Cyrus was beginning to see the big picture as he became more and more frustrated with the system as it was becoming oppressive and violent towards him personally when in fact; he had done nothing wrong since his incarceration began. The fact that he had witnessed two homicides was indicative of how violent this environment was and made him more paranoid of his own welfare and safety needs. His mind was rationalizing his reasons for feeling this way as he was beginning to take an adversarial approach to things regardless whether the request was reasonable or not. He was being deceived and treated like a punk and was tired of rolling over and being an easy target for others to play with.
His eyes were wide open as he began to see his environment like it really was, harsh and toxic. The officers performed on selective methods attached with personal biases or stigmas that allow gross variations in their conduct and performance. It appears that there are fewer rules for them to follow than there are for the prisoners. It was becoming harder to maintain a calm composure as the heat was turning up the passion of a veteran and a soldier that knew how to fight. Remembering his Ranger training he was sure that if he were to cross over and become a bit more aggressive, he would get some respect from the staff and be listened to rather than being ignored and lied to daily.
Sitting on his bunk, he could remember how he would act when he was a member of Army assault team that was dropped via helicopter into places where they should not be. The secrecy was always top priority and the fact that they didn’t talk about it reflected a culture he was dealing with here inside that prison. It was with most certainty that the rules these officers were working on were the same rules as his Ranger days. Their motto was “do what you have to do, but don’t ask permission and don’t talk about it.” He could see the analogous behaviors going back to his day as an Army Ranger and now in the officers working here with their administrators and supervisors being unmindful of their actual acts or potential for misconduct behind their backs.
In the Army, Cyrus was a Corporal and a squad leader, he was in charge of 5 soldiers and did the dirty work to find explosives and remove the detonators so they can be rendered safe. The mission was simple, they had to take strict procedures to ensure the safety of every member of his squad and by doing so he had a few rules they had to conform to as they depended on each other to survive.
The first rule was simple, always be alert and keep your gear on, no exceptions. The second rule was to always communicate with your partner what you are doing, how you are doing it and why you feel you have to do it; in other words “have their six” (their backs) at all times. Rule three was to do what you had to do to get the job done. This rule was vague but allowed latitude for steps not found in any manual or book. In order to understand rule number 3 you had to understand the dangers of the job and how the job is done when there are no others around to assist you or help you with your tasks. It meant that whatever worked was the way it would be done. The authority to perform that way came from their company commander who made it clear that every man and woman in combat was responsible for keeping each other safe and use their survival skills to do so.
It allowed them to make decisions without the written rules and keep it practical but not always legal or according to written standards. This mode of command was described as tacit approval. Merriam Webster defines tacit approval as “expressed or carried on without words or speech – implied or indicated (as by an act or by silence) but not actually expressed. One must ask why these words are so important when implemented into a strategic plan or mission. The impact of such conduct determines how a set goal may ultimately change the direction or intent of legitimate goals and objectives designed to facilitate an operation within organizations or public service agencies. Putting examples towards this concept will reveal how destructive such ambiguous or vague direction alters the behaviors and ethical conduct of those held accountable for desired productive and results.
Cyrus knew the responsibilities that came along with the use of such a principle and performance standard. He knew that within any military or paramilitary organization, tacit approval can lead to misconceptions and misunderstandings that could later be determined to be a corrupted act or in some cases criminal in nature. Thus this kind of acts, used daily creates a culture that thrives on the concept of former General Colin Powell’s quote “You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.” Recognizing the liabilities of this type of unauthorized but yet condoned flexibility is important. Teams that are built into a command structure or management concept using this tool may ultimately weaken the ability to be successful as you inject personal opinions, variations and principles into a directive that has been mutated from the original design or intention. Conceptually flawed, the presence of such a potentially toxic management principle allows corruption to foster, unethical conduct to be ignored and wasted resources to be spent on activities or programs not contained within the original design or prospect.
Tacit approval can break or create cultures and be used to sabotage the establishment of one already in existence. It can provide conflict and break down the work force and create dissention, discord and hatred if injected by the right people at the right levels of the organization. Regardless, Cyrus was at ends rope when he decided that he wasn’t going to roll over every time they told him to do something. Enough was enough and he had been most cooperative and compliant up to this point. He could see why his fellow prisoners were so adamant about their resistance to follow rules when in reality, the officers were making up the rules as they go and change them to suit their own needs.
Exasperated, Cyrus decided to read a book and calm down before he got too angry to deal with it. After all, he couldn’t go anywhere and was still locked up in this 8 by 10 cell with no window, no sunlight and no ventilation that would cool him down. Perhaps he should try to learn to meditate to cope with his time and remain less frustrated in his mannerisms and conduct. The most aggravating part about his situation down here in the “hole” was the fact that these officers personalized every moment with an attitude that wasn’t really warranted for Cyrus or others who complied all the time with their orders to do certain tasks. In fact, Cyrus felt that if these attitudes were adjusted the attitude would diminish a bit and make it more bearable.
Much has been said about the “unintentional punishment” theories inside special management units. Not much is discussed related to the relationship between staff and prisoner upon their arrival inside such a unit or how their [prisoner’s] disruptions create the need to establish firm control from the beginning of the arrival and the duration of the prisoner’s stay. This often results in mass outcries of torture and neglect. The facts reveal that the living conditions inside the “hole” are often perpetrated acts by the prisoner’s own actions that led up to this perceived “extremely harsh” environment. In this case, Cyrus was an exception to this concept but was treated accordingly as if he was guilty of something serious. Nobody really knew he was placed in the “hole” as a material witness to a murder and if they knew, the other prisoners would be trying to get to him and kill him, spear him or damage him in some way.
These special housing units were created over the years as institutions adapted to the need to isolate violent and problematic prisoners from general population prisoners into a separate classification [and culture] much estranged from mainstream prison management principles. The reasons for such estrangement can be argued but the main reason for isolation or segregation is the need to keep the predators such as gang members away from those who are compliant doing their time and serving their sentences.
In addition, while housed there in the “hole”, Cyrus had learned that these cells were normally reserved for those who have committed felonies or murder while inside the institution or escaped or attempted to escape have been selected to be isolated from the rest of the population in a more restrictive housing environment based on risk assessment that are evidence based and sound correctional practices.
An assignment into the “hole” usually depends on two main factors – simplified for the purpose of making it brief, the first is the reason to separate the prisoner from others in a general population setting. The second factor used is the degree or severity of the need to house the prisoner at a higher custody level or more restrictive housing environment. Together this placement becomes a general justification to move the prisoner to a more restrictive confinement milieu administratively considered maximum custody in most systems.
In the beginning, this placement was a short term concept, designed to give the prisoner a chance to return back to general population or a lesser custody level based on his own behavior and doing his disciplinary time without incidents or additional charges. However, today, these units are now also utilized for long term placements due to the high rate of assaults on staff / other prisoners and the associated misconduct directly committed by these high risk offenders. Herein lies an interesting fact; the theorizing of “unintentional punishment” based on their placement inside one of these units. Cyrus’s situation created a long term unofficial sentence in the “hole”. He was a victim of the system’s callousness towards those who need protection for various reasons but were treated as if they were problematic offenders.
Cyrus had noticed the difference between the officers on the general population yards acted and how these officers working the “hole” acted. He remembered the professionalism of Hook, Curtis, Smith and Jones at his work assignment and how they got their jobs done without the rudeness or unprofessionalism that appeared to be running rampant down here. It was a day and night situation. He concluded that the attitudes here in the “hole” were aggravated by the prisoner’s approach and response to the placements. He also noticed that some officers come to work with a chip on their shoulder and initiate the conflict from the moment they arrive. Most often, almost immediately upon receiving such an individual from the lower custodial levels due to reasons such as: return from escape status or the commission of a crime inside the institution, the prisoner is combative and resisting any movement or transport to the “hole” with physical force needed to maintain control of the situation.
Again, Cyrus was the exception to the normal placement of a prisoner in the “hole” and paid a steep price for being thrown into the den with wolves when in fact, up to this point, he was acting like a sheep. A sheep in wolf’s clothing as his Ranger training and his ability to fight was never underestimated by the staff or other prisoners. They were fully aware of his abilities hence his nickname indicated he was a warrior and worthy of given respect when it came down to recognizing the person’s strengths and weaknesses.