The office looks a little bit like the Russian warden-offices I know: outdated furniture, a lot of paper over the desk and all kinds of stuff standing and hanging to show that this is a warden-office and what kind of warden this is. During the meeting most of the time Bryonn and me are looking at Warden Richard Babcock calling and being called about the ongoing crisis in the facility: a power-breakdown which put us in the dark a few times and then on the emergency generator.
Bryonn flew all the way from LA to join me in visiting Nanon. If you want to know who Bryonn Bain is: just look him up via Google or Youtube. But he is also a professor in `law, a performer and he does writing and performing classes in prisons. This is the third year in a row that we visit Nanon together: three guys: white, black and a mixed background, former warden, professor/performer and a gifted writer, teacher and jewelry-smith incarcerated for life. But in the first place: three guys sharing the same views and values and all three passionate, intelligent, creative and loving. Having a great time talking about all aspects of life, sometimes the very intimate ones.
While it was raining again and the water poured into the visiting-area like a river the warden came along and invited us to meet in his office after the 4 hour visit. So we did. He wants to know who we are and show what kind of a guy he is. There is a lot going on in Texas and with Nanon. They have put charges against him because his name appears on the internet, he is a well know person and he gets visits from people with probable influence and status. One could think of several reasons why the warden invites us and one of the most logical ones is that he wants to make sure that we will not cause any problem, somehow. But it is great that he invites us and he turns out to be a very smart young guy who made a very quick career within the system. His vision is that he wants to give the incarcerated people as much chance as possible to recover and make another choice in life and he is “not necessarily” supporting the death-penalty. And his challenge is to run a prison with 2000 inmates with an enormous lack of staff in a totally dilapidated building. He wants to find alternatives for putting incarcerated people in segregation. He says he wants to exchange knowledge about solutions for this and I give him my contact-info and the address of this blog.
About trusting incarcerated people, Richard says: “I am worried about that one procent an inmate will not tell me.” I answer: “The same 1 procent my children do not tell me?”
Being a warden is about trusting yourself and your own judgement and trusting the judgement of your staff. And about having the courage to take full responsability when things go wrong and people get hurt. And not loose trust after an incident but find ways to react more adequate on what you see, hear and feel.
I am sure Richard will read this and I am curious if he will do what he said:“I’ll email you!”. I know from my own experience what the position of a warden is, in the middle of the administration, politics, inmates and staff. Not a lot of room te move, certainly not in Texas. But it would be great to support him in a way that turns out to be good for inmates, staff and the warden himself.
Lets finish by showing you my breakfast and dinner. And photo’s of this beautiful gravity I saw! While talking to a homeless guy who wants to sell me pills and tells me his feet where killing him after a whole day of walking……..