ON THE PART OF STAFF
by Sharon Rondeau
In a February 8, 2018 memo directed to MCCX Warden Shawn Phillips, Harmer wrote that an unexpected head count was carried out at 10:38 PM on February 7, 2018 under the watch of Captain Larry Sims. “The three counts we are suppose [sic] to be up for is 5:00 am, 4:00 pm, and 9:00 pm counts. This waking me up is harassment. If Captain Sims can’t control his subordinates then Captain Sims need to be fired!” Harmer wrote in the memo.
“Captain Sims signed an oath under §41-1-103,” Harmer continued, referring to Tennessee Code. “Failure/refusal to comply with his oath he can be criminally charged under section (c) of §41-1-103. Please ensure that 3rd shift ceases all harassment of me.” [sic]
The law Harmer cited reads:
In a second memo dated February 11, 2018, also directed to Phillips, Harmer provided more detail as to his belief that the third-shift guard is sexually harassing him. “At around 11:13 pm I was abruptly awaken [sic] with my lights on and a fat guard standing over me looking at me,” Harmer began the memo. “When I awoke the guard looked at my face. His eyes were on the lower region of my body. Once I awoke he walked to the back of the cell and then pretended to look under my bed as he grinned at me while walking out.”
The memo’s subject line contains a reference to “PREA,” the Tennessee “Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.” The description of the Act on the TDOC website reads as follows:
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) 2003 prohibits and seeks to eliminate sexual assaults and sexual misconduct in correctional institutions. Sexual abuse encompasses (1) inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse, (2) inmate-on-inmate sexual harassment, (3) staff-on-inmate sexual abuse, and (4) staff-on-inmate sexual harassment.
Under “PREA Policy,” TDOC states:
It is the policy of the TDOC to provide a safe, humane and secure environment free from threat of sexual abuse for all offenders in custody by maintaining a program of prevention, detection, response, investigation and tracking of all alleged sexual abuse. TDOC has a zero tolerance policy for incidences of sexual abuse within its facilities.
The Department’s “Action Plan” on the subject states that “Pursuant to Tennessee criminal laws, the Tennessee Department of Correction is committed to protecting offenders in its custody from sexual contact or sexual misconduct.”
A long-term prison inmate and career offender, Harmer has filed a number of lawsuits and a myriad of complaints against the TDOC since his incarceration began in 1998. His reports of poor inmate medical care, the cessation of delivery of prescription medications, prison gang activity, lack of heat in his pod this winter and retaliation on the part of correction officers have been reiterated by dozens of inmates at various Tennessee prisons as well as their relatives.
An audit report published in November by Tennessee’s Comptroller of the Treasury appeared to support inmates’ claims of short-staffing and failure to follow proper procedures at three prisons operated by the private corporation CoreCivic. One of those, the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC), was the focus of intense scrutiny and reportage by Nashville’s WSMV over an approximate eight-month period last year, during which a former chaplain described mistreatment of inmates, “lax security,” and frequent “lockdowns” as well as alleged retaliation against her personally for documenting her observations.
The former chaplain has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging having been “unfairly fired and publicly defamed,” claims which CoreCivic denies.
Harmer’s current prison, MCCX, is state-run but has been reported by others to employ correction officers who use the “hands-on” method to subdue and intimidate the prison population.
After arriving at the facility in early June last year, Harmer alleged the confiscation of all of his personal belongings by prison staff and coercion that he sign an acknowledgment that he had, in fact, received them upon his transfer from the previous facility. When he refused to sign, Harmer was placed in solitary confinement, where he launched a 32-day hunger strike which almost killed him.
After he was found unconscious on or about July 4, 2017, Harmer was sent to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, where he spent the next three days recovering. The Post & Email has proof of Harmer’s hospitalization there from a menu Harmer sent us containing his name with UTMC insignia on it.
“Why was that guard in my cell standing over me? Why is Captain Sims permitted to harass me and allow his staff to make homosexual behavior towards me? If something was going on that was an emergency I should of [sic] been woke up first, but only if it was a legitimate reason/emergency,” Harmer wrote toward the end of the second memo.