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Correctional Officer 1 PDF Print E-mail
E-mail from a   Correctional Officer Federal Prison   February 19, 2007
Dear Mr. Pecchio,
    I have just recently completed your book "The Devils Den of Prison and Justice".  I felt overwhelmed to write you and let you know how much I enjoyed the book.  The book revolves around honesty and truth and nobody ever said the truth is attractive.  The truth is just that; the truth.  I am writing to encourage all citizens that seek the truth about our current prisons to read both books, as ugly as the truth and honesty may be.
    I am employed as a State Corrections Officer in the State of Pennsylvania. After reading both of your books, "Hell behind Prison Walls" and "The Devils Den of Prison and Justice", you have taken a subject matter that most people know very little about and exposed it.  The readers of your book may assume that the corruption of the corrections system is just isolated to the Elmira Prison where you were employed.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  This problem is in all prisons and the way it is managed.
    While I was reading your book I kept a highlighter nearby for passages that just caught my attention.  The one that caught my attention the most and definitely holds true is that you will never know what it is like unless you are inside.  The average citizen dismisses the idea that grown men can and will act like animals on the inside.  We can't imagine that there are inmates that have knowledge that they are HIV positive and have Hepatitis that literally will bite their lips causing themselves to bleed so they can spit at you hoping that some will end up in your eyes or mouth.  This inmate I am referring to described it as the gift that keeps on giving. 
    The average citizen looks upon a chapel as a house of worship.  Some inmates view this as a place where they can plan out things, exchange commissary goods or engage in homosexual activity.  Shall we discuss perhaps the inmate that use to "cheek" his medication so that in the evening time he could put the medication in his "collies" coffee and rape him after the medication took effect?  Or perhaps we should discuss how an inmate was seeking sexual satisfaction by inserting a toothbrush holder up in to himself, got it lodged, and had to have it surgically removed at taxpayer's expense.  It disgusted me to see that same inmate in the Staff Dining Room cleaning tables after his recovery.
    Soon after I began working, I would come home and share some of these stories.  One thing always seemed to be the same.  They would think that I was exaggerating and adding to the story to "spice" it up a bit.  After a bit, I just stopped speaking about it most of the time.  After all, grown men don't act this way.  I agree that some things are very difficult to understand or even to believe.  I probably wouldn't believe most of it myself unless I was inside and saw this for myself. 
    John you have captured the ugliness of our prison system.  We don't hold the inmates accountable for the time they are there or the reason they are there.  They just do their time, get out, and prison management hope that nothing happens in the mean time.  Keep them happy, and hopefully they'll behave.   
    The inmate has the opportunity for 6 hours of exercise yard per day.  During this time they play basketball, horseshoes, botchy-ball, soft-ball, football, throw Frisbee, play hand-ball, lift weights or just have casual walks. They are not required to work unless they choose to.  They receive commissary once a week in which they can purchase potato chips, candy, instant soups, tobacco, etc.  They pay a fraction of cost for cable television in their cells.  They have picnics in the summer in which family and friends visit with music, hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad and various other picnic items.  In the winter, bands will be brought in to entertain the inmates in the gym.  The problem with prisons is that we have given the inmate so much that now all they expect is more.  The minute we decide to start taking it away, we invite trouble in unknown magnitudes.    
    The state will provide all inmates a total of 10 postage paid letters per month.  If we take a look at this it would be something like this.$2.90 per inmate per month +$34.80 per inmate per year+44,365 inmates as of December 2006' Total: $1,543,902.00 per year (It is expected that inmate population will increase to 51,000 by 2011)
    I can only assume that most people really don't know what is happening because if they did, it would startle them as well and they would feel compelled to attempt to make a change.  After all, how could we send our neighbors and friends to work in this type of environment?  How would citizens allow our tax dollars to be spent this way without question or holding somebody accountable? Remember, that it is the tax dollars that fund corrections.
    John, I offer this letter to you as testimony. I encourage others to read both books.  I encourage the citizens to question how tax dollars are being spent.  After all, they get upset and blame Penn-DOT if a pot hole shows up in the road but won't bat an eye at over a million dollars being spent on postage for inmates each year.  When was the last time you were offered free postage?  We never discussed medical, legal fees, programs, etc.  I didn't want to overwhelm anybody that may read this.
    I sincerely appreciate your visions to inform the citizens of this huge short-coming.  Perhaps a change can take place. Perhaps we can restructure the discipline of our institutions before it is too late. Perhaps we can hold the inmate accountable for the crimes they commit and the "system" that pampers to them just to keep them happy. Not just make this a revolving door that it has become. Nobody here ever wants or is looking for the day we can say "I told you so" because by then, it will be too late for that as well.
Correctional Officer 1
1400-2200 shift
State Correctional Institute Dallas
Luzerne County