Thursday, February 28, 2008

It is Official

April 29, 2008 is my first official day of retirement. I went down town yesterday and signed the paperwork for my pension. The way I got it figured, 14 more double shift work days and I am finished.

Since Tony's death life around the prison has gotten back to normal. After all we are big tough prison guards who have no feelings. We don't internalize our losses to add to the stress level. The state has started a program called, "Critical Incident Stress Management." ( CISM) Off site, groups of affected people are brought together to talk about what happened and how they feel. Being a dinosaur I was a skeptic, after 28 years of spoon fed bullshit you get that way. The sessions really do help, just knowing that others feel the same way you do. The folks that run it are from the outside and are very good at what they do. Unfortunately this is the fourth one I have been to in the last three years.

For a time in my career I felt like the Grim Reaper. We had in a two year period three suicides by officers. All three called the prison to say they were not coming to work, I took all three calls. Only one let on that anything was bothering him and I questioned him. Wanted to know if I could help. He told me he was gonna take a few days off to get it together after his ex-wife took his son and left town. That night he took his one day old new car and drove it thru a brick wall. That did not kill him so he walked home, put a rope around his neck, tied it to a ceiling light, that broke so he tried a rod in the closet, that broke, he finally hung himself from a railing. I was not alright with this for a long time. My spider senses were on full alert, his new girlfriend, who was pregnant with his child worked at the prison. I sent her home to spend time with him after he called and then would not answer his cell phone. I beat myself up over this for quite some time, even though everyone said I went beyond the norm to help. Never did I expect him to kill himself that night. CISM helped.

Damn I went back and read what I just wrote. Sounds like a bad Cagney movie. Believe it or not I loved my job, just not all that much lately. When you work with people for decades it becomes like a huge family with all the same problems and joys. For some reason people find it easy to tell me their problems and seek my council. This gets to be a big load to carry. Some things have to be held or unemployment will add to whatever else is is troubling them. Our department eats their young. Thousands of dollars are spent recruiting, training, and clothing the officers, then the next twenty-five years are spent trying to fire them.

I am moving forward and this is my final rant. It did not start out to be a rant. After reading this do not think that there was always a black cloud hanging overhead. I have had a lot of fun and joyful times at this job. Made too many good friends to count and do my best to only own what is truly mine and let the rest go.

Next post.........
My plans for my first summer retired!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tony Dashner

27 years working in a para-military environment takes its toll. At the start of every shift we hold a formal line-up, a roll is called, all the officers are inspected, they are informed of anything going on in the facility. The state has 69 prisons and when you sign on you go where you are needed, then use your seniority to work your way back home. So timing is everything, some get home right away and some it may take years. A lot depends on the where you are trying to get to.

I am the guy that chairs the line-up, calls everyone to attention, deploys the troops, and reads the statewide information from a clipboard. It is this clipboard that has pushed me to take my retirement. More and more there are death notices of people that I have worked with. The prison industry has a very poor mortality rate, we die young. In the best run, safest, trouble free prison, the stress level is still off the hook! There are coping skills that help and there are people working there that should just quit because the job is killing them. Families and marriages suffer when the job is brought home or the staff member drinks or uses drugs to try and manage his or her own work related demons.

Yesterday I went to a wake. Tony was 51 years old, a body builder, one of the funniest guys I knew. He did not die because of the prison or did he? He was on workers comp after an incident with an inmate and was off recovering from knee surgery. His mom and dad went to Florida and Tony was tending their dogs and house for them.

No one knows for sure just what happened. Tony was missing for three days, his parents were waiting at the airport for him to pick them up. They took a cab home and found Tony's keys, cell phone and winter coat in their kitchen. Also his two dogs were in the house and had not been out for a while as they had messed on the floor.

A massive search party was formed. Police and Correction Officers responded in groves because one of their own had gone missing. The area around the house was searched, there is a river that runs behind it. Tony and the dog had both drowned after going through the ice. The underwater recovery team brought them both out of the water.

The Corrections Officers carried their fallen comrade on a litter the mile or so to the road. I am so proud to work with and know such a close knit group of people that truly care for one another. Reading the clipboard at line-up was one of the hardest things I have done in quite some time.

Tony we all miss you and hope against hope you are in a better place.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I realize that I work like buckshot. I start out fast, spread out, and if I am aimed properly I hit my target. There are times I would like to stay focused and be able to complete a project before starting something else, but life gets in the way.

The Hill Farm is not nearly as far along as I hoped it would be right now for many reasons. Going to work is still getting in the way, but not for much longer. Around here the last three weeks everything I touched broke, the boiler decided on the coldest freakin' day of the winter to take a shit, my car on the same day decided to overheat, and the heater hose connection I was working to repair on my dump truck snapped off in the manifold.

It took me 8 days and two experts to fix the boiler, plus new parts. On day one I diagnosed the problem and bought the offending part, put it on and still had the problem. Changed several items on the S.O.B and no go! Had two kerosene heaters and two electric ones going to keep the house semi-warm. Then on day eight I was sitting in the basement looking at the bugger when it came to me. I was right all along! The very first part I bought was just as bad as the one it replaced. Went back to the plumbing house and exchanged it for another, five minutes later the boiler was back to normal.

The car, a Honda Civic, developed a habit of overheating. Very random problem, seemed it only happened at the worst times possible. This thing fooled even my youngest son the Honda expert.Cut to the chase it was a small hose that had a slit in it that only opened up when it felt like it. Ten minutes to fix, hours spent hunting for the problem.

The dump truck is a bit more straight forward, exact opposite of the last two problems. Ten seconds to diagnose, hours to fix. The thing is in the worst place it could be to get out now that it broke. I finally removed it this morning and should have the truck up and running my next day off.

Meanwhile back at the ranch. I have only got out to the property three times in the last month. It seemed that the weather turned ugly whenever I had the chance to get anything done. My bride tells me to calm down.She is always the voice of reason out of the darkness. Some good has come of this. The high wind 65-70 MPH that we had supplied me with some very nice logs to saw on the mill, some cash I had not planned on, and grew my firewood pile.

Here at the homestead I got the wall at the top of the stairs framed up and ready for drywall and installation of a pocket door. Once this is done I will be able to completely isolate the upstairs during heat season.

Did I mention the slow leak in one of my tractor tires that I am having trouble locating?