Pelican Bay Gallows Humor

Anthony Pignataro:

It must be difficult for state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation press office to write snappy, crisp news releases about violence perpetrated on prison guards. I was thinking about this last night while reading this statement about how two inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City attacked three guards with “prison-made weapons,” causing “lacerations and puncture wounds.”

“Our foremost concern is for the safety and well-being of our dedicated staff,” Warden Gregory Lewis said in the Jan. 11 press release. “Our officers’ injuries are not life-threatening and we are glad they were discharged from the hospital today.Our thoughts and prayers are with them for a speedy recovery.”

That’s scary news, and as of last night the prison was on lock-down. However, the press office might want to give their whole releases one last read-through before sending them on to the media. Mostly, they ought to think twice about including tacking on their usual boilerplate language to the end of statements about prison violence:

“Pelican Bay State Prison houses California’s most serious criminal offenders in a secure, safe, and disciplined institutional setting,” says the last paragraph of a press release on inmates attacking guards.

I guess when you work in a maximum security prison, words like “safe” and “disciplined” mean different things than out here in the minimum security world.

JAN. 12, 2011

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