Are Tennessee Prisons Cashing In on Prisoner Class Attendance?

AN “ABUSE OF AUTHORITY AND POWER”

by Sharon Rondeau

(Jun. 24, 2015) — A response to The Post & Email’s questioning of the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) webmaster and communications director on Tuesday following our discovery of the virtual disappearance of references to the “Pro-Social Life Skills” course given within the state prisons was received on Tuesday.

While many of the TDOC website’s pages now display a new logo and different layout from that of last week, some appear unchanged from before Tuesday, when The Post & Email discovered the updates which omitted the Pro-Social Life Skills course from all web pages except that of the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, TN.

In a series of lengthy letters received over the last few weeks, CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), who is imprisoned at the Northwest Correctional Center (NWCX) on convictions of “aggravated perjury” and “extortion,” informed The Post & Email that he has been enrolled in two basic courses despite his early disqualification from one and his high level of post-secondary education which should have rendered him ineligible for the other.

Fitzpatrick holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, graduated third in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1975, and was an Eagle Scout.  In addition to his training at Annapolis, he served 20 years in the Navy and was discharged honorably.  Within the prison, he has been enrolled in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) class and the Pro-Social Life Skills (PSLS) course, the latter of which deals with behavior modification of criminal offenders on a very basic level.

Fitzpatrick told us that he was screened at the Bledsoe County Correctional Center (BCCX), where all state prisoners first are sent after first entering into custody, as being unsuitable for the PSLS course, which promotes “re-education” and uses two copyrighted workbooks published by “The Change Companies.”

Fitzpatrick described the forced enrollment of inmates as an internal “prisoners-for-profit” operation similar to that which occurs on the outside to ensnare as many citizens as possible in trumped-up charges issued by judicially-controlled grand juries.  He has reported Correctional Officer Lexie Smith as particularly “vicious,” having threatened him for nonexistent transgressions and exercising “an abuse of authority and power.”

On June 6, Fitzpatrick wrote (errors left as they appear in originals):

Program managers here (C/O Lexie Smith an aggressive belligerent and provocateur) are bent on forcing me to incriminate myself promising increased and more serious punishment when I refuse, by writing out then speaking when I refuse, by writing out then speaking out loud my “crimes” in open group discussions.

Please take a look at the “Readiness Statement” I must sign under duress to successfully complete Phase One of the PSLS program to move to Phase Two…

In a letter dated June 13, Fitzpatrick wrote:

Returning now to the secrecy shrouding the federal Pro Social Life Skills program, speaking from my own personal, present perspective, what we find in this journal workbook is the imposition and operation of a mild form of brain-washing; code words — Behavior Modification!

I have not described what goes on during our group (community) sessions.  Nor will I attempt to do so in my written communications to you.  Those more exhaustive expositions will have to wait until my release from prison.  I can’t do it from inside these prison bars.

However, make no mistake, the PSLS program is a low-level brain washing model.  But one reason I offer with certainty the feds want to keep it hush hush.

Fitzpatrick has been told that the prison receives $3,000 for each inmate enrolled in the PSLS course.  He reported that one inmate is now taking the course for the fourth time, having participated while in both state and federal prisons previously.

On June 16, The Post & Email wrote to NWCX Mike Parris about Fitzpatrick’s allegations.

On Monday, The Post & Email reported that Fitzpatrick’s latest letter related that he had been “confronted” on “five or six” occasions for refusing to take part in the PSLS course and threatened with punishment.  One of the correctional officers, Lexie Smith, is reportedly verbally abusive and uses intimidation against certain inmates to include Fitzpatrick.

In two of his recent letters, Fitzpatrick expressed that he feels he has been asked to write incriminating, false statements about himself indicating that he is guilty of a crime as part of the PSLS course.  He has maintained his innocence since his arrest for having brought a petition to the McMinn County grand jury on March 18, 2014 alleging violations of law on the part of prosecutors, the grand jury foreman, criminal court judges, law enforcers, court clerks and public defenders.

An email sent to TDOC Communications Director Neysa Taylor on Tuesday reads:

From:  Sharon Rondeau (editor@thepostemail.com)
        Sent: Tue 6/23/15 10:44 AM
           To: TDOC.webmaster@tn.gov (tdoc.webmaster@tn.gov)
           Cc: Neysa Taylor (neysa.taylor@tn.gov)

I noticed this morning and published an article about the disappearance of references to the above course for prisoners about which I received a report two weeks ago from Walter Francis Fitzpatrick (#540003) that inmates, including himself, were being forced into the class even when they were not suitable candidates.  Fitzpatrick has reported having been threatened numerous times by instructor Terry Hopper that if he did not “write enough” in the workbooks, he would receive punishment.

He has also been threatened by Correctional Officer Lexie Smith, who has prohibited him from keeping any papers pertaining to his case in his locker and perpetrated other verbal abuse on him.  She has also written him up for a sloppy cell when his bed is made as he did it in the Navy for 25 years.

Fitzpatrick reported in a letter received yesterday that he was “confronted” five or six times by staff last Wednesday, about which I expect to receive more details in today’s mail.  This man is not a troublemaker, but rather, a government whistleblower, of which I have complete documentary proof.

Is the Pro-Social Life Skills course no longer offered at NWCX or any other TN facility except the Morgan County Correctional Complex?

A search of the TDOC with that search term turns up Error 404 messages this morning (click on all of the results):

https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=TDOC+pro-social+life+skills&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002

Last week, there were several references to the Pro-Social Life Skills class, including on one of the main TDOC web pages, which explained its content and purpose as well as that of other courses generally offered to prisoners who are deemed to qualify.

Also, both the “old” and “new” versions of the NWCX web page are still available.  Could you explain?

Thank you.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
www.thepostemail.com
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT  06076

We included screenshots of both old and revised web pages, some yielding error messages,  from the TDOC website.

We later received the following response:

Neysa Taylor

6/23/15

To: editor@thepostemail.com Cc: Tashonda.Burton@tn.gov

From:  Neysa Taylor (Neysa.Taylor@tn.gov) This sender is in your contact list.
Sent: Tue 6/23/15 3:33 PM
To: editor@thepostemail.com
Cc: Tashonda.Burton@tn.gov

Thank you for taking the time to email me.  Mr. Fitzpatrick can file a complaint at his institution if he feels that he is being treated badly.  I hope you encourage him to do so.

As for Pro-social life class, offenders are placed in classes that are deemed beneficial based upon their intake assessment.  It is our hope that every offender embrace these classes and learn the skills that will help them upon re-entry.

Pro-social life classes are offered at most of our institutions including NWCX.

Regarding our website, the State of Tennessee has launched a new website, therefore all of the state departments websites have been upgraded.  Some of the information that was included on the former site will still be on the new one but not all of it.  This was an excellent time to “clean up” our web footprint.  I am sure that it will be even better as we continue to work through the glitches.

We then responded:

From:  Sharon Rondeau (editor@thepostemail.com)
Sent: Tue 6/23/15 7:55 PM
To: Neysa Taylor (neysa.taylor@tn.gov)

Yes, I will do that.

The difference here is that Fitzpatrick was deemed at BCCX to not be a candidate for the PSLS course, and he has been threatened by the instructor to take it, go through the workbooks, write “enough” so that the instructor is satisfied, “or else.”

I am told that another man who can barely read or write who was in Adult Basic Ed was pulled away from that class in favor of the PSLS course.  Another man reported that he has taken the PSLS course three times and is now enrolled for a fourth time. Is there monetary compensation to the facility for each person in one of these classes?  If so, who pays it?

Why would Fitzpatrick also be enrolled in ABE when he possesses a Master’s Degree in Business Administration?  I have a copy of his enrollment form in those two courses without any explanation.

Thank you.

Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
www.thepostemail.com

As of press time, we have not received a response from Taylor or anyone else.

“Policing for Profit” in Tennessee was reported by Phil Williams of Channel 5 in a four-year, in-depth investigation between 2011 and this month.  Williams is an award-winning journalist who often writes about government corruption.

2 Responses to "Are Tennessee Prisons Cashing In on Prisoner Class Attendance?"

  1. Ronald Griffin   Friday, January 5, 2018 at 9:30 AM

    I too was at NWCX and released 12/27/17 on the condition of completing their new prisoner for profit program, which is Cognitive behavior Intervention. I also had to take PSLS, which is no longer offered no matter what they say. As for C.O. Smith I can personally validated Everything and more about the woman. I filed a complaint against her and the board said “c.o.Smith denies everything but we’ve reminded her of remaining professional at all times and will continue to do so” I told them if you’ve had to continually remind her apparently something a little more needs to be done to which they responded we will continue to remind her to remain professional. One other thing, the inmate counselors assistant runs the programs! during psls we had maybe 4-5 meetings for the whole program, same with the cbip program. Program counselor very, very seldom comes out of his office and is asleep a lot of the time! This is one of the biggest frauds I’ve came across and it needs to be brought to the publics attention and somebody made held accountable just as I was for my crime because it is a crime where everybody is a victim. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: TDOC Mum on Forced Participation in Taxpayer-Funded Class | The Post & Email

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