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by Sharon Rondeau

The Monroe County courthouse is located in Madisonville, TN

(Jan. 12, 2012) — The Post & Email has learned that a hearing originally scheduled for January 10 for Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III did not take place, but a court date has been set for Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  A reader of The Post & Email was told that Fitzpatrick went to the courthouse briefly on January 10 to “get some papers” in preparation for next week’s hearing.

Fitzpatrick was arrested on December 7, 2011 by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department following a three-and-one-half-day release  on the grounds that he hadn’t served enough time and for allegedly stealing court documents.

Since early 2010, Fitzpatrick has reported that the Monroe County grand jury is “rigged” and court personnel, including the judges, are “criminals.”  In a letter, he described having observed “jury-rigging” in the Monroe County courthouse on December 7 before his arrest later that evening.

Members of the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee and General Assembly as a whole have been contacted about the endemic judicial corruption in Monroe County and other places with virtually no response.

In response to an email sent to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s office regarding Fitzpatrick’s medical condition which had been rerouted to the director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, Ms. Beth Ashe, the following response was received yesterday by the sender:

The Detention Facility Specialist assigned to the Monroe County local correctional facility did receive your public inquiry request and conducted two separate follow up contacts with facility administrative staff and agency personnel. Due to HIPAA requirements, our agency is not allowed to discuss medical issues of individual inmates, but we are allowed to advise you that the facility is in compliance with all TCI Minimum Standards related to the facility’s medical care practices in relation this matter, including but not limited to, TCI Standards 1400-1-13 Medical Services #1,, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #10.

Beth Ashe
TCI Director
Andrew Jackson Bldg, Suite 800
500 Deaderick Street
Nashville, TN  37243-1420
Email: beth.ashe@tn.gov
Phone: 615-741-3816 (Main Office)
615-253-4454 (Direct)
615-532-2333 (Office Fax)

The Post & Email called the TCI at 11:44 a.m. ET today and asked for Ms. Ashe.  We were asked for our name, and we stated such and that we were from the media.  We were put on hold for about a minute, after which we were informed that Ms. Ashe was “unavailable.”  We were then asked if we were calling about a matter involving an email about “Monroe County.” We responded that the email was sent by a reader of the newspaper rather than by anyone on our staff, but that that was indeed our concern.

The receptionist said, “I’ve spoken to you before,” which might have been true, as we had contacted the TCI about Monroe County jail conditions in early November and spoken with Inspector Barry Suttles.  At first Suttles had been reluctant to answer our questions, stating that he had to check first with Ms. Ashe, but he did return our call later that day.

We had recently heard that Suttles is no longer working for the TCI, and the receptionist confirmed that fact.

To give the receptionist an idea of the nature of our call, we mentioned the raw sewage which has been reported on the floor of the day room; the inmates sleeping on the floor; Fitzpatrick’s foot ulcer and lack of a shower for 24 days, and overcrowded conditions.  In response to the claim of raw sewage on the floor, the receptionist said, “You must have been misinformed, because they don’t know when we’re coming.”

We responded that we have obtained the same information from numerous inmates or former inmates of the Monroe County jail.  There has also been a recent report of rat infestation in the kitchen area.

While we have not seen it for ourselves, we suggested to the receptionist that perhaps the inspection team is not being shown the entire facility when they arrive at the jail unannounced.  We also mentioned that an inmate with a diabetic foot ulcer did not shower for 24 days until the nurses insisted on it.  The receptionist responded that she is not the individual to whom we should be speaking about the jail conditions.

We then asked the receptionist if following up by email with Ms. Ashe would be appropriate, and she answered in the affirmative.

At least one other jail in Tennessee has been described as being overcrowded after the county grand jury produced an inspection report:

White County Grand Jury members inspected the jail during the September 2011 term, which is part of their duties. According to the report issued to the county commission, “…the jail was in an overflow capacity. There were several inmates confined to the recreation areas. These inmates were sleeping on mats with no bathroom facilities in this area, and they have to use the bathroom in the other parts of the jail. There were 217 confined. We were there in the afternoon-night shift, and only four employees were supervising this large number of inmates. The jail is rated for 168 inmates.

The inspection of county jails is included in Rule 6 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure posted on the Tennessee Courts website.  However, it appears that the grand jury in Monroe County does not perform that function. Is that because the Monroe County grand jury is a “masquerade?”

In Hamilton County, the grand jury has recently recommended the construction of a new jail containing a “mental health wing” and a garden.  In September 2010, the Concurrent Hamilton County grand jury indicated that it had visited several detention facilities and recommended the building of a new juvenile detention center.

The grand jury in Jackson County, OR submitted a formal report on jail overcrowding to the “Board of Commissioners, the County Administrative Officer and the Presiding Judge” as well as the District Attorney with seven recommendations for improvements.

Despite evidence of jurors serving consecutive terms which violate the law, the Monroe County grand jury continues to issue indictments for serious crimes.  One judge has nevertheless upheld the indictments, but are such indictments valid if the grand jury is illegally constructed?

A reader of The Post & Email recently told us that he believed the grand jury in Maury County, TN was “fixed and tampered with by the sheriff” and paperwork “fixed” by the D.A. to produce an “extreme” punishment for a relative.

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  1. “Due to HIPAA requirements, our agency is not allowed to discuss medical issues of individual inmates, but we are allowed to advise you that the facility is in compliance with all TCI Minimum Standards related to the facility’s medical care practices in relation this matter, including but not limited to, TCI Standards 1400-1-13 Medical Services #1,, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #10.”

    Let me see if I understand this comment… a state government organization is prevented by a federal agency policy to comment on state conformance to state correctional facilities operational and safety requirements? I have two issues with regard to this statement.

    First of all, HHS requirements (from their website) say: “The Office for Civil Rights enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information; the HIPAA Security Rule, which sets national standards for the security of electronic protected health information; and the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule, which protect identifiable information being used to analyze patient safety events and improve patient safety. ”

    So the HHS allegedly protects an individual’s rights to privacy – not a county facility’s right to privacy. The TCI Standards 1400-1-13 Medical Services #1, #4, #5, #6, #7, and #10, are not controlled by the HHS when it comes to facility discussions.

    Second, what is the TCI supposed to do but protect its state citizens, even its jailed citizens, from abuse. The TCI Chapter 1400-1, Minimum Standards for Local Corrections Facilities found here: http://www.tn.gov/sos/rules/1400/1400-01.pdf include the following statements:

    “Under the authority of T.C.A. 41-4-140, the Tennessee Corrections Institute is required to establish minimum standards for local jails, lock-ups, workhouses and detention facilities in the state and conduct an annual inspection of each facility.”

    “Written policy and procedure shall ensure that prisoners shall not be subjected to discrimination based on race, national origin, color, creed, sex, economic status or political belief.”

    “A member of the staff shall make daily sanitation and safety inspections. Dates of inspections shall be recorded and conditions noted. Any maintenance problems shall be recorded on a regular maintenance report.”

    “The institution shall provide for control of vermin and pests and shall remove prisoners from treatment areas if there is a risk of illness.”

    And more. It is clear to me after a brief scan of this document that, in spite of the written TCI circle-the-wagons response, the Monroe facility does not meet state facility standards, operating standards, or health standards. The TCI is not doing its job (big surprise there), and it is time to look at specific daily records. This jail, its records, its operations, and its safety programs have to be audited. Post haste.