State Prison Inmate Asks: “Do Our Lives Matter?”


by Sharon Rondeau

(Jul. 19, 2015) — On July 14, The Post & Email published an article from a Tennessee state prison inmate which described his observations of violence at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) located in Tiptonville, TN. According to the inmate, dangerous gangs dictate the daily operation of the prison, from where an inmate will sit during a meal to whether or not a corrections officer is harmed during the course of his or her duties.

In his July 6 letter, the inmate stated that a corrections officer lost an eye during an assault by violent inmates.  He also indicated that he had met Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, who has been housed at the facility since December, commenting that Fitzpatrick “should not be here.”

Fitzpatrick was arrested after taking a petition to the McMinn County grand jury on March 18, 2014 alleging systemic corruption on the part of judges, prosecutors, court clerks, grand jurors, and the grand jury foreman.  In a six-day series published by The Chattanooga Times Free Press, then-District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb and his Drug Task Force were accused of criminal activity by misappropriating funds, utilizing state-owned vehicles for personal needs, and failing to prosecute police officers and colleagues when evidence existed of a crime, among other abuses.  Deputy prosecutor Paul D. Rush was accused of having unduly influenced the McMinn County jury to quash a possible indictment of Joe Guy, who ran for McMinn County sheriff and is now serving his second term.

Bebb signed the indictments against Fitzpatrick and retired earlier than expected, at the end of May 2014 instead of at the end of August, when his replacement would have been sworn in.  Bebb had served as a criminal court judge from 1982 to 2005 prior to winning election as chief prosecutor in the Tenth Judicial District.

Guy was responsible for Fitzpatrick’s jailing on March 18, 2014.

Bebb was quoted by the Times Free Press as having said in an interview that “My greatest fear is going to trial in a case and convicting an innocent man or woman.”

Just prior to his retirement, Bebb was accused of assaulting a female prosecutor in his office, then firing her.  After several days and a reported investigation opened by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) at the request of State Sen. Mike Bell, the woman was rehired.

In 2010, Fitzpatrick contacted the TBI about the grand juries within the Tenth Judicial District which allows judges to hand-pick grand jury foremen, who then serve as many consecutive terms as the judge wishes.  The TBI agent with whom Fitzpatrick spoke told him that the agency, which is funded by taxpayers, could not open a case against anyone without Bebb’s recommendation or that of the state attorney general despite the fact that Fitzpatrick named Bebb as a criminal perpetrator.  Agent Cathy Pendleton then made a crude remark and hung up on Fitzpatrick.

“You’re just running your mouth,” Pendleton had responded to Fitzpatrick.

Bell has been made aware of a reported threatened assault by Fitzpatrick last month published at The Post & Email and forwarded to Bell, State Rep. John Forgety, TDOC assistant to the commissioner and TDOC Communications Director Neysa Taylor.  NWCX management has reportedly denied that “evidence” existed supporting Fitzpatrick’s claim, although Fitzpatrick filed a criminal complaint afterward through the prison grievance procedure.

Fitzpatrick has also communicated that corrections officers work in very difficult conditions and that an inmate was murdered by another approximately six weeks ago in a unit not far from his.

In a series of letters, Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that his personal papers and belongings were searched on three occasions for any of its articles which might have mentioned their names.

Enclosed with his typewritten letter was a handwritten single sheet apparently included as a last-minute update.  His reference to the “T.D.O.C.” signifies the Tennessee Department of Corrections; “Clinton, NY” refers to the prison break carried out by two New York State prison inmates last month culminating in the death of one and the apprehension of the other.  Two prison employees have been arrested in connection with the inmates’ escape.

The handwritten letter reads as follows (errors left intact):

Mrs. Rondeau,

These are just some of the violence that plagues this facility.

Just as I am pounding out this letter violence erupts again and again.

On July 5 three Gang Affiliated Inmates nearly took the life of Inmate Marcus Velez. The letters had to be air-lifted to outside medical. Velez fights for his life as I write this.

Again to show the lack of control here at this facility.  July 7, 2015 – 2 stabbings and a non-lethal fight.

Please check the web-sites, contact T.D.O.C. officials and more.

Mrs. Rondeau, these incidents are real. These incidents involves human lives. We are someone. Do our lives matter?

Some of us make mistakes. Please I pray to the GOD above that he finds it in your heart to help with this matter.

We need national attention to prevent the violence and corruption here. We don’t need another Clinton, NY. facility here.


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