October 28, 2008
Many things in prison leave you scratching your head as you try to make sense of
it. Here is an example which I think of as 'The Odyssey Of Theá$10.000 Shoes'. No names mentioned, but I have personal knowledge of what I am about to tell
Last March a prisoner needed to get some new shoes. Both, athletic
shoes and prison issued shoes/ boots. Most prisoners are allowed to purchase
personal athletic shoes through an approved outside vendor. This saves the
prison system a lot of money and prisoners can purchase athletic shoes that are
better than what the prison provides the prisoners for exercise. The prison
shoes/boots have to be made in a shoe shop in another prison, by special order.
The prisoner has large feet and the prison system didn't have shoes that fit
his feet. The shoes he owned had fallen apart and he had never had prison
shoes/boots issued to him before.
When there is anything out of the
ordinary needed, in prison (extra large shoes in his case), the prisoner has to
get a doctor's okay. First you have to schedule an appointment to see a nurse.
The nurse will listen to your problem and then schedule to see a General
If the doctor agrees your problem is legitimate you will be
scheduled to see whichever doctor is supposed to approve your individual
In the case of larger than standard sized shoes, it is a
podiatrist who is seen to get his approval.
With the approval from the proper
doctor in hand, this paperwork was presented to the prison to start the process
to acquire the prison shoes/boots.
Meanwhile this prisoner was having to
use shower shoes or bedroom slippers for walking. It was not possible to
exercise while wearing the slippers or shower shoes, because this prisoners feet
had been injured from trying to wear shoes, which were too small. Not being able
to exercise, the prisoner started putting on weight and because of this, other
health problems started occurring.
Now the prisoner had to see the doctor and
medical people on a regular basis. He started having medical tests done in order
to find out the case of the health problems that were now evident. An
interesting note, this prisoner had seen the medical people less than 10 times
in the previous 15 to 20 years.
After 6 months the prisoner finally got
the special made prison shoes/boots to wear and it has helped his feet
considerably. As for the athletic shoes, there has still been no success in
getting those. Every time an attempt was made to get the approval to order these
athletic shoes, the prison would then need additional approval. So this is an
For example, one vendor the prison said the shoes could be
ordered from doesn't have the athletic shoes in a large enough size. At most
this ordeal should have taken a week or two with only a couple of prison
employees involved in the process of approving and acquiring the
At the time of writing this, it has taken around eight months (and
counting) with numerous people in the prison medical department, as well as
those in the prison administration being involved.
I have no idea of how much
it has cost the prison so far and it is still an ongoing debacle.
It has gone
from incongruous and ridiculous to the absurd in the process.
I know this
example is not an isolated case. It is possible to see this sort of thing
happening in many aspects of prison life. It's as if the system doesn't let
common sense and good practices get in the way of bureaucracy and seems to be
more interested on the system, rather than results.
p.o. box C-97919
San Quentin Prison
Quentin, California 94974