A Veteran's Prison Lamentation

At 0930 this morning I saw Lieutenant Kim Irwin going from cell to cell with a pair of sissors taken from the suicide box to cut down clotheslines. The lines were being used because hurricane Sandy is on the way and it is already raining. Men hang up their sweatshirts after coming back from chow to allow them to dry.

I have never spoken to Lieutenant Irwin before, because I was told she was a tyrant and unapproachable. Still, she is the lieutenant in charge, and I have no choice but to go to her for any problems I might foresee or currently have.

When I first came to this cellblock, they placed me in cell #1, which is right next to the 600-pound steel door that everyone uses to go in or out. It slams a thousand times a day with extremely loud BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAMS! To a Vietnam veteran such as myself, that sound caused me to want to dive under tbe bed thinking "INCOMMMMMING!" I was tortured for two months before I was moved to cell #20 at the opposite end of the cellblock. I do not hear that loud slamming elsewhere instead of on top of my head.

I asked Lieutenant Irwin if she was going to be in charge of the new long termers block, which I am already approved to move to. She said that she was. I then asked her if I could get a cell in that block away from the door. She said no. I then tried to tell her about the PTSD issue of my being near the door and explained that I was a disabled veteran. Her reply before I could go any further was: "No one cares that you are a disabled veteran, and the sooner you get that through your head the better off you're going to be!" Then she said: "The next time you come at me, come a different way."

Kim Irwin will never have to worry about me coming at her in any way in the future. She clearly demonstrated her position and attitude. The same position and attitude that this country displayed back in the 60s toward men like me. I have never used my status as a veteran for anything. I merely wanted to point out that there would be a psychological problem that could be avoided by not placing me near a slamming 600-pound door. At my age, this sort of event could cause heart problems, or least of all, wreak havoc in my central nervous system.

I have no idea why Lieutenant Irwin is so resentful and contentious? Perhaps earning $100,000 per year isn't enough money for the hard work of using suicide scissors to cut down clotheslines, or pulling down men's antenna wires from their radios, or ensuring they don't have an extra tee-shirt in their locker. Whatever her lamentations may be, I can only dare guess. I feel sorry for her. No one can wear such a mask at work, and then go home and peel it off like a clown removing her rubber nose after a performance.

As a former Marine, I know how important leadership is. I know that you are placed to a higher standard of excellence once you pin on sergeant stripes or lieutenant bars. If you ever allow your personal feelings to intrude on your judgment, then you are not qualified to lead. This is something that Lieutenant Irwin must have forgotten, or simply chose to ignore.

I will pray for her and hope that, in His infinite mercy, He will give her rest. I would tell her that I forgive her for her insensitive remarks about no one caring that I am a disabled veteran, because I know that there are people who care. These are the people who insisted that I write this story. The love that is shown me on a daily basis is proof of the existence of the God I believe in, and I wish that Lieutenant Irwin might find the same solace in her life.

   Joe Labriola
   October 29, 2012