medium custody level. That means that it used to be considered a privilege to serve your time there. Approximately 10-15% of the women there go to work everyday in regular jobs. They work in fast food restaurants, hotels and the like. Alabama Department Of Corrections (ADOC) charges each inmate that works, $5 per day for the ride to work in one the several vans. The van can hold approximately 13 inmates, thats a lot per day just in van rides. Then ADOC takes 40% of the net pay inmates salary, in order to recuperate court costs, fines and restitution.

When you start to do the math, this quickly builds to a substantial sum of money, now you may well wonder where i am going with this, well here’s my point, imagine if the correctional officers actually did what they are paid to do and lets say drug tested the entire 300 women in one go, because we all agree that there should be no illicit drugs in prison right? So the the 80% of illicit drug users would be written up, charged and should be sent back to Tutwiler prison for women, but here’s the thing, with all the attention focused on Tutwiler as a consequence of the decades of abuse that occurred there, Tutwiler already being over capacity, could not house another approximately 240 women being returned for failing drug tests at Montgomery Women’s facility and ADOC would not generate the revenue that it currently is, through having these inmates out all day at work.

Do you see where i am going with this? Yet the hard working inmates that don’t step a foot wrong, that have already served lengthy sentences and taken every class, grasped any opportunity to better themselves, yet at visit, can’t even sit and hold hands with their husbands across a 4 foot wide table without being squawked at by an officer, but these same officers can walk past inmates having sex on a bunk, in open view, in a dormitory of 300 women, where there is no privacy, and where they recently installed dozens of video cameras, or watch inmates shooting up drugs or see and smell weed being smoked in the yard, but they choose to do nothing, race is also an important factor. I’ll say it again, Good behaviour often goes overlooked in prison.

Inmates should be able to earn privileges, not just be granted the same privileges as all other inmates. The aforementioned inmates that work jobs, get to wear various clothing, job uniform or not, is still considered better than ADOC whites, maybe those inmates that are disciplinary free could be allowed to wear jeans, or non white shirts too? Incentive food and clothing packages are available for inmates families to purchase every 3 months, as are foot wear packages, yarn can also be ordered for those that have learnt to crochet, the rules used to state that you had to have the preceding 6 months free from any disciplinary action, before being granted such privileges  but that rule is seemingly no longer enforced, any inmate seemingly regardless of the severity and quantity of disciplinaries can go ahead and order whatever they like, so what incentive is there for being good?

It is obvious to me that, apart from being illegal, this disregard for ADOC rules and regulations by the correctional staff, encourages bad order and ill discipline, and i can only imagine how discouraging and unimaginably frustrating it must be for an inmate that, in some cases may have already served over a decade, been a model inmate with no write up’s and an excellent institutional record, but yet, the “system” fails to recognise, let alone appreciate, encourage or reward the enormous effort that these women have made in rehabilitating themselves, growing and changing and for choosing to not participate in illegal activities, indeed demonstrating that they have made the necessary changes in themselves, and i believe that it is exactly these types of inmates that the Alabama Department Of Corrections and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, should be recognising. Good behaviour should not be overlooked.

Giving inmates the ability to set themselves apart from those who choose to continue to misbehave gives an inmate a reason to care about and plan for her future, giving them hope that her future can be different, that they can effect positive change in what is frankly an extremely negative environment, and if they can do it inside, under the current conditions, living it outside of razor wire is achievable for them too. Giving inmates hope about a better future will change the culture of the prison system, the mentality of the officers and staff has to change too, except they don’t have the incentive, its only the well behaved inmates that do.


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