Common Courtesy Goes a Long Way and Both Ways

By Jay Goodman

 A lot of times it seems that both the prisoners and the guards just go through each day aimlessly unaware of everything going on around them. It’s like they forget that they are even human beings, who other than their uniforms separate them as people. Prisoners that believe they can demand respect by words or threats are lost in their own worlds. Let’s say you jump on a guard and bust his mouth, or give him a black eye, who is really going to suffer from this? The guard will of course feel some pain for a moment, maybe even a few days, or a week. But in the end you will more than likely be charged with assault, be given more time on top of your sentence, G-5 for a year or more, then a year in G-4, of course you can kiss any hope for parole good bye. So you have not only f--ked yourself, but your family as well.

And for the guards who come in here with the idea that you can scare prisoners with cases or demand respect because you have a uniform on, you too are lost in your own worlds. Yes, the threat of a disciplinary case will at times intimidate an inmate, because he doesn’t want to lose the little things he has, like being able to so outside to rec, or commissary, or contact visits with his family. But eventually whether it takes months or years, you will run into a prisoner that doesn’t care about a disciplinary report, who maybe has lost all of his loved ones and either beats you almost to death, or just kills you. I have seen it happen 3 times in my 15 years of incarceration. Now you have not only f--ked yourself, but your family as well.

I have often wondered if the guards or prisoners have ever stopped for a moment and looked at what each other is going through? I’m sure that both guards and inmates are thinking right now, I don’t care what the other is going through. And if you are one of those people, you should be ashamed of yourselves to allow your hearts and minds to reach a point where you no longer care about another human being. Whether you are a guard or a prisoner means little or nothing, every single person has a built-in instinct to care about what happens to those around us. Yes, I can hear those who work here saying, I am not allowed to get involved with a prisoner. I’m not talking about falling in love, or bringing something in to a prisoner. I’m talking about realizing that the men and women in prison are human beings also, with a Mom and Dad, with a wife, husband, children. Yes, the people in prison have broken the law, but that doesn’t stop them from being human. Believe me, there is no possible way you can lose years or decades of your lives and not suffer.

Now let’s look at the prisoners who believe it’s their duty to hate the guards. Have you stopped to think for a moment that the guards might be going through some difficulty themselves? Have you ever realized that just because you are in prison that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your difficult situation? Like us, these guards also have families, maybe their Mom or Dad has passed away, or they’re having problems with their home life, or maybe. they’re depressed or sick. Remember, just because they are not in prison doesn’t mean there are never difficult times for them as well. I have seen guards that have come to work who had cancer, that were so sick they could hardly make it through the day. Can the prisoners stop and think for a minute how difficult it must be to come to work so sick you might die? And having to deal with hundreds of screaming prisoners worried about getting a stupid channel check?

As prisoners we should always remember that just because we are in prison doesn’t mean those that are not, aren’t in a worse situation than we are. Sometimes if both sides would stop for a moment and realize there are people in the world that are in worse situations than we are, and that what we are going through is really nothing compared to them. Also, both sides love to play the blame game. If one inmate acts like an idiot, I see guards take it out on the entire prison population. Or they’ll even get the other guards that work with them to start writing cases, or taking personal items of inmates, just to piss everybody off. I have to ask you, does this make any sense? No matter how. mad you may be at a prisoner nothing can justify taking your anger out on the hundreds of other prisoners. You may be thinking, but this inmate has done this, or said that
I am well aware inmates can be idiots, but let’s take a look at some of the guards or ranking officers. Do you know some of your fellow employees that are idiots? The answer is of course, yes. Do you not know people in the world that are idiots? What about some of your family members? Once again, the answer is, yes.

There will be idiots every place you go in life, but the actions of one or a few should never deter you from remembering that there are thousands of prisoners who are respectful, who do speak to you with kindness. Another important note, if you bring yourselves down to the point that you’re acting like the ones you’re mad at, then you are no better than they are. And the same should hold true for the prisoners. Just because one guard does something to make you mad doesn’t mean we should go off the deep end and lose total control. I have seen inmates get completely irate and call guards every four-letter word you can imagine, because they didn’t do their channel check on time, or they’re late doing an in and out. While I do understand how important getting in and out of our cells is, and I am well aware that some guards are just so damn lazy. We also have to remember how many of our fellow prisoners have gotten on your last nerve? How many of your own family members have gotten under your skin?

Please remember, I am not justifying what some guards do, I’m only trying to give you a look at both sides of the coin. We don’t always understand why a guard might be acting a certain way. Who knows what’s going on with these guards? Yes, maybe they are lazy, or maybe they’re having problems at home, or physically? Maybe they’re tired of being mistreated by certain prisoners? A lot of inmates believe it’s their job to verbally abuse some of the guards every time they step into a cell block. While I understand some of the guards bring it on themselves with how they act. But, we must learn now in prison how to control our temper. No matter what happens we have to remember change begins now, not once we leave prison, but now.

I have seen in some of the guard’s eyes by the end of their shifts that they’re emotionally exhausted from dealing with certain prisoners. We must learn that over time these officers will become bitter. No one can be made fun of over and over again, and not hold some type of animosity and resentment towards the ones causing the problem. Now what happens is this guard starts taking their anger out on all of the prisoners, which is wrong. But in the end, this is what usually happens. I know everyone that’s in prison reading this has seen guards start out being nice, but over a period of time they become angry and hateful. Here is another good example to prove my point and I know everyone in the Texas prison system can relate. What usually happens to inmates inside the Texas prisons that have done some serious time? They have been talked down too, belittled, in some cases threatened or beaten, lied too, set-up, written false disciplinary reports, these prisoners hold a lot of animosity and hate, am I right?

Well, the same exact thing happens with the guards. Remember both prisoners and guards, this rolls both ways, the way we conduct ourselves has a big baring on how we will be treated. No one can ever hope to be looked at in a good light if you are acting like an idiot. A good friend of mine has told me that he dislikes a certain female guard on several different occasions. And one of those times I thought to myself that this guard was a good person, so I asked him, “why?” His response to me was, “She doesn’t like me.” I then asked him, “do you believe maybe she doesn’t like you because of the way you’ve conducted yourself in the past?” He said, “If she would get to know me, she would see who I truly am, not what the other guards or rank have told her.” My friend has seemed to have forgotten that in the four years I’ve known him, he’s been to medium custody, which is a form of isolation, 3 times, he’s gotten caught with K-2, had a relationship with a female guard who had a husband that worked here at the same time, and I cannot count how many disciplinary reports he’s received.

The point I’m trying to show is you are going to be looked at by your actions, whether they are good or bad. It doesn’t make a difference if you are trying to change, or you have changed. The way you’ve conducted yourself for years is how everyone around you will look at you. This of course will be the same for the guards. While I understand there are many in here that are hateful, learn to deal with them, remember the key word them the way their hand calls for, and treat the rest of the population with the respect they deserve.

While it’s true we brought ourselves to prison, it is also true you’ve decided to come to work for this scumbag prison system. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to go through each day and respect each other. Both sides need to learn that we are both human beings with our own personal issues. And that common courtesy goes a long way and also both ways.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez