Looking out: Keepers and the kept


Keepers and the kept

By Brandon Astor Jones

Often, when you read about the kept, what is written will have been presented by someone who has a vested interest in suppressing the truth about the keepers.

For a refreshing change, let's look at some keepers as they are seen by one of the kept at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Centre.

On December 2, 1993, I paid US$6.28 to the GDCC, to send an insured package to a friend. Corrections Officer Second Grade (CO-2) Goen approved the United States Postal Service request, I was told, immediately thereafter.

However, when I got my USPS receipt it bore a stamp that said December 10, 1993. I asked CO-2 Goen, "What was the package doing for eight days?" He replied, "I don't know".

Realising that the package had sat at GDCC for at least eight days, I made out a Confidential Inmate Grievance Form. Superintendent W. Zant responded, in writing, "Mail room personnel were not responsible for mailing your package until all outside processing was completed. This was accomplished in a timely manner and mail room personnel mailed the package the same day it was received by them." In prison administrative-speak, that means: the mail room is not at fault.

I spoke with Counsellor Garrette and Captain Clark about the problem. Captain Clark is the only one who admits that the package should have gone into the USPS sooner. Counsellors Garrette and Teal asked the lady who runs inmate accounts, J. Killingsworth, to speak with me about the problem. She did. Among other things, she said, "December 2 fell on a Thursday, so your transaction was taken care of immediately".

It was obvious that Ms Killingsworth gave less than accurate information; and it is clear that Superintendent Zant supports her and the mounting negligence of her subordinates.

These are very common occurrences for the kept. The keepers do nothing to stop them. In fact, the keepers try to cover up such occurrences with rhetoric. I sent out another package on January 10, and the very same problem arose all over again.

While reiterating the nature of the new problem to Counsellor Garrette in his office, I had a purely chance encounter with the assistant superintendent of security, who passed us by in the corridor. When I explained the problem(s) to him, he said, "According to the [court-ordered] consent decree we are supposed to handle it [incoming and outgoing mail] in one day. That is all we are required to do!"

If what he said was accurate, there would be no problem. Alas, I have seen packages take as many as 13 days to leave the GDCC.

These occurrences may seem like matters of little importance, but bear in mind that prisoners have to communicate with the courts. That is especially true for prisoners under sentences of death, and for the sake of our very lives, we must conduct some of the appeal process through motions and correspondence with the courts. Often, the court places time limits on acceptance of a document; the late receipt of a particular document often causes the court to reject it.

The haphazard way in which the GDCC handles a prisoner's mail has the potential to be, in fact, "a matter of life and death" for the prisoner.

When Oscar Wilde wrote "The vilest deeds like poison weeds/ Bloom well in prison air:/ It is only what is good in Man/ That wastes and withers there", we can be certain he was referring to the keepers as well as the kept.
[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He is happy to receive letters commenting on his columns. He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G2-51, GD&CC, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA.]