Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What The New Warden Did

Warden Drew Price sat at the head of the conference table and looked over his staff. The new warden was a political appointee, a transfer from the juvenile justice system where he had worked as a defense attorney for several years. He had attracted the attention of the governor with his work on the landmark decision regarding the rights of juveniles, Fennell v. State. The young man in question, Antonio Fennell, had been improperly questioned by police when he was detained as part of a murder investigation. Price's legal challenge led to new due process protections for all juveniles charged with violent offenses. The charge against Fennell was dismissed and the juvenile was released back to his family. Warden Price wondered briefly what had become of the promising young man. That case and his work on the latest gubernatorial campaign had earned him this promotion.

They were gathered around a small table in the conference room. The table was bolted to the floor so that it could not be flipped over by inmates. It was small enough that each person at the table sat uncomfortably close and were forced to acknowledge one another.

Vanessa felt a small twinge of satisfaction when she realized that the public defender sitting across from her recognized the chair she was sitting on. He looked at her with a hostile, predatory gaze. He twirled a pen slowly back and forth between the fingers of his right hand. It was a limited-edition Martini fountain pen with cats lacquered down the body.

For once the Anti-Chaplain was silent. He sat at the end of the conference table opposite Warden Price. He kept his head down and focussed on the inmate request forms he was stamping viciously with the case manager's inkpad. He was very aware of the fountain pen and was planning revenge.

"I'm so proud of each and every one of you," the warden said. "When I found out I was assigned here I thought to myself 'we've got work to do'. But then I saw my staff---dedicated, enthusiastic, professional staff---coming in well before their scheduled shifts just to get the work done and stay on top of things. I am seeing morale here like I've never seen in any other state facility." A soft communal groan swept around the table, the quiet last breath of a dying man, a Gregorian chant of despair, the sound of whithering hope. The new warden was channelling Dale Carnegie.

"Lieutenant Terry has been kind enough to bring me up to speed on some infrastructure issues that need to be addressed." Lieutenant Terry was conveniently not in attendance. "She has put together a corrective action plan that I think we should all take a look at." He glanced around the table.

"Has anyone seen my clipboard?" asked the warden. Vanessa and the Anti-Chaplain both looked at the public defender, who raised his shoulders in an innocent 'who, me?' gesture.

"Oh well, never mind. I think I can do this from memory. The main problem we seem to be dealing with right now is our electrical system."

Vanessa wondered briefly if Warden Price had noticed the broken pipes or knew what her missing wastebasket was being used for.

"We really need to improve our information management system, but the rate-limiting step right now is electricity. Apparently adding even just one more computer could bring our grid down. This is serious. I've already begun work on this issue and we've got outside contractors rewiring the building even as we speak. This may cause some temporary disturbance in your departments but I can assure you it really is temporary."

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