My Brush with the Mad Poocasso

February 25, 2013 — 3 Comments

“Put it in the bag!  Put it in the bag!” I shouted.

In my ten years as a Custody Officer I’ve experience some surreal situations.  This was one of them.

“I can’t,” he slowly groaned.

“Why not,” I pleaded!

“Because it’s on me.”


I had dreaded those 12 hours in booking.

For more than a month intake at the Clark County Jail had been plagued by the mad Poocasso, a crazy and manipulative twenty year old who oddly enough played the game by playing with his poop.  Twice a day, he decorated his cell walls, window and camera in his bodies very own supply of bio-brown paint.

Now you know cleaning up human feces is bad.  But cleaning it up in the jail’s most frenzied area just made it worse.

At its best, booking is organized chaos.  At its worst, it’s simply chaos.  Now dam up the torrent of officers, inmates, pat-downs and paperwork to clean up a massive bio-hazard and the growing backflow of work dooms staff like the rising wall of water over Pharaoh’s beleaguered army.

Perhaps I should just say it was Monday.

It was Monday.

But when that day arrived, I found booking strangely quiet.  (There’s a reason officers are superstitious about that word.)  Poocasso was asleep.  And he just continued to sleep.

My fellow officers and I watched him hesitantly through the video monitor above the booking counter.  There he lay, snuggly curled on his forest green mattress.  We told ourselves it wouldn’t last.  We knew it couldn’t last.   But as the morning wore on our hesitations transformed into to a growing sense of ease.  It was possible his new medications would make him sleep all day.

I left for lunch with a skip in my step.  6 hours done.  6 hours to go.

But storm clouds were gathering.

Upon my return, I found officers starring wide eyed at the video monitor.  Poocasso was awake.

“What happened?” I asked anxiously.

“We had to wake him.  Sergeant thought he might be dead.”

“No. NO!” I said. “I saw him roll over just before lunch.”

Poocasso stood in the monitor, peeing into his cell’s floor drain.

“Ok.  Ok.  This is not a problem.  He’s just taking a leak.”  I reassured myself.

Poocasso turned and squatted.

“He’s just pooping.”  I said with a little more trepidation.

He then reached his hand and arm between his legs.

“No!” I cried, slamming my hands on the counter. “This is not going to happen today!”

I grabbed a pair of gloves, reached under the counter for a bio-bag and sprinted down the hallway to the inmate’s cell door.

Through a dingy eight inch window I could see him in the middle of the room, his eyes wondered around the room.  He was holding a log of poop in his hand like a child holds a churro.

I frantically fumbled for the key to the food-flap, a small rectangular portal in the door just higher then the knees.  I pulled it open and placed the bag over the opening.

Put it in the bag!  Put it in the bag!” I yelled.

“I can’t,” he slowly groaned.

“Why not,” I pleaded!

“Because it’s on me.”

With that Poocasso began to smear the feces into the center of his bare chest.

“No!  You can!  Put in the bag!  No!  Poocasso!  Put it in the bag!”

“I can’t”

“Yes you can!  Scoop it off and put it in the bag!  PUT IN THE BAG!”

“I can’t”

Moments passed.  But there was no reasoning with him.  I hoped this was all he would do.  We could work for a while with poop on him.  What we couldn’t work with was that poop blocking our view.

“Fine,” I conceded after several moments. “But whatever you do don’t put it on the window or the camera.”

“Ok.” He again groaned.

Satisfied with his answer, I returned to the booking counter.  Officers still starred up at the screen. I looked up.

Poocasso’s hand and arm swirled brown streaks frantically over the monitor.  He was covering the camera!

“That does it!”  I grabbed my cuffs and ran back to the door.  The door window was now entirely opaque.  I opened the food flap and yelled, “Turn around and kneel down Poocasso!  Turn around and kneel down!  Hands behind your back!”

Poocasso was instantly compliant.  Following his daily routine, he turned around, put his hands behind his back and knelt in the corner.

I quickly unlocked the door and rushed into the room.

But… But… I forgot one thing.  To prepare myself for the smell.

Thick and humid, it hit me in the face like a flashbag.  My lungs siezed.   Vision blurred with tears.  I faltered.  Confused.

“I need to cuff him!”  I recalled, as momentary paralysis passed.

I aimed my cuffs for his wrists.  It was then that I noticed feces dripping from his hands like moist cake batter.  Bile surged in my throat.   I swallowed hard, still refusing to breath.

I tried desperately not to think of the sight and smell together.  And fumbled with my cuffs. “Hurry,” my body demanded.  I was running out of air.

I managed to maneuver one cuff over his right wrist and lock it.  And then lock the other around his left.

It was enough!

I whirled around and ran from the room, gulping the hallways cleaner air.  A few deep breathes and back into the cell I went.  This time to escort Poocasso from the room.

No story is ever really ended.  And I’m not quit sure how to end this one.  I don’t even know what the moral might be.

We cleaned the bio-hazzard that day and Poocasso eventually left the jail.

What do you think?  Are there any lessons to be learned here?

Matthew Scott Miller

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