Letters on the prison series

Portland readers respond
By  |  March 23, 2006

November 25, 2005
Wife of C.O. responds
Lance Tapley — I’m sure you didn’t leave from your interviews with these six inmates with their feces, or urine, or blood, or vomit on your clothes (see“Torture in Maine’s Prison,” November 11, and“Reforming the Supermax,” November 18). Probably none of them said they’d kill or rape you, your wife, or your kids, while you watch. Of course you didn’t. Prison guards hear it every day, several times daily, in fact. They work more than 12 hours a day, for minimal pay, with murderers, pedophiles, kidnappers, and rapists. These inmates were all on their very best behavior during your interviews, because they wanted something from you. One of the major points was the feces and urine. WHOSE IS IT? If they didn’t flood their toilets so there is an inch and a half of toilet water all over the floor, or if they didn’t save up their feces, urine, and blood, and throw it all over their only home, or at the guards, maybe it wouldn’t be everywhere. How is it that inmates have been exposed to feces in their cells if it’s flushed down the toilet? I know they have toilets.

Guards get ready each morning to go to work, to pay their bills. They brush their teeth, shave, and put their uniform on one leg at a time. When you come right down to it, these men take just as many, if not more, risks as any police officer. They are unarmed, but for mace, unless suited in their riot gear. They don’t put the cell numbers in a hat and pick one for extraction. The guards working at the Maine State Prison deal every day with the knowledge they are exposing themselves and their families to another world. They have to deal with the mental problems of these inmates, in which they have no training. They deal with people cutting themselves. This is a gruesome and bloody business. Not to mention AIDS and hepatitis.

Inmates are inmates for a reason. They seemed sane enough during your interviews to understand good behavior is rewarded. If all of the inmates wanted to they wouldn’t have to be in the maximum security level. If they are being uncooperative or sometimes overcome with rage, so much so that someone might get hurt, the inmate or the guard, there has to be consequences. Then, after years of not following the rules, they get deeper into the levels of the system. It’s not the guard’s fault they are there. A majority of theses inmates have graduated from the Maine Youth Center in years past and worked themselves up.

People I know have had to hold an inmate up, seconds after hanging himself, while another guard unties him, so they could try to save his life. This affects a normal person’s psyche.

I don’t think any profession has ever been so misrepresented in the media as this one. Every time they make the guard to be the bad guy. He didn’t put the guy in there. He wasn’t on the jury. The inmate broke the laws. Therefore, they gave up certain rights as human beings. This is the reason they are in jails, prisons and halfway houses.

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