Shit or Go Blind: Working in Corrections/Living the Dream

Segregation Unit

This had to be delivered to Warden Biggie Biggins in person thought Captain Keri Whelton; it was one of those things that prompted more questions, and besides she wanted to see the warden’s reaction.

“What’s up?” said the warden as Keri, shit eating grin and all, entered his office.

“We have prisoner Gobar, 193507, in disciplinary segregation for fighting. The hearings officer gave him ten days detention.”


“The thing is warden, that Gobar insists on smearing his seg. cell with his feces. We had the cell cleaned by prisoner porters several times, but he continues doing it. Now he’s smearing it on himself.”

“His own shit?” asked the warden with a grimace of disgust.

“Yes sir. Housing unit staff say this guy’s always been a little weird but…”

“Weird? This is beyond weird. What have seg. staff done with him so far other than clean him up?”

“They’ve called the doctor several times. He insists there’s nothing wrong with Gobar, that’s he’s only acting out and there’s nothing he can do for him. He said it’s a waste of his and his staff’s time.”

“He won’t come and see the prisoner?”

“Nope. And he’s instructed his nurses not to bother too.”

Though Warden Biggins’ prison had its own nursing staff and infirmary, it shared a primary care doctor with another nearby prison where the doc. had his office.

The warden shook his head and mumbled Duff can be a fuckhead.

“I’m calling somebody who might be able to help,” said the warden. “Go to segregation and I’ll meet you there in a half-hour.”


Rick Snapple, Ph.D. psychologist at the other prison Warden Biggins supervised answered the warden’s call with “Snapple here.”

“Rick, it’s Biggie. I got a prisoner in seg. that’s smearing his shit on his cell and himself. I’ve heard crazy people do that sort of thing, but this is my first prisoner. What can you tell me.”

“Well, first of all the medical term for shit smearing is scatolia. Very young kids do it. To them it’s like handling Playdough. They soon stop. Or, it can be a sign of abuse…a cry for help. Some researchers think scatolia is linked to certain forms of autism, but the jury is still out on that. In adults it seen in the severely psychotic. Adults exhibit scatolia for a number of reasons: they seek a sense of control when other parts of their lives are out of control; they do it to express anger, frustration, and helplessness; or they do it to prevent social interaction. One thing is certain however, strong emotional reactions such as disgust on the part of staff are sure to increase the behavior.

People experiencing extreme isolation also display scatolia. How long has he been isolated in seg?”

“Four days of a ten-day disciplinary detention for fighting,” said the warden.

“Then I doubt it’s because of extreme isolation. I think we need to look for another cause.”

“Can you come with me to seg. to take a look?”

“Sure, in about fifteen minutes. Let me make a phone call first.”


Biggins and Snapple cleared the security gates and headed for the segregation unit.

The prison had only twelve short-term segregation cells used to house prisoners whose infractions warranted limited seg. time, with more serious offenses warranting a transfer to higher security and only staying in seg. until a transfer is arranged. Also, prisoners seeking protection from other prisoners were housed there until a transfer could be arranged. In any event, Warden Biggie Biggins could lock a prisoner in segregation for a maximum of thirty days.

“We’re seeing more of this behavior,” said Snapple, “ever since they closed down mental hospitals. The idea behind mental health deinstitutionalization was that with the advent of psychotropic drugs, mental patients were better off dealt with in their communities. Trouble is the money didn’t follow to allow the communities to adequately deal with these people and many of them ended on the streets, acted out in one way or another, and found themselves in jails and prisons. It’s estimated about a third of those state hospital mental patients ended up in prison…prisons not equipped to deal with these guys.”

They entered seg. and were greeted by the seg. sergeant and counselor and were taken to prisoner Gobar’s cell.

“That’s a lot if shit!” said the warden, peering through the cell window. “He seems to be making designs on the walls. Kinda reminds me of the cave paintings.”

“He looks disoriented,” said Snapple.

“Sure the hell is,” said the sergeant. “I swear sometimes Gobar doesn’t seem to see us when were trying to talk with him.”

“You think he’s blind?” said the warden.

“Don’t know,” said the sergeant. “Seems to be at times, though he’s not bumping into things or anything like that.”

“Not much to bump into in a seg. cell,” said Captain Whelton

“Maybe so, but he couldn’t find the soap in the shower,” the sergeant said, “or his towel.”

“We need to have Demings take a look at him,” said Snapple. “I’ll called him after I spoke with you, warden. He’s in our area today and is on his way.”

Dr. Demings, the regional psychiatrist, rode a circuit serving prisons on the West side of the state.

“Appreciate it,” said the counselor. “Staff are at a loss about what to do next.”

“Yeah,” said the sergeant. “Even the porters cleaning that cell are bitching. And I got good porters. This keeps up, I’m afraid we’ll lose some.”

“Tell them they only have to clean Gobar one more time,” said Warden Biggie Biggins. “Slap a diaper on him and get him ready for transfer. Here’s hoping Demings sends him to the Downstate Medical prison hospital. I’ll have the transfer orders ready.”

Demings saw prisoner Gobar, and made the referral to the Downstate prison medical hospital for evaluation.


A week after Gobar transferred Dr. Snapple called Warden Biggins about a message he got regarding prisoner Gobar’s condition.

“I thought you might want to know what they found with Gobar,” said Snapple.

“Whatcha got?” said the Warden Biggins.

“Turns out they found Gobar has a brain tumor that effects his behavior and eyesight. Both an organic and psychiatric problem. My guess is it was a cry for help”

“No kidding. Well, I guess that disproves that old saying,” said Biggins.

“What old saying?” said Snapple.

“Gobar found a way to shit AND go blind.”



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Joseph Abramajtys

Old Man, Retired Prison Warden, Social Critic, Recovering Catholic, Pain in the Ass.