2005, 5TH DECEMBER
I wrote “The Grievance Joke” to elucidate the extent of our conditions, or rather, the conditions we’re forced to endure before being killed. Contrary to the beliefs of some death penalty advocates, who presume we live a ‘luxurious life’ before some fictitiously ‘humane death’, we’re subjected to oppression! And the deplorable grievance system gives rise, if not to this oppression, to something inherently wrong with our death row conditions. Why else would they corrupt the grievance procedure, if they weren’t trying to hide something? One reason I hope I conveyed in The Grievance Joke was to destroy what little hope a prisoner has in getting his grievances heard, driving the prisoner into despair through voicelessness and helplessness. A breaking of the human spirit.
Today was my 15th day to file grievances on the 11-20-05 atrocities. And I had two filled out. One on their maliciously spraying me with chemical agents when I was of no threat to anyone (excessive use of force), and the other on their retalitative taking of all my property. All of which I still don’t have. It was about 7.00 in the morning. I asked the floor officers if they had yet seen a grievance officer and they said “no”. I asked them to have the picket officer call the grievance officer to find out if they would make their rounds, so grievances could be picked up. On the surface this request seems as if I’m being impatient. Realistically I’m asking the grievance officers: “can y’all follow policy today and pick up my damn grievance?!!” There’s a difference. Nevertheless, these floor officers ignored my request, or forgot (as they usually do), whichever you choose, to relay my request to the picket officer. I know this because after waiting patiently for several hours, I hollered for the picket officer to turn on my sections intercom, which made its “boooop” sound.” Ma’m, this is Blanton in 83 cage; did the officers pass you my message? “
“Well, could you call the grievance office and ask them if they will be making their round today? I have a grievance that needs to be picked up. I’ll ‘preciate it.”
I stood at my cage door, watching her walk across the picket office (which is an office in the middle of the pod, surrounded by Plexiglas. From there the picket officer can see and operate all cage, shower, and recreation doors as well as doors in and out of the pod.) and grab the phone. A few minutes later, “booop.” “Worthy said: ‘when you see them, then you’ll know they’re there.’”
“Who’s Worthy?” I inquired.
“He’s the grievance office supervisor,” the picket officer gave.
Now imagine the look on my face. This was an arrogant statement of the grievance officer supervisor! Sure, he’s human; he could have been a little stressed-out; or his attitude only hints to the bigger problem. Anyhow, though I could have been wrong, I felt I had my answer – nobody was going to com around to pick up my grievances. And I wasn’t alright with this. In was a slap in my face! Was I supposed to just sit on my bunk and accept this? Was I overreacting? Whereas if I was patient, the grievance officers would make their rounds, though they’ve proven themselves inept to do so? I had to make a decision on how I would react, because my options, other than passive acceptance, were minute. You see, I could have had the picket officer call me some rank (a sgt., lt. , etc) to address the problem, but most pod-officers will either play forgetful or outright refuse to call their supervisors (minus the exceptional few), because they either don’t care about the prisoners complaint and right to the chain of command, or just don’t want their “boss” around, which still amounts to their not caring about the prisoners complaint. Oft-times a prisoner will request several times throughout a shift, to speak to some rank, to only find the next shift coming on and his request denied. Should I take this chance? This grievance is due today. If I waited too late in the shift (morning shift runs 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) the grievance officers would already be gone for the day. A lot of times they leave early.
Here it was lunch time 10-11 a.m. I could jack the bean slot (stick my arm in the food slot they open in our cage doors to feed us), which forces pod officers to cease operations and get some rank to address the disruption, while using the bean slot as a bargaining tool to motivate rank to get a grievances officer down here, to get his slot back, without too much effort; or I could wait ‘till the floor officers pull me out of my cage so I can shower, and sit on the run (sit-in) . I was next in line when showers resume after chow. These were my immediate options that would surely get the problem addressed, if not resolved, before a supervisor (rank) would be able to use the excuse “Well nobody’s here from the grievance office. It’s too late.” Also I would be able to readdress my property deprivation, killing two birds with one stone (figure of speech, PETA).
In jacking a bean slot, dayroom, outside rec-yards, or run, if a ranking officer can’t convince the prisoner to abort his mission, rank must suit up a team & use force (minor, major, and sometimes excessive) to bring order to the flow of operations. This takes up a great deal of time and paperwork. Time all officers involved in the bringing of this “order” would rather not spend filling out paperwork. Thus making these tactics utilized by prisoners bargaining tools. It’s sad a prisoner must go through all this just to get someone to follow policy and protect his rights. Time and time again, this administration has only enforced those rules that are convenient for them. All their rules cannot be enforced systematically without the recruiting of more officers; something they will not spend funds on. What they do is take certain rules, and use them at strategic times to manipulate the psyche of the Death Row community. Psychological warfare. However, I guess I could have waited for the grievance officer or rank t o come, and if they didn’t, file a grievance on it. But what good is this when they are not picking up grievances? A catch-22.
The tactic I chose was jacking the run at shower time. After the floor-officers fed lunch and picked up trays (or what they call slop-trays. I tell them “you only slop hogs”) they resumed showers. I grabbed the grievances I needed filed and wrapped them in my towel. They came and opened my bean slot. I backed to the door, sticking my hands out to be handcuffed. I had my towel (grievance concealed), soap and face towel in my hands. They rolled open my cage door, and escorted me down the run to a room (shower) no bigger than a small apartment bedroom-closet. They closed the door, locking me in this shower stall. I stuck my arms out through the door’s bean slot to be uncuffed, then showered.
After some time, the floor officers came back around to take me back to my cage. They opened the door, and as soon as I stepped out unto the run, I sat down. I could see that these officers were becoming angry, because I was holding up their day. To ease their frustrations I began to break down to them those things I outlined in the Grievance Joke. They had the picket officer call some rank, but remained unconcerned about my problem. The only thing they cared about was getting the showers done so they could sit in the picket for the rest of their shift.
It was about 12.00 pm and the grievance officers still hadn’t shown up. Sgt. Ludwig, who looks like what a person would look like with that type of name – a slim, but tall fellow, with a bushy salt & pepper moustache and short hair with glasses that made his eyes look real small, stepped onto the section. I knew there would be no understanding with this troglodyte. In my 5 years on death row, I’ve never seen him help a prisoner. Regardless if the fault of an incident fell on his staff, he surely back his staff. I attempted to explain to him my problem, but he interrupted me: “are you going back to your cell?” I attempted to explain under what premises I would but he began to shake his head as if to say: “I don’t care about all that.” I told him to just get me a Lt. He stormed off with a mischievous smirk on his face. Like a snake. A real demonic type smirk. I was expecting him to come back with a response team. But instead he showed up with Lt. Richie. I broke down to the Lt. those things in The Grievance Joke, told him that no grievance officer had made his rounds, I showed him the grievances I needed filed. He flat out told me he couldn’t (wouldn’t) do anything about it (which is true); and he didn’t want to step on the toes of the grievance office. Despite of my making him aware of the grievance office blatant violation of our rights, Lt. Richie didn’t want to step on the grievance office toes?!! How indifferent is this? How collusive is this? I told the Lt. I would willingly go back to my cage of somebody would follow policy, which nobody did. I mentioned my property deprivation to him, but it went in one wax-canal and out the other.
They suited-up a 5 man response team, and carried me back to my cage. Though their day was completely altered by my sit-in, my grievance was still in my hand and I was still without all my property. Then Major Nelson, for the first time, stepped on the pod to see what the disturbance was all about. She knew we were protesting, but she chose to remain on her high horse. I hollered at a prisoner recreating in the day room to ask the major to come to my cage. And she did. I explained to her the whole situation. She told me to give her my grievances, and that she would deliver them to the grievance officer herself. A small victory. Yet this victory was tainted by the grievance officers never making their rounds. As I suspected they wouldn’t. As grievance office supervisor “Worthy” hinted they wouldn’t, through his arrogance. How many other prisoners had grievances that needed to be filed that day? I was only one out of 400+. If I hadn’t gone through all of this, I would still have my grievances. No, this wasn’t a victory at all! It was pacification – “Oh, here, let me turn these in for you so you’ll shut up!” But I shall NOT be pacified! Who shall “shut up” this vociferation channelled through me by me raid of oppressed peoples? Destiny carries my orders.
Solidarity in the trenches,