REPORT: GANG MEMBERS RUN PRISON, NOT CORRECTIONS OFFICERS, WARDEN
by Sharon Rondeau
The Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) operates 11 institutions throughout the state, while three are run by a private entity, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). NWCX is located in the northwest corner of the state on the border with Missouri in Lake County.
In his letter, dated July 6, 2015, the inmate stated that correctional officers and inmates are at high risk of assault from gang members who he said actually dictate the activity within the facility. “The staff here is over worked [sic] and on a skeleton crew because they cannot keep correction officers. These officers are afraid of working in the units where the gang members control the prison because they are only armed with a radio, set of keys and maybe a flashlight. Their job here is to protect and care for 128 adult men in each housing unit while acting alone. At any given time the gangs can erupt sending chaos throughout the prison,” the inmate wrote, while at the same time, calling for an “external investigation” into the situation.
The prisoner copied the typewritten letter to TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield and Lake County Circuit Court Clerk Deborah A. Beasley in Tiptonville.
An overview of the TDOC’s mission states that “The Department of Correction works toward becoming the best correctional agency in the nation by adhering to its mission to operate safe and secure prisons and provide effective community supervision in order to enhance public safety. Through new initiatives, the agency is able to further its goal of holding offenders accountable, improving offender outcomes, and reducing recidivism…The department continues to be committed to ways to operate its prisons in an efficient and effective manner while maintaining the safety of the public, its employees and the offenders in its custody.”
The inmate contended that “This institution also houses some of the least violent offenders such as Retired Commander Walter Fitzpatrick, United States Navy; people of his demeanor are placed here intentionally as an extra form of punishment and should not be here” (emphasis his). “As cities across Tenn. fight to battle against ‘gang’ activity, this institution is the primary breeding ground for notorious gangs such as the Gangster Disciples, Crips, Vice Lords, and the Aryan Nation,” he said.
The Gangster Disciples were formed in the 1960s in Chicago. The Crips was launched in Los Angeles at approximately the same time in the same vein as the Black Panthers. The Vice Lords were formed a decade earlier in Chicago’s West Side. The Aryan Nation, based in Louisiana, claims roots in Christianity while espousing white supremacy.
Fitzpatrick was sent to NWCX in December after spending approximately three and one-half months at the Bledsoe County Correctional Center (BCCX) after his conviction on two felonies last August by a McMinn County trial jury.
In a letter dated June 19, Fitzpatrick reported that a staff member threatened to assault him for his refusal to participate in the Pro-Social Life Skills class from which he was later excused. The TDOC has stated that “there is no evidence to support” Fitzpatrick’s allegation, about which Fitzpatrick filed what he described as a “criminal complaint” using the established grievance process.
Fitzpatrick was then told that his grievance was “inappropriately” prepared.
The Post & Email has documented over the last six years that the “justice” system throughout the state of Tennessee is used to retaliate, punish, and inflict suffering on citizens who have exposed the systemic judicial corruption which allows hand-selected grand jury foremen to “serve” for decades as a paid employee of the court.
Judges, law enforcement, court employees, grand jurors, trial jurors, public defenders, private attorneys, transcriptionists and state agencies are all involved in maintaining the criminal syndicate which deprives all Tennessee citizens of due process and constitutional protections, particularly that enshrined in the Fifth Amendment by the existence of the grand jury.
The inmate then provided examples of injuries reportedly incurred by correctional officers. “The most recent attack was Corporal XXXXXX who lost an eye during his attack. On June 12, 2015 inmates were viscously [sic] attacked and stabbed by gang-members and one of these inmates is still in the intensive care unit,” he said.
“Gangs control the order of this institution, they control whether or not the institution goes on lock-down, they control where inmates sit and eat at feeding time, they also control who and where inmates live inside the prison…If a gang member attacks another inmate the victim is usually placed on protective custody and the assailant is still allowed to continue on his path of destructive behavior,” the inmate wrote.
The last paragraph of his letter asks for the public’s assistance in improving safety and working conditions for corrections officers and inmates alike. “We ask and pray that anyone interested in performing an external investigation of this institution will please do so. Help look into this violence that is being inflicted upon the staff and inmates. A simple public records request from the local criminal court in Tiptonville, TN will display all of the corruption and violence that takes place here at Northwest Correctional Complex. The staff as well as inmates here at Northwest Correctional Complex will greatly appreciates [sic] any help.”
The inmate reported that he has contacted Schofield with suggestions as to how to make the prison safer but that none of his ideas have been implemented.