inmate-staff relationship

Inmate Gamesmanship – Part 3: The Inmate Nurtures the Inmate-Staff Relationship to Earn Trust

In Part 3 in our series on inmate gamesmanship, we’ll explain how inmates may first nurture the inmate-staff relationship to earn a staff member’s trust, before using that trust for their own purposes.

Once the inmate has carefully observed the staff member and has engaged in some positive give-and-take conversation, the manipulation begins. Inmates are good at flattery, often by providing positive feedback and “innocent” commentary on such things as personal interests, hobbies, or choice of apparel (shoes, cell phone, etc.) Comments in the form of loyalty and support are often part of the verbal exchanges. Discussions about what a good employee this staff member is filter back to the employee in overheard conversations. The inmate, through various means and methods, is carefully cultivating a relationship which will hopefully bear fruit.

The Inmate Nurtures the Inmate-Staff Relationship

When a friendly “co-worker” relationship is established, the inmate may confide certain pieces of inside information to the staff member to further engender trust. 

Perhaps the inmate is enemies with another inmate in his block; if the inmate gets word that his enemy has obtained a weapon, revealing this information to the staff member may serve to both alleviate the threat and build confidence with the employee that this individual is a good information source for potential threats to the facility. If, in a subsequent shakedown, the information proves to be good, the inmate’s status is elevated. And the relationship continues to evolve.

The “Set-Up” Can Be Accidental or Intentional

Because of this newly established bond, the inmate “plays it by ear” to try to determine when is a good time to set the hook, as it were. This is all part of the set-up. The set-up can happen intentionally or by accident.

An example of an accidental encounter might go like this: The inmate is caught stealing from the kitchen or has an altercation which could threaten his status. The employee could “make his bond” – in other words, come to his rescue by personally intervening on the inmate’s behalf with the staff member writing the report or with the disciplinary panel hearing the case, asking them to ignore or be lenient toward the offender. Doing favors such as these further lends trust to the relationship, with each member owing a favor to the other that they expect to collect on at some future point in time.

The Intentional “Set-Up” Usually Requires Planning

Sometimes, the set-up is intentional: the inmate could reinforce the inmate-staff relationship by arranging for some small, seemingly inconsequential item to further the staff member’s indebtedness.

For example, in an actual case that occurred in a large Texas jail, an inmate knew about an officer’s desire to obtain a particular part for a hot rod he was building. The part was in scarce supply, but the inmate’s wife managed to obtain the part and was willing to sell it for a nominal fee.  Would the deputy agree to meet with her at a designated time/place? “Really, it’s no problem, you need the part, we can sell it to you.”

The officer met with the wife to purchase the part, but he was unaware that the exchange was being filmed. What is seen on film is a brown bag being handed to the officer from the wife; he looks inside briefly, then pays her cash on the spot.

And then the screws begin to tighten.

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