Psych 101

So, there was this inmate at FMC Devens, Woody: little, nebbishy guy kicked out of camp for some minor offense and wandering around the main (read “real”) prison with all the confidence of a new born lamb at a wolverine convention.

Within a day or two, his manner had earned him at least two death threats, the last from a credible enough source (read “inmate with history of violence”) to get him tossed into protective custody in the Special Housing Unit (SHU).

He started out there as a lost soul, shuffled around the ‘rec’ yard (24’ by 8’ cages) in a daze bumping into inmates, mumbling, unable to understand simple conversation. In other words, the epitome of timidity.

One morning he is made an orderly, this enables him to be out of his cell all day, cleaning the halls, bringing around the book cart, laundry, other simple yet essential services to a bunch of guys locked in their cells for 23 hours a day.

Within days he not only lost his rabbit-like bewilderment, he started acting as if he were no longer locked down; he developed a swagger, a confidence . . . . . that quickly became arrogance.

In less than two weeks he was wielding more overt authority than any CO, snapping “hurry up” at guys picking out books, “write me a request”, “I need that in writing”, “thank you for your cooperation” . . . . surely he was headed for “of course the showers are real.”

He had elevated himself well above that of his former equals, discovered and employed a distain one would never had thought him capable of employing.

Missing, of course, was the gift of foresight – it was a matter of time before he would be released back to the general population, where he was going to be killed by the men he was bossing around with impunity . . . . while the people dumb enough to put him in charge in the first place were going to watch impassively.


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