Sunday, June 24, 2007

Making Adjustments

Puckett made special arrangements to be available for Fennell's adjustment hearing. He was supposed to be off at the academy for inservice training but he swapped out for a later session. It wasn't that he took a particular interest in Antonio personally, but he had been a correctional officer long enough to know that inmates like him needed to be handled immediately at the beginning of their time or they got worse. Juveniles needed to learn up front that the games that got them out of the foster home or the group home or the juvenile correctional facility no longer worked. More often than not, Puckett was the one who had to teach them that. Juveniles who didn't learn this ended up running across people without his patience. They ended up with new charges or new broken bones or dead. It wasn't that he particularly cared what happened to Antonio, it was just that dead inmates were too much damn paperwork.

Puckett escorted Antonio into the conference room. Before they left the tier he had a brief talk with the boy, made sure he was cool and would stay cool, then he put on the leg irons, waist chain and handcuffs all segregated inmates were required to wear. As they entered the room Antonio jangled like the Ghost of Christmas Past. He was holding up his too-big jeans with one hand so they wouldn't slip down over his buttocks.

The hearing officer was a tired-looking middle-aged man in a rumpled suit. His suitcoat was thrown over the back of his chair in a haphazard fashion and he leaned against it, indifferent to any new wrinkles. The room was hot. The hearing officer sat behind the same table that Antonio had flipped over barely a week before. To the right of the hearing officer was an old cassette tape recorder, which he punched on after Antonio sat down.

He spoke clearly for the recording: "This is James C. Overlea, hearing officer for the Charm City Correctional Facility, and this is May 22nd, 2007. I'm hearing the case of Antonio Fennell who is charged with a Level 4 infraction as noted in the Notice of Infraction dated May 16th. Mr. Fennell, have you had an opportunity to read the allegations against you?"

Antonio said, "Yeah, I know what they said but that ain't what happened. I'm supposed to be going to a program. I'm supposed to be on medicine. Nobody's listening to me."

The hearing officer held up a hand to interrupt. "Are you saying you suffer from a mental illness?"

"Yeah!" Antonio said, leaning forward. "That's what I been trying to tell them. I got lead. I seen a psych doc. I'm supposed to be on medicine. I been telling them and telling them, know what I'm saying?" The way he said it, the phrase came out 'gnome I'm sayin'?'

The hearing officer pulled over the base file that Puckett had brought with him. He paged through the thin file and turned back to Antonio. "I don't see any documentation of a mental health referral. Your PSI does say that you suffer from lead poisoning and have had mental health care in the past."

"See? See? That's what I'm saying. I was taking medication out on the street." Antonio was getting excited. Maybe he would get that program after all.

"Mr. Fennell, the case manager was seriously injured in your assault. She suffered a facial fracture and her jaws are wired shut. It is likely she will be out of work for several weeks."

Antonio knew when to keep his mouth shut. He was on the verge of getting his program and he wasn't about to blow it by pointing out that lady wasn't doing her job right.

The hearing officer turned to Puckett and asked routine questions about his observations and actions during the incident. Puckett told him that he saw Antonio beating the case manager and described how the inmate behaved while he was being subdued. When he was done, Mr. Overlea turned back to Antonio:

"Mr. Fennell, based on the information in your base file and your testimony today, I will find you guilty of the infraction. However, based upon the fact that you obviously haven't been offered the treatment that you require I will limit your punishment to a period of thirty days' cell restriction contingent upon your cooperation with any psychiatric care that is recommended. Do you understand this?"

"Man, that's all I've been asking for!"

"Very well. Officer Puckett, you can take him back. Next case."


Hanidy L. Nosti said...

Antonio knew when to keep his mouth shut? No way. He has lead.

Emy L. Nosti said...

This was the first time I couldn't think of a single comment, and then Hanidy shows up...

Between Roy and her, I'm feeling a bit violated. Good thing Knilc doesn't work that well, because then I'd definitely have to pout.