“I HAVEN’T GOTTEN AN APOLOGY”
by Sharon Rondeau
We contacted the person identified as the author of the letter, Jamonica Taylor, first by email to confirm that she wrote it, to which she responded, “Yes my story needs to be heard cause I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone.”
We then called and spoke with her for approximately 43 minutes. During the interview, Taylor told us that on Thanksgiving Day (November 23, 2017), she visited an inmate at TCIX, as she had for the past two Thanksgivings, along with her two young children, ages 6 and 10. She lives two hours from the prison.
The letter reads:
To Whom It May Concern:
On Thursday, November 23, 2017 (Thanksgiving Day), I, Jamonica Taylor, a State of Tennessee employee, was treated with disrespect and costly gross negligence by an offices at T.C.I.X. The incident was avoidable, unprofessional, cruel, and neglectful, therefore, I am compelled to seek relief and restitution through your office. If your office is unable to assist me in rectifying this matter, please advise me as to whom I, as a taxpaying citizen and a fellow State Employee, should turn to, in order to have this matter properly addressed.
DESCRIPTION OF PROBLEM:
On Thursday, November 23, 2017 (Thanksgiving Day), I, Jamonica Taylor was visiting inmate XXXXXXXXXX, at the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Only, Tennessee from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm as I have done for the last two years. As I have always done, I wore my keys on an elastic band around my wrist to keep up with them, however, on this day I was told by T.C.I.X. checkpoint office Cpl. Neal that I had to leave my keys with him. I didn’t want to do this because I was afraid that they would get misplaced, however, I trusted the officer and wanted to comply with any requests made so that I wouldn’t be barred from visiting my friend. With hesitation, I left my car key with Cpl. Neal as was his request. When my visit with inmate XXXXXXXXX came to an end at 1:30 pm, I came back through checkpoint and asked Officer Cpl. Neal to return my keys so that I and my two young daughters could leave. Cpl. Neal stated that he had placed my keys in the drawer, but he couldn’t find them. I panicked. As a mother, I didn’t know what to do. I had my two daughters, ages 6 and 10 with me and it was very cold out. We couldn’t get into my car at all and we live 2 hours away. I was very distraught. At this time, T.C.I.X. acting Associate Warden of Security, Jason Clendenion, came to checkpoint. He was extremely rude, loud and arrogant. Officer Clendenion’s cruelty to me and my young girls was shocking. He ordered us to leave the building. Please understand that Cpl. Neal had lost my only key into my car and it was very cold out. I had two small children with me and he ordered us to leave. Not only did he put us out into the cold, he also called the police on us. When the police arrived, they immediately placed my daughters into their car to keep them warm and called a locksmith to open my door. Associate Warden of Security, Jason Clendenion then arrogantly told me that I better have $75.00 to pay the locksmith. He didn’t care that my keys had been lost by his officer that had demanded me leave them at checkpoint with him. The police officers were more considerate of my dilemma than the security officers at T.C.I.X., and they weren’t even the ones that were responsible for losing my keys. Once the locksmith was able to get into my car, I was able to retrieve my cellphone to call my nephew in Oakland, TN to help me and my daughters in this emergency. It was after 6pm when my nephew arrived to give us a ride home, two hours away. I had to leave my car at T.C.I.X. I had to pay to have my car towed back to Somerville, TN. I, Jamonica Taylor, am asking that T.C.I.X. Acting Associate Warden of Security, Jason Clendenion, be removed from having any contact with visitors at this facility. His behavior, response and attitude were incredibly unprofessional, demeaning and cruel. If he is going to treat a visitor in this way, I can only imagine how cruel he is to the inmates in his care!
Since the incident, I have tried to reach Warden Genovese via telephone and his secretary with no returned call. I called the facility the following day, Friday, November 24, and asked if my keys had been found. The checkpoint officer told me they had not and that I had until the following Monday to remove my car from the premises. As I stated above, I am also a State Employee. I know what professionalism is, and this is not it!!
I am asking that I be reimbursed for the time and money spent directly and totally as a result of the gross negligence of T.C.I.X. checkpoint officer Cpl. Neal. Due to this incident, I had to miss a day of work to go back to the facility to retrieve my car, I also had to pay to have my car towed back to Somerville, and paid a fee to the locksmith that opened the car at T.C.I.X. Attached are the receipts showing all the fees paid to fix the mess that Cpl. Neal caused by his negligence, totally $1304.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience with your response. Thank you.
Ms. Jamonica Taylor
[Personal information and name of inmate redacted by The Post & Email]
In a follow-up interview on Tuesday morning, Taylor told us that she had sent the letter twice to TDOC spokeswoman Neysa Taylor last Wednesday but received no response. She additionally sent it by email to Phyllis Y. Jordan, Administrative Services Assisant II at the Tennessee Department of Consumer Affairs, and State Rep. Ron M. Gant, who represents Tennessee’s 94th district.
The Post & Email has seen copies of the emails.
In his reply, Gant wrote:
I am sorry you had such a negative experience at TCIX. I will forward this to the Department of Corrections for follow up.
If I may be of additional assistance, please contact me.
We asked Taylor if her name was on the inmate’s approved visitor list, to which she responded in the affirmative.
During our interview, Taylor said that unlike previous visits, she was asked to leave her keys, which included her car key, with Corporal Neal. She had locked her phone in her car, knowing that it is against prison policy to bring in cellular phones.
When she concluded her visit with the inmate at 1:30 and was exiting the prison, she said that Neal informed her that he “could not find” her key ring. “They called for the assistant warden, and he called the police, who brought a locksmith to unlock my car,” Taylor told us. She said she was told, “Just get out!” to which she responded, very upset, “Now you’re putting me and my kids out in the cold? Put yourself in my shoes. I’m not from around here; I live two hours away.”
She then told us:
So my kids and I had to wait 30-45 minutes out in the cold before the police came. The police were nicer to me than the correction officers, because they had my kids sit in their car to warm up. The prison staff wouldn’t even let me use their phone to call anyone. I had to use the police phone to call my family to let them know that I was OK.
The police called a locksmith, and I turned to Cpl. Neal and said, “Who’s paying for this?” and he said, “We’re not paying for it.” And I said, “You know what? That’s fine. I’ll pay for it because I have to get my phone and my wallet.” So I had to pay the locksmith $75.00, and my kids and I had to wait in the car for at least three hours.
During that time, nobody came out and checked on us to see if we needed anything except for a prison counselor, who brought my kids some granola bars and water. He gave them a blanket. He didn’t want to leave, but I told him my relative was on the way.
The following day, Friday, I called back up there and I asked — and I wasn’t mad — “Were my keys found?” and the gentleman informed me, “You have until Monday at 3:30 to remove your car from the premises.” And I said, “How am I supposed to remove my car from your premises when you lost my keys?” and he said, “Well, ma’am, we don’t know; you’re gonna have to come and get it.”
When I left the prison on Thanksgiving Day, I locked the car doors because you never know what might happen. So I had to have another locksmith come, which cost me another $49.00. I asked him if someone could tow my car to my home, because I live in East Tennessee. The guy who went and got it towed it from the prison to my house, and that cost $475.
On Monday, I had my car towed from my house to the Toyota place, and it cost $125. They also had to make me a new key, which cost $585. I had to miss work the day after Thanksgiving because I didn’t have a way to work. I took time off this week so I could get my car situated.
(White redactions made by The Post & Email)
Taylor said that on Monday, November 27, she called TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker’s office and spoke with a woman in his office, Lorene, about the incident at TCIX but has not received a return call.
She told me that somebody would get back in touch with me in 72 hours, but nobody ever called me. So I called her and gave her my name and said that nobody had called me. She said, “They haven’t? They were supposed to get back in touch with you.” And I said, “No, ma’am, nobody called me; I’m still waiting.
The worst thing is that my kids kept asking, “Mom, what did you for them to call the police? They shouldn’t have had to witness this.
I don’t understand why they reportedly told the inmate that my visitation will be permanently removed. Why? Because they lost my keys and put me in the spotlight?
They never had a problem with me until they lost my keys. The same key ring is one of those 99-cent ones you get at Walmart. I’ve been driving that car ever since I’ve been going up there. If they wanted my car key, they could have just had me take that one off. The person I gave the keys to, Cpl. Neal, told the inmate the following Monday that somebody had made a mistake and taken the keys off and that they would bring them back during visitation, and that never happened. They just tell you these things to keep you calm.
This has set me back a lot. I’m a single mother and it’s right before Christmas. I could have lost my job, and the money I spent was my kids’ Christmas money. I haven’t gotten an apology or anything.
On Tuesday morning, Jamonica Taylor told The Post & Email that on Thursday, she received a call from someone identifying himself as the assistant warden at TCIX, who said that TCIX Warden Kevin Genovese would contact her on Monday. However, she had received no return call as of the time we spoke, which was from 8:00 a.m. to 8:18 a.m. EST.