"Law Meal Library" by Otto Tot, September 2012

Disclaimer: All characters presented here are product of fiction. Any resemblances to real characters are of a pure coincidence. No intention was made to insult anyone for any reason.

AN: This story is an act of fiction. No one should attempt to act in the same manner as described.

AN2: None.

Summary: Direct & Intimate stations are protected with a biometric login to restrict access to authorized inmates. On successful identification of the inmate, the system initiates the user's personal session on the system. Hence questions such as "When is my release date? How much money do I have in my account? When is my next court date? Who is booked for my next visit?" can be answered immediately, directly and accurately to the inmate.

Law Meal Library

At the opening of their annual meeting, Steve Gillan glanced at the modest spectators, smiled and then began slowly.

"Ladies and gentlemen … as you probably already know … prisons are a vital part of many societies." He paused and checked some chair members that were duly dressed in business attire. Lights dimmed out and some photographs were shown behind him as he continued. "While these workplaces are not for everyone …", sound of projector humming and some neon lights buzzing conformed to the solemnity of the moment, "... many people enjoy the opportunity to aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners and the management of prison life." Pictures showing prisoners work at various locations changed at even intervals. "There are many different types of prison jobs that require a wide variety of different skills." Steve turned around to watch prisoners sit at large tables, typing numerous data directly into computers from some dusty books.

He grinned and then, after replacing his front hair, continued.

"Most prison jobs require applicants to meet certain basic requirements, as well as have special training for their particular position." Some hostesses started to serve drinks as if they were in an airplane. "In some countries …", he took a plastic cup of water and thanked the lady, "… a person cannot work for the prison system if they have a criminal record or do not hold citizenship in the country." Steve eyed some guests from Europe. "Other requirements may include physical fitness and … age limits." He noticed that the chair members brought their wives along. "Most new prison workers take an extensive training course to properly prepare them for the unusual working environment."

He watched the slides sideways and then announced the next speaker Stephen Clubhouse. Stephen shook hands with Steve as he was leaving and then resumed his place. A schema of an experimental prison was behind him and he began in a firm voice.

"As you can see from the schema behind me …", he turned back once more to make sure it was still on, "… there are three house blocks, two of which consist of four wings each, and the other two wings. The residential units have two tiers, with between 62 and 81 cells on each spur. E wing has an operational capacity of 81 and is the prison's first night and induction centre. Prisoners are initially located in double cells, subject to a cell-sharing risk assessment, before being allocated a single cell on a rota basis." He turned back as some less formal pictures of the prison showed various parts of its interior.

"Houseblock 3 contains two cells that can accommodate disabled prisoners, with wheelchair access …", he turned sideways again, "… as well as four observation cells for vulnerable prisoners."

Someone raised a hand.

"Yes please?"

"How about their faith and religious rights?"

Stephen sneered in some derisive and mocking way, eyeing Steve in secret.

"Oh, well …" He caught an eye with one of the alumni. "Just like every prison … this one has a Chaplaincy department managed by a Co-ordinating Chaplain and supported by admin staff, other Chaplains and 'Sessional Chaplains' …"

"Sessional Chaplains?" Someone objected.

"Yes." He tried to spot the man in semi-darkness but failed. "Faith leaders who visit for specific services or sessions." There was no further objections and he continued. "The Chaplaincy is considered an important part of the prison structure. When a prisoner arrives at a prison they are usually seen by a Chaplain within 24 hours and are invited to register as a specific religion … if they haven't already done so …", he brushed with his hands, smiling towards the board members, "… and can change their declared religion at any time."

There was some murmur and silent clamor.

Lights went up and Stephen thanked everyone, letting his colleague, Fenster Brockway answer any additional questions.

"Who started the idea about this type of prison?"

Fenster grinned, checked with Steve and then placed a finger on his chin.

"Let's see now … Stasi files from the Federal Democratic Republic of Germany have revealed that in the 1970s and 1980s IKEA used slave labor in some of its 65 East German factories to produce parts and furniture under miserable working conditions." There was some commotion and awe coming from the elderly ladies. "According to the German public broadcaster WDR, these included political prisoners from a prison in Wandheim who were forced to work in the next door IKEA factory building the company's popular 'Klipper' sofa."

"How about the available inmate services? We heard there were some innovations in that area?"

"I am sorry … I didn't get your name? …"

"Michael Dellaware from the Hopkings News, Ohio."

"Ah." Fenster almost openly disdained. "Well … in our new experimental prison we have the National Administrative Zealot Inmate Services, or NAZIS for short …", more commotion and murmuring followed, "… which is there to help when you need advice, or wish to make a complaint. As a patient, relative or career, NAZIS provide confidential advice and support, helping you to sort out any concerns that you may have about any aspect of your healthcare."

"Healthcare?" Came a surprised question from an elderly lady with speckled glasses.

"That's right." Fenster received some secret signal from Steve and he cleared his throat, listening to his tiny earpiece headset for instructions. "Correctional officers approach the concept of NAZIS quite differently." He made some nervous moves, almost sweating. "In fact …", Fenster smiled briefly, "… all of them are indoctrinated thru training to understand their motto is 'care for NAZIS and take control'." He paused as there was more commotion and shuffling. "Their 'monitoring' of the offender takes on the characteristics of long-term risk management, and it's no accident that the phrase 'care for NAZIS and take control' is a central theme in the long-term insurance liability industry."

There was a late-comer with an apologetic face, taking the first available seat.

"Prisoners, by virtue of being prisoners, have certain rights to which they are entitled, and although these rights do not include the notion of 'home' or the 'solace' of private property, the correctional environment IS, for all practical purposes …", he cleared his throat and excused himself, "… their home. Any inmate will tell you that, and right or wrong …", he guffawed unconsciously, "… there's no way for them to disavow that perception. Now …", he waved and there was the scheme of the experimental prison behind him, "… in a large prison, there's no functional way to administer to the personal needs of thousands of inmates."

"How about the injuries in prisons?"

"Well … there is no statistical reporting system for injuries in prison, but …", he turned sideways as more photographs of prisoners working at the machines were shown, "… best estimates are that 260,000 serious assaults occur each year. Prisons have a more widespread problem with instances of sexual abuse. Some estimates are that one-fourth (25%) of inmates experience at least one forced sex episode. In a 2001 article, 'The Crap Crisis Behind Bars', the New York Times estimated that more than 890,000 males are sexually assaulted behind bars every year, and many victims report single incidents becoming daily assaults."

More awes and surprise looks from the elderly ladies in front rows.

"How about their mental health though?"

"Many prisons have significant problems with the physical and mental health of their inmates. Most lawsuits by prisoners against the prison have to do with substandard medical treatment. Some prisons now contain geriatric wings to house a growing number of elderly inmates over 75 years of age." He nervously eyed the chair and board members.

"It is a commonly held view, one certainly held by the Government and most prison reformers …", he felt inclined to add some more of his own, "… that the primary function of prison labor is to provide training and work experience to aid a prisoner to find a post-release job. This is certainly not backed up by the everyday experiences of many prisoners and by the history and statistics of prison labor itself."

"What's the primary function of this 'mundane administrative prison work' of yours?"

"Well … it is a well know fact that the primary function of prison work is in fact the control of the prison population … give them something to do to keep them occupied and out of trouble. Even the Prison Service reluctantly acknowledges this."

"Acknowledges what?" Someone dejected.

"That the aim of Prison Industries is to occupy prisoners in out-of-cell activity … and … wherever possible …", he smiled, "… to help them gain skills, qualifications and work experience to improve their employment prospects upon release."

"What's the percent of those that succeeded after leaving the prison? Is your new, experimental prison helping reduce the crime rate?"

"Ha. Now that's a tough one." He eyed Steve and laughed in some sardonic way. "Prisoners who have problems with both employment and accommodation on release from prison had a reoffending rate of 74% during the year after custody, compared to 43% for those with no problems."

No one asked any other question and Fenster continued on his own.

"Prison work is also not a thing of choice." Picture of prisoners at the computer keyboards was shown from various angles. "You have no right to refuse work and if you do you will be punished. Initially it will be loss of privileges already earned, such as access to the canteen or extra visits. Worse still …", he paused as someone announced a dinner after the presentation, "… are segregation and extra days on your sentence. Prisoners pursuing further education courses have even been refused access to educational materials as punishment, despite the Prison Services mantra in recent years of 'education, education, education'."

"So … if I have understood correctly … prisoners are taking up all those archived documents that still need to be kept by the law and then 'retyping' them into these database systems of yours, correct?"

"That's right. You see … having your documents stored and archived digitally and securely will save you the time it takes for your employees to deal with the paperwork as well as help reduce the space it takes up in your office. And, as the amount of paperwork you generate increases, more space will be required, and more time will be spent by someone going through the old paperwork, archiving it or having it destroyed. Ultimately …", he stood sideways again, nodding towards the pictures behind him, "… that person could be generating money for you, not spending it."

An applause followed. Fenster shook hands with his next colleague, Joe Black.

Joe was less formal and more casual, offering frequent smiles like some car salesman.

"Hundreds of thousands of documents have been scanned into the national library archives, but a lot of the printed material is too fuzzy for automatic text recognition to work."

"Do you have also some games in that 'experimental prison'?"

"Ha, ha, ha, ha." He massaged his hands as if they were oily. "I was just coming to that!" He turned quickly behind to check on the photographs and then continued. You see … this is where games 'Mole Bridge' and 'Mole Hunt' come in … the first game involves deciphering individual words against the clock, each word becomes a segment of a bridge which helps the moles get to safety." He paused, meeting some suspicious looks. "If you are too slow or enter a wrong word, then one or more moles will plummet to their death!" he chuckled but met icy stares. "The second game …", he cleared his throat nervously, "… 'Mole Hunt' … is more of a verification style game, where you simply approve or reject the suggested transcripts."

"How about the prison library? I've heard rumors that some unusual books were allowed there?"

Joe grinned and then scoffed in some ironic manner.

"Was it Michael? …" he pointed a hand lightly at the gentleman.

"That's right sir. Michael Dellaware from the Hopkings News, Ohio."

"All right, Michael Dellaware. You see … issues of censorship have long surrounded 'Mein Kampf' because of its decidedly racist, frequently anti-Semitic, content. The book is banned in many countries, including Germany."

"But not in your prison?"

"No. If one can read it from the Internet for free …", he shrugged with his shoulders, "… why not have it in print as well?"

Steve ignited the applause and it continued sporadically.

"As with any book, we would encourage the reader to go beyond reading just the book in question." Joe started to gesticulate with his hands. "To appreciate the implications of the ideas set out in 'Mein Kampf' …", he paused, measuring reactions from the board members, "… you are strongly urged to read other, related books, including histories relating to life, and death, in the Nazi regime, and relating to the philosophy set out in the book."

There was a clamor but Steve's eyes flickered in some strange light and Joe did not know where he was standing for a moment.

"Apart from these 'archiving' business, are prisoner inmates allowed to do any other job."

"Of for sure!" he signaled and the lights went dim again.

There were photographs of prisoners seated at the same large desks, with lots of toy dolls at various staging processes.

"I even made one for my granddaughter in about a half hour!" He winked to Steve who sat tight as if expecting something. "As you can see … first, you fold a big piece of paper in half." Next slide showed prisoners with their tongues against their teeth, struggling with scissors. "Then, … you drew a half doll shape on the fold … like you're doing cutout paper dolls. Cut this out, open it up, … there's your doll pattern!" Some elderly ladies applauded, chuckling.

He winked to Steve in secret.

"Then you pin this to 2 pieces of muslin that you cut about 3 inches larger than the pattern all the way around." He turned sideways to let everyone see the photographs. "Cut out pattern leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inches for seam allowance. Once you've cut it out, remove paper and repin. Sew all the way around leaving about a 3" place open for turning …", he turned to the audience and grinned, "… I made mine on the side of the body because I also made a dress." Some laughter followed. "Turn the doll right side out."

Someone eager to serve dinner turned the lights on again.

"Now …", he waited for the silence again, "… now before I stuffed it, … I used embroidery thread and made hair and a face, nothing fancy. You could also use yarn for the hair and paint the face." He acknowledged some secret signals from the managing director. "Once that was done, I used a bamboo skewer to stuff the doll as tightly as I could and then sewed the turning/stuffing hole closed with a whipstitch." Some already started to rise up. "There's your basic doll." Projector was switched off. "I used the doll pattern to make a dress, just add a little extra space between the pattern and your seam allowance to make it big enough to fit over her head."

No one was paying much attention to Joe anymore as everyone left towards the self-serving tables with steamy food.

Steve winked to him and Joe felt much better.