The harsh realities of industrial psychology

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Waco – It pays a whole lot better to be feared than to be loved, at least when it comes to the power intrigues of the palaces of justice in city states everywhere. The means does, indeed, seem to justify the end.

Both the grandees of the front offices and the bean counters in the rear are agreed; running an overbuilt system of jails is an exercise in balancing the books – both sets of them, that is.

There are the ones you see and the ones we don’t talk about. Both are shrouded in secrecy. Just ask the Open Records Division of the Office of the Texas Attorney General.

No one ever expected the dungeon to show a profit. Certainly, the fear of winding up in the casa de calaboose was always a prime motivator to pay or die, but to expect its actual operation to yield a profit was never a major bell ringer, at least, not in a corporate sense.

Fortune 500 outfits and privately held corporations both must remain accountable to their shareholders or face their wrath in the courts for charges of negligence or malfeasance.

But the 254 corporations formed by the Texas Constitution are public in the sense that each citizen is a part owner, but a part owner so thoroughly disenfranchised as to completely lack the means to call the management into accountablility, both in the courts of law or any other means other than the well-stuffed, totally rigged ballot box. Any major dude with a bar card in his pocket will tell you that you will likely not enter suit successfully against your county government because the judge will hold it is exempt from litigation.

Such holdings are routinely upheld by the appeals courts in this chili-stained, jalapeo-flavored land of horny toads, LBJ, Cactus Jack, Mr. Sam, Bill Clements, Bouffant Betty, Bobby Bullock, Governor Goodhair – and, uh, well, you know, Dub-yah.

And then, there is that universally terrifying classification visited upon a few unfortunate pariahs, designation as a “vexatious litigant.” Try that hair shirt on for size. It’s true what they say around the campfire. The floggings will continue until morale improves. That’s when the losers are firmly reminded to take their medication before being laced into their strait jackets for the evening.

The winners are sent to meetings to get their papers signed.

But the Texas Constitution states plainly that the Sheriff of each County will operate a jail, there safely to keep accused offenders or those awaiting trial in lieu of posting bail. It’s just one of five such duties including courtroom security, serving papers, conducting auctions, and law enforcement resting under the ubiquitous white ten-gallon cowboy hats, both far and wide.

It’s honest work, and someone has to do it.

But the warped curvatures created by the pressures applied by such variant entities as the Texas Commission on Jail Standards; County Commissioners Courts; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division; the Federal Bureau of Prisons; The Department of Homeland Security, and the Border Patrol, are terrible to behold.

The effect on our force of certified Corrections Officers has become grating – and difficult.

For instance, according to Jo D Wilson, she lost her job over a rumor, a rumor about which she was interrogated by detectives, threatened with a polygraph exam to determine the name of who told her of the rumor, and then chose to resign following a two-week period of notice. Then they threatened her that she would be blackballed from ever getting another decent job.

The rumor: the wife of the man in charge had been arrested for a felony account of DWI, but was released, the booking records destroyed. She was one of a dozen who checked the computer screen to see if it was true. That’s when she found it it’s against the rules to do that.

More than likely, the felony DWI arrest never happened. More than likely, it was a product of a disinformation campaign designed to cause a lot of heat and light and resentment and she succumbed to her curiosity by referring to a database she used every day. Then she found out she had scorched the toast before she burned her fingers on the whatch-a-call-it, over here.

Bad scene.

She’s not alone. But not everyone went out that way. There are other ways to guarantee that you have a high turnover in the part of the County Jail system that is staffed by persons directly employed by the Sheriff’s Office.

The County Commissioners Court entered into a Public Service Corporation to raise approximately $50 million through selling revenue bonds without public approval to build a privately operated detention center. The debt service on the deal is about $100 million, and guess who is responsible for its maintenance.

The taxpayers.

Every deal made to keep this palace of striped sunshine hot has fallen through. Federal prisoners were withdrawn and sent somewhere else; other counties have no shortage of space; the state penal colony is equally spacious, just looking for more inmates on any given day.

What about the taxpayers?

No one ever asked them anything about it. There was no bond issue election. Kind of reminds one of the scene in “Pulp Fiction” where the man in the black suit with the shiny government model in his hand whirls around and says, at the top of his lungs, “I don’t recall anyone saying a G>> D>>> thing to you!”

The he shoots the dude on the couch and says, contritely, “Oh, did I break your concentration?”

The goal is obviously to keep the staffing level at the lowest point possible in order to force the transfer of “overflow” prisoners to the privately staffed and operated Jack Harwell Detention Center, a need furthermore artificially induced by keeping a 360-bed jail at the Courthouse closed due to a largely imaginary lack of certification from the Jail Commission.

All that gives rise to a personnel policy industrial psychologists call manipulative or Machiavellian. It is the product of a narcissitic personality that never admits being wrong, nor apologizes for any transgression, just plows ahead and creates another problem or two and waits for the frustration that is sure to follow. They don’t like it; they can leave. The powers that be have said repeatedly that there will be no civil service commission, and employees long ago voted against union organization. You got it. What’cha gonna do about it, pilgrim?

But there is a new wrinkle in the paradigm, a new cog in the wheel, the strophe and antistrophe of dialog. And it’s on the hated, reviled and cursed internet! That most McLuhanesque, global, spherical, expanding, cross-connected switchboard of, like – RIGHT NOW! 

Get a load of these stories. They are just a couple that have emerged on a Facebook page called “Offended Jailer” that emerged suddenly on Wednesday after the staff reached the tipping point of anger over being threatened repeatedly with loss of job if they say anything, tell anyone, text anyone – or do anything other than what they are told to do.

According to Jason Sherrill, I remember when the jail dr wells was brought to jail for a dwi. He was allowed to keep his property and go sit in his office to work until the arraignment judge came to the jail. Because he was the jail dr. And he was allowed to go into the booking nurses office and shut the door to do his blood sugar testing because he was a new diabetic. A little shady there if you ask me.

And I worked nearly 2 years straight working everyday that I was off cause we were short staffed. Now there were so many like me there that did the same and some that would get in trouble for not being able to work on their days off. But did they make a supervisor one work overtime? No they didn’t. So I worked there nearly 12 years and just one day quit. Then I had a job already lined out before I quit and my new supervisor and his secretary both called the jail just to confirm that I had worked there previously. They were both told that there were no records that I had EVER worked there. This has happened to at least two others that left that place.

When it comes to days off and vacations, staff members below the rank of supervisory positions designated with paramilitary ranks such as corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain are expected to put their jobs first.

Yes sir and one employee had reserved all the accommodations for his vacation months in advance on his scheduled days off remember and they came to him on a Thursday and told him he was to be on a standby list. That if anyone called in on the other shift he would HAVE to come in to cover that empty spot. He informed them that he had made these plans months in advance and pay for everything up front and they told him he needed to bring the receipts to the jail and write reports why he could not make it if they needed him. One of the sergeants that was at the jail told him maybe he needed to find another job if he couldn’t be readily accessible to them. So they chased yet another great employee off just like the others.

A popular paper on the subject of the Machiavellian practice of “workplace bullying” makes reference to the following:

High Machiavellians may be expected to do the following:

Neglect to share important information;

Find subtle ways of making another person look bad to management;

Fail to meet their obligations;

Spread false rumors about another person.

The caves of Nottingham Gaol 

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