FOR REFUSING PLACEMENT IN COURSE
by Sharon Rondeau
Under circumstances similar to those in which Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III declined to participate in the Pro-Social Life Skills (PSLS) program at Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX), Johnson told prison staff in July that he also refused to take part. Both inmates believe that they will be compelled to admit guilt against their will by completing the exercises contained in the PSLS workbooks.
On June 19, Fitzpatrick was threatened with bodily injury should he continue to refuse to sit for the class, but he did not change his stance. Fitzpatrick subsequently reported a number of “confrontations” with prison staff over his stated position.
After being contacted by a constituent about the matter, Fitzpatrick’s state representative‘s office maintained that there was “no evidence” that the incident had taken place. The TDOC would not comment.
The Post & Email is in possession of five different workbooks used in the class and can confirm that certain exercises and questions ask the student to list criminal behaviors which led to his incarceration. Published by The Change Companies, each page contains a copyright warning stating that reproduction of anything from the books without the publisher’s written permission is expressly forbidden.
Examples of some of the questions asked were reported in September.
The course focuses on inmates with histories of drug and alcohol abuse which resulted in their turning to crime.
Both men have been threatened with a punishment of ten days of solitary confinement; a $5.00 fine, and loss of any privileges earned. In Johnson’s case, his job in the prison kitchen is pending revocation. Both have appealed their “convictions” to Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Derrick Schofield, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, and Michael Alston at the Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Justice, citing Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Some Tennessee lawmakers have called upon Schofield to resign amid a correction officer shortage and very dangerous working conditions in some areas. Haslam has staunchly defended Schofield in light of a report issued by the American Correctional Association (ACA) which is said to have stated that the state’s prisons are “smoothly operating” despite many media and inmate reports to the contrary.
In September, a 20-year-old correction officer reportedly fell asleep while driving home after working a triple shift with only a short break in between. The TDOC did not respond following The Post & Email’s inquiry about the tragic incident.
Other correction officers have been seriously injured but are reported in local media as having sustained injuries that are “non-life-threatening.”
Fitzpatrick wrote an essay about the State of Tennessee’s corrupt grand jury practices published at The Post & Email in two parts titled “The Land Where the Law Went to Die.” Tennessee grand jury foremen are handpicked by the criminal court judge and carry out the judge’s bidding.
Tennessee media has been willing to report on “policing-for-profit,” but not prisoners-for-profit, nor the grand jury corruption which lands thousands in jails and prisons each year without due process.
Originally, Johnson’s civil rights complaint centered on the fact that Fitzpatrick’s initial “Class A” disciplinary write-up for refusing to take part in the course was dismissed when Johnson’s was not. Fitzpatrick is white and Johnson black.
Fitzpatrick filed an appeal with Schofield and Haslam, the status of which is currently unknown.
Johnson’s new grievance reads as follows.