IN DEFENSE OF PRISON GUARDS
I rise to submit my view regarding the trouble that plagued the national penitentiary. There were rounds of accusations blaming the correctional personnel that the defects of prison administration were a reflection of their faults and inadequacies. There were even implied charges that they were always at the top and bottom of the mess. Media was recipient of information that behind every breakdown of discipline, like smuggling of contraband was always traceable if not attributed to the lowly prison officer. It has always been said that the prison personnel are scalawags through and through.
This is however far from what is obtaining. I have been in the prison service for more than three decades, much of it is spent in managing prison facilities and I know personally how incompetence is introduced into the system. This may be a little outside of the usual impression but ineptitude is never found on the level of personnel performance. It is never obtained in the rank and file. It is never even manifested among the organic members of the organization.
Sadly and generally speaking, it is found on political appointments. The prison service is a favorite rendezvous area of retired officials mainly from the police and the military. And these officials, experts in their respective field, are found in the vortex of every correctional concern. Their qualifications, not to mention their political connections, are beyond reproach. They are the best one can dream of. It is imagined that after their dazzling career in their organization, a stint in corrections may as well be their swan song in the public service. After each term of office however, their names unfortunately would be besmirched, blemished and strained by scandals. For others, they do not know what hit them. For the rest, it was a disappointing episode. In countering such charges, the blame is oftentimes shifted if not hurled directly at the prison worker.
Here however is the real score.
There were impressions that the prison personnel were behind every smuggling of contraband in the prison community. That is myth. If at all the prison personnel is forced or persuaded to bring in something inside the prison camp it is mostly food. Prisoners would goad their guards to buy for them a piece of pizza pie, or fried chicken almost double the prize. This is trafficking but these are regularly negotiated. The prisoner would be able to taste something from the free community, the prison personnel gets a refund and a bit of revenue from the margin. Prisoners never negotiate with his guard the entry of weapons, drugs and other illegal equipments. Prisoners knew that it is bordering on impossibility and would expose their guards to unnecessary hassle. Prison guards knew that the layers of personnel on each path towards the prison camp would make it difficult for them to smuggle anything unusual. More so, a guard will never introduce something which in the long run might be used against him. Safety dictates that he can only make on something through food and nothing else.
But there are contrabands seized and these may come from somewhere. Here is how it is done.
Every political appointee who begins to assume prison leadership brings along a coterie of staff, mostly close associates from their former office. Their sworn loyalty to their leader is manifest; they treat the word of their master as law and they see to it that master’s thoughts on the prison service translated according to the letter. Their master, the political appointee, the one at the helm exudes principled ideals and every bone in his body is dedicated to good governance and the promotion of competence.
The trouble is that these staffers, these close associates once they are prowling in the prison camp projects the authority of their master. No prison personnel can even touch them as in frisking, unless the prison guard wanted to invite harassment. There were several instances when a prison guard posted at the gate would require these close associate for the mandatory frisking and questioning only to find themselves at the short end of authoritative anger. Prison personnel were easily transferred to far flung penal facilities for performing their job. Accordingly, they can be strict on everyone except for the chosen few, the close associates.
Now, these close associates having found themselves a cut higher than prison workers would be embolden to move in and out of the prison camp. Firstly, in the guise of searching information. Secondly, to project an air of transparency from leader to the constituency. It is here where negotiation would start. Prisoners knew that everybody has their own vulnerabilities. They befriend those whom they know they can tap for some advantages. They would shower respect and subservience and even allow themselves to be humiliated and enslaved. Then they would go for the jugular and offer their new found friend something valuable. If the close associate bites, then they are ripe for any transaction. It is during this period when an unholy deal would take place.
Gang leaders know that these close associates are never bothered at the gates. They can enter at will and nobody would inspect and frisk them. They can bring anything from bladed weapons to firearms, from drugs to explosives. And these can be procured at a cost favorable to the bearer, no haggling for discounts and no rebates whatsoever. These close associates know that money is free flowing into the prison camp.
As a matter of fact, millions of pesos are in circulation at a given day. Commerce is alive and sale of contraband is always a luxurious activity. The close associates are never bothered at all since they are within the safe distance, near the prison leadership and away from danger if violence would erupt. Besides, there are always the prison guards to blame when push comes to shove. It is the lowly guard who are exposed to danger and violence more than the close associates. And since these people know that there are those who can be censured and impugned, their nefarious activity is bolstered and become more emboldened. They know that they would not stay long so their mantra is to make hay while the sun shines. Not long after, the term of the prison leadership is up and scandal has broken. Their master, a forlorn figure, while in their case, they are all laughing all the way to the bank.
The prison community knows well these personalities. The prison organization has high regards for the prison leadership, make no mistake about it, but it is the close associates who abuse and make a mockery of their master’s integrity that takes the cake.
So, excuse me while I bend some notes. It is not the prison guards who are to be blamed at all when trouble ignites. A deeper probe would yield a different class of personalities who are behind all these.
Prison guards, I say, hold your head up high despite the accusations. One day, those who are liable will finally be revealed.
Posted on November 22, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged government, more than three decades, personnel performance, political appointments, prison administration, quotes, swan song. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.