Mission Statement

Seeking the good, the light and a smidgeon of sanity out of tragedy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The USDB Under Pressure

A maximum-security riot, several lock-downs and a new Warden. My brother reports.

Sometimes the news filtering out of the USDB is sparse and intermittent. It appears part of the reason I haven’t heard from my brother for some time is because of the numerous prison lock-downs and the very recent riot that broke out in the maximum-security section of the prison. My brother is in the General Population, but the ripple effect goes through the whole system. It’s serious.

Picture a prison movie. Ironically, it was like that.

The riot took place just in the maximum-security section of the USDB, but not with those on 23-hour-a-day lock-down. It happened with the next tier of prisoner – those who are allowed to associate with three or four fellows for a limited number of hours. Supposedly, a group of these three or four prisoners overtook a guard and locked him in a cell, and they took the guard’s keys. Then, they proceeded to unlock other cellmates, until a total of 20 were rioting within the walls. They broke off table legs for weapons and used them to create barricades. SWAT was called in. One man had his ear shot off; one is in intensive care.

Order has been restored, but according to my brother, 14 of the 20 prisoners who rioted are now on “Intractable” status. For those on the inside, it’s worse than Death Row. These “Intractable” status prisoners are dressed in paper gowns and are only allowed to eat finger food now. The rumor is that they will be shipped north, to an Alaskan facility, which is better equipped than the USDB to deal with this type of maximum-security inmate.

In a word, these prisoners are f*cked.

One other incident my brother wrote about three weeks ago was a fight out in the softball field involving a baseball bat.

There was blood and a medevac helicopter had to be called in, but that’s all I know.
Even full information on the inside is tenuous.

But my brother is finally communicating again with me. There was almost a three-month lull, but when I finally did receive a letter three weeks ago, and then a handful of phone calls this weekend, I was very grateful, and relieved. I was afraid he had cut me off — making me part of that “preemptive strike” he talked about back in April — but I’m glad to report I was wrong.

His last letter was very upbeat:

I’m happy, Sis. Not boisterously happy, but a cool, collected kind of happy. I’ve got a nice little set-up here, with a couple of towels draped over some of the furniture (toilet, wall locker). It makes my room kinda cozy. Thank God we all have our own rooms, much better that way.
My brother also got a positive Observation Report written by the shift leader Sergeant in charge when my brother provided first aid to a man having a seizure in the kitchen.

He also reminisced a bit about our past times together:

When I think back to our China trip, certain parts left deeper impressions. Like when we visited that tea farm. I remember when they were giving their talk; there was a man in the background roasting the tea leaves with his bare hands. I went up to him and watched him cook the tea leaves and he looked at me, smiled and showed me his hands. His palms were wonderfully callused and had blood blisters from the heat. However, there was something beautiful about his hands, like they were the hands of a man who used them for his livelihood and was content with that. There was a natural raw beauty of the whole impression. The man laughed a little bit, said something in Chinese and went back to work.
My brother is still reading and actively studying Buddhism. He’s also now eying a job in the Library.

It's hard when I remember that he is just 21 years old.

On the other front, after a lengthy communication with my father back in July about the Probation Officers’ visit, he agreed and admitted California was absolutely “out of the question.” It was at that point, after sweating the decision for months and hours of discussion, that I officially declined my father’s appeal to head West.

I have not heard from him since.

In fact, it was the United States Post Office that informed me that my Lost Brother put in an Official Change of Address for my father’s mail just in the last week. It appears my Lost Brother, under my father’s tutelage, has leased an apartment back in Philadelphia, right back in the very zip code area I grew up! Yes, my Lost Brother has picked up right where I left off. My father is using my Lost Brother and his inheritance monies to set up shop back East, and my Lost Brother has duly sent my father a couple months’ worth of canteen money and more than two dozen Amazon books and who knows what else. My concerns about that situation, expressed this past February and March, still stand.

But it’s out of my hands. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And as my brother in the USDB reminded me, Lost Brother is an adult and will have to make his own mistakes.

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