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MULTIPLE INMATES REPORT REMOVAL FROM TECHNICAL/VOCATIONAL TRAINING, PLACEMENT IN PRO-SOCIAL LIFE SKILLS CLASS
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 21, 2016) — Since last spring, The Post & Email has received reports from inmates at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, TN stating that they have been forced to enroll in the Pro-Social Life Skills (PSLS) class at the prison, regardless of whether or not they fit the class’s criteria.
In late May, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III sent a letter indicating that he was told he would participate in PSLS despite his having been told during his intake period at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex (BCCX) that the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) system offered no courses which would benefit him.
On June 19, 2015, Fitzpatrick wrote a letter describing a physical confrontation with PS LS instructor Terry Hopper, who reportedly backed him into a wall and threatened him with physical abuse were he to continue to refuse to enroll in the class. Fitzpatrick additionally reported that the prison receives as much as $3,000 for each PSLS student from the federal government.
Fitzpatrick describes the scheme as a “daily robbery of the federal bank.”
Inmate John Brewer reported that vocational programs at NWCX are suffering under poor management and “no curriculum” despite funding from the government “to give the incarcerated a skill that can be used upon release.”
On its website, the TDOC states that “The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) has emerged as a model in the nation for its management practices and cost-saving measures since becoming one of the first correctional systems in the country to be fully accredited in 1994. Since that time, each component of the system has been re-accredited in a three-year cycle by the American Correctional Association.”
Prisoners claiming forced participation in PSLS in addition to Fitzpatrick are Jeffery Douglas, Jerome L. Johnson, Bryant K. Lewis and more recently, Allen Oliver.
Fitzpatrick and Johnson have reported repeated retaliation and civil rights abuses in response to their refusal to take the class, which they believe would force them to self-incriminate by by completing the workbook exercises.
Last month, Johnson was relocated to medium security without explanation, and Fitzpatrick’s cell has been raided three times since December 5, with postage stamps inexplicably stolen and personal possessions strewn over the floor.
The Post & Email has obtained copies of the PSLS workbooks, published by The Change Companies, and has confirmed in previous articles that some of the exercises ask the inmate to list components of the behavior which led them to commit criminal acts involving drugs and/or alcohol.
On Monday, The Post & Email received a letter from Oliver stating that he had been removed from barbershop class and enrolled in the PSLS class involuntarily, requesting our assistance. On January 18, we contacted Neysa Taylor, Communications Director for the TDOC, and asked that she investigate the claim as she has in the past with inmates claiming untreated medical conditions. While Ms. Taylor has often answered us promptly, including a recent question as to the name of a particular TDOC official identified only with a title, given the time which has elapsed since our inquiry, we presume that we will not receive a response.
Last August, The Post & Email contacted Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield, and NWCX Warden Mike Parris concerning the inmate reports of dangerous conditions due to gang activity and forced participation in PSLS and Adult Basic Education, receiving no reply.
In the more-than-six-year reportage of corruption within the Tennessee judiciary, executive branch, legislature and prison system, The Post & Email has never received a complaint or claim that the information we have presented is inaccurate or defamatory to any public official. Articles dating back to the fall of 2009 detail the judicially hand-picked grand jury foremen, a court institution for the last century or more; the inability of citizens, whether residing in Tennessee or elsewhere, to obtain audio-recordings of court proceedings through Public Records Act requests; the legislature’s culpability in protecting judicial corruption; and the media’s failure to expose the lack of due process which systematically maintains county jails and state prisons full to capacity.
“Population growth” is cited as the TDOC’s “most pressing challenge.” A history of the state’s prison system can be found here.
The Post & Email’s inquiry on Oliver’s behalf reads as follows:
INQUIRY ON INMATE’S VOCATIONAL TRAINING
Hello, Ms. Taylor, attached please find a letter I received from NWCX inmate Allen Oliver, #335642, last week.
As a matter of media inquiry, would you be able to verify his report of having been removed from barber school and placed in the PSLS class?
As you may know, I have been reporting on a number of men who claim that they have been forced to take PSLS, even if it does not apply to them. I am told that the federal government reimburses the prison up to $3,000 per PSLS participant; I do not know what monies might be awarded for participants in technical and vocational programs.
I will be in touch with the inmate informing him of my inquiry to you, and I sincerely hope there will be no retaliation against him for his having contacted me.
Thank you very much.
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 113
Canterbury, CT 06331-0113
with Oliver’s letter attached: