Bridgeport Correctional Center: Offender Beware
My time at BCC was long enough to see most of the injustices that are rampant there and short enough to know that I wouldn’t wish that place on my worst enemy. I am Dennis Morehead Jr and I was sent there for charges that were meant for someone else but because I was easily accessible and those people were not, the charges were put on me. I was taught from a young age that no accidents happen to the children of God and I knew that He would allow the truth to come out eventually. The true purpose of my being there was to tell people who I would never meet otherwise, that God cared about them. I was sent to give hope to the hopeless. To be love to those who may have never met love in person. This all sounds good until everything that you were accustomed to having and depending upon is stripped from you and what’s left is who you really are. I found out first hand that in this system, you are guilty until proven innocent. And you were treated accordingly.
The intake process took about 6 hours before I was escorted to my cell. For anyone that was not familiar with how this works, like me, it felt like an eternity. The not knowing what to expect was almost like torture because the only thing I knew about prison and jail was what I saw on TV or in movies. I was never around criminals to hear first-hand of what this process was like. When it was my turn to walk into the back area , I was instructed to go to this single shower area/stall and strip. Open your mouth. Lift your tongue. Raise your arms. Show me your palms/back of hands. Lift your nut-sack. Turn around and lift up one foot towards me. Lift the other foot towards me. Spread your cheeks. Squat and cough. I watched too many movies so I bent over and the guard yelled squat, squat, not bend over. After that I was asked if I wanted to shower or get dressed into the tans, t-shirt and karate shoes that were provided for me. I chose to take a shower. The guard provided soap and a hand towel and walked away with my clothes and personal items. When I was finished he directed me to go into the next waiting area.
There are way too many people in this one little area waiting for our names to be called. No seats and barely enough space to sit on the floor. The conversations that were overheard just confused me even more. Some guys talked about what medications they say they are prescribed at home so that they could be doped up inside there. Then others say not to let them perform the TB test so that you can be put into quarantine and have your own cell. The problem with that is, until you agree to receive the test you are confined to that cell 24 hours a day. Still there were others that were trying to be bullies. Because of this my head was spinning, to say the least. Should I be the tough guy that I grew out of or should I be who God wanted me to be and let Him shine? Should I let it be known right now that I’m the man before somebody tries me or just trust God when He told me that He would protect me the whole time I was inside? And then my name was called to come into the office.
As I walked into the little office I was told sit down at the desk. The guy asked me several questions, had me fill out papers and then told me to stand by the door so that he could take my picture and take pictures of my tattoos. After that I was told to go back outside in the hallway waiting area. More inmates were poured into the already crowded area. As I waited for whatever was next, I couldn’t help but notice the two telephones that were on the wall right in front of us. Not knowing if we could use them, I waited to see others use them first before attempting to use one of them myself. We found out that one of the phones didn’t work so that meant that everyone there had to use that one phone and wait his turn. I quickly declared my number in line, I’m next. To use the phone you had to pick up the receiver and then look into the camera above your head. At that point you’ll hear a tone which meant to enter the phone number. The voice prompts informed you to state your name and that you will be connected to a 20 second call and that options will be made to the other person on how to add money in order to receive future phone calls without the 20 second time limit. A while after speaking to my family my name was called again. This time I had to see the doctor and answer a whole new set of questions. I was asked for my consent to receive the TB test, I agreed. I was told that someone would check on the area where I was stuck in a few days. No one ever came to check on that test. After waiting for what seemed like an hour, I was called back into the first office to sign for my ID card. When I got back to the hall way I noticed that my name was spelled wrong and there was an H where it said race. I looked on some of the other guy’s ID cards and realized the H stood for Hispanic and I am Black. I was then called into the psychiatrist’s office. I forgot his name but he was very cordial and seemed concerned. His demeanor was extremely laid back and that appeared to some as if he didn’t care but we had a deep conversation in that brief time that I was in his office. Because of my bail amount I had to meet with him to discuss suicide, homosexuality and other topics associated with prison living. He also informed me that I wasn’t going to the dorms, as most of the others were headed, but I would be going to the cell blocks. Once a few more hours passed, a couple of us were escorted there.
Getting accustomed to this life was a shock. The first night I was only given pants, a t-shirt and a sheet. I went inside in the month of January. January in Connecticut is extremely cold. Inside the cell the vent was at the foot of the top bunk where I would be sleeping. The vent was blowing out freezing cold air. There was an old commissary sheet covering most of the vent but the air forced its way through anyway. In the thick handbook they forbade anything covering the vents. I didn’t cover it but I wasn’t taking it off either. The next morning I went to orientation where I was given another t-shirt, a sweatshirt, 2 pair of boxers, 2 pair of sweat socks and a thin blanket along with a toothbrush, a bar of soap and some trial sized deodorant and toothpaste. To stay warm we were forced to sleep in our clothes wrapped under the blanket. The dayroom and corridor outside the cells were comfortable enough for us to warm up but as soon as we stepped back into our cells it was as if we were stepping outside into the cold. Complaining fell on deaf ears. I even mentioned it to my wife and she called up to the facility after hanging up with me. The next time we spoke, she told me that when she called and complained that the inmates in my cellblock on my tier didn’t have heat, she was told that she doesn’t know what’s going on inside the jail because she wasn’t inside the jail and to not call there again followed by a dial tone after getting hung up on. It took prayer to be able to endure the cold and soon the outside weather made it bearable inside. Thank God.
Dealing with the elements was one thing but dealing with the CO’s was a whole other beast. Whenever it rained our tier and day room leaked from the roof and we would be on lock-down meaning we were confined to our cells. It rained a lot during the time I was inside. I'm grateful to God that He placed my cellie there right before I got there and touched his heart to be a blessing to me as if we knew each other for years. I know that I wouldn't have handled each situation as I did, if it were someone else living with me. Whenever we saw a new CO being trained on the tier he would tell me in advance that there would be a fake code sent throughout the blocks and we would be locked down. Sure enough, the call came over the intercom that we had to return to our cells immediately. Seeing the transition of the new CO’s is blatant. It almost seems like they are trained to treat the inmates unfairly where they used to at least acknowledge your question, now they act like you weren’t speaking at all. I sort of got into it with one CO on two different occasions. The first time was when he was delivering legal mail to one of my tier mates. A lieutenant is supposed to deliver legal mail not a regular CO. This CO had the inmate sign for the Fedex letter, opened it up to check for contraband then removed the stack of papers then handed the papers to him while keeping the envelope. Myself and another inmate spoke up and said that wasn’t right. That envelope is part of your mail, they have no right to withhold any part of your legal mail. The CO’s reply was “am I talking to you? No, well shut up”. Of course my reply was I’m talking to you, you can’t do that. About a week earlier the lieutenant had me sign for a UPS letter so that’s how I knew. A short time after the incident with this CO, he came to deliver legal mail to me. I should’ve never signed for it because he wasn’t a lieutenant but I did anyway. After I signed he opened up the Fedex letter and checked for contraband then gave me the stack of papers inside. I told him that I needed that envelope. He said for what and I said because it’s mine. He lied and said that inmates aren’t allowed to keep envelopes and right away I told him that his lieutenant is supposed to deliver mail that has to be signed for and his lieutenant gave me two envelopes that are right in my cell. Then I said as a matter of fact, I want to speak to a lieutenant immediately. He walked away as I was talking and I repeated myself for the whole tier to hear me. About 5 minutes later as the CO assigned to our tier was about to do his rounds, he walked up to me as I was still on the phone and handed me my envelope. That other guard did all of that for what?
Every inmate or group of inmates is assigned a counselor. They are supposed to be your advocate and voice while you are there. Counselors are supposed to visit the inmates regularly and answer questions that may arise. The counselor assigned to our tier was the absolute worst and had a reputation for being the absolute worst. She transitioned from a CO to a counselor and apparently still had the CO mentality. The only time she came on the tier was to drop off request form replies. She wouldn’t even answer the simplest question, her only answer was to submit a request form. So often guys would politely say excuse me Ms. Mc_____y, and she would always reply rudely with “what”. My sister sent bibles to me, two of them at one time and when she delivered them she didn’t even have the decency to at least bend down, if she wasn’t going to have the door opened to hand them to me, she could’ve bent down a little bit to place them on the floor. From a standing position she dropped both bibles on the floor then proceeded to kick them repeatedly until they were fully under my cell door. The level of anger and disrespect that I felt were off the chart! I yelled out “why are you kicking bibles under my door?? How disrespectful is that”! She never once apologized for her actions which shows that she didn’t see anything wrong with them. As I stated earlier, for every question or request there had to be a request for submitted. There were different boxes depending on who the request was for, counselor, warden, legal or medical. I learned that the rumors of the medical department there at BCC were true. Their medical division is horrendous. I put two medical requests in back in January and I was called for one of the requests during the last week of February. I was never called for the other medical request.
There’s an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that speaks about cruel and unusual punishment. That facility skates dangerously close to the edge of crossing that line and has numerous times. I dare say that they are comfortable on the other side of that line until legal action is threatened. Even then only the bare minimum is done temporarily to put a band aid on the situation. When it was freezing cold in our cells, we complained to the warden herself. After a couple weeks someone came to test the temperature in the cells but placed the device under the door outside the cell which led to a reading of the hallway temperature instead of the drastically colder temperature inside the cell. As far as they were concerned, they addressed our concerns. The shower on our tier cut off while someone was showering one Friday evening and wasn’t fixed until Monday morning. After that it cut off a couple days later and was off for about 3 days. Early one morning around 5a something happened with the water system where the toilets in mine and about 5 other cells started flushing non-stop. The noise from this was almost deafening. That lasted around 30 minutes. Maintenance came and turned off the water and it remained off for several hours while they tried to figure out the problem. When they finally came to turn the water back on, the water pressure in my sink was so low that the water barely cleared the water fountain style nozzle on the sink. Prior to this, when the hot or cold water buttons were pressed, the water would shoot to the middle of the sink allowing your other hand to wet the washcloth, hold the toothbrush etc. Now the water from the nozzle dropped to the side of the bowl. I requested about 5 times for the CO’s to put in maintenance tickets for them to fix this and nothing happened. This happened the week of Valentine’s day. I put in request forms to the counselor as well asking that someone address this and nothing ever happened. It’s sad to say that the inmates are forgotten and abandoned while incarcerated. Especially if there is no support system for them outside or at least someone praying for them.
I truly believe that in order to work for any correctional facility you must receive more training than what’s being offered and required now. And after an officer completes the training, there should be some sort of monitoring that takes place regardless of how long you’ve been on the job. CO’s shouldn’t have the power to treat inmates any way that they want to just because they have a badge. Everywhere in this world there are rules and rules should be adhered to. In the correctional facilities this holds true as well, for inmates and for officers. At BCC lock-up time that all inmates are supposed to be in their cells at night is 11p. Most CO’s flashed the lights at 10:45p and then there were some that flashed the lights at 10:30p. In spite of the rules that were in place if one of them told you to do something, you had to comply or there’d be hell to pay. If you were the last one out of the dayroom when one of them felt like locking up early, he would keep you locked in your cell the next day while everyone else is out for rec, most times for at least 30 minutes. Superbowl Sunday a group of us put our commissary together during our lunch rec so that we would have a huge meal as we watched the game later that evening. About an hour and a half later when we were supposed to come out for chow, I heard banging and yelling coming from the tier below ours. I told my cellie that I hoped all of that banging didn’t make them mess up our Superbowl dinner and lock us down for the game. No sooner than I said that, the CO came and said he had an announcement to make. He informed us that we were on lock-down until Monday morning. There was no further explanation other than that it came down from the warden. Unlimited power shouldn’t be so unlimited. And it shouldn’t be okay because after all, it’s only affecting inmates. That should never be the attitude but it is.
In BCC you are placed there until you are sentenced, meaning you are only accused of something while you’re there. The culture there is that everyone there is already guilty and you’d better have someone trying to prove you innocent or you’ll sit until they get around to dealing with your case. There are people that have been there for close to and some for over two years. That is entirely too long to be in an un-sentenced jail because they didn’t even get to you yet. I went to court one time and was on the transport bus with at least 10 other inmates. I was the only one that got to see the judge. Some got an explanation but most didn’t. When they expressed that they didn’t see the judge they were told that they’d be informed when their next court date is. That is unbelievable. If it wasn’t for God and my praying family, I would’ve been just as hopeless as most of those powerful men inside are. We still keep in touch and they will always be in my prayers as I pursue change.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Dennis Morehead