We are all aware of the CDCR special operation to disrupt the smuggling of illegal contraband into the state institutions officially known as ‘Operation Disconnect’ where all CDCR staff is searched before entering the institutions. It was named that because it was to target specific items, mostly cell phones, which were being brought in to the institutions at an alarming rate which ultimately found their way into inmate hands. It has been widely reported about the amount of cell phones discovered and confiscated at all of the institutions. It is also known that there has been a major problem with the smuggling of tobacco products as well as illegal street drugs.
Our very own security squad (ISU) has become busier than I have ever seen here at DVI. The crackdown has increased on inmate movement, information, and accountability of their associations with illegal acts for/and with known prison and street gangs inside the walls and outside the walls at the ‘Ranch’, Dairy, grounds crews, and back roads surrounding the institution. There have been several busts of inmates and private citizens driving on and by the grounds. For some time several ‘drops’ have been monitored in specific locations where inmates are able to pick up contraband without detection or suspicion. Well, no longer. The DVI ISU has run stings, and put a major dent in the smuggling of ‘dangerous’ contraband on and by institutional grounds. The ISU officers have done an outstanding job. You’ve proven your one of the best in the state.
This brings me back to my topic of ‘Operation Disconnect’. As an officer, I have no problem being searched to make sure I am not bringing in ‘dangerous contraband’ to my job site. Let’s face it - if I’m bringing in contraband it should be questioned if I am worthy to keep my position. There are so many new employees (officers, medical staff, Office Techs, etc.) who are complacent enough to bring in cell phones and other items that it comes into question how thorough the background investigations are being done.
Some veteran staff is guilty of complacency also but for a different reason. The seasoned staff has been on the job for so long, and has become so comfortable with their surroundings that they no longer think of it as a problem to keep their personal cell phone in their pocket with them. Not that they would even think of giving it to an inmate, but having the artificial level of comfort of the surroundings is problematic. Not only has Operation Disconnect discouraged that practice and increased the level of awareness back into the veteran staff but in some ways lifted the solidarity between officers, checking each other before they enter the walls to make sure a phone is not forgotten in a pocket and inadvertently brought in.
Unfortunately, the reasoning and the goal behind Operation Disconnect has been lost and misplaced in the minds of the administration. Administration is using this ongoing operation to harass and demean the employees, not just to seek out illegal contraband.
On Friday, March 18, we were subjected to another search on 3rd Watch as we entered the institution. Since this has been going on for some time now, to my knowledge no major articles of contraband was found on staff. This is a good thing right? WRONG! Administration is now pinpointing certain items that they do not want staff to bring in. some of the items that are being pinpointed include but are not limited to:
2. Number of Credit/ ATM cards carried in your personal wallet or purse.
3. Cash over $50.00
4. Personal check books
5. Medication that exceeds the amount needed during your 8 hour shift.
6. Periodicals (current news papers)
7. Fingernail clippers
These items are not on any current list of non-acceptable items. Administration refuses to come out with such a list so they can change items they consider contraband at any time.
Here are a few personal thoughts about these ‘other items’ staff are receiving Letters of Reprimand (LOR) over:
1. Gum - It does not state in the DOM, Title 15, Penal codes, local agreement, or IST training hand books that staff may not have or chew gum. INMATES are not allowed due to the possible usage to destroy state property (locks), or create a template (mold) for other security devises. If my piece of spent gum is so detrimental to the institution, I would hate to see what else could be found in the trash that inmates handle every day (Oops, there goes the inmate trash crew, culinary workers, tier runners, and porters).
2. Credit/ATM Cards - What is carried in a wallet is personal – the reasons behind it are just as personal. One person may have a long commute and needs the ‘just in case’ of those cards (I know it saved me when I was at Corcoran). If you can carry two separate wallets, good for you. That’s not how I was raised and I’m too old to learn that trick.
3. $50.00 Max Cash - Not everybody carries a lot of cash any more. I used to keep a hundred dollar bill in my wallet for ‘emergencies’. After losing 15% of my pay, I don’t do that anymore. But if I did, that’s my business. There’s no damn way I’m going to bring my hard earned money to an inmate.
4. Checkbooks - Most women I know carry their checkbooks. Again, that’s their business. If any staff member is stupid enough to write a check to an inmate to cash or put on their books, they want (and need) to get caught.
5. Medicine - Many here in the valley suffer from several different allergies and have other health issues. With the fact of never knowing IF we are going home on time (due to emergency or overtime), amount of meds is no concern to administration. They are not doctors and they are wobbling in the verge of breaking HIPAA laws. Next they will require staff’s medication to be in original container with prescription information on it (just like inmates).
6. Newspapers - We can’t bring in newspapers that inmates have subscriptions for. Some inmates get three or four papers every day. If an officer is trying to read a paper while there is major inmate movement going on, again bad on him – not the best way to watch your partners back. I know newspapers are considered a distraction, but so is my lunch. If I’m on the job and the opportunity arises I guess I shouldn’t stop and eat or go to the bathroom either.
7. Nail Clippers - Fingernail clippers are passed out in ADSEG during showers and sold at the canteen for GP inmates, but MY clippers are contraband… Yeah, whatever.
The next question for many may just be what is the local union doing about this ill treatment? Answer: from what we can see… NOTHING! There has not been one union representative present or available during any of the searches.
The union and Sacramento should be more involved. If you willfully submit to a search and someone belittles you and treats you unprofessionally regarding items that they are not specifically looking for is staff harassment. They are harassing you due to your position of employment. Remember, Operation Disconnect was supposed to look for drugs, tobacco products, cell phones, and other ‘dangerous’ contraband. Not to demean professional Peace Officers, Nurses, Technician or any other staff that passed the so-called background investigation or swore to a code of ethics. Speaking of ethics – where’s theirs?
If it sounds like I got my feelings hurt, nope that’s not it. I don’t bring my feelings to work. I’ve been caught in the searches when they first started and wrote about it here on The Real Chit when it happened (Titled: Falling on my sword). It is what it is. But if you harass me, you’re going to read about it. Someone very dear to me once told me; ‘if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything’.
One female staff member informed me of the events during her search. An administrator instructed her to empty the contents of her purse onto the table, which she did. After placing her wallet down, the administrator (a woman) picked up the wallet and opened it without receiving permission first. The administrator then questioned the staff member about why she had her checkbook with her, how many credit cards were in her wallet and how much cash she had on her person, which needed to be counted to prove the amount was under $50.00. Is this the treatment sanctioned during this state ‘operation’?
If an inmate is allowed to have it, so should we. You don’t want us to have it, take it from them. We have lost 15% of our pay for the last couple of years. Overtime calculations are adjusted for any additional time off. People have lost homes and families. Who can afford to give any type of money to an inmate? I guess it makes more sense to either limit your resources for the ‘emergency’ scenario or lock your ID and Credit/ATM cards in your car on state grounds. Where, if desperate enough, an inmate from the ranch with auto theft knowledge can possibly steal your car, identity, and access to cash through your credit or ATM. Naw… It seems safer to keep them on your person. Is that an outlandish scenario? Weren’t we trained to constantly run scenarios through our mind to stay aware and prepared to respond? That’s how I was taught.
Some things need to be treated extremely personal, like an extension of one’s self. Treat my wallet and checkbook as if it is my underwear. The only other person to touch them is my significant other. If that’s not you, then with all due respect, BACK THE F#&K UP!
I’m Just Sayin…