authored by: Bradley Chapline
I'm going to tell your mother!
this is the story of Leland Guthrie, one of the most dangerous, mentally disturbed patients to ever be incarcerated.
Man ole man, it was all the way back to 1987 when I hired on with the former Nevada Department of Prisons. (Now known as the Department of Corrections). I was certainly a different kind of officer from the old school prison guard mentality. I had a brain. Although, by mainstream standards, my academic capacity was still below average. But, when I took college classes at a local community college in Southern Nevada, before hiring on with the State of Nevada, I was a straight "A" student in all types of Criminal Justice and Criminal Psychology classes. In just these classes alone, I was viewed as an over-achiever.
But, I had the jump on all my fellow classmates. For, I had over a decade of hardcore experiences as a U.S. Marine, of which some of those years had me assigned as a Military Marshal. I was already well acquainted with the games and plans of some of America's most hardened criminals who were doing lengthy prison sentences at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
As a Nevada Corrections Officer, I was first assigned to the Southern Nevada Prison located at Jean, Nevada. My reception, by the other officers, and even my supervisors was nowhere close to being warm. So, it didn't take long for my bosses to assign me to a post that even the toughest and most experienced prison guards avoided.
In unwritten terms, being assigned to the institutional infirmary was a post for those officers of whom management wanted to either punish, and or force those not liked into self-terminating their employment. It would be reasonable to ask, how possibly could this be? Well, the answer was simple. Inmate Leland Guthrie, back number 13471(HR). The "HR" meant very high risk. Leland was seven foot, two inches tall, weighed nearly 300 pounds, and was strong as an ox. Leland was first locked up in the, "mental health wing", where his antics would scare likely, any man that has ever lived.
Now, I heard officers talking in the muster room about inmate Leland Guthrie. And, I surely didn't think they were exaggerating, not one bit. Because, when prison officials decided to try a new type of psychotropic drug, Leland was reassigned for a stint in the prison's general population.
The new pills didn't work. In Leland's last assault on both staff and inmates while classified to general population, it took five big burly prison guards, and six muscle bound weight lifting inmates to secure Leland Guthrie to the ground. It was then that Leland was thrown into what was known as the "Crazy Man's Cell". Of course the walls were padded, but there were no bathroom facilities for Leland. That is, other than an aluminum bowl, for his bowel movements, and a plastic jug to urinate. And when Leland was mad, which was quite often, he smeared all his bowel movements on the walls, and threw his urine through the food flap at the on-duty guard.
So, there I was, virtually brand spanking new to this prison system, and assigned to duty with the institutional nurse. And, as soon as I walked in on post, the nurse made clear to me that she would not come anywhere near the cell of inmate Leland Guthrie.
I have to admit, I was scared. I mean really scared. As I was putting my "duty desk" in order, I hear Leland, with a most strange voice that sounded like some people who are afflicted with serious types of mental illnesses. "I'mmmm gonna kill youuuuuu! And then, I'mmmm going to eatttttttt youuuu!" I didn't say a word back to Leland.
But, what I did find interesting in my special orders, was the home phone number to Leland Gutherie's mother. I had assumed she could give guards some good advice in how to gain control of Leland when he goes off the deep end. I thought, now this would be a good time to call her.
So, I called my shift supervisor from my duty phone and asked for an outside line. When I was asked for what purpose, my request was denied in speaking to Leland's mother.
So, I keyed myself into the nurses pharmacy, and told her, "If you don't want to deal with Leland Guthrie, allow me to use your phone which I assume has a by-pass of supervisor controls." The on-duty nurse confirmed this was true, and had agreed to allow me to use the phone specifically for calling inmate Leland Guthrie's mother.
So, Leland's mother and I had a very informative discussion for probably over two hours. By, this time, Leland was going totally bonkers in his padded cell. I quickly figured out how to transfer the call I was on to my duty phone.
I went to Leland's cell door. When he finally heard me yelling at him that his mother was on the phone, immediately, Leland's wild and violent behavior stopped. I was stunned. For, what I had learned in Criminal Psychology classes was true.
I was taught that a growing number of extremely violent and mentally ill inmates have very deep emotional and loving attachments to their mothers. For, in a significant amount of these cases, when these type inmates were children, they were forced to watch as their mothers were either savagely beaten, shot, or stabbed by their male partners, whether it be husbands and or boyfriends.
So, in my line of thinking, there was no doubt Leland's mother could have good advice on how to handle many of his explosions.
Now, there were several occasions when Leland began to lash out towards me, personally. Immediately, I took his phone privileges away from him. Most times, it was just for a day. But, each time, moments later, Leland would cry, and moan, begging me for my forgiveness. I never gave into him. The punishment I gave Leland stood, and his mother fully agreed with me.
For, also, when I would say on occasion to Leland, for cause, "I'm going to tell your mother", there was no greater fear inside of Leland. I knew, for all the advancements we were making, should Leland ever lose contact with his mother again, all advancements made would be lost.
This tool, being Leland's mother, was extremely effective. But now, both my shift lieutenant and sergeant were furious with me. I had been snitched off by that mother-fucking two-faced nurse I was forced to work with.
I was told to report to the Warden's office. I was figuring, I would soon be terminated off of my probationary status.
But no, after the Warden had graciously listed to my entire explanation, and the positive results of the incident with Leland, my job was, at least temporarily, kept intact.
As we went along, Leland actually earned privileges from me for good behavior. I had obtained an extra dial phone from another post in the institution. I hid it in the bottom of my desk drawer. It was perfect for my program with Leland. It had with it a 100 feet of cord. I would connect this phone cord to a jack, on the side of my desk, and take the phone down to Leland. I would hand him the ear and mouth piece through the food flap, and then allow him to talk to his mother. Sometimes, even for extended periods, when he had earned the right.
The changes in Leland were nothing short of miraculous. Over time, we had advanced to where I would allow Leland to use the restroom facilities, instead of that inhumane aluminum bowl and canister setup. In fact, although there was a high risk level to this, I even came to not even putting Leland in leg irons and belly chains. This however, was against my post orders.
But, I came into duty one day and Leland was laughing and smiling. He couldn't wait to tell me that he had cleaned himself up all by himself and now felt real good about himself.
But, all these advances were short-lived. Within the next couple of days I was reassigned from the infirmary by my supervisors. This time, the warden had backed his shift commander.
All of Leland's earned privileges were revoked. He would no longer be allowed to speak to his mother. It didn't take long for Leland's violent behavior to become worse than it had ever been before.
Shortly after these sanctions began against Leland, his mother had died of a heart attack. I wanted to attend her funeral, but my request from departmental officials to do so, was denied.
Months later, I heard Department officials make a statement to the media that inmate Leland Guthrie had passed away due to natural causes. But, not before Leland Guthrie had injured at least a half dozen officers, of which two sustained severe injuries.
However, in contrast to the department's statement on Leland's death, the word on the grapevine was, Leland died from what is rarely said, and never "on the record" than an inmate's death was due to complications from a pharmaceutical overdose.
Whether in prison, or on the street, people with mental illnesses truly have special needs. America's prison systems had better wake up to this fact.
But, to this day, many of our state prisons in America are still running, "business as usual", from the old abusive and neglectful prison guard days.
Fixing the problem, even though may only be short-term, with many mentally ill inmates, could be quite inexpensive, and maybe as simple as, for example, like Leland Guthrie, just a phone call away from his mother.
For, I've worked in prisons, both federal and state, and the truth is, the inmate population of Leland Guthrie's continues to increase, drastically, year by year.
While I would never say, working in a prison could be safe, my advice to prison officials is, "Do away with the old prison guard mentality."
For, it is either, "Get smart, or your officers will surely get hurt."
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"I'm Going To Tell Your Mother" Is A True Story