“I WANT TO STAY ALIVE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Feb. 16, 2019) — As this writer discussed on Thursday’s “Nooganomics” show with host David Tulis, TDOC inmate Grenda Ray Harmer believes he has been relegated to protective custody (PC) for more than 18 months, rather than transferred to general population (GP) at the earliest opportunity in accordance with TDOC policy, for publicly reporting what he has identified as “wrongdoing” on the part of staff at both his current and former prisons.
Harmer’s thoughts, expressed frequently over the last year, are documented in a February 8, 2019 letter directed to Tennessee’s new governor, Bill Lee, and copied to Tulis, a number of state senators and representatives, Harmer’s current warden, this writer, and other members of the media.
An avid observer and writer, Harmer has one year remaining of a 25-year sentence mandated to be served at 100%. Over the last year, he has requested of prison officials placement in a transition center so that he might begin making the necessary adjustments to return to society.
Previous to his current incarceration, Harmer, who will shortly turn 65, spent considerable time in Indiana prisons. In 2017, a longtime acquaintance who has known Harmer since he was in his late 20s informed The Post & Email that Harmer was an Indiana foster child who was physically abused for years until he ran away when he was approximately 17.
As Harmer has stated, Tennessee has only one facility serving as a dedicated transition center for male offenders who have served their sentences but require support services before rejoining the community. The Mark Luttrell Transition Center, which opened in 2016, is located in Memphis in West Tennessee and employs a three-phase approach to assisting residents adjust to life outside of prison.
In addition to MLTC, Tennessee has a number of halfway houses for inmates released on parole, for which Harmer is not eligible.
Over the last 2+ years Harmer has been housed at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC), South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF), and Morgan County Correctional Complex (MCCX), where he was relocated in June 2017 and remains. Since October 2016, Harmer has reported to this publication allegations of administrative corruption, lack of medical care, deprivation of prescription medications, gang activity, inmate drug abuse, lack of security, violence against staff, lack of access to legal materials, and other abuses ongoing in each facility.
Some years ago, Harmer reported, he spent time at the Turney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX), where he said he had a job in woodworking which he enjoyed.
As he did while housed at TTCC, Harmer has described constant threats from MCCX gang members. On or about August 1, 2017, he was placed in MCCX’s protective custody (PC) unit after a known gang member entered his cell brandishing a knife. Harmer has more than once stated that he believes the incident was “orchestrated” given that a correction officer had left his post unguarded and allowed the gang member out of his cell. Harmer has since reported that at least one gang member was placed in close proximity to his cell but eventually relocated after he reported it to the press.
In a letter dated February 8, 2019, Harmer wrote that MCCX Warden Mike Parris advised him that he has not been returned to GP because he has angered “too many people here.” “The ‘too many people’ Warden Parris is referring too is MCCX staff,” Harmer explained. [sic] “Moreover, Warden Parris and Associate Warden of Treatment (“AWT”) Ken Hutchinson tried using the TDOC statutory duty to get me where I could be transitioned out (i.e. Transition Center). But Commissioner Parker refuses to allow me to be transferred to a Transition Center where I can learn to successfully reenter society in under 12 months,” he concluded.
He also indicated that while Parker may oppose his relocation, he believes Parris and Hutchinson desire it. “The only reason Warden Parris and AWT Hutchinson wants me transferred is: 1) ensure my safety, and 2) keep me from exposing MCCX employees,” Harmer contended, in addition to quoting Parris as having told him, “But something needs to be done with you.”
PC status is not punitive, but rather, meant “to provide for an inmate’s safety based upon presumed or subsequently substantiated threat of danger,” page 1 of the pertinent TDOC policy states.
As Harmer related in his letter, TDOC Administrative Policies and Procedures #404.09 (vi)(G)(1) states that “Anytime staff becomes aware of a change in circumstances which may present a reason for an inmate’s release from protective custody, this information shall be made available to the chairperson of the classification committee who may cause a protective custody review to be scheduled. Such information shall be posted on LCLF for review by the protective services panel.” [sic]
The policy also states that all inmates placed in protective custody must have regular and frequent reviews of their status. According to Harmer, he has had one such review conducted outside of his cell door while other inmates were within earshot.
Harmer concluded page 1 with, “There is no Warden who will accept me at their facility because they are afraid of me.”
He punctuated his letter to the governor with, “I’m requesting you order Commissioner Parker to send me to a Transition Center, but not MCCX Transition Center because I want to stay alive.”
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.