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by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 6, 2020) — The eyewitness who told The Post & Email that former inmate Grenda Ray Harmer was dropped off at a “community resource center” last week by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) without a plan for housing, shelter, medical care, employment or public benefits confirmed on Friday morning that Harmer has been sleeping outside in 20-degree weather for the last eight nights.
Harmer, 67, spent 25 years in Tennessee prisons and was released on February 26 from the Morgan County Correctional Complex (MCCX) when his sentence expired. He had planned to stay in state custody so that medical issues arising during his last year of incarceration could be resolved, as is permitted by Tennessee code. However, our source, who spoke with Harmer in person after his release, said the TDOC pressured Harmer into signing a waiver to his right to medical care upon the threat of a “trespassing” arrest by the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office were he to fail to leave the premises.
Harmer considered himself a “whistleblower” during his lengthy incarceration and was in frequent contact with the media, members of the Tennessee legislature, the governor, TDOC commissioner and other public officials to describe what he viewed as “corruption” within the state prison system on many fronts.
Over the last year or more, Harmer sent The Post & Email copious documentation detailing his requests for medical attention for several diagnosed conditions: iron-deficiency anemia, degenerative joint disease, a thyroid condition, and evaluation for a possible hip replacement, which would have been his second had it taken place. He was also experiencing pain in his left knee and right thumb.
As of late November 2019, Harmer understood that his treatment would likely take a year and that he could remain in state custody while convalescing. However, in a letter dated February 24, 2020, Harmer indicated that he was unaware of any plans the TDOC might have made for his future.
As Tulis first discovered, Harmer was reportedly placed on the state’s sex-offender registry at some point during his most recent incarceration for an offense dating back to 1979. The source has reported that as a result, Harmer has been unable to find housing and for food is relying “on the kindness of strangers.” “There is food served on Wed nite and Sunday near where he hangs out and of course I feed him whenever he can find a phone to let me know where/when we can meet,” the source told us on Friday. “It is not a good situation and, yes, I hold TDOC responsible. There has been intentional meanness on their part to make this happen and to handicap his efforts to find food and shelter.”
Tulis said that the sexual offense in Harmer’s history took place in the state of Indiana, while a spokesman for the TDOC told us it occurred in Tennessee. In any event, however, Tennessee’s sex-offender registry was not launched until 1995, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), which operates it.
On March 2, Tulis asked Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s press secretary, Chris Walker, to investigate the circumstances behind Harmer’s name being placed on the registry as well as those leading to his release to “the streets.”
While the TDOC told The Post & Email that Harmer received transition services as per Department policy, Harmer had sent us copies of dozens of letters he wrote to Lee, TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker, President Trump, MCCX Warden Mike Parris and others requesting such services to no avail.
On Friday Lee is meeting with President Trump to survey the damage and suffering from an E-4 tornado which destroyed buildings and killed at least 25 people early Tuesday morning, after which Lee declared a state of emergency.