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TENNESSEE INMATE DESCRIBES LIFE-THREATENING SITUATION IN PRIVATELY-RUN PRISON
by Todd Sweet, ©2012
(May 14, 2012) —[Editor’s Note: The following 13-page handwritten letter describes Todd Sweet’s harrowing experience upon being relocated from a state-run prison in Wartburg, TN to a privately-operated facility in Clifton, TN in early February of this year. Both Sweet and his cellmate, Mr. Jones, have received disciplinary notices for refusing to return to the cell in which they were physically threatened by other inmates.]
In an earlier posting I stated some major differences between County and State penal institutions and the reasons (in my opinion) for those differences.
At the end of that posting in which I refer – I promised to enlighten you, the readers, to corruption, the total disregard for our Constitution as well Gods [sic] laws that I have witnessed in the glimmering City of Las Vegas. Some of this coruption [sic] I’ve been a party to structure.
But unfortunately I’ve had an emergency. Most of you are aware from my last posting that I was at Morgan County Complex in the Tennessee Dpt. of Corections (TDOC).
Not any more.
As a matter of fact Im [sic] not even in the TDOC either.
Oh. Im [sic] still in a prison, but a privately owned institution where my safety and yours (as I will point out) is totally dependant [sic] on the shareholders.
I am now at the South Central Corrections Complex owned and maintained by the Corrections Corporation of America AKA the C.C.A.
Now. Before I go into the last two or three days of events I feel the need to address a few things with you.
One of the things we lose by not having a personal conversation or you not knowing me on a personal level is that when you read my postings, my attitute [sic] and demeanor are open to interpretation.
If I seem arogant [sic. Hauty. [sic] Or rude, mad or proud please know that is not my intention and is not a fact.
I write all of my postings in Love for you the readers, no matter who you are and I desire that the corrupt enforcers and makers of the law turn from their error and find the peace I have found with God.
I also dont [sic] ever want to be interpreted as being proud of my crimes.
I am sorry to each and every victim of my lies.
Of course Im [sic] not referring to the supposed victims that jumped on the Oh-Todd Sweet-did-this-and-that-and-I-think-I-will-throw-in-my-two-cents-for-a-few-lines-of-fame, or the ones who claim they didnt [sic] know anything and just thought I was a saint that said for them to party.
No. Im [sic] talking about the people who trusted me in my entire past that I lied to for financial gain.
I never want to see as though they dont [sic] matter because they do. The guilt felt by hurting you all is what brought me to my knees before God in the first place. You and my family. And I hope you know that I am sorry.
So with that, I will say I am in the process of collecting addresses so as to formally say I am sorry. I will pay restitution eventually. first I have to see why it is Judge Ross expects me to pay 100,000.00 [sic] to Monroe County Court – for the counties [sic] benefit instead of victims.
I hope you all get the point.
Now. With that all said I need to ask you all to pray for me that in my recent trials I keep the real enemy in my site [sic] – satan and dont [sic] begin to sound to [sic] mad or distressed at the CCA.
It is going to be difficult.
I have so much corruption to cover, things I have seen in my past that I could fill a room with pages & pages. It is all going to come to light and we will enjoy the stories, at times be mad together at the injustices and at other times rejoice at the fact that some injustices will not go unchecked like Monroe County and Muskegon Michigan [sic] and other places.
We will eventually win this battle against satan. God promises us that.
What irritates me today is that I was on a roll in my Las Vegas writing and now Im [sic] in the ….
Sadly, compared to how and where I spent my last few days – this is an improvement.
Lets [sic] start by making a few essential points. One. It is my constitutional right to protection from cruel or unusual punishment. yours too. Its [sic] also your right to expect that penal institutions will protect you, the public from criminals that are locked up. It is also your right to expect that while in prison, the officials will do their best to rehabilitate convicts so as not to loose worse ones on parole.
Seem simple enough?
You pay tax dollars to assure these things will happen but are they?
And specifically at CCA ran [sic] institutions. Let me now run down to you the events of my last couple a days. [sic]
On Friday, the 3rd I got off a bus here at SCCF. I was met by CCA staff that were confused. Irritated. Unorganized. Me [sic] and the dozen or so inmates who were received with me were placed in holding cells. No big deal. Been there and seen that hundreds of times. Its [sic] the elements that I observed in this holding cell that were my first indicators that I was in not so competent hands [sic].
Staff members should never belittle other staff members ever, even more so [sic] in front of inmates. The next few hours were more of the same and eventually we headed for Discovery Unit where we were told we would only spend 2 days. Sunday night we would be sent to our more permanent rooms in other units.
We all entered Discovery with our property. We were met by the unit manager Ms. Sweat [sic]. There was a cell inspection going on and a bit of confusion as to our individual cell assignments and when a [sic] officer questioned this woman she became not only rude and belittling but mean and very antagonistic. Very unprofessional.
Eventually we got our cell locales and me and my cellmate [sic] Jones entered our cell with our property in clear plastic bags.
The cell was trashed. The toilet was leaking. The mirror was missing, from many years of experience I walked quickly out of my room and looked in the room next to ours. That mirror was there but bent horribly by someone trying desperately to remove it.
Inmates only do this because they are made of metal. They can take them, work the metal back and forth until they get a chunk off then sharpen it, fix a wrapping as a handle and presto! You got a real nice knife.
I entered my cell again and explained what was up to my cellmate Jones. As I was talking a guy comes in and says “hey, [sic] you two be on alert, the gangs seen [sic] your commissary and both of your Nike shoes. They have been running up in cells and demanding dudes [sic] stuff. There comeing [sic] with knives man – you two just landed in a war zone.”
And that we did.
For the next 30 minutes we had several guys knock and offer protection for 50.00 [sic] per month.
Ive [sic] been doing time on and off for over 15 years. Never paid anyone a dime so I was certainly not going to start now.
Nor was Jones.
One hour later is when it happen [sic]. Three gang members, one of which had what appeared to be part of my missing mirror entered me and Jones’ cell.
“All your commissary watches. Sunglasses. Nikes, or we will cut your ___________ in pieces.”
We told them no. Start cutting or get out. They told us, “Well, you give it up now or we will get it when your [sic] not in your room and when you get moved on Sunday we will send word to your new unit to cut you both.”
“You have till Sunday.”
The countdown had begun.
I will spare you the intensity of the tension on friday [sic]. I will will [sic] spare you the details of all day Saturday where me nor Jones’ went to the chow hall in fear our property would be gone. We couldnt [sic] take turns in going to eat because these dudes would attack the other if left alone.
So as Sunday morning dawned I watched the guard walking around and remembered his words on friday. [sic] “There is nothing that goes on in the unit that I dont [sic] know.”
Obviously he said it to puff his chest out and keep us from doing bad. The only other possibility was that he knew exactly what was up.
I have been in some of the worst and most dangerous institutions in this country and never before had I found myself doing what I was now doing.
I scanned my surroundings for something – anything to make me and Jones [sic] some knives.
And that is when God reminded me in His still small voice that I dont [sic] fight against flesh and blood but the principalities and powers of this dark world.
So I went to prayer. Almost instantly God showed me scripture, then pulled on my heart to look at my rights in the Constitution.
Then He directed me to the CCA rule book and opening statement by the warden (of which is posted for your reading [sic]) it states that the CCA provides a “safe” environment.
I discussed all the options with Jones. There were few. but after weighing then all we both knew for a fact that unless we wanted to get into a knife fight, hurt someone real bad or get hurt. Cause [sic] our families to go without us longer either way because of the consequences – one thing for sure we could not stay here at South Central.
I prayed and God put me at peace. With the decision final Jones headed for the phone with my daughters [sic] number and he called his wife. He told her the full story, told her to inform my daughter and for both of them to call the administration to inform them of our crisis. He hung up with his wife in tears. I immediately began silently praying for her, my daughter, us and the situation.
Within a mere 3 minutes an officer came into my room…
Note: To give you a visual I want you to imagine you step out of your cell door and it is a large area, about the size of a gymnasiam. [sic] All around the outer walls are individual cell doors. To the left are steel tables, about 10, to play cards. Also to the left is a set of steps. it leads to the upstairs cells. All around the top are individual cell doors just like bottom. There is a rail going all the way around the top. Alot [sic] of the time men stand at these rails in observance.
Just as they (the very ones who we were in a standoff with) were doing as this officer entered my cell.
He asked me loudly what the issue was. (My daughter had called first), so I hushed him and told him me and Jones [sic] had an issue. We told him what it was. Not who it was, just what it was.
And he turned and left us there with the door wide open.
I could see out and up on the upper level. No surprize [sic], all eyes on as. Hands and knives were being seen in passing. They were gearing up.
The most unprofessional thing the guard could have done – he just did. No discretion whatsoever.
Me and Jones [sic] made a decision because now we were in 100% more trouble than 5 minutes ago.
Jones headed for the phone as I stood in our cell door way protecting our cell and watching Jones’ back.
He was quick.
Not 2 minutes passed and the same officer appeared and told us to follow him.
Upon entering an office an administrator tore into me and Jones and asked what kind of game we were playing having our people call them.
I tore right back.
Once he knew I was in the right and there were no games he agreed we had trouble. But to me and Jones’ astonishment this man said he couldnt [sic] do nothing [sic]. We must go back.
The man then made a phone call and then said, We have no rooms in the hole for your protection. You have to go to another unit. [sic]
The man made yet another offer. Me and Jones [sic] in the same cell in a pre-honor pod for people who have no write-ups. We have no write ups [sic]. That doesnt [sic] make us safe because of his unprofessional way of dealing with it.
We refused and told him we werent [sic] safe nor did we wish to take his building apart to make weapons to help feel safe.
“We have nowhere for you” he said. [sic]
I couldnt [sic] believe what I was hearing. he was telling us to go kill or be killed.
I looked at Jones, then back at him and told him, as did Jones that they could go get their gas and tazors [sic] because there was no way we were going back.
5 minutes [sic] later they escorted us into our unit, watched us pack, and took us to the hole for our safety.
We were placed in different cells and all was well.
or so I thought. [sic]
Today, the 6th of February 2012 both me and Jones [sic] were given disciplinary write ups [sic] (mine is herein posted) for refuseing [sic] our cell assignment. This write up [sic] will cause both of us to lose good time hinder our programs and can cause parole issues. [sic]
All because we wanted to be safe as is our constitutional right. We did our best in the 2 day standoff. After not going to eat – and the stresses – we had our families get involved. We just want to be moved to a state TDOC prison where we know we are safe. TDOC, not corporate America. It was this same Corrections Corporation of America that at one of its facilities in Kingman Arizone [sic] in 2010 allowed prisoners to escape from their facilities [sic] fences and kill innocent people, people just like you. The unprofessional conduct, the out of shape and elderly staff members cannot even keep you safe.
Im [sic] certain that 8 out of 10 of the staff members here could not pass a physical examination that requires any real ability. I am also certain that many need anger management and training @ how to communicate.
Im [sic] not just picking. Im [sic] serious. And when they cant [sic] keep convicted murderers from killing other convicts and cant [sic] keep lifers from escaping to kill you free citizens – dont [sic] you think we should re-think [sic] allowing corporations to run prisons?
I’ll make a deal with you. Ill [sic] pray and do my part from this end – you the readers please use your prayers and your freedom to expose and stop these injustices from happening any longer on your end and may God bless all of us in our venture.
Through the entire ordeal I should be mad but Im [sic] not. One thing I have to smile about as I look down at my feet right now…
I’m still wearing my Nike’s! [sic]
May God Bless You.
Todd J. Sweet
Copywrite [sic] © 2012
Addition to CCA Posting
So why as a taxpayer should you care about what I have said about the conditions at the Monroe County jail as well as the CCA ran [sic] South Central Correctional Facility?
Simple, if your tax dollars are going to fund prisons and jails it is to protect you and rehabilitate the prisoners so when they are released – they are productive.
I promise you that neither facility is trying to rehabilitate, as I have outlined in both articles. So exactly where are your tax dollars going?
Not where they are intended to.
That is for certain.
God Bless You –
Editor’s Note: More on the ordeal of Mr. Sweet and Mr. Jones after their arrival at the CCA prison in Clifton, TN will be published in a subsequent installment.