Thursday, March 20, 2008


The radio blares "Duress alarm" and a location and I'm sprinting. Through a door, down the long corridor. These are always false alarms, but one day it might not be and a few seconds difference between a sprint and a stroll could be paid in blood, so I run, every time. It feels good, arms pumping, legs feeling light... a full-burn sprint of about three hundred meters, turning with the contours of the corridor, coffee cup still in one hand. Just before I get there, it's over, false alarm. Confirmed.

So back to the dorms, talking to inmates. I'm breathing a little heavily and imagine that when I was younger that never happened, but it did.

Two more back-up calls, medical only. Not worth the sprint. And the regular job: paperwork, counseling deputies, counseling inmates. It's already feeling like an off night. Jean makes a point of letting me know I'm not my usual chipper self. Maybe.

Then the first big one. Back up for a fight. Multiples involved. By the time it is over, a matter of seconds, five inmates are cuffed and removed. Several more may have been involved. Blood and pepperspray make the floors slippery. I cuffed one and helped with a second, but H and G were the heroes wading in early and hard. Enough inmates were involved to qualify as a riot in any other facility. If there had been even a second of hesitation from staff, it would have been a full-blown battle with racial and gang over-tones.

But this staff doesn't hesitate. Can you imagine charging into a fight with at least five involved and another fifty cheering and, without hesitation, taking control? Could you imagine doing it as a woman who is outweighed by at least a hundred pounds by every single individual involved? H didn't hesitate. I hope it was because she realized that she wouldn't be alone. We were all there in a few seconds. Still outnumbered, technically, but decisive action more than makes up for indecisive numbers.

The world happens at the same time. We were short staff. The next shift needed to be filled and officers reassigned and enforcement officers needed escorting and visits went on... and in the midst of that another fight, one notch less brutal. So much to do. So much to make sure got done. Reports. OC decontamination. Medical evaluation. The daily cleaning, too, and the regular day-to-day problems.

Sitting and writing reports afterwards it hit me hard how much I love these people. It can be an ugly job. There aren't a lot of praise and thanks and recognition. When things are slow we bicker and whine like a huge dysfunctional family. But when things go very bad, they are there. Fast, decisive and above all, professional. Despite the blood and numbers and force, we didn't injure a single inmate. One, later, tried to provoke force and only got a sad smile.

I'm proud of my troops today. They did good.

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