Teaching Cons New Tricks: Creative Writing & Q.A. Apprenticeship Program

Wayne T. Dowdy.png

By Wayne T. Dowdy

THE ART OF CREATIVE WRITING CLASS:  When a person is searching for a theme for an article, short story or novel, some writing professionals suggest that writers take a real life situation and ask "What If?" For instance, what would the U.S. economy be like now if President Obama had been white and his Congress had approved the same economic plan to rebuild the economy, as that of President Roosevelt's, whose plan Congress endorsed to bring the Nation out of the Great Depression?  What if an impoverished person sat in a creative writing class, inside of a prison classroom, and then wrote a million copy bestseller, and never returned to prison after release? Miracles happen! What if that person simply learned to do something constructive that changed the direction of his or her life? That would be priceless! That is my hope for the students who participate in the Art of Creative Writing class, held for two hours, one night per week, in the education department at the Federal Correctional Institution, in Edgefield, South Carolina. This is the same education department I wrote about in my essay, "Fighting for Rights to Write;" published by PrisonEducation.com in Feb. 2014; posted on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com in March 2015. I was poised and ready to go to battle in federal Court to defend my First and Fifth Amendment rights to occupy my time constructively by using an AlphaSmart word processor to type my manuscripts for publication, and other forms of writings for reasons other than sending documents to a court, as other federal institutions permit. (Another battle may be looming in a similar fight to write.)

A fellow writer and friend, Jeffery P. Frye (aka Professor Frye), initiated the class by working with the Supervisor of Education. Once the class had been approved, then he invited me and another friend and budding author, S.G. Garwood, to sit in and offer assistance to the aspiring writers. Garwood is nearing completion of a historical fiction novel, The Last Confederate Coin, which is already receiving praise from Civil War buffs (view his writing samples and his magnificently designed webpage at http://thelastcharlestonconfederate.weebly.com/). The results of this adventure are yet to be seen, but I feel confident that everyone in the classroom will benefit, including me. As a fellow prisoner and someone who is concerned about the insane recidivism rates in the United States, my hope for everyone involved in the class is for them to be blessed with freedom and success, whether that success be as an author, or through some other method where the discipline learned through becoming a writer assists them in their quest to live a better life and not return to prison. To succeed as an author requires discipline, something most of us lacked before coming to prison, and may lack now. Maybe writing will become more than just putting words on paper. Personally, I wrote my way into learning how to live a new life by journaling on a daily basis, so I know from experience that reading and writing has the power to change lives. Words pack a punch, whether written or spoken, words have the power to change or destroy lives. I choose my words carefully and hope the ones I select affect a positive change.

Professor Frye blogs about the Art of Creative Writing class on bankblogger.weebly.com and murderslim.com/BankRobbersBlog. He labels me and S.G. Garwood as Adjunct Professors, and wrote in his #creativeconvicts (blog), "Wayne (aka Adjunct Professor Dowdy) was challenged on the proper use of an adjective in relation to a plural verb. Wayne claimed he was right, while the other guy claimed he was wrong. Things got a little tense there for a few minutes, and as they had a spirited debate, I wondered if Adjunct Professors carried shanks. Wayne finally went to the library and found a GED textbook to prove his point, and to show that he was right. He was. That's why he's my adjunct."

Professor Frye is a gifted writer who tells a great story and is one who usually makes me laugh anytime I read what he writes, especially his blogs. He also types faster than a woodpecker pecking on a tree, which pays off when paying five-cents per minute to use the Corrlinks computer system we use to email these blogs to someone to post on our behalf. I type slower than he does, but still love to write, and have my own style of writing: I'm a more serious, in-your-face type of writer, who often writes on topics to inform, inspire, motivate or educate, more so than to make readers laugh or cry, even though I sometimes do that too. In the classroom setting, as well as in my personal endeavors, I "seek" to find the truth, and usually succeed, whether that truth concerns a historical fact; the proper use of a word; discussing a verb that becomes a present participle after adding "ing" (e.g., "break" versus "breaking"); so that the ex-verb then functions as a noun, not-so-commonly known as a gerund. Either way, I always want to know the correct answer and will sometimes go to extremes to find it; whether I do or don't, I still want to find the answer and will continue my quest to do so, long after the thrill of debate has gone. I am also known for calling it as I see it, politically correct or not. That's just not me, even though I do try to be considerate of another person's feelings, I am not one who sprinkles sugar on a pile of poop to claim it is ice cream. Please pardon my frankness, and my bizarre metaphor, but this is Straight From the Pen, not the Pentagon, and my use of that metaphor certainly paints a picture to stick on a wall, not soon to be forgotten. Perhaps the students in the Art of Creative Writing class will be more selective and less aggressive with words; however, since we are in prison some may be more vicious with words than an overzealous prosecutor in a murder case. We'll see.

QUALITY ASSURANCE APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM:  As I wrote in my "Vacation In Prison" blog on April 10, 2015, I work for the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (UNICOR). I am a tutor in their Quality Assurance Apprenticeship Program, and have been since its inception in 2006. None of the graduates released back into society have become recidivists. That deserves recognition by all standards. I mainly teach Grammar & Writing Skills and other education-related fields of study, as well as helping the students to learn certain aspects about the Quality Management System, which meets the required standards for certification under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), 9001: 2008 Requirements. The Quality Assurance Manager realized its importance for the students to learn. He put an emphasis on teaching these students more about ISO principles than the previous students had to learn before becoming certified Quality Assurance Inspectors, who may be able to get out of prison and obtain a position as a Q.A. Manager by going to college to take a few more associated courses. One inmate who learned ISO in prison got out and got a job as a Project Manager for a reputable company. Dreams do come true.

The Apprenticeship program recently expanded to having six students enrolled. I create tests that all of them hate but learn more about the subject by the time they complete their assignments. As in Kindergarten, the only grade I give anyone is an "S" or "U" for satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Basically, the students are given course material and then turned loose to learn all they can. If someone fails to earn an "S" ... I take the time to help him learn what he is missing or failing to understand about the procedure or process being taught. Essentially, one has to refuse to do the assigned task to receive a "U," which is then up to the Q.A. Manager to decide on where to go from there. Most apply themselves to learn what is being taught. This is a voluntary program, and the only one with anything to loose is the student, so each of them usually does what is required, even though some do complain about the level of difficulty in my tests. I give them tough love because I care enough to challenge their intellectual capacity to get them used to using their head for more than plotting crimes against humanity or for storing effects from illicit substances. If the person doesn't want to learn, I tell them not to waste my time. For the eager ones who really want the prize, I offer to teach them "Advanced Grammar & Writing Skills." In that part of the program I teach the apprentice technical writing so that he will be qualified to write instructional documents; e.g., manufacturing & inspection instructions, quality manuals, policies and procedures. In other words, something more than simply inspecting a product. Technical writing is a very lucrative craft, which I have years of experience at doing in UNICOR. In 1997 I began writing job procedures for constructing missile cables, remote area lighting systems, power distribution boxes, army tank wiring harnesses, and other military products. I literally earn pennies in comparison to what I would earn doing so as a freelance technical writer in society, but at least I have obtained enough knowledge at doing it to share the wealth with others who may one day get to use those skills for the betterment of society. 

A FIGHT TO REDUCE RECIDIVISM:  Education is a proven method of reducing recidivism, as shown in my essay, "Education, the Prisoner, and Recidivism;" published by PrisonEducation.com in May of 2013; posted March 2015 on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com. For both subjects above, writing is an instrumental process, and is one that allows participants to occupy their time in a constructive manner, instead of running around creating drama by plotting how to get out to commit more crimes and continue to feed the American Mass Incarceration Machine. Shouldn't prison administrators want their inmates to be learning something to prepare them for successful reentry into society? Don't the designated keepers owe it to the public to provide prisoners with needed tools for preparation of release back into society; especially, those who want to learn something so that they can increase their chance of success upon release? Who wants prisoners to reenter society and collect new victims? Don't we owe it to each other to help the disadvantaged transcend to another level? I feel we do. I do my part, and am sad to say that I often struggle to get support from the staff to do what needs to be done to help my peers get out and not return. That includes having something as simple as regularly held Twelve-Step meetings, or having ample time to use educational tools or equipment needed to help prepare the prisoner for the challenges that lie ahead. Read "No Sympathy" posted on straightfromthepen.wordpress.com for some staggering statistics on recidivism to grasp the seriousness of the situation. I am sure it will leave you wondering why a prisoner must struggle to help others avoid becoming a recidivist.

The looming battle concerns the possibility of the education department not allowing writers and inmates to use the AlphaSmarts for creative and other forms of writing, other than preparing documents to mail to the courts. The use of such a device that has the potential of preventing some prisoners from becoming a recidivist seems worthwhile. If possible, many of us prisoners would buy or rent AlphaSmarts or other similar products to constructively occupy our time and attempt to learn a skill to rehabilitate ourselves. I suggested the same but it fell on deaf ears. Imagine that!

The cost of an AlphaSmart word processor and the associated costs of supplies cannot compare to the cost of a recidivist. On March 9th, 2015, the B.O.P. Director reported in the Federal Register that the FY 2014 Annual Determination of Average Cost of Incarceration was $30,619.85 per year/$83.89 per day. Based on those numbers, the cost of providing educational tools and equipment is a cost effective measure--money well-spent--an investment far less expensive than re-incarcerating a person for multiple years or possibly for the rest of their lives. The cost of recidivism is human lives.

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Follow me on Twitter: @DowdyFromThePen

Post comments or write me by snail mail at the following address:

Wayne T. Dowdy, #39311-019, B-3

P.O. Box 725, FCI

Edgefield, SC 29824-0725

or Email me at waynedowdy@straightfromthepen.com. 

Purchase my books & essays from my book page on "StraightFromthePen.com." A hyperlink is at the homepage for straightfromthepen.wordpress.com. Thanks for helping me afford to pay for assistance to post this and other blogs by purchasing my books or eBooks. I do appreciate it and am grateful to each of you who are generous enough to donate funds to help me continue this process.  Thanks again! 

-Wayne

Overdose, Taser and Restraint Chair Combine to Kill Washington Prisoner

Restraint Chair / Image courtesy sacbee.com

Restraint Chair / Image courtesy sacbee.com

By Prison Legal News

Authorities in Washington State have said no charges will be filed in the death of a 33-year-old diabetic prisoner at the Spokane County Jail, even though his death was ruled a homicide after he was tased twice and placed in a restraint chair as he was suffering from extremely high blood sugar and a methamphetamine overdose.

Spokane County prosecutor Steve Tucker said even though “homicide” was listed as the cause of death for Christopher Parker, that determination does not by itself establish criminal intent or liability.

“A combination of everything is why [Parker] passed away,” Tucker stated. “The tasering didn’t kill him. The restraint didn’t kill him. It’s only in combination with the meth.”

Tucker’s February 21, 2014 decision not to prosecute came three days before the one-year anniversary of Parker’s death in a holding cell at the jail. Video surveillance showed Parker had wrestled with sheriff’s deputies as they attempted to place him in the cell; when deputies forced his head into his lap to secure him in a restraint chair, he lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest. Officials said he died within minutes.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll issued a statement in late February 2014 that exonerated jail guards and medical personnel of any fault in Parker’s death. “Unfortunately, Mr. Parker died, but not from any act that would be criminal in nature,” he concluded. “There is no evidence to support a finding of criminal negligence or unlawful intent.”

Early in the morning on February 24, 2013, Parker, fearing he had overdosed on meth, called 911. According to the transcript of the call, he was hallucinating and confused. He couldn’t tell the 911 operator where he was; he said he needed an ambulance but didn’t say where to send it. He told her he was seeing things, that people were chasing him and trying to kill him.

“I did too much meth or something,” he said. “I don’t know what I did. I’m scared.”

After patiently talking to him for 20 minutes, the operator determined Parker’s location and dispatched an ambulance and police. He was examined by emergency medical technicians (EMTs), who found no reason to send him to a hospital.

“They did evaluate him for possible ingestion of an unknown substance,” said Assistant Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. “I know the paramedics who evaluated him didn’t feel as if he had signs or symptoms that required urgent transport to the hospital.” At that point Parker was turned over to the police on an outstanding warrant.

He was taken to the Spokane County Jail, where nurse Kerrie Fernlund examined him and found his blood sugar level was extremely high at 416 mg/dL, making his blood akin to “maple syrup.” Fernlund tried to get Parker to take insulin but he refused. Officials said the jail customarily transports prisoners to the hospital when their blood sugar level exceeds 400 mg/dL, but stressed the policy was informal.

“Jail Nurse Fernlund[’s] actions were not a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation,” Driscoll wrote in his statement, adding, “While jail protocol calls for someone to not be accepted whose blood glucose reading is greater than 400, the failure to do so does not rise to the level of criminal negligence.”

When jail guards discovered Parker had stopped breathing after they tased him twice and restrained him, the jail made a series of botched calls in an effort to summon an ambulance. The first call was made by a jail employee who reported a possible drug overdose but could not say whether Parker was awake and alert.

American Medical Response (AMR) dispatched an ambulance to the jail as a non-emergency, one not requiring lights or a siren. In fact, records show, it took five minutes for the crew just to get on the road.

After more than 10 minutes had passed with no ambulance, the jail called a second time. An angry AMR dispatcher again asked for details about Parker.

“You can’t even tell me whether they were conscious and alert, or [give me] an age,” the dispatcher said sharply. “I asked you that information, you said you didn’t have it. Do you have that information now?”

“Well,” the caller from the jail replied, “it’s an unconscious male, 30 years of age, possible O.D.”

“Unconscious male makes a big difference,” the dispatcher said.

Schaeffer acknowledged that first responders had “very vague and very limited” information about Parker’s condition. “It was very chaotic,” he said, but noted that a quicker response time by the ambulance would not have made a difference because jail nurses were already trying to revive Parker. When the AMR crew finally arrived to take over resuscitation efforts, Parker was already dead.

“Looking through the retrospective glasses it’s easy to say yes,” Parker should have been taken to a hospital after he was first examined, Schaeffer admitted, though he warned against second-guessing the EMTs.

“I don’t know what the dialogue was. If someone says they don’t want to go to the hospital and they are not exhibiting symptoms or signs,” Schaeffer said, adding, “We will not make excuses. If there is something here where we made a clinical judgment that was wrong ... we will own it and make it better.”

Adding insult to injury, jail officials did not notify Parker’s family that he had died, but instead posted on the jail’s website that he had been released due to “death.”

“I’m mad!” exclaimed Parker’s mother, Christina Higgins. “There is no reason why they did not notify us. No reason whatsoever.”

Authorities could not explain why the jail failed to notify Parker’s family of his death, but quickly deleted the online notation.

“When we learned about the posting under Mr. Parker’s name on our website, we took steps to remove it and make sure this does not happen again,” said Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich.

Parker’s death led to reforms at the jail. Schaeffer announced new policies that require any arrestee who has ingested an unknown substance to be taken to a hospital for evaluation. He said he also clarified with jail staff what information needs to be provided in 911 calls, and fire crews are now required to accompany all medical calls dispatched to the jail.

“We’re taking the opportunity to actually improve the system,” Schaeffer stated.

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Sources: TheSpokesman-Review, www.inlander.com

(Published by Prison Legal News; used by permission)


Forty Defendants, Including 24 Guards, Convicted in Widespread Corruption Scandal at Baltimore City Jail

Tavon White / Image courtesy baltimore.cbslocal.com

Tavon White / Image courtesy baltimore.cbslocal.com

By Christopher Zoukis

The confessed leader of a powerful gang inside the Baltimore City Detention Center was the government’s star witness at the trial of eight remaining defendants in a widespread racketeering, drug smuggling, bribery, extortion and money laundering operation that resulted in criminal charges against dozens of guards, prisoners, jail workers and other defendants.

Tavon “Bulldog” White, 36, who pleaded guilty on August 6, 2013 to one count of racketeering, admitted that he headed the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) at the state-run Baltimore jail. Under the terms of a plea agreement, White confessed to conspiring with guards to smuggle contraband into the facility. He also admitted to impregnating four female guards – one of them twice – including two who were tattooed with his name. Altogether, he fathered five children with the women.

A sweeping federal indictment announced in April 2013 alleged that White directed the BGF operation that supplied contraband ranging from cell phones and tobacco to prescription pills and other drugs to fellow gang members, who then sold them for a huge profit. He was the first prisoner to plead guilty in the case.

In addition to White, 13 jail guards and 11 other prisoners were initially indicted. A second indictment made public in November 2013 named another 14 guards and six other individuals, bringing the total number of defendants to 44.

In a recorded telephone conversation presented as evidence to the federal grand jury, White bragged that during one slow month at the jail he made nearly $16,000. He admitted he had bribed guards by sharing profits from the smuggling operation and buying them expensive gifts, including luxury cars.

“He realized the damage his actions have caused him, his family and the Maryland correctional system and wished to accept responsibility at the earliest possible juncture,” stated Gary Proctor, White’s lawyer.

However, defense attorneys for the eight remaining defendants attacked White’s testimony as being tainted by the lenient conditions of his plea bargain.

“He walks. He gets no time from this case if he satisfies them that he tells the truth [in court],” attorney Richard Bardos told the jury. Bardos represents prisoner Joseph “Monster” Young, whom prosecutors contend was White’s second-in-command.

Authorities alleged that White assumed power as head of the BGF soon after beginning a three-year stay at the jail in 2009 while awaiting trial on charges of attempted second-degree murder. He was eventually sentenced to 20 years following two hung juries.

Bardos said that under White’s federal plea deal, the racketeering charge carries a 12-year sentence to be served concurrent to the state sentence he received on the attempted homicide charge. Thus, Bardos informed the jury, White won’t serve a single extra day behind bars for managing the gang’s widespread operations at the Baltimore jail.

Of the 44 guards, jail employees, prisoners and other individuals charged in the federal indictments, 35 pleaded guilty and one died. The final defendants on trial included five guards, two prisoners and one jail worker. White told prosecutors that he knew “many other correctional officers involved in contraband trafficking and sexual relations with inmates,” according to his plea agreement.

Defense attorneys cast a wide net for people they believed were involved in the contraband smuggling but had avoided arrest, pointing specifically to Shavella Miles, the former head of security at the detention center. They contended that Miles, who was forced to resign but never charged, was complicit in the conspiracy.

The corruption at the jail was “state-approved, state-facilitated, and administrative-encouraged,” Bardos declared.

Allegations of security breaches and lax oversight at the Baltimore City Detention Center sparked numerous calls for a state investigation and prompted then-Governor Martin O’Malley and state corrections officials to take steps to root out any further corruption.

As the BGF leader, prosecutors said, White claimed ownership of the facility. “This is my jail; you understand that?” he stated, according to transcripts of phone calls recorded by investigators. “I’m dead serious.... I make every final call in this jail ... and nothing go past me, everything come to me.”

“You see what I am saying?” the transcript continued. “Everything come to me. Everything. Before a mother-f----- hit a n----- in the mouth, guess what they do, they gotta run it through me. I tell them whether it’s a go ahead, and they can do it or whether they hold back. Before a mother-f----- stab somebody, they gotta run it through me.... Anything that get done must go through me.”

According to court documents, high-ranking jail officials held “town hall meetings” with gang members to discuss operations at the facility.

“In this case, the inmates literally took over the asylum and the detention centers became safe havens for the BGF,” declared FBI special agent Stephen E. Vogt.

“Correctional officers were in bed with BGF inmates, in violation of the first principle of prison management,” added U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. Court records alleged that “BGF members recruited correctional officers through personal and often sexual relationships, as well as bribes, and that some officers traded sex for money.”

In a press release issued by his office, Rosenstein said the corruption enabled those involved to “make large amounts of money through drug trafficking, robbery, assault, extortion, bribery, witness retaliation, money laundering and obstruction of justice.”

BGF members used the guards to smuggle cell phones, marijuana, Oxycodone, Xanax and other drugs into several jails, primarily the Baltimore City Detention Center, which were then sold to other prisoners, according to the initial indictment. Gang members paid “dues” and used prepaid debit cards to pay for contraband; other prisoners were “taxed” for their own illegal activities.

Investigators said guards simply brought contraband to work with them. “The chances of being searched were remote,” prosecutors noted. The guards concealed contraband in their underwear, hair, body orifices and elsewhere, and walked through the jail’s main entrance where co-conspirators were often present to wave them through.

According to the indictment, the female guards impregnated by White included Jennifer Owens, 31; Katera Stevenson, 24; Chania Brooks, 27; and Tiffany Linder, 27. A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Owens had “Tavon” tattooed on her neck, while Stevenson had the same name inked on her wrist. Owens and Stevenson were among the guards who pleaded guilty to federal charges.

Another guard, Kimberly Dennis, 26, was named in the indictment for allegedly having sex in a closet with a different BGF prisoner. Guard Jasmine Jones, 26, reportedly stood watch for them.

Other guards were accused of tipping off White and his BGF associates when shakedowns were going to occur, among other inappropriate actions. On January 6, 2013, White reportedly said on a cell phone call, “I just got a message [from guard Tiffany Linder] saying that they was going to pull a shakedown tonight. Let me call all these dudes in my phone and let them know.”

White allegedly purchased several cars with profits from the BGF contraband smuggling scheme, including a Mercedes and BMW. He gave one guard a diamond ring and provided luxury cars to several others. Profits were also used to fund BGF’s street activities outside the jail, which were affiliated with other chapters of the gang.

Appearing to prepare for what he believed would be White’s eventual release from the Baltimore facility, a lieutenant allegedly told gang member Joseph Young, seen as White’s successor, that he could keep making money selling contraband if he could control violence at the jail, according to wiretap recordings.

When news of the scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center first broke, shock spread at the extent of the corruption.

“These types of insidious gang issues cannot and will not be tolerated,” Governor O’Malley said on April 26, 2013, three days after the original indictment was announced. “Over the last six years, we’ve made it a priority to work with our federal and local law enforcement partners to combat prison gangs.”

Then-Maryland Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services Gary D. Maynard stated at a press conference that his office had participated fully in the joint state-federal investigation that led to the indictment, and that he took full responsibility for problems at the jail.

“It’s totally on me. I don’t make any excuses,” he said. “It’s absolutely my responsibility. It becomes embarrassing for me when we expose ourselves and we participate in an investigation that’s going to show what’s going on in our jails that I am not proud of.”

Maynard moved his office into the detention center following the indictment to directly oversee further investigations, and required polygraph tests for top jail officials. Other employees would have to undergo “integrity reviews,” he added.

State lawmakers scheduled a rare out-of-session hearing to demand answers. State Sen. Joseph M. Getty called the scandal a “pretty harsh indictment” of Maynard’s policies. “This is frightening to us as legislators, the level of collusion that has existed between the correction officers and inmates,” he said.

State Sen. Christopher B. Shank called the level of corruption at the jail “shocking.” He added, “These folks need to be held accountable.”

“The indictment that came down makes us look like a third-world nation,” complained Delegate Michael Smigiel.

Yet this was not the first time the BGF was implicated in corruption involving Maryland prison guards. In 2009, under Maynard’s tenure, 20 gang members and four employees at the Metropolitan Transition Center in Baltimore were indicted on drug, gun and extortion charges. Several guards were convicted and sentenced to up to 24 months behind bars, and 15 more BGF members were indicted in 2010. [See: PLN, Aug. 2010, p.40]. The following year, an employee at the Chesapeake Detention Facility was sentenced to 37 months in prison for assisting the BGF with drug trafficking and other crimes.

More than 50 guards at the Baltimore City Detention Center have been fired for fraternizing with prisoners or smuggling contraband since 2010, according to Maynard’s spokesman. Maynard announced his retirement in December 2013, shortly before the release of a legislative report on corruption at the jail.

Prosecutors said disciplinary rules associated with the powerful union representing state prison guards made it difficult to fire allegedly corrupt employees without a conviction, but union officials defended the rules and said the blame was misplaced.

Patrick Moran, director of the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), told The Herald-Mail that the FBI used “a poor choice of words” in criticizing the Maryland Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights – legislation passed in 2010 that provides protections to guards from unfair firings.

The law “does not impede the state’s ability to investigate and terminate officers who engage in wrongdoing,” AFSCME spokesman Jeff Pittman told the newspaper.

While the extent of the corruption at the Baltimore jail stunned many observers, one expert on sexual abuse in detention facilities said no one should be surprised that some of the female guards were so thoroughly compromised. Brenda Smith, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., said that with women making up 37% of the nation’s prison guards – 60% in Baltimore – the problem “isn’t going to go away, and in fact may become more prevalent in the years to come.”

Regarding White’s sexual relationships that led to his fathering five children with four guards, Smith said, “Mr. White may have been powerful, but these female guards had things he wanted. They were in control of him, too.” She added, “we’re not taking into account that women get turned on, too, both physically and by being in positions of power, and that we’re corruptible, and corrupted, as often as men are.”

Of the remaining eight defendants in the Baltimore jail case, five were convicted in February 2015 following a two-month trial – prisoners Joseph Young and Russell Carrington, guards Ashley Newton and Travis Paylor, and kitchen employee Michelle McNair. Three guards, Riccole Hall, Clarissa Clayton and Michelle Ricks, were acquitted.

Tavon White, the leading force behind the corruption scandal and the prosecution’s leading witness at trial, was sentenced on February 9, 2015 to 12 years in federal prison, which, pursuant to his plea agreement, will run concurrently with his state sentence on the attempted murder charge.

“Ideally, we’d be able to make the case, prove the case with only law enforcement witnesses and not having to cut deals with criminals, but that’s the way things work,” said U.S. Attorney Rosenstein.

Many of the 40 defendants who pleaded guilty or were convicted have not yet been sentenced. Others have, such as former guards Kimberly Dennis, 27, and Antonia Allison, 29, who received 24 months and 20 months in federal prison, respectively, in March 2015 for smuggling drugs and other contraband into the Baltimore City Detention Center.

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Sources: www.baltimoresun.com, www.calgaryherald.com, www.catholic.org, www.examiner.com, FBI press release, www.floridatoday.com, www.i4u.com, www.slate.com, www.wbaltv.com, The Washington Post, Associated Press, www.thonline.com, www.leg33.com, www.correctionsone.com, www.dailymail.co.uk, http://baltimore.cbslocal.com

(Published by Prison Legal News; used by permission)

A Judge's Crime

Image courtesy saintpetersblog.com

Image courtesy saintpetersblog.com

By Rhonda Turpin   

It is a clear violation of Ohio Revised Code and the Code of Ethics for a Judge to represent a criminal defendant in any capacity. 

The Ohio Revised Code holds:

"A person that is a candidate for public office, or nominated, or has filed a petition or petitions SHALL not (A)Authorize, or employ the authority or influence of the public official's office to secure authorization of any public contract, which the public official, his family, or any of public official's business associates has an interest;" ORC 2921.42(A)(A).

The statute goes further to state:

"(E) Whoever violates this section is guilty of having an unlawful interest in a public contract; Violation of division (A)(1) or (2) of this section is a felony of the fourth degree. 

There are also violations of the Ohio Revised Code Section 102 that are as follows:

"No present or former public official shall during service or twelve months thereafter, represent a client though decision, approval, disapproval, recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation, or other substantial exercise of administrative discretion." Section 102.03 (A)(1). 

In summary, it is a first degree misdemeanor when a petitioning candidate for Judgeship represents a criminal defendant and a fourth degree felony if the Judge wins an election and then represents a client in any capacity.

On November 28, 2005, Attorney Thomas Teodosio of Akron, Ohio accepted assignment to my criminal case in the Northern District of Ohio. (Case Number 1:05cr0303).  This acceptance occurred more than 60 days after his signed petition for Judgeship, which made the act a misdemeanor in most states.

While attending Judgeship training, he would not dismiss himself from my case.  He filed motions with the government against me, and continued to advocate hard for the opposition. 

My trial was held sporadically, August to October 2006; during this period of time he continued to assist the government.  "I am sorry I cannot assist you during this matter."  Mr. Teodosio stated repeatedly.  At the time I did not understand what he meant, but it soon became clear.    

Attorney Thomas Teodosio won the election, and was sworn in as a Summit County Judge for Drug Court, elected by the people, November, 2006, a few days after he botched my bench trial.  (See his full Court bio at Summit County Court of Common Pleas, with dates).   He continued to assist the government to the final moment of my sentencing, and aggressively filed and worked against me during every important aspect of sentencing.  (See Doc. 256, filed January 24, 2007, two days before my sentencing on my public docket statement).     

I did not lie down and wallow in pity.  I fought back, and still continue to file about this matter.  I have won two direct appeals representing myself, and took this matter to the United States Supreme Court on direct appeal (Case number 12-6682) where I received two hearings before it was determined that my issue was a habeas issue.  I now have a retained attorney on 2255.     

The Courts do not want to touch my issue. Mr. Teodosio could easily be a state inmate at any part of this juncture.  He is no longer a Summit County Judge, thanks to my persistence of writing everyone from the County Court supervisors, to the Ohio Board of Ethics.      

If you ask yourself the question: Can a defendant receive a fair trial and advocacy from a defense attorney that has a clear conflict-of-interest?  The answer is no. He was already a sworn in Judge, filing in my case! 

What I have to say to all federal inmates is you have to keep fighting, and putting your issues on paper, because you never know when things can turn around for you, and even if the win is not your freedom at this time, small victories count. 

   

Seventh Circuit: Dismissal due to Nonpayment of Filing Fee Requires Assessment

By Mark Wilson

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held in March 2014 that a district court had abused its discretion when it dismissed a prisoner’s suit for failure to pay a filing fee without determining his ability to pay.

Indiana prisoner Leonard Thomas filed suit in 2012, alleging inadequate medical care for his epilepsy. He moved to proceed in forma pauperis based on a prison trust account balance of $0.02 and an average monthly balance of $43.50.

The district court granted his motion, assessed a partial filing fee of $8.40 and ordered Thomas to pay the fee within three weeks. When he failed to do so, the court dismissed his lawsuit without prejudice.

Thomas objected, claiming he had no money or income and that any money he received was automatically deducted from his account and applied to the debt he had incurred when printing his complaint. The court ignored his letter and he appealed.

“Although the district court properly assessed the initial partial filing fee,” the Seventh Circuit concluded that it had “abused its discretion by dismissing the case without determining whether Thomas was at fault for not paying that initial fee.”

Citing Fifth, Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Circuit precedent, the Court of Appeals wrote that “because a court may not dismiss the suit of a prisoner who has ‘a lack of funds in the account,’ the court must determine if nonpayment happened for that reason.” Therefore, “the district court should have attempted to learn why the fee had not been paid” before dismissing the suit.

The appellate court recognized that Thomas’ ending account balance was $0.02, he had received no deposits in the previous two months and only $1.50 had been deposited within the previous three months. “But the truth of his assertion that he lacked funds, and whether he can be faulted for lacking them, is for the district court to determine in the first instance,” the Court stated in remanding the case. See: Thomas v. Butts, 745 F.3d 309 (7th Cir. 2014).

(Published by Prison Legal News; used by permission)