Interview with Amelia Kelly
Romance author Amelia Kelly had a life before she retired to pursue her writing career. She spent 20 years in the CDC (California Department of Corrections) as a corrections officer the last six years of which was a special assignment as a gang intelligence officer.
Amelia thank you so much for your time.
Q: What exactly does a corrections officer do?
A: In my last six years working gang, my primary job was to ID and classify active gang members who came through the system. I also handled in house crimes and investigations.
Q: What is the difference between a jail and prison?
A: Jails are county run and staffed. They are a short term holding facility; i.e. for criminally charged defendants awaiting trial and housed during trial. Also for anyone arrested awaiting arraignment. Jails are also used for housing convicts with short-term sentences. Nothing more than 14 mos. Half of the inmate population are felons the other half are there for misdemeanors.
Prisons are state run and staffed. All inmates are felons with sentences up to life or death. The only prison in California where executions occur is San Quentin.
Q: Who was your most notorious prisoner?
A: Carey Stayner, Yosemite killer, convicted of 4 slayings, and Richard Allen Davis, Polly Klass' killer. Both men were model prisoners. Davis was kept out of the general populace in a protected secret cell because there was hit out on him.
We thought we were going to get Scott Peterson at one point because we have the only psych ward in the area, but were told he didn't need it. I was told Peterson was another model prisoner.
Q: Do you book? And what is the process?
A: Yes, booking was part of the job. The process entailed info gathering (name, dob, gang affiliation, noting any significant marks, i.e. tattoo or scars) photographing and finger printing. I would inventory and store the inmate's valuables. BTW, fingerprinting is done on the AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) machine, we no longer use ink.
Q: How fun are cavity searches, and what is the most interesting item you've extracted.
A: We don't do cavity searches anymore. The prisoner is taken to a nearby hospital and x-rayed. If something is detected, the doctor gets to do the dirty work. However, we do a strip search and we ask the prisoner to squat. If we see a string, we pull it out. We've come across many drugs that way.
Q: Has anyone ever died in prison?
A: All of the time. OD's, medical problems, suicides (either by hanging [using sheets or underwear], or slitting wrists or throats).
Q: Do women officers guard male prisoners and vice versa?
A: Yes to both. However, while female officer to male inmates works well, the male officer to female inmate scenario isn't as cozy. Mostly because the female inmates can be manipulative and the male officers have more of a tendency to fraternize then the female officers do with male inmates. So the ratio of female officers is higher with the female inmate population.
Conversely, the male inmates while they will trash talk both female and male officers, there is an unspoken law in CA jails among male inmates not to physically mess with female officers. It's not out of respect for the female officer as a woman, but the fear of a male inmate getting his ass kicked by a female. Their machismo couldn't handle it, so they steer clear.
Check in next month for the conclusion of life as a screw. Sorry Amelia, couldn't resist.