One Graham's View

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The relationship between prisons and parenting

Good morning,

A thought occurred to me this morning that brought my previous career of a prison supervisor screaming back into my face. If you don’t already know, the fundamental job anybody working in security at the prison has is counting. There are several designated count times throughout the day and night, when all inmates have to be accounted for. This gives the staff the earliest notification when anybody has escaped. Well, there are times when that isn’t exactly the case, but times when dummies get passed off are rare. The mantra “count only living, breathing bodies” is a phrase that correctional staff get drilled into them repeatedly concerning proper count procedures.

When count time occurs, all inmate traffic ceases. If the initial count doesn’t tally up correctly, then a recount is called for. When all the convicts are accounted for, a signal is given and an announcement is made that the count is clear.

Counting goes a few steps further throughout the day behind prison walls. The staff supervising outside work crews have running counts of their squads. The work squads have tools they work with and there is accountability and a check-out procedure to allow inmates to use the tools. In the kitchen, where inmates prepare and cook all the food that is served to the inmate population as well as staff, utensils like spatulas and even knives are issued with tight security count procedures to maximize accountability.

Before you go to jumping to the obvious conclusion that I’m now counting the basic 1, 2, 3s with Austin as part of my Daddy Duty, stop for a moment. Give me some credit here. I figure that part was a no-brainer and wouldn’t have mentioned it except to acknowledge that some people would go there first.

No, what struck me this morning was when Mrs. OGV and I were discussing Austin doing crafts with his cousin at their Grammy’s house. The Mrs. told her mother, “Make sure you count how many markers you give them and that you get that many back.” Simple thing there, but it is how you keep the little Picasso from becoming a home decorater. Trust me, it’s already happened and history is a great teacher.

Besides counting markers, I also regularly keep up with things I give the little guy so that we can get things cleaned up. Being I can’t see what he might have laid out on the coffee table, I use the count technique to know when he has cleaned up the right amount of things. I have had him bring me the paper plate or napkin after eating a snack, then had him carry them to the trash because I needed a helper.

Counting is truly a fundamental part of our lives, even more so as parents. I just never thought that I’d make a parallel like this one between prisons and parenting.

Count clear!


Monday, September 04, 2006

Dog and cock fighting making the news

Good afternoon on this warm and lovely Labor Day,

I was reading the Houston Chronicle today and couldn’t help but notice two stories for their relation to each other. In the listing, the first one was about
the secret world of dog fighting,
and the very next article was titled
Fort Bend Cockfight ends with fatality.

I’m no dummy and know that these sorts of senseless and cruel fights take place on a regular basis. The sick means of wagering and profiting at the expense of animals doing what their owners have raised them to do goes back many years.

Personally, I know that I have at least one relative who has been fighting his roosters for most of my life. As far as I know, he still does.

I once worked with a man who talked to me frequently about his cocks and how he traveled on weekends to fights in Louisiana and across East Texas. He regularly invited me to come along. The picture he painted didn’t sound like one that I wanted to be part of. I pictured this large group of rednecks, probably half-drunk, toting their roosters to some dark and mysterious location way off the beaten path. I figured that most of them were armed. I still believe I had an accurate image of what all that was about. I didn’t have the stomach to watch then and still don’t today.

I think Joe Ely painted a pretty good picture of the fighting scene in a song he recorded a few years ago called Gallo Del Cielo. The song tells the story about a Mexican man who steals a fighting cock and travels around the Southwest, betting his meager belongings. Soon, the theif is winning some big paydays. However, what the song points out so well is that this is a do-or-die kind of thing. When his ill-gotten bird loses the last fight, and his life as well, the theif also loses all the money he has won and bet on the fight.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to write about this bloodsport, but the contiguity of the two stories stuck out to me. The story about the secrecy in the world of dog fighting is one that they might have had already written and ready to run for a short time. The reference in that article with the death leading to the discovery of a farm of more than 300 pit bulls wasn’t too long ago. It happened just outside of Houston and I recall reading about it a couple of weeks ago. The second story is one that just happened. So, it was sheer irony that these two stories ran together, I believe. However, it was irony that I thought needed to be passed along.