The Goon Squad

cullotta-cover-web.jpgExcerpted from CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness.

Frank subsequently heard about an opportunity that he thought would improve his lot: an opening came up in the psychiatric ward for the criminally insane. The unit was located in the front end of the prison, out of general population. Prisoners assigned to jobs in the front were on the honor system. Eight white and one black inmate were assigned to work in the psych ward. They had their own TV, exercise room and kitchen, got better food and clothes, and had a lot more freedom. Frank met with Vince and Mikey and let them in on what he was thinking about doing. “I found out there’s an opening in the psychiatric ward and I’m thinking about putting in for it,” he said.

His friends thought it was a crazy idea. “You’re out of your fucking mind,” Mikey said.

Vince agreed. “Everybody hates the guys that work there. They call them the goddamn goon squad. If you work in the unit and then go back in population you’ll end up with a fuckin’ shiv in your back.”

“I don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks of me,” Frank said. “And if I get that job I have no intention of coming back in population.”

Frank submitted for the psych ward opening and was interviewed by a captain. After the interview the officer gave Frank his decision. “Cullotta, you’re just a wiseguy dago. If I give you that job you’ll spend all your time plotting and scheming. The answer is no. You’re staying in population where you belong.”

If Frank was nothing else, he was resourceful. Determined to circumvent the captain, he did some research on the captain’s boss, the warden. It turned out that the warden had started his law enforcement career as a street cop. As such, he might be susceptible to the request of another lawman. Frank sent word of his predicament to an old police department contact: CIU boss Bill Hanhardt. The cop contacted the warden. In a short time the captain received orders to assign Frank to the psych unit.

The inmates housed in the psych ward included those who had committed heinous crimes — like chopping people up — and other crazies. The child molesters were also in there because they would probably be killed if they were in the general population. One of the things the inmates assigned to work in the ward were responsible for was suicide prevention; there were four hangings while Frank was there. They also gave out medications and, when necessary, went into the cells in general population to restrain inmates who were acting up and remove them to the ward. That’s where the name goon squad came from.

It was common for the patients to rip their sinks off the walls and the toilets from the floor. They would also urinate and defecate all over their cells. On those occasions the goon squad would be sent into action. Carrying shields to protect themselves from thrown excrement or other material, they rolled in on the culprit. The offender was often beaten, sometimes severely. However, the guards didn’t seem to care. For the most part they were afraid of the crazies, and didn’t really give a damn what happened to baby rapers and other sub-human prisoners. Working in the psych unit was not for the faint hearted, but Frank was up to it and thought it was a good job overall.

The assignment also gave him an opportunity to cement his relationship with the Blackstone Rangers. Gang members would come in for treatment from time to time and Frank always took good care of them while they were there. When they got back in population they in turn took care of his friends. It was a one hand washes the other situation.

Another advantage was that Frank liked most of his inmate co-workers, one of whom was Lawrence Neumann. Neumann was doing over a 100-year sentence for a triple murder in a Chicago tavern. In Illinois, no matter what his sentence, the convict appeared before the Illinois Parole Board in eleven years. At that time, Neumann had four more years to go before his parole hearing. The two men became friends and would later join forces in Las Vegas.  

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