Most prisons I know of have a kitchen infested with roaches and mice. I particularly detest rodents for their constant gnawing to grind down their teeth that never quit growing (unless they’re outdoor rodents, such as squirrels). I didn’t know what to do about the mice, but when I worked in food service in one particular prison, I tried getting my hands on some praying mantis egg sacs to take care of the roaches. Rather than letting them hatch in the garden to eat bugs that fed on crops, I figured they would be of better use in the kitchen to eat bugs that fed on food served to inmates. Mantids eat only live prey, so they would’ve disappeared once the roaches were gone. I would have preferred egg sacs for a South American species that will eat mice too, because the most disgusting thing I saw was bags of oatmeal with taped-up holes where mice had entered. The ones I tried (and failed) to get would have at least eaten the roaches, and seeing them on my food pushed me to the point that I was going to take that drastic measure. (I can see now. Someone sitting in the dining room, unaware that a roach is in his food until a mantis leaps onto his tray to snatch it.)
The Health Department would shut down a restaurant anywhere near as filthy as most prison kitchens, but the same rules that apply in the free world don’t apply in prisons. They’re rife with corruption, especially when it comes to medical care. Several inmates actually got sicker after taking meds meant to treat them, making me wonder if they were being experimented on like lab rats. Our lives weren’t exactly valued. I know of at least two inmates who were accused of faking an illness when requesting medical attention and told they would go to the hole if they kept asking. They were both dead by the next morning. Other staff members did want to help inmates with medical problems but were prevented from doing so. I was told about one nurse who quit her job because she kept getting in trouble for trying to help people. A lack of funds wasn’t the problem. It was how some crooks in charge spent the money. I’ll never forget about the “physical therapy” I was put through after being shown how to do some exercises to relieve back pain. Twice a week I went to a medical room to do exercises I could have done in my cell. My only company was another inmate who had his own exercises to do. We were unsupervised, yet someone was being paid for each session of this so-called physical therapy.
Sweat shops in prisons are another way to profit from inmates, and I wanted no part of it. I started off in a maximum-security prison with three factories: clothing, furniture and license plate. The pay was 50 cents an hour, and that’s good for prison wages. When I was close enough to my out date that my custody level lowered, I transferred to a medium-security prison where the same pay was offered for a factory job. I thought I would go to a minimum-security prison from there, but instead went to another medium-security camp for a job I never requested. Workers did laundry for hospitals, and this job also paid 50 cents an hour (30 cents the first month). I was put on a folding table and had so much trouble concentrating on what I couldn’t have cared less about that the lead man requested I be moved to another table, and fortunately the lead man there didn’t take the job so seriously.
After a year of folding laundry and turning down a lead-man position for a whopping 71 cents an hour, I was able to get a new job and was out of there. I guess sweat-shop wages can be expected in prison, but there’s so much more than that and how the rules that apply in the free world don’t apply in prison. Rules that prevent victimization, for instance. Inmates who’ve ambushed other inmates were only punished with a couple weeks in the hole. That’s an assault charge outside of prison, and people are charged with a crime for stealing too. The punishment for theft in prison is usually a minor violation and/or losing a job if something was stolen at work. Prisons were labeled correctional centers when it was decided they should be more about rehabilitation than punishment, but how can inmates be rehabilitated in a place that allows them to practically get away with behaviors they’re supposed to be “cured” of before being released?
Corrupt as it is, the Department of Corrections at least runs prisons better than many of the ones in Latin America. Inmates in some of those prisons south of the border actually have guns and hand grenades. The corruption outside of prison in those countries is also much worse than in the United States, which still has a large amount of its own corruption. A lot of it is politicians making promises they can’t keep, something voters are partly to blame for. They want to hear only what’s pleasing to them, and when politicians running for office are honest enough to say certain things can’t be done, they lose votes. Sometimes the truth hurts and people don’t want to hear it. So it is in many churches where people want a preacher who will tell them only what they want to hear. That attitude is nothing new. Israel’s King Ahab hated the prophet Micaiah for telling the truth because he didn’t like what he heard (I Kings 22:7, 8). His decision to listen to false prophets resulted in his death (I Kings 22:34, 35), and people today are still choosing deception over truth. They’re like the rebellious Israelites who said, “Prophecy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” (Isa. 30:10)
I’m not going to make deceptive statements here to satisfy anyone, or to keep from offending. I’m just going to tell it like it is because I care about people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be warning them about the consequences of their behavior. I can relate to you if my message upsets you. Before I went to prison, I got mad when people who cared about me told me I needed to change my ways. I didn’t want to hear it, and I was foolish back then. My final arrest really got my attention and it was then that I decided to change my ways, though it took time to get to where I’m at now. Little by little I purged myself of my old behaviors. From time to time I backslid and then felt terrible about myself later. That told me I was at least headed in the right direction. If you call yourself a Christian, you should feel guilty about sin. The “nobody’s perfect” excuse is unacceptable. You either want to please God or you don’t. If you haven’t already, please read my essay about Corruption in the Church. Maybe it will have you thinking long and hard about your own church.
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