POB 240Manchester, ME 04351207/626-0594 www.stanmoody.com
Help! I Just Don·t Get It!
April 3, 2010 As do all new employees, I had the good fortune of receiving 8 weeks of orientation beforeassuming my role as a prison chaplain at Maine State Prison in Warren.Sprinkled in among the good information was a litany of well-worn horror stories that havebecome common prison lore. As these stories of guns, blood, feces and urine bore up underrepetition, I began to wonder how many years had transpired between these events. It is almost asthough working in a prison involves waiting for the next shoe to drop while running through yourhead what you are supposed to do when it does. These stories are very familiar to the press, to the legislature and to staff, so much so that when something serious happens, like the hostage-taking incident in the library, the public justyawns, thinking that it is business as usual. You cannot be heard to object to lack of press coverageif you create the impression that every day you go into the prison you take your life in your hands. The stories are decidedly one-sided. They omit references to the kind of medical andsecurity neglect that led to the death of Prisoner Weinstein and injuries to a parade of others overthe years.Somehow, we have created a fear culture of them vs. us. Fear leads to playing defenseinstead of offense. Playing defense leads to protecting yourself instead of those you have been hiredto protect.Is it any wonder that morale among guards is rock bottom? They have been indoctrinated with fear and put in uniform on their first day at work only to be coached by others taking greatpride in having stayed the course while walking a gauntlet. Does it not seem logical that if you doyour job with respect for human dignity, are consistent and fair, are blind to a prisoner·s crime, are willing to listen, you can work miracles while assuring your own safety? The problem is that respectfor human dignity, fairness, objectivity and willingness to listen are in short supply from the topdown and therefore are not characteristics well respected. The stories of trouble within school systems that have been making the news lately may behelpful in understanding this crisis of authority. A recently immigrated Irish girl in South Hadley,MA, Phoebe Prince, was so brutally bullied at school and on Facebook that she hanged herself. Thebloggers say, ´She was probably mentally and emotionally disturbed.µ Well; she certainly wasattractive. She smiled a lot. She talked funny ² differently from MA kids. Maybe she got the ideathat she was alone with no support from those in charge, including her parents.One blogger, hiding behind the pseudonym ´clinteastwood.com,µ suggested that teachersare afraid of the parents, parents are afraid of their kids, and the kids are afraid of nobody, so weshould just lock the bullying SOB·s up, and they will learn what punishment is all about. Who is theanonymous clinteastwood.com afraid of ² his own identity or those SOB·s who are afraid of noone?