Tennessee Prisons: Who Oversees the Overseer?

INMATE PREDICTS CORRECTIONS STAFF “WILL HARASS ME FOR EXPOSING THEM”

by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 5, 2017) — Enclosed with a letter received last week from TDOC inmate Grenda Harmer, #88710, was an “Administrative Notice” addressed to Commissioner Tony Parker citing the violation of a Tennessee statute, TDOC policy and the facility’s own policy on the part of the Morgan County Correctional Complex (MCCX).

Harmer has been in MCCX’s protective custody unit since late July as a result of a Crips gang member having entered his cell and threatened him with a knife.  Since then, Harmer has reported receiving smaller food portions, a number of food-service violations, “fraud” on the part of prison administrators, very cold cell temperatures, lack of access to the prison law library and legal materials, unresponsiveness on the part of prison staff to inmate grievances, and retaliation, among others.

Citing Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, at 641 (1989), Harmer told Parker that “failure/refusal to act in ‘good faith’ and correct the unlawful conduct denies you ‘qualified immunity'” under the standard of “‘whether a reasonable [person] could have believed…his actions were ‘lawful, in light of clearly established law.'”

It appears that Anderson was decided in 1987 rather than 1989.

The statute Harmer claims has been violated is TCA 4-4-121, which mandates a no-smoking policy “in all buildings that are owned or operated by the state, except for those sleeping rooms in state park inns, cabins that are designated as smoking rooms or cabins, and as provided by § 49-7-135.”

TCA 49-7-135 deals with smoking policies at “public institutions of higher education.”

“MCCX security is allowing MCCX staff to bring smoking/chewing tobacco into MCCX to use during their shift,” Harmer wrote on page 2.  “I’ve personally witnessed on P.C. Unit Corporal Wallace, officer Williams [sic], Corporal Perry, and officer Flannery [sic] violate the law by chew tobacco and spit juices in office trash can or in styrofoam cup while serving food.  To keep from being told on they permit inmates to get the chewed tobacco out of trash can to dry out and smoke…”

TDOC policy #404.09, under the title “PROTECTIVE SERVICES,” specifies the need to file a notice of “incompatibility” if inmates pose a threat to one another. Recounting the July 28 altercation with the gang member, Harmer wrote, “August 4, 17 Sgt. Richard Garner, Internal Affairs, verified a gang member assaulted me. Yet, Sgt. Garner and Warden Phillips never placed and incompatible against this gang member and me. Instead they deliberately put this gang member in the Unit with me hoping I get injured.” [sic]

In October, Harmer had reported that the same gang member was moved to a cell directly across from his, constituting a threat and violation of the policy.  TDOC Communications Director Neysa Taylor termed Harmer’s claim “fictitious.” However, after the claim was publicized by David Tulis of Nooganomics and The Post & Email, Harmer reported that on November 3, the gang member was moved out of the unit.

Just before the inmate was moved, Harmer related having been told by a correction officer that “the Crips gang member would have to be moved because nobody wants you.”

He also claims that mandated reviews of his placement in protective custody have not been conducted.  “If Counselor Cower or Corporal Wallace signed documents stating they discussed my P.C. placement with me the first 60 days they falsified state documents — A CRIME,” he wrote in the notice.

At the conclusion of the notice, Harmer wrote that “Warden Phillips, Counselor Cower, Cpl. Wallace, Cpl. Perry, and officers Williams and Flannery will harass me for exposing them.”

Harmer has never reported receiving a response to the many memos and notices he has sent to Parker.  Over the last 2+ years, dozens of inmates and their relatives have related to this publication accounts of horrendous conditions within Tennessee’s prisons, particularly those run by the private corporation CoreCivic.

Appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam in June of last year following the departure of Derrick Schofield, Parker and his underlings appeared to be accountable to no one.

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