by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 7, 2018) — A copy of a memo directed to Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Tony Parker received by this writer on Friday reiterates inmate Grenda Ray Harmer’s claim that his cell is frigid as winter has once again settled in to mountainous Morgan County, TN, home to the Morgan County Correctional Complex (MCCX).

Harmer’s subject line states that MCCX “prison employees” are “intentionally placing my health at risk with your blessing.”

Last winter, Harmer reported in repeated communications that his cell was regularly filled with blasts of cold air and that he was forced to wear 4-5 layers of clothing at all times in an attempt to maintain his body heat. While TDOC spokeswoman Neysa Taylor denied that one cell among many could be deprived of heat, Harmer later reported that others in Unit #1, where he is housed in protective custody, said that they, too, experienced chronically cold cell temperatures.

As for last winter, Harmer wrote in Friday’s letter, “The heat was not turned on until January 3, 18. The only reason the heat was turned on is because Editor Sharon Rondeau of ‘The Post + Email’ wrote negative articles about it.”

“Once again your subordinates are placing my health at risk by forcing me to live in a corner cell without any heat,” Harmer’s letter continues. “My cell is a good 10 to 15 degrees colder than outside is [sic] two walls are exposed to the weather and my walls are metal. As you know metal holds the cold much better than brick. When the guards open my cell door they have commented the coldness of my cell just smacks them in the face.”

Further, Harmer wrote, “I have complained without success.”

The Post & Email has copies of Harmer’s complaints from last winter as well as those generated after the change of seasons this fall.  At the beginning of 2018, Harmer wrote to report that the lack of heat in his cell had largely been ameliorated.

On November 29, 2018, we published an article demonstrating that the State of Tennessee is a copious, if not daily, reader of our articles centered on Harmer’s reports of MCCX conditions, including allegations of the smuggling-in of contraband facilitated by correction officers.

Harmer goes on to say that the TDOC’s inaction regarding his cell temperature “is strengthening my hatred, my loathing and my resolve.”

Changing subjects slightly, Harmer then wrote, “The reason you will not transfer me from MCCX, knowing MCCX staff have already tried having me physically harmed, is you are probably hoping they might luck up and be successful.”

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  1. I tried looking up TDOC policy about the temperature ranges for cells without success.
    According to the National Institute of Corrections (https://nicic.gov/what-appropriate-temperature-jailprison-housing-units) there was no set answer and questioners are referred to https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/bookstore/standard-55-thermal-environmental-conditions-for-human-occupancy which has to be purchased for $118.
    Why is this information being hidden from those who can’t afford to pay?
    A quote from the NIC page pretty well summed it up: “Sometimes we do issue extra blankets but need to watch for hoarding.”
    Olive Twist, anyone!
    God forgive us as a nation and a people for turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the needs of others. Perhaps we are reaping the whirlwind of what we have sown in addition to what was sown by those who came before us.

  2. In corporate-owned prisons, inmates are being treated horribly. Their cells are cold, their food is bad, they don’t get their medicines, libraries are being closed down – all to increase corporate profits. This is unacceptable. If the government wants to over regulate us, over criminalize us, and put us in jail, then the government should be responsible for us, not a profit-driven corporate entity. They have the same attitude as the social media censors “We’re private so we’re not subject to your laws.” We do have laws regarding our civil and human rights and profit-driven corporate prisons must either be forced to abide by them or be removed completely and all prisons should return to the control of the government that put them there – period!