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C1 Stories: Are they on your visiting list?

I’ve been with the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections for coming up on 20 years.

Several years back, I was a Sgt. working on a segregation unit, third shift. I’m making a round, and as I’m coming up on the “Crank Tank” (don’t tell my administrators that I called it that. It’s a concrete bunker looking thing inside the seg unit with six rooms/beds, enclosed so that we can keep the really loud people in there and away from the other inmates), and I can hear him already.

We had a guy, I’ll call him Harvey, who was so far gone I don’t think he could see where he started out. By all rights, he did not belong in a correctional setting, but he was too out of control for any mental health facility. We drew the short straw and he wound up with us. He would bounce around in his cell for days, not sleeping, just screaming and cursing.

As I go into the “enclosure” (absolutely not a “Crank Tank”), I can see a few of the other guys by their doors. They looked miserable because if Harvey doesn’t sleep, nobody sleeps. One of them says, “Come on, Sarge, you gotta do something... He’s killing me.”

I head for Harvey’s cell door and look in the window. He’s jumping around, swinging wildly at someone only he could see, shouting and cursing. “Get the f**k away from me! Get out of here! You ain’t cuttin’ on me no more!” This and variations of the theme went on the entire time I was there.

I was at a loss. You can’t tell a mentally disturbed guy like this that there’s no one in the cell with him. As far as he’s concerned, you’re the nut because you can’t see what is obviously there.

So I ask, “Harvey, you got someone in there with you?” I had to try a few times before I could get his attention. I repeated the question.

Harvey stops and looks at me, his expression telling me that I was a moron for asking the obvious. “Hell yeah I got people in here.”

“What’s going on?”

“Sarge, they’re all in here cutting on me and pulling stuff out and pushing stuff in, and they hide during the day but I know they’re here and there’s blood on the walls and look there’s pieces of me in the toilet...” He kept going. I have no idea when he breathed.

I looked around the room through the window. There was nothing on the walls or in the toilet, but I looked back to Harvey, trying to be serious. “Harvey, are these guys on your visiting list?”

Harvey stopped his rant and looked back at me, his expression now a little worried. “Uh... no.”

I shook my head. “Harvey, if they’re not on your visiting list, you have to get them out of there. You know better than that.”

“But, Sarge, I didn’t let them in here! I swear, I promise, honest!”

“I know, Harvey, but those are the rules. If they’re not on your list, they have to go.” I looked around as if someone might be listening in. “Tell you what, Harvey. I’m going to finish my round. When I come back, if they’re gone everything’s good to go. No problem. But if they’re still in there, I’m going to have to write you up.”

“Okay, Sarge, I’ll tell ‘em.”

As I was walking away from the cell to finish my round, I could hear Harvey ordering his “visitors” out before I came back. After, he slept for two days straight. He’d wake up enough to eat something, and then crash right back out. The other inmates thought I walked on water, and never gave me a bit of trouble.

Harvey and I kept our understanding right up until the day he left.

C1 Stories are essays are the place where C1 Members candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which our members can share their own personal insights on issues confronting corrections officers today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on choosing to serve time behind bars.

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