Inmate & Jail stories
We had a situation once where an inmate required his blood pressure medication before any of the nursing staff arrived at the facility. Since he worked on the gang (yes, the chain gang) and left the facility before we came into work I had to make arrangements for him.
As the head nurse, it was part of my responsibility to make sure it was available to him prior to our normal hours so I would put the blood pressure pill in a little envelope and give it to the officers to give to him in the morning. In turn, they would log in the medication and document that it was in the tower for the inmate to take at 6 am.
Several days into this, I would come in at 8am, check the tower, note the log in and documentation and then see that the inmate did not take his pill. When I asked why, the officers always answered, “We forgot.”
For the next couple of days, I would take a red marker and write very largely, the inmate’s name and “6 AM - CANNOT LEAVE WITHOUT PILL!”
I would come in and the pill would still be sitting there. Again, “We forgot.”
“How can you forget,” I would demand. “It’s in big red letters. I don’t understand how you can miss it!”
I went to the sergeant, explained the problem and was assured they would follow through and make sure the inmate took his blood pressure pill before he left in the mornings. I even went to the inmate and told him if he did not make sure he took it before he left in the morning, I would not allow him to continue working on the gang.
“You can’t do that,” he yelled.
Looking at him dead on I said, “Watch me.”
All inmates have to be medically cleared to work on the gang in order to reduce their sentences so my being the head nurse put me in a position that I could take that privilege away from him. He complained to the sergeant.
She came to me and said, “The officers forgot again, that’s all.”
To which I replied, “How intelligent does one have to be in order to read the words on that envelop? They all know they need to give him the pill. They do not need a PhD in rocket science to understand he needs it before he leaves.” Needless to say, I was livid.
She went to the chief who runs the gang and said, “I think the nurse just called us stupid.”
In turn, the chief came to me and said, “Did you call my officers stupid?”
I laughed a little and answered, “I did not say they were stupid. They did that on their own. What I did say was it didn’t take a rocket scientist to read the envelope and make sure the inmate took his blood pressure pill before leaving the facility.”
“Well, they just keep forgetting, that’s all,” he answered.
“Fine,” I said, “If I come in tomorrow and he didn’t take his pill, he won’t go back out on the gang anymore.”
Stammering a bit, the chief said, “You can’t do that! I am trying to get these people out of the jail, not keep them here!”
As I turned to go back to my office I said, “Make sure he takes the blood pressure pill then.”
I have to give credit where it’s due. After two weeks of fighting over this, they finally started giving the inmate his pill before leaving. At least, for about a week and then we fell back into the same routine of, “forgetting.”
I came into work and noted the log in and the documentation. The pill was still taped to the tower window and the big red blaring words stared back at me mockingly as if to inform me he had not taken the pill. I was tired of pussyfooting around.
I called the chief and ordered the inmate to be brought back to the facility.
“When he comes in for lunch, I’ll bring him around to your office for his medication,” the chief countered.
“No,” I responded in even tones, “I want him brought back to me right now. I don’t care if he’s picking up trash off the highway in the next state I want him brought back to me now. He will no longer be working on the gang.”
The chief, not liking the fact he was being overruled by the nurse (I cannot blame him for that), went to the jail administrator (the warden). It just so happened, the sheriff (he’s the one who is actually in charge and runs the jail) was sitting with the administrator. I was called into a private meeting with the two of them.
“Michelle, what is going on” the administrator asked. “We’re trying to get these guys out. Why can’t he just take his pill when he comes in today and we’ll get him back on track in the morning?”
“Well, Mike, I’ll tell you why,” I answered taking a seat next to the sheriff. “This guy hasn’t been on his blood pressure medicine regularly since I don’t know when – it certainly hasn’t been regular since he’s been here as your officers keep forgetting to give it to him. Their words, not mine.
“Now, what is going to happen to this jail, or how would it affect the sheriff in his political campaigning (it was election year) if an inmate in his jail suddenly fell over from having a stroke while working outside in this heat, or at best, had a heart attack because your officers failed to give him a pill before he went outside? I’m sorry, Mike, but in the best interest of the jail and as well as the best interest of the sheriff, this man can no longer work outside and needs to be monitored.”
The sheriff stood up to go and said, “Mike, bring the inmate back and if he doesn’t take his medicine before going out again, fire the officer responsible for making sure he takes it.”
I’m happy to report: The inmate had his blood pressure pill every morning thereafter.
There is a large percentage of mentally ill filling our jails and prisons. When I tell people that they say, “Oh I know it,” and then they are surprised when I mention an incident involving a mentally ill inmate. In essence, they really didn’t “know it.”
A larger percentage of drugs and alcohol plays an even bigger role in crimes committed. Many of these people would not be locked up if it were not for their recreational drug and alcohol use, especially the mentally ill. When they are on their meds and off the street meds they get at the corner store, they’re pretty decent human beings just trying to eke out an existence like everyone else.
I’m reminded of Donald: a mentally ill patient/inmate. Every day for about two weeks, he’d come to the medicine cart and tell me, “I’m not supposed to be here. Can you talk to the warden and ask him to get me out of here?” (They’re actually called jail administrators now, but Donald apparently did not know that) He freely admitted he did the crime; he just didn’t want to do the time. “I don’t have time for all that mess,” he’d say, waving his hands around.
The officers usually stepped up and instructed him to take his medicine and go on back to his cell. Except for one day … Donald approached and again asked if I would go talk to the warden about his release. I remember I was somewhat distracted and just answered off-handedly. Honestly, I cannot even be sure about what I said. However, Donald knew what I said and the next morning when he came to the cart he asked, “Did you talk to him?”
Completely bewildered, I asked, “Talk to who?”
“Talk to the warden,” he answered exasperated. And why wouldn’t he be exasperated? He’d been telling me for two weeks that he needed to get out of there and wanted me to talk to the warden.
“About what, Donald?”
Donald rolled his eyes at me, brazen that he was, and snapped, “You said you would speak to him about my release. Have you done that yet?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it but he was serious: dead serious. He hated me after that because I wouldn’t speak up on his behalf. Someone who was not mentally ill would not have expected let alone, request medical personnel to speak to a jail administrator about their release when they knew they were guilty of the crime they were being accused.
Another mental patient/inmate, actually one of my more favorite ones, used to crack me up all the time. I hated to see him incarcerated but on the same token, I was always glad he was off the streets. He could be very dangerous if provoked while off his medication. Tyrone was six-foot-eight and 305 lbs. of solid muscle. He could bench press ME!
I had read in the paper where someone and a cohort had robbed a business. After striking the owner and knocking him unconscious with the register, the assailants ran away. I remember the police had caught one of the perpetrators as he was running down the street carrying the register.
The following morning, when I got to A-block, Tyrone came to the medicine cart. After taking his meds he smiled (down) at me and said, “Michelle, you know I didn’t do what they be saying I did, right?”
“You never do, Tyrone,” I answered. “You’re a true Shawshank inmate.”
“No! I be serious,” he exclaimed. “You read the paper where they say someone beat up that guy and stole his money machine?” When I nodded (dumbfounded) Tyrone said, “That was me they be talking about!”
This admission in itself told me he was guilty as sin. Somewhat taken aback by the news, as no names were given at the time of the newspaper article, I asked, “Who was your cohort? Is he here too?”
“Yeah! Todd is over in H-block right now. They be holding him as an accessory but it be him who hit that man and dun stoled his adding machine! I don’t evenknow him, Michelle.”
“If you don’t know him, Tyrone, then how do you know his name and why are the police putting you two together in the crime?”
“I dunno. You hafta axe them,” he answered shaking his head in denial. Even the officers, at this point, were laughing almost to hysterics. Apparently it was important to Tyrone, this six-foot-eight and 305 lb. man, that I believed him and his big fish story. He finished up saying, “I was just there when it all went down and now the po-lice be saying I was involved and all.”
I couldn’t WAIT to get to H-block! I still had B through G-blocks to finish with before I could find “Todd.” The officers were laughing at me because I kept hurrying them up and I told them why I was hurrying too. I was snapping at them, “Come on! Let’s do this … bust a move, fellas!”
Finally, at long last, I got to H-block and Todd came down for the medications that were set up by the previous nurse. I introduced myself as one of the nurses and let him take his pills then I said to him, “So Todd, Tyrone was just telling me about that guy who got robbed.”
“Man! That was some f**ked up shit, you feel me!” Todd answered while shaking his head as he spoke. I really thought for sure he, too, was going to deny his involvement as well as his relationship with Tyrone. Instead, he went on, “Tyrone and I be hanging out all day getting high. Den, we got hungry and went to get sum-thin’ to eat. Next thing I know, Tyrone wanted to rob the man. He be talking about taking his money and his little money machine he had on the counter.”
“Then you do know Tyrone,” I said more for clarification than anything else.
“Yeah, man, we be cuzs – his mama is my auntie.” Using his hands as he spoke, he continued on, “Anyway, Tyrone ripped that machine up from the counter and when the man came around the way, Tyrone knocked the shit out of him with it and took off out the doe! Five-O caught him running down the street with the adding machine in his hands still full of money.”
Did I mention that Todd was five-two and about 130 lbs.?
One Saturday morning, while I was working at the jail, I went into the kitchen to get some ice. Several of the inmates, about six of them, were there eating their breakfast. Since they worked in the kitchen, they were allowed to eat their meals there after all the trays had been passed out to the different cell blocks.
It was a slow, lazy, Saturday. No one seemed to be in a hurry for anything. Occasionally, the inmates would address me whenever I entered the kitchen so it was not out of the ordinary for them to ask me questions or even joke around with me.
While talking to the kitchen supervisor one of the inmates asked me what I was doing there on a Saturday. “I work here,” I answered. “What are you doing here?”
“I work here too,” he replied laughing.
“Uh-huh, but when I finish work, I can go home to my house. Why can’t you go home to your house?”
He took another bite of food and answered, “Because I’m in jail.”
All of the others nodded their heads in agreement as I asked, “But, why are you in jail?”
He then went on to give me a song and dance about how he had been laid off at the Steel Mill. His ex-wife was still gouging him for $800 a month child support for four children and he couldn’t pay it anymore since he’d lost his job when the mill closed down.
As he told me all of this I thought of when he first came to jail. He was bragging about shelling out $46,000 cash for his Cadillac El Dorado just weeks before his incarceration. I didn’t say anything. Instead I asked the guy sitting next to him about his reasons for being jailed.
“Same thing; child support.” He, too, gave me a sob story about why he couldn’t own up to his responsibility.
The third and fourth inmate, agreed, they were there for reasons of delinquent child support and offered up a reason as to why they couldn’t pay for their children, either.
When I got to Ulysses, he didn’t wait for the question, he just spouted out, “I’m not gonna lie. I flat out ain’t gonna pay da bitch!”
His admission was so candid it caused a giggle to escape. “Why not, Ulysses? Aren’t they your kids too?”
“Yeah! Day be mines but she spends all dat money on her drug habit and I can’t afford her habit and mines too. Dats why we not together no mo. Someone’s drugs had to go. I choose hers.”
Malcolm, the last inmate, stood to take his empty plate to the sink. Of all of the inmates in the kitchen that day, he was probably the most articulate and well spoken. “Do you want to know why I’m here?” he asked, rinsing his plate.
“Sure, Malcolm. Why are you here?”
“Child support,” he answered simply and then included, “But I don’t have any children. I’ve been sterile my whole life.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking I understood. “You took responsibility for some woman’s child and now she is wanting you to continue with child support payments?”
“Nope. It’s not mine. I never met her or her little girl and they both agreed and explained that to the judge whenever we went to court.”
“What happened?” I asked.
Malcolm returned to his place at the table and continued his story. “They came and picked me up at work and I tried to tell the officer then that they had the wrong guy. When we went to court and my case was called, I stood up and the woman looked at me, then looked at the judge and said, ‘Who is that?’ Even the little girl said I wasn’t her daddy. There’s another gentleman out there who shares my name and date of birth.
“The judge ordered a DNA test at my expense even though they both told him they did not know me and never met me before in their lives. The test came back last Monday and it shows I am not the father. But, the judge said he’s not going to let me out until I finish my time or I pay the child support which is another six months. I hired a lawyer a couple of days ago to fight this.”
Ulysses was shaking his head as Malcolm finished his story. Without hesitation he said, “Man, Malcolm got screwed in da ass before he got to the jailhouse!”
I had to walk out on that note. I did feel bad for Malcolm, if his story was really true. However, when I came back to work on the following Tuesday, Malcolm had been released. I asked about him throughout the day and the officers confirmed his was a true story. Malcolm was really innocent and his lawyer had him released after charging the courts with false imprisonment.
We had an inmate come in one night clearly a foreigner. As he stood at the booking counter the other officers attempted to ask him routine questions. The inmate’s only response was “No hablo Engles.”
The officers looked at me and all I could say was, “No hablo Espanol.”
“How can you not speak any Spanish?” the booking officer asked, “You went to college.”
“My major was nursing, not foreign languages,” I answered.
They tried a couple more questions ending with the same answer. Finally they found someone who could speak a little Spanish and called him to the desk for assistance. I hung around because I wasn’t entirely convinced the inmate couldn’t speak English. Every time he said he couldn’t speak English, I noticed a little smirk forming at the corners of his mouth.
I sat behind the counter to watch and listen while Sabbu (the Spanish speaking officer) attempted to communicate with the inmate. His Spanish was just as broken and distorted as the inmate’s English but at least he was able to get a few things out of him, like his name and address.
The booking officer, while writing down the information, asked, “How do you spell his name?”
Sabbu asked as best as he could but the inmate would only smile and shake his head, “No comprende’.” Finally, when Sabbu shoved a pen and paper at him, the inmate understood and said, “Ohhhh!” then began spelling his name out loud in Spanish (he wasn’t writing anything down).
There was a question concerning the spelling of Rodriguez, so the booking officer asked, “Did he say he spelled it with a ‘Z’ or an ‘S’? I am not sure how to spell it.”
Sabbu turned to the inmate and out of habit, asked in English, “Is Rodriguez spelled with an ‘S’ or a ‘Z’?”
Equally out of habit, the inmate answered, “It’s spelled with a ‘Z’.” After which he realized his mistake by understanding and speaking English and started laughing.
I have worked in the medical departments of the jail systems between five to seven years. I even ran the medical department as the head nurse for over three years in one jail. The stories I have to tell make me just shake my own head in awe. I’ve decided to start sharing them.
While at work, I had the opportunity to meet each inmate personally if he or she had been incarcerated for at least two weeks. Some I had the pleasure of meeting within the first 24 hours. Alex was one of those people.
Alex’s crime or charge was that he was accused of selling crack cocaine through the drive-thru at a fast food place. The police charged that when a crack buyer came through the drive-thru they were to ask for the manager, Alex, and then use “code orders” to let Alex know how much they were buying. Alex was, in fact, a manager at a local fast food restaurant.
The franchise was alerted when some people from the inside made anonymous calls and tipped them off. The chain alerted the police who set up a sting and busted him. There’s video of all the transactions.
This was local news. Actually, I think it made state news. Everyone in the town laughed at his audacity to sell through the drive-thru knowing there is a video camera taping every sale, legal or otherwise. Being in a small town where everyone knows everyone, it was only a matter of time before he was caught anyway.
I had to treat him the first day in jail because the cops had to use force to arrest him. He wasn’t going quietly. Alex continued getting medical treatments for a couple of weeks and even came in to see the doctor one time. Over the course of his visits to medical, we talked a little.
Alex’s story: After telling me his charge, I said in amazement, “That was you?”
“No! Dat is not me,” he vehemently denied. “I do not do no drugs. Go head and drug test me. I ain't got no crack cocaine in my system nowhere. I don’t do no drugs!”
“But Alex, they are not saying you were doing the drugs. They are saying you’re selling them.”
“Yo, yo, baby girl, it be like dis, I don’t do drugs. It ain't me,” he said animatedly shaking his head. “I ain't saying some people in there not doing drugs, I jus saying, it ain't me.”
I’m very familiar with the game of verbal distraction. It is a con man’s go-to move. He’s trying to divert the question and answer. I say again, “Alex, no one said you or anyone in Burger King is doing drugs. They charged you with distribution. That means they are accusing you of selling them, not doing them.”
“Well, I don’t care what day be saying, it ain't me.”
As I’m treating his wound, I know, without a single doubt he is going to lie to me but I ask anyway, “How did you get these wounds?”
“Da po-lease man! Day be hitting me and shit. I’m gonna sue da hell out them mutha f***er’s!”
I snicker under my breath. As I said, I know it is coming: the lies. “Why did they hit you at all?”
“Dats what I dunno!” He’s very animated in his explanations. I can tell he’s got a temper, a mean streak of sorts. He goes on, “Day came in da place and say I was under arrest and to lay down on da flo. I set my tongs down and slowly lay down like day say. Next thing I know, day be kicking me in da head and stomach. You can axe airy one in there dat day and day can tell you how those mutha f***er’s did me!”
Sometimes Alex is brought down with a group of men for sick call. Some of the other inmates can over hear Alex’s occasional conversations with me about his charges and the police brutality against him.
When I call Quinton back to the exam room, he says, “Yo, Michelle, listen, they doing Alex wrong, you know dat, right?”
“I don’t know anything, Quinton. I only know what people tell me and I can’t even tell you if that’s the truth or not.”
“I know what you saying, but look here: Five-O beat him up for nothing. He tried to cooperate and they did that to him. I ain't trying to be ugly but, It’s jus another situation of the white man trying to bring a brutha down. You feel me?”
“I’m feeling you now,” I said as I take his pulse and blood pressure.
I knew a couple people who worked at this particular place and this is what they said: He was reported when some of the staff realized they were on video and someone could actually see those tapes. They feared they could be held accountable for what Alex was doing when they were innocent so they turned him in to the franchise.
When the cops came in and Alex became aware of what was about to happen, he grabbed one of the female cashiers and tried to get her close to the “flaming grill” to hold her as a hostage. Alex got hit from behind when a cop was able to get close enough to take him down. But, he had most of his cellmates believing “it was another case of the white man trying to bring a brother down.”
The first time I met Alex, I had been working in the jail less than one week. Having grown up in a criminal environment, I was already on to their attempts at peddling their defense to anyone who will listen. I know they do that in case there is a “stoolie” amongst them. The stoolie can testify on their behalf.
I thought it was hilarious though when so many of them accused me of not knowing anything about the criminal world. Many tried to pull the wool over my eyes. If they only knew…
While still receiving treatments from the medical department, Alex was transferred to the state prison. He had taken a plea deal for ten years. Innocent people do not take plea deals within weeks of being arrested if they’re as innocent as Alex professed to be.