FCI Petersburg Snubs Christian Pastor, Puts Her In Tears

FCI Petersburg Snubs Christian Pastor, Puts Her In Tears

The plot thickens.

Last weekend I was called to the FCI Petersburg Visitation Room to visit with my Prisoner Visitation & Support (PVS) visitor, a woman who’s also a Christian minister.  On my way through the initial search area, I was harassed by the prison guard (“Guard #1”) assigned to the Visitation Room because my clothing wasn’t ironed.  The guard tried to inform me that there was a new Federal Bureau of Prisons policy on the matter, but after a short conversation, he begrudgingly agreed to allow me to have my visit.*1  So, after my frisk, I was allowed into the FCI Petersburg Visitation Room.

Once in the Visitation Room, I handed another guard (“Guard #2”) my inmate identification card and looked for my visitor.  I didn’t find her.  So, back to the guard’s desk, I walked and asked Guard #2 where my visitor was.  After a short exchange, he informed me that my visitor had been “embarrassed” and had to leave prior to my arrival.  Guard #2 and I returned to the visitation screening area and spoke with Guard #1, the one who had harassed me about my clothing.  Guard #1 informed me that my visitor, a Christian minister, had realized that her pants were see-through and had left in embarrassment.  I was not amused.  Upon returning to my housing unit, I submitted a complaint to the FCI Petersburg Captain.

Two days later, I received a postcard from my PVS visitor.  She informed me that the guards had terminated the visit but that she would be back two weeks later.  She also expressed her profound sorrow for the visit being terminated prior to my arrival.  She had not left on her own accord.  Either Guard #1 or Guard #2 had officially terminated the visit prior to my arrival in the Visitation Room.

To say that I was upset about this would be an understatement.  But my lack of amusement turned to anger several days later.  While working out in the FCI Petersburg recreation yard, another man who had a visit that day filled me in.  He said that Guard #1, the one who had harassed me, had terminated the visit because of my visitor’s pants.  The man said that my visitor had been told to leave because her pants were too transparent (he said that the guard claimed that he could see her pockets through the pants) and that she had burst into tears because of the situation.  According to the man, my visitor, the Christian minister, had cried all the way out of the prison.  I’m sure that she didn’t only feel terribly embarrassed by the whole situation but probably a bit insulted and dirty, too, since Guard #1 was staring at her pants for a period of time.

The issue at hand is that my visitor had been allowed to enter the prison, past the guard in the front office area who makes clothing appropriateness determinations, who is usually a woman.   So, she, wearing the same clothing, had been approved to enter the institution by the guard at the front desk.  Then, after arrival in the FCI Petersburg Visitation Room, she had been accosted by the same guard who had harassed me (Guard #1) and had been turned away.

Obviously, there are several problems here.  The first problem is that a visitor to FCI Petersburg — a Christian minister, at that — was allowed into the institution, then forced to leave after a second guard, a guard who is not tasked with making clothing determinations, decided that her clothing didn’t comport with policy.  The second problem is that the same guard harassed me on my way into the FCI Petersburg Visitation Room by claiming that there was a new policy that requires inmates to iron their clothing prior to visits when, in fact, there is no such policy.  This was plainly an attempt at harassment.  The third problem is that the same guard involved in both of these instances lied about the visitor choosing to leave when he had officially terminated the visit.  And the final problem is that the official protocol for the termination of a visit did not occur.  There is a specific protocol that is supposed to be followed in situations like this, which includes the involvement of the duty officer, an associate warden, and the warden.  Since Guard #1 lied about what had occurred, and Guard #2 rubber-stamped the cover-up, these protocols were not implemented.

My plan is to take this matter up with either the Captain, who has yet to respond to my email, or with an Associate Warden, within the next few days during the noon meal (when they are present to speak with prisoners).  I’ll voice my complaint and try to find out why a guard at FCI Petersburg is being allowed to harass both visitors and inmates and terminate visits through improper procedures.  While prison guards at FCI Petersburg might not like following the policy, it is there for a reason, and ignoring it and having fellow guards assist in covering-up instances of guard misconduct is plainly reprehensible.

I am plainly angry and will not allow this matter to rest until the guard culprits, both Guard #1, who engaged in the harassment, and Guard #2, who helped to cover it up, are both held accountable for their actions.  Disgusting is what it is, plain and simple.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  Please feel free to post a comment below, Tweet at us @prisonerlaw, or post a comment to the Prison Law Blog Facebook Fans page.  Let your voice be heard!

*1-It should be noted that he really didn’t have a leg to stand on anyway.  While there is a new local-level policy that says that FCI Petersburg inmates must be groomed and presentable, there is no regulation concerning ironed clothing. This was just his way of trying to intimidate those seeking to visit with their families and friends.