07 September, 2018

Grievance Addressed (If Confusingly)

Among the numerous topsy-turvyings elicited by the mass transfer of nearly 200 prisoners from Crossroads Correctional Center was the misplacement of a couple of boxes containing my legal files. Since a lot of the documents in those boxes were certified copies and original pieces of correspondence, I was concerned. Where had my transcripts, briefs, motions, attorney correspondence, and printouts of case law ended up? Who’d pay for their replacement (or, more accurately, the replacement of the stuff that could be replaced) if those boxes didn’t turn up? Were those boxes even salvageable, following the destruction of that part of the prison where they’d been stored at the time of the riot that led to these transfers in the first place?

I wasted no time in filing a grievance. The staff here at ERDCC knew mistakes had been made. So did the decision-makers in Jefferson City. My grievance, like those of everyone else who lost property in the transfer, was fast-tracked.

Over my seventeen years’ imprisonment, I’ve filed a handful of these formal complaints. They yielded favorable results about half of the time, which really isn’t bad, considering how the process tends to be weighted against. Maybe I know what I’m doing. Maybe I’m just lucky. The point is, I tried to keep my issues succinct, my requests modest, and my expectations low.

Here was the result:
It’s basically a fifty-fifty thing. The two boxes of my invaluable legal paperwork mysteriously manifested in the ERDCC property room, which is awesome. The short-story collection Things That Fall from the Sky, ordered some weeks prior for my reading pleasure, which I should’ve received before any of that insanity at Crossroads kicked off, was declared “lost and/or destroyed.”

Putting aside the wanton destruction that those thoughtless asshole rioters visited on everything in sight — the personal property of their fellow prisoners included — what irks me is that the Department of Corrections’ stance here is to say, in one breath, “CRCC assumes no responsibility for the loss of your book,” and then, in the next, quotes DOC policy, which holds that I should be reimbursed or have my book replaced because it was in staff’s possession when the book was “lost and/or destroyed” through no fault of my own. Typical bureaucratic doublethink.

I could’ve pursued it and had the Department pay to order me another copy of the book. Kevin Brockmeier, its author, would be pleased, surely, by the additional sale. But I decided not to appeal the grievance. By the time all was said and done, months would’ve passed, my patience would’ve frayed, and the book might even have lost some allure. Besides that, what if I actually won? Taxpayers reportedly are going to have to contribute some $10 million to repair and replace everything that the rioters razed. Why add to that? If I could extract the cost of the book from the accounts of those seventy-eight marauding pricks, then yes, sure. The thing is, even if they do succeed in charging the culprits for every penny’s worth of property that they destroyed, you can’t wring restitution from the indigent. Missouri taxpayers will still get stuck with the bill.

Another copy of the book came a couple of weeks after the grievance response, reordered from Amazon. I read it pretty quickly. It was worth the wait, in no small part due to the amusing anecdote I now get to share with people — the story of the ruined book and the absurd refusal to take responsibility.

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