A Different Christmas Story (Chapter 8)
Corrections Officer White
At once, every resident of the SHU heard a crackling in their cell speakers. Next came the unmistakable high-pitched nasal voice of Corrections Officer White. A bad draw for the SHU residents for sure.
Corrections Officer John White was as tough and as petty as they came. Not many liked him, and that included his fellow CO's. He bellowed orders constantly through the speaker. Sometimes he would surf the cells, listening in for any activity that he could possibly write up, embellishing anything he’d heard, or thought he’d heard.
White’s harassment of the inmates was endless from tossing the cells to confiscating magazines, mail or anything that he thought was at all questionable. From time to time, most guards would play music into the SHU cell speakers -- especially during holidays. White wouldn’t allow a single note. It became hyperbole, not only with the convicts but with the guards, that if White could get away with it he would blast NPR pledge drives over the air ways and into the cells -- hours and hours of relentless demands for money to support another year of commercial free radio -- the only thing stopping him? Amnesty International. Humor was one of the few entertainments the inmates had left and they played it hard with the guards and each other.
White’s tendency for stirring up trouble finally hit the Warden’s limits and he kept him out of the SHU. Unfortunately this Christmas holidays found the prison short handed and the Warden had no choice but to let White fill in the SHU staff gap.
He started in on everyone right after his arrival for his shift. “Today's four o'clock count will be a standing count. Anyone not fully dressed will be subject to a write up.”
Of the many counts that took place each day, the four o'clock count was the most important. It was a system-wide daily tally completed in every prison across the country, ensuring that each and every federal prisoner was duly accounted for. Once the count was made at a particular institution it was passed on to the Bureau of Prisons in Washington DC. It was then calculated across the country at one main location. After each and every prisoner was accounted for the count was cleared. Then, and only then, could movements began again in prisons across the United States .
White’s fully dressed standing count was unheard of-- it didn’t make sense and nor settle well with the inmates. No guards did standing counts in the SHU, all the inmates were already locked down and a quick visual count did the job just fine. This fully dressed order added by White was unnecessary and just way for White to show he had power over them. Cat calls rumbled through the cells echoing off the metal walls.
White held his ground. He had nothing to worry about. He had all the power. All the convicts were locked in their single man cells. If the inmates refused to comply he would simply hold back their holiday dinner with its special Christmas treat, a large turkey drumstick. To prove he meant business he announced he had already unplugged the food carts keeping their meals warm.
The thought of those oversized legs being served cold was more than the toughest convict could take. Everyone fell into line. They would do what was necessary to keep that meal warm until it was pushed through the food slot in the steel doors that separated them from the outside hallway.
The speakers crackled once again as White set the rules for the evening activities.
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