Federal Prison Camp Herlong Entry 03


The funny thing about being here in prison is that the correctional officers (COs) think they are better than everyone else. I don’t know if it’s their job status or just because they’re COs. I wonder if it’s a superiority complex or an inferiority complex. Either way, it’s like they’re showing off their riches in front a homeless man. Doing so only proves all uncertainties and makes them look weak.

Here are some things inmates have told me about the CO’s:

  • Some believe that they have to always be superior even on things that you are clearly superior in.
  • No matter how annoying, never allow it to make you snap. I’ll talk more about the CO’s in future posts.
  • Sometimes it is better they think they are smarter. Correcting them the wrong way could be seen as disrespectful, especially if they are sensitive.
  • Let the CO do what he thinks is his job. If he’s wrong, calmly talk to him about it when he able to have a conversation.
  • Never take anything personal.

I learned most of those lessons dealing with COs face to face. For example, I worked on a business idea with a good brotha named Dennis; he worked in the food service area. Dennis is cool and has a lot of knowledge in his thirty-five year old mind, and he also got me into yoga! We were talking about using Black articles to provide for African Americans and by playing with the figures, it seemed like the business idea that I came up with could actually work out fine.

A short, chubby food service CO sat next to us and listened as if he was mildly interested. He suggested a search engine called Startpage. It’s a unique search engine because it doesn’t save your IP address. Um…apples and oranges right? Well, I told him about my next idea, but he blew me off and continued a conversations with Dennis – as if I wasn’t in the room. Okay, no sweat. They talked about online paper trading and the short, chubby CO was giving Dennis advice on how to trade and make money. What he didn’t know was that Dennis was already a millionaire and already knew how to make money from stocks. In my opinion, “Short Chubby” was trying to sound smarter than us or prove that he was smarter than us (in his own mind).

He must have been past his prime. He looked like he was in his late forties or fifties and didn’t have any other skills other than bossing around inmates. Rumor was that he was a woman’s “doormat” as well as his fellow COs, especially because he couldn’t cook. As far as I know, he could only do work at the prison camp, only in that kitchen. I also heard rumors that he couldn’t work at our brother facility, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) because the inmates bullied him and he couldn’t handle it. Since we are campers, most of us bow to him, until we realize he’s a punk! Although he gets more respect from campers than FCI inmates, campers will just work with him or around him.  

As they talked to each other, a White female CO that looks like a white butterball with no neck, came to me and said she’d recommended me for the food line. That was where the food was served. I explained to her that I had already had a job lined up; I was going to the Power House to learn HVAC and already had a cop-out signed. I was just waiting for the physical and ACI (more on that later). She lost interest in me and focused on Dennis. She began asking him how to make more money since she didn’t make enough as a CO. Even though inmates only make about ten dollars a month and that’s if they had a job. I’m sure both COs made much more than that.

Minutes later, both COs lost interest in Dennis and began gossiping and complaining about their job. “Short Chubby” acted high and mighty and “Butterball” talked ghetto and even acted ghetto. We sat there quietly as not to disturb them. We could have walked away, but we were hoping they leave so we could have the space. They soon left minutes later.

As mentioned earlier, this was one of my first lesson in tolerance—don’t let anything bug you. To be honest, one of my pet peeves is being interrupted during a conversation over some BS.

The experience made me want to keep quiet and to stay to myself as much as humanly possible. I had good relationships with other inmates as well as the Blacks, but I kept it professional with the COs. I respected their authority by being polite, but I never went out of my way to enjoy time with them. I saw some campers get into a lot of trouble with the same CO they had befriended. Remember, the funny thing about being in prison is the way the COs will act toward you and every other inmate.

If you have a story about a CO with a superiority complex, let me know in the comments. If it’s interesting, I could feature you.