This is a Prison

Shirley Medium is a guards' prison. It has always been so, in its almost-20 year existence. No matter the title at the top of the prison hierarchy page or the commissioner "downtown," the guards are definitely in charge of this asylum. This is partially why guards with heinous records of abuse end up here. They are told by other guards it's the place to be because in Shirley, they rule. Past superintendents have been badgered into submission to their wills despite the superintendent's best efforts to make any sort of positive changes in this prison without hope.

This is a prison of successful suicides and suicide attempts.

This is a prison where every convict in the state fights hard not to be sent.

This is a prison where a man stubs his toe and the place is then put in immediate lockdown and all activities are suspended until the stubbed toe can be "investigated," "transported," and "treated." Guards order everyone back to their "rooms" (some of us still call them cells) until the all-clear is sent out by the winged manager.

This is a prison where martinet-type guards are sent to patrol up and down the aisles to humiliate men in front of their families over the most trivial things.

This is a prison full of old men in wheelchairs going outside in freezing rain three or six times a day for meals and meds. And sometimes they need to go to programs, limited as they are here.

This is a prison where we all come to die physically and emotionally. The so-called "hospital" is packed with dying men. I have seen several old friends over the past few years come in from other prisons to die in bubble-cells locked away from all of us. Today, no one from population is allowed to go back to the bubble-cells to visit with anyone because the guards and medical staff were seen being negligent and abusive to the dying. Their responses were not to correct the negligence or abuse, but to stop any of us from seeing it. Every friend I have watched die has told me the same thing. They all wished they had died where they were. Men in other prisons are sick but refusing to go to the "hospital" to report it, because they have heard about this joint.

This is a prison where the only psychiatrist we have consults regularly with the IPS (prison security) to determine if it's okay to give out certain medications to her patients. If the man had a positive drug urine 30 years ago, he is then denied necessary medications today. If the IPS even suspected that a man is cheeking his meds or selling them to others, they then tell the doctor to discontinue those meds, even though the man was never given a disciplinary report for abusing anything. The same thing applies to the one medical doctor we have here.

Now, to be fair, we have a new administration at the top. Two women have come aboard, and they both seem like they want to make those positive changes I alluded to earlier. However, they must be circumspect on how they proceed, or like our former commissioner, Kathleen Dennehy, they too will be intimidated into surrendering to the evil machinations of the guards. Remember when Kathleen Dennehy released a video of guards viciously beating a prisoner already on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back? In retaliation, they took shifts and sat outside her home in a car with a gigantic inflatable rat on the roof and followed her everywhere she went with her family. They slashed her new tires for good measure.

Some positive changes have been initiated with this new administration. They are fighting stronger headwinds than they may have anticipated. They are going to need to show strong and bold leadership and not allow themselves to be intimidated by bullies.

Let's hope the inflatable rat has a hole in its head.

   Joe Labriola, Prisoner at Shirley

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