Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Government Shutdown

For the last 16 days since the government shutdown became a reality, it's been an amazing tribute to the difference in occupations listening to federal prison guards freaking out about pay cuts, responsibilities of the government, and timelines for this suspension to wrap up. Three months ago or more, when the original sequester was threatened, prison officials and guards alike came to work with death in their eyes and fire under their feet.

There has been a lot of distress among the guards, though, and they certainly do take it out on the inmate. Is this justified? Probably, to a certain extent. Most of the public would shed no tears over inmates being disrespected, but reality is more than entertaining considering that these officers make over 50K per year to do nothing but walk around a unit and sit in front of their computer....occasionally respond to a fight..eat..spit chewing tobacco or smoke a cigarette in front of others for whom that is illegal, and talk on the phone about guns and ammo, nightclubs or "who's humping whom?" They are the most over paid group of human beings on this planet, with very little expertise or training in any field beyond the aforementioned activities. Yet the very inmates who impulsiveness and criminal misbehaviour created their jobs are the first target for the ire.

Mark Twain said long ago, " If you would see the scum of society gathered in one place, visit the front gates of a prison at shift change." I think these words are indicative of the close relation- in spirit and intellect-between the general population of inmates and the staff that elect to spend 8-16 hours each day lording over them.

Take a quick look at many of the similarities that find inmates and staff gathered together under a common roof:
  • They all want as much as possible for as little effort possible.
  • Achievements are a fleeting and, often a illusory concept. When achievement is realized, the trends and standards and popular onions of their everyday life are affected only minimally." Miracles and Luck" are more creative factors than consistent effort.
  • The rich are, for the most part, "greedy and self serving and uninterested in the happenings of life at lower levels of income".
  • Life can be summed by "It's a dog eat dog world", Life's a bitch, and then you die, the boy with the most toys win.
These are, for the most part, problem oriented rather than solution-oriented thinkers, and the natural response is reactivity over proactivity. Did you know that the average salary of a federal prison guard begins at almost 40K, with a full scale of benefits, 10 million days paid vacation, every freaking holiday offered by democratic countries. It is the least demanding and most spoiled career available in America, yet it remains this country's best kept secret-otherwise Americans would be doing something about it. The days surrounding this shutdown by the federal government are filled with more than the small concerns of small minds in and around prison, there are amazing points from men and women who do view society as a place to redeem themselves. The majority of inmate comments and opinions, however, do definitely reflect the kinds of thoughts and opinions the public expects from criminals. Calls for entitlements to the poor and a bunch of paid-for free shit compose most complaints heard in defense of "society" against the oppressive sides to government and corporate America. While older Americans and genuinely disabled people are struggling to find a fair and honest way to live out there, a bunch of jerks in here are planning to abuse a soft federal system that allows their stay behind bars to qualify them as disabled and collect $1,200 per month. They dream up insurance scams that will ultimately raise premiums for honest citizens. They cry about the unfairness of a long sentence they are unwilling to use for self-improvement, and they cheer about the dishonest abuse witnessed with the welfare card shopping spree on 10/15.

When we talk about government shutdown and sequestering it's important to point out that the Federal manufacturing corporation UNICOR is run with a budget separate from the budget that keeps the prison afloat. Although it serves the federal government and creates furniture/ products strictly for government contract and purchase, UNICOR is a private entity. Those employed by unicorn are protected beneath a corporation umbrella and are fairly unaffected by the shutdown. So there is a little animosity between the unicorn staff/guards that are being paid and the compound administration/guards that are officially "furloughed". Recently, the Colorado news and a Spanish television station aired a piece with a Florence prison guard complaining that the inmates were paid anywhere from $5-500 per month(depending on the job) while the guards were paid nothing. Imagine that some scumbag inmate living high off the hog while the guard goes penniless. The truth of the matter is that any inmate making more than $100 per month works in the unicorn factory up to 160 hours per month( making couches at $250 that the government buys for $2,500). The rest of us earn between 12 to 40 cents per hour which comes out of the inmates trust fund, an interest bearing account created from the money inmates spend on commissary. In other words, unless an inmate works for the private corporation entity of Unicor, he or she pays themselves.
From the perspective of a federal prisoner doing enough time to make a Cialis commercial look like porn, many of the inconveniences suffered by federal employees have been created by their own greed and laziness. It isn't criminal what the federal employees do-not by any means-but it certainly isn't the community-minded participation that the government would have us believe.

Everyone has the opportunity to make a difference-no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. The challenge is making the best difference with the tools we're given, and continuing to apply those tools when progress isn't glaring and obvious.

Beau Hansen

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