When it comes to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the name of the game is efficiency. Earlier today I heard a commotion down towards the front of the floor, or range, I'm on and observed that it was the food trays being passed out by no less than six guards. Each of the hole's six ranges is a straight corridor with twenty-four cells, twelve going down each side, two men per cell. The feeding process, usually a one or two-man operation, involves unlocking a flap on the cell door, slinging a container of whatever slop is being served inside the resulting opening, then relocking the flap. Repeat 23 times. Obviously the requirements for a federal prison guard are not unlike those for entry into the Army's Delta Force. Brad and I are in the last cell on the left, so as the sextet of correctional officers begin the distribution process, I say to Brad: "Man, they got six of 'em out there. The over/under on when they make it here is 7 minutes. Bet ten stamps." Brad takes the under. Sucker. The time was 12:14.
At 12:46 two trays of baked chicken came sliding through the door. What one person should have taken fifteen minutes to do took six government employees over thirty. When a person understands that this is the B.O.P efficiency at its finest, the fact that the warden claims pauper when it comes to things like single-ply toilet paper suddenly isn't a shocker. Abandoning the plate of chicken which was so undercooked it was still clucking, I set to work in determining the financial impact of the cops' ineptitude in this situation. Here's the math: At a conservative estimate of $17 an hour, feeding 48 inmates of a population of 1500 cost $50. Not the food, just making sure they got the food. If the process was performed with the same faster-than-a-speeding bullet rapidity on the other ranges, then feeding the entire hole their lunch cost well over $300.
What's my point with all that number crunching and whining? To be honest, I just feel like bitching to someone and Brad's taking a nap. But more than that, despite the fact that we don't pay taxes, we inmates do have a stake in the issue of wasted funding. All of my clothes and bedsheets are washed by hand in the cell's sink with soap purchased myself from the prison commissary, although I've been unable to get a clean blanket for more than a month because "there's no money for detergent." Every night when I cover up with the same dingy blanket I think about the gross ineptitude and inefficiency of the vastly overpaid babysitters passing as prison guards and tears come to my eyes. Most of these guards aren't bad people. Maybe a little thick in the waist and thin in the head, but they aren't pulling us out of our cells for random beatings or anything. I'd just hope that it's not too much to ask that, with an unemployment rate last reported at well over 7%, our prison administration would hire guards who can at least spell treadmill even if they don't know how to use one.