The phone rang. It was Commander Hamilton, chief of security at the prison. Short, well dressed, very intelligent, this African American lady was full of confidence, not someone to mess around with when she started asking questions. That went for corrections officers as well as inmates. Hamilton wasted no time in quizzing her.
"Do you remember when you had visitation duty with C.O. Richards during your training two months ago?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Did you see him take any food from one of the inmate's parents."
"Yes, I did," she answered. Her stomach began to tighten, because she did remember the uncomfortable incident. Other relatives had witnessed the overly friendly exchange between Richards and the mother who brought him lunch. She had been embarrassed when one man looked her in the eye. She had even questioned Richards when he was pushing her to try some of the food.
"Did you eat any of the food?"
"No, I did not," she replied honestly.
"C.O. Richards told me that you took some food."
"He was correct. I did finally let him put some on my tray, but only to get him to shut up about me eating any of it. I never ate a bite."
"Why didn't you report C.O. Richards?"
"Because when I questioned him, he told me that he did it before and that other people did it, and that it was 'okay'."
"Do you remember signing a paper during your training that stated you would not accept any kind of gifts whatsoever from inmates or their families or friends?"
"Yes, I do."
For the first time during the exchange, Commander Hamilton hesitated.
"C.O., do you know that you are the first person I have talked to about this who has admitted that you remember signing that paper?"
"Well, of course, I remember. It was very important, and I see how I violated the terms of those rules. I understand if you have to take disciplinary action against me. I'm sorry. But if I do something, I am not going to lie about it. I'll take the consequences." And she meant it.
"I respect that, and I know you are telling the truth. Your story backed up what everyone else said about you. Did you know that this was an ongoing problem? No, you probably didn't. This is what I am going to do. Since you are the only one who admitted your own fault and accepted the responsibility for your actions, and because you were in training and looking to a superior officer for guidance, I will let you off with a warning this time. But remember that paper you signed, and do not let anything like this ever happen again. Do you understand what I am telling you, C.O.?"
"Yes, ma'am, I do. I promise to not let that happen again."
"Thank you." Commander Hamilton hung up the phone. She sat there and thought about the conversation. Thankful that the chief of security valued honor. Realized that she could not trust everyone in authority, had to think for herself. That she could not afford to make mistakes that would cost her integrity or her job.