Response to Gender Issue of ULK

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[Gender] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 9]
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Response to Gender Issue of ULK

I am writing to let it be known that I had no problem receiving the January 2009 issue of ULK. It is such an honor and a privilege to be a recipient of such a fine publication.

While reading the latest issue of ULK I noticed something that made me stop and think really hard. That something was that throughout the entire newsletter there was some type of mentioning of women in nearly every issue. I point that out because I have a story to tell about how women are making life harder for prisoners.

Before I go any further with this please let me say to my fellow comrades that I love women to the utmost. The way they smell, the sound of their voice, the way they look, the way they walk, everything; I'm the furthest thing from a sexist anyone can imagine. Let's face the facts though, women are some very emotional beings. Emotions that when not contained or kept in check could prove to be very detrimental to a person such as myself.

When dealing with women working in a men's prison, one has to be very careful about what they do, and what they say. Because you never know when you'll become a victim of one of her emotional outbursts.

Case in point: One morning on return from gym call, as I headed to my cell for an institutional count I had asked the female officer in the booth over the intercom was she going around for count to which she replied, "no". I was going to my cell to wash myself since I was all sweaty from playing basketball in the gym, and I could not take a shower before lunch call because the showers don't cut on until 5 o'clock. I had asked that female officer, was she coming through for count, out of respect because I knew that there was a slight possibility that she would, being that we can't cover our cell door windows, and I knew that I would be washing myself. Out of respect for women I did this. So when she told me no, that she wasn't coming around for count, I went to my cell, got completely naked, and proceeded to wash myself.

You can imagine what happened next. Unknown to me, the very same female officer walks right past my door to count me while I'm standing there completely naked washing my body. It wasn't a problem to me but I didn't want this lady thinking that I had disrespected her. So after count was cleared I went looking for her to apologize. I couldn't find her for the rest of that day. I thought that maybe she was called to another unit to work.

The following day however, I was called to the sergeants office, and was told that I had a write up for being naked in my cell, stroking my penis in an up and down motion during count time when this particular female officer came past my cell door to count me. What? I was outraged. I tried calmly to explain the situation to the sergeant, but if you're a prisoner you already know that a prisoner's word versus an officer's word is no good, and whatever that officer says is what it is. I felt completely defenseless. I was, because I knew that no matter what I said or did this facility's disciplinary board was going to find me guilty. I tried though. I tried to get them to understand the situation, but these people are truly stuck in their ways even when the truth, and facts are right before their eyes.

In the disciplinary hearing the hearing officer stated in their summary that they find that this act was not intentional, but still found me guilty. Resulting in the punishment of $10 taken out of my account (money that my people send me, I only get $20 every other month), 45 days segregation time, loss of telephone privilege for 30 days, 10 days credit time less, 40 hours extra duty time, and one month limited draw (meaning that I can only spend $10 a week instead of 40). On top of all that I've been red-flagged to be placed on I-CON (intensive control) which is being placed in segregation for at least 6 months, because this is my second high level offense within the last 6 months. The first one was refusing to produce a urine sample for a drug test. I got that because I couldn't piss on demand.

I've shared this story with you comrades so that you can see for yourself just how easy it is for a female working in a prison to cause so much hardship for a prisoner. On the outside looking in you just see that I'll be doing a lot of months in segregation. You don't recognize what effect that has on me and my family. Because now that I'm in segregation visits are now behind the glass, meaning that I can't hug my sons, mother, and sisters if they choose to come see me shackled, handcuffed, and chained up behind a glass window. Now my people think that it's a waste of money to have to pay for write ups, using money that could've been well spent somewhere else; resulting in them not really wanting to send me money anymore. I also have another charge added onto my DOC record which will be looked at by a judge being that I'm trying to get back into court. Now the judge is going to see that I can't behave myself in prison, why should he really grant me a motion for appropriate relief if I'm unable to control myself in prison? That's what he's going to be thinking. Now my chances of getting a motion granted are even smaller.

These are just a few ways that my life and the lives of my family and loved ones are affected by a female coming to work emotionally distressed. Nothing I can do about it either. That's the sad part. All I can do is live my life one day at a time with hopes that I'll be released from captivity earlier than the 2020 release date set for me.

Throughout my entire life women played a significant role in how things went for me, some good, some bad. It just goes to show that that saying is true, "women, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to dispel some mistaken ideas about what sexism is. This prisoner suggests that because he loves women he is not sexist. But sexism has nothing to do with what one likes or loves. Sexism is the systematic view that women are in some way inferior to men. And in the case of this prisoner, his characterization of women as "very emotional beings" is actually a good example of sexist views. We're not trying to say this prisoner is unusual in his sexism. In fact, right now we all live under a patriarchal system that teaches us sexist views from birth, and that's not something we can just wish away. It's more important that we work on fighting systematic oppression than attempting to change an individual's well ingrained attitudes and views. But we mention this here because it is important for everyone to see how their views run counter to the goals of our overall struggle against all forms of oppression.

We do not doubt the truth of this story about the female officer mistreating the writer. But there is nothing in the incident that suggests that female officers are more dangerous or emotional than male officers. The pages of Under Lock and Key are filled with accounts of male officers taking advantage of prisoners' (both male and female) position of powerlessness to abuse them, file false accusations, and even take sexual favors. Male officers can be just as emotional and illogical as female officers - in both cases this is more about abusing power than some inherent irrational nature. Giving people positions of power in the Amerikan criminal injustice system encourages this sort of behavior.

What is interesting about this prisoner's story is the demonstration of a womyn exercising gender power over a man. This is not because this womyn was irrational and emotional, but instead because of the systematic position of powerlessness faced by (mostly male) prisoners in Amerika, and the relative power enjoyed by the guards (both male and female). Behind the bars men as a group end up gender oppressed, but on the streets they enjoy gender power over wimmin. The common theme of gender in the issue of Under Lock and Key that this prisoner read was meant to demonstrate this and put gender oppression in the context of the Amerikan criminal injustice system.

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