Life at FCI La Tuna
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on May 6, 2021
I settled into my new prison environment at FCI LaTuna near El Paso, Texas fairly smoothly after my arrival here on March 5, 2021. The correctional facility was built in 1932 and its Spanish-mission style architecture was designed to reflect the Southwestern environment it is a part of. The surrounding mountains are scenic and breathtaking. The weather is wonderful.
I have made a host of great friendships at LaTuna. I love networking within the prison's multicultural population of staff members and inmates. My friendships mirror a United Nations gathering of inmates of Asian, Anglo-Saxon, African, Native American, Caribbean, European, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, and Latin American descent.
Because of my unique knowledge, skills, and abilities in law and business, I became known fairly quickly within the inmate population and respected on a universal basis. I am also growing in my knowledge of diverse cultures and history. This is particularly true with respect to America's ugly and cruel mistreatment of Native Americans since 1612.
I entered the federal prison system on August 28, 2019 at FCI Talladega in Alabama. It did not take me long to discover that Talladega was a cesspool of public corruption. The prison was run like a ghetto operation by Warden Cheron Y. Nash, an incompetent prison executive who is the poster child for affirmative action gone wrong. Nash's bipolar personality and exaggerated sense of self-importance ran off the few competent staff members who worked at the prison. Furthermore, Nash's incompetence allowed Mack Smith and Jimmy Monk (both of whom were elderly white inmates and sick with COVID-like symptoms) to die within 8 months of each other in 2020 while they were in her custody and control at Talladega. Nash's dislike for white staff members and inmates was well-known and flagrant.
In contrast, FCI LaTuna operates in a very professional manner. The multicultural staff at LaTuna consistently addresses me as "Mr. Watkins" and not "Watkins" or "Inmate", as was the case in Talladega. Every issue I have raised with the staff at LaTuna has been addressed and resolved in the most professional manner and on a prompt basis.
LaTuna's Health Services Department operates at a level of professionalism and medical expertise that equals or exceeds the standard of care provided by private healthcare providers. My recent cardio and blood pressure examinations by Advance Practice Provider H. Guaderrama were as thorough and educational as any session I have ever had with a medical provider. Additionally, Dr. Clark examined my eyes last month and handled my corrective vision needs. Dr. Clark is the best optometrist I have ever encountered. Dr. Clark is in a class of excellence by himself. Also, Lt. Garza, a member of the prison's nursing staff, is the "best of the best" I have experienced in clinical nursing care. Given that the Watkins family is filled with pioneering physicians who hold simultaneously conferred MD and PhD degrees, I know high quality health care when I experience it.
My Prison Job
I work in the prison's dining hall, where I serve food, clean tables, and mop floors five days per week. My pay is $5.25 per month. I may earn a pay raise soon. Despite the demeaning pay wage, I love my job. I have the best work supervisors anyone could want on a job. All of them address me as "Sir" or "Mr. Watkins," and they treat my co-workers and me with the utmost respect. I gladly give them the full measure of my respect and dedicated service because they have earned it with the unwavering respect they give to all inmates.
I take pride in discharging my duties in the kitchen. My service area is always spotless and the food I serve is always provided in a courteous manner.
I learned my dining hall job skills from my father, Dr. Levi Watkins, Sr., while he was president of Alabama State University. My earliest summer job after father became president in 1962 was working in the University's dining hall as a young teenager. There, I served food to students, cleaned the dining tables, and mopped the floors before and after the lunch and dinner meals were served.
This standard of excellence in the dining hall job was established by my father who personally showed me how to serve the food in a courteous manner, how to clean tables as though I was eating from them, and how to mop the dining hall floors before and after each meal to ensure that they were spotless. To the amazement of my supervisors, I render this standard of excellence in LaTuna's dining hall today, regardless of the pay and with profound gratitude for the opportunity to serve my fellow inmates in a dignified manner.
My parents and grandparents would always say, "There is nobility in all work. Whatever work assignment is assigned to a Watkins family member, perform it in a way that sets the standard of excellence in the discharge of the assigned duties."
Corrupt FCI Talladega officials sent me to LaTuna, which is 1,500 miles away from my home, to punish me for exposing their widespread public corruption and RICO activities. They wanted to hurt me. Fortunately, God intervened and made my stay at LaTuna a fascinating cultural enrichment experience.
The network of goodwill I have established at LaTuna is invaluable. It will benefit my personal, professional, and political growth long after I leave the confines of this prison. In this regard, I am blessed.
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