CORRECTION OR COVER-UP?
by Sharon Rondeau
Fitzpatrick is currently incarcerated at the Northwest Correctional Comples (NWCX) in Tiptonville, TN.
Adult Basic Education is designed to prepare the student to take the “Tennessee Adult Basic Education (TABE)” in preparation for the General Education Development (GED), or high school equivalency, test.
Fitzpatrick’s latest letter, dated “27 August 2015,” focused on another topic until the last page, where he related the change.
For more than two months, Fitzpatrick has written to The Post & Email about his forced participation in Adult Basic Education following his release from the Pro-Social Life Skills (PSLS) course on June 26 following a confrontation with the instructor, Terry Hopper.
When Fitzpatrick went through the prison intake process last summer, he was told that he did not qualify for any educational course offered by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC).
Page 5 of the TDOC Administrative Policies and Procedures manual states that anyone 62 years of age or older or who is eligible to receive disability compensation upon his release from custody can ask for and be granted an exemption from ABE. On June 29, Fitzpatrick completed a form purportedly to be used to request proof of his high school diploma but noted that there exists no line on the form for the inmate to sign in order to grant permission for the release of records to the requesting facility.
Fitzpatrick and his fellow students had not attended ABE since July 24, when a violent prison uprising sparked by rival NWCX gang members initiated a lockdown and cancellation of class meetings, at least temporarily. The Post & Email’s current understanding is that Fitzpatrick’s section of the prison is on a “partial lockdown.”
In late May, Fitzpatrick was told he would be placed in the PSLS course, after which he reported that he learned that the prison collects up to $3,000 per enrolled student from the federal government. Fitzpatrick refused to participate based on his perception that workbook exercises demanded that he self-incriminate.
In response to his refusal, a threatened disciplinary hearing was scheduled but never took place.
Fitzpatrick described the enrollment of inmates into unnecessary classes as a “prisoners-for-profit” operation which he suspects has been going on “for decades,” resulting in the “grand theft” of taxpayer dollars.
Tennessee is ranked by a 2014 joint study between the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University as the third most corrupt state in the nation. Grand juries and trial juries are rigged to obtain the desired result of incarceration for as many citizens as possible which Fitzpatrick identified years ago as “prisoners-for-profit.”
Another PSLS enrollee, inmate Jerome L. Johnson, refused to participate in the class for the same reason as Fitzpatrick. In the most recent letter The Post & Email received from Johnson, he stated that disciplinary action against him was scheduled but that he had filed an appeal, enclosing a copy. Johnson also filed a Title VI federal civil rights complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging racial discrimination on the part of prison staff.
Two weeks ago, Fitzpatrick reported on the case of Howard Lark, an inmate with disabilities which prevented him from graduating from high school in the 1970s and from graduating from ABE while in prison. Lark has reportedly worked successfully in the building and maintenance trades but to our knowledge, remains in ABE, where he has been enrolled for nearly two years.
On Monday, The Post & Email contacted the four Tennessee legislators who chaired a State and Local Government Committee hearing last Thursday on reported problems within the TDOC regarding prison violence, staff shortages and overworked employees. In our communication we cited several inmates’ reports of forced participation in classes and an assault by gang members. We also contacted Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.