Different Perspective

Too often we see things from our own perspective, how else can we see them? I’ve always thought and taught the concept of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, try to see things from others perspective. Yet it is hard sometimes and if you aren’t intentional about it you typically won’t do it. Well I’ve had several interactions with several guards after a year, that has me thinking... The two that stuck out to me occurred a few months ago. My radio had been on the charger and it came up "missing". I learned from a fellow inmate that is was taken by a guard. I saw this guard the next day, standing in front of another unit (he was filling in on our unit, not one of our typical guards). So, I approached him and asked about my radio. After a few minutes of engagement, he remembered he did have my radio and would give it back to me when he worked our unit again. To this the second officer with him, told him in a scolding tone, to get off his lazy xxx butt and get it for me now. So, the officer did so. The officer getting my radio would be in the category of guards I described as withdrawn and the officer he was with falls into the category of aggressive. Actually, this officer specifically has tercets syndrome. So, I talked to this guard for some time, while the other guard went to get my radio, he had his normal twitches and often yelled obscenities at the other inmates passing by. He began talking to me about how horrible it was to work with this guard, and how he is all doped up with PTSD after being a sniper in the army, killing hundreds including women and children, and how that really screwed him up. It was an interesting conversation, made me think about the guards bringing in their own baggage and trauma to work every day, and sometimes we are an outlet for them, how in the same way I have done the same in my lifetime. How it effects how we treat each other.
The other interaction more profound and more recent, is why I am writing this blog. It was an interaction just a week ago. I was off my unit for a short visit from a friend from Indianapolis IN. It was a frustrating day as my friend arrived in the prison more than 3 hours prior to be sent away for a "security issue" and then when he returned at 11 AM, he waited another hour and a half as "they couldn’t find me" even though I never left the unit that day, I waited to be called for my visit...leaving us just a short 45 minutes to visit that day. So, I regress. Well after the shortened visit, I was waiting in the dress out area with another inmate for another 45 minutes. During that time the officer began talking to us about his own experiences. This guard was working overtime. He was usually in charge of the laundry department. He had worked in the prison for 11 years and as a police officer for 20 years before that. He spoke about the difference in working in a State Prison and a Federal Prison. He talked about the differences he’s seen in Terre Haute. He explained that it used to be an active yard, He told us that in the last decade, he responded to stabbings, riots, and killings almost daily. He talked about his own family, and his kids struggling with their own drug addiction problems when he was an officer on the street. In fact, he shared as he was responsible for one of his son’s 5 yr. sentence in prison. He said that the judge suggested house arrest, and he stood up and said he felt like incarceration was better for his son. He talked about his first visit in that prison and how the guards treated him and his son. He shared how that experience affected him. He said, he feels for our families coming to visit us. He shared how incarceration did more harm for his son then good, and he joined a gang while in prison and became even more connected in the drug trade when he was released. This guard continued to describe how responding to all of the day to day incidents gave him a form of PTSD. He talked about an incident a week ago when he heard a man and women fighting at a gas station. The man was calling the woman a “boxy”. The guard said it was all he could do to restrain himself from running over to beat up that man. (The B word is word that you don’t use in prison, and if you do, a fight, often a stabbing or killing is directly followed.) I’ve learned that myself but never considered how it affected officers. The CO shared how he recently became a Christian, and how hard it was to follow Christ in this environment. It was interesting and enlightening to hear his perspective on life in prison.