When Prisons Lie
How is everyone tonight…as I am starting this blog about 11:37pm.
Before I continue, let me remind you about my “Grades of Honor” books, and cards and prison encouragement certificates. I also encourage you to email me to ask questions about prison, and to ask how to support my blog, it means a lot to me.
I mentioned before how I kept almost everything I wrote while in prison; tonight I am going to use a situation that is documented by me to show you how sometimes a prison will lie to cover their own behind. The basis of this is that we have to sometimes remember that when your loved one gets in trouble while in prison, the prison will almost always take a stance to defend itself…even when it is clearly wrong.
Near the end of my incarceration, I wrote a grievance and letters to some of the members of the NC DOC, in an attempt to get some answers. Now, at the time I wrote this, I was at Dan River Prison Work Farm, in Yanceyville, NC. What I am about to share with you is directly from the letter, and letterhead of the DOC.
The reason why I am sharing this is because there is almost no check or balance when the prisons screw up. I mean, we understand that prisons have “bad” people in there, and I understand they are there for a reason (some of them), but when the prisons cover up their mistakes, they completely fail in the rehabilitation of a human being. If they won’t own up to their mistakes, how can you expect an inmate to do the same, if they live under the roof of a department of correction that lies to the inmates?
The situation was this: as you know, I had been kicked out of Robeson Correctional, as I mentioned in some of my past blogs. One of the reasons was that the case manager at Robeson kept rejecting my grievances. It implies that Robeson Correctional assumed that I was some dumb idiot who didn’t understand nor comprehend the English language.
Remember folks…I have a degree in Radio and Television from college…I know a LITTLE something….
So I kept writing grievances, they kept rejecting them, until they realized I was not going to stop…so they kicked me out of Robeson, sending me to Dan River.
Now folks…this is something very interesting. If inmates knew they could get a transfer by writing grievances, they would be burning the ink up sending grievances daily! I mean, if THAT was all it took, then every inmate trying to get out of a camp would be doing that. But that is not true, prisons make it almost MANDATORY that you be there at least 6 MONTHS before you can get a transfer…how was I getting one in a few weeks?
Robeson said that I could not handle the camp, that I wasn’t able to fit in….folks, remember, this is not a guy (me) that was starting fights, cursing or breaking rules…I did nothing wrong on this camp for them to say I could not “adjust”. But because I was writing grievances, they tried to refuse to acknowledge them. When I would not relent, they kicked me out.
So now I’m at Dan River, angry for how the camp took the cowardly way out, rather than trying to address the grievance. So I write to the NC Department of Correction, the Division of Prisons, on this matter.
The following is what I received, word for word, dated June 7th, 2001:
“Your letter to the Chief Deputy Secretary of the Department of Correction has been referred to my office for review and reply. I have reviewed this matter and found that staff has acted appropriately.
The rejection of grievances on March 14th, April 1st and April 5th 2001 were appropriate. The grievance you filed on April 6th was accepted on April 9th, 2001. I have reviewed the Step One and Step Two responses to this grievance (43040-01-056).
These responses are appropriate. Your actions were disruptive to the orderly operations of the facility and it was in the best interest of all that you be transferred.
I would encourage you to do your best to make a successful adjustment at Dan River Prison Work Farm. Additionally, if you are unclear about the legitimate and authorized use of the Administrative Remedy Procedure, staff at Dan River will assist you. You may not write grievances for other inmates.
I hope this response clarifies the matter for you.
Dennis R. Rowland, Special Assistant to the Director”
Copies of this letter were sent to the Director’s Office, a Mr. Shane Ellis, Ralph Stamey and one put in my inmate file.
I am going to guess off the top of my head that Shane Ellis might have been the warden at Robeson, and Ralph Stamey might have been the warden at Dan River…I can check that to verify but I won’t do that at the moment.
Now, according to the letter, Mr. Dennis Rowland claims that I don’t know how to write a grievance, that the three I wrote were not according to procedure, and that Robeson felt that I was being disruptive to the facility.
The basis of his argument was in his last statement, which I am about to rip apart…”you may not write grievances for other inmates”.
Folks…this is misleading, and I will prove it to you.
To understand how Mr. Rowland was twisting these words, you have to jump back to what grievances I was writing. While at Robeson, a number of kitchen workers (including me) were concerned about the lack of sleep we were not getting. We wanted to write a grievance so that we might be able to get another hour or so of sleep, especially the morning shift, which wakes up about 4am.
A lot of guys didn’t have faith that the prison would honor the grievance, since they always find ways to reject the grievance. So I told them that if I wrote it, all they had to do was sign it, and we could turn it in.
So they did, and I did. The force of a pack of grievances worried the prison, and they needed to make a decision…answer the grievance, or reject them. They chose the latter.
Their argument was that a grievance cannot be written for another inmate. This was why they kept rejecting any grievance I wrote on behalf of another inmate. This is what Mr. Rowland seems to be saying, but Mr. Rowland did not pay attention at all to the rules of the Remedy Procedure, which he has accused me of being ignorant of.
What the NC DOC has done is something most prisons do…they twist the words to say what THEY want it to say, but in doing so completely destroy the foundation and trust, and intent of the word.
Now, before anybody from the NC DOC starts whining, there IS in fact a part of the grievance procedure that says that an inmate cannot write for another inmate…in fact it is actually written on the grievance procedure as one of the 10 things that a grievance can be rejected for.
But if I may, let me quote word for word what this says:
Section F of the Administrative Remedy Procedure: Remedy for another inmate.
This clearly implies that as an inmate (which I was) and by the biased thinking of Mr. Rowland and Robeson Correctional, that I cannot write for another inmate…sounds right…it isn’t.
Read those words CAREFULLY….”Remedy for another inmate”.
If you allow a person to twist words, they can make it mean what THEY want it to, when the truth is that it does not say what they are implying.
This is much like the Bible, or God’s Living Word. If God said something in the Bible, there cannot be a contradiction to it somewhere else in the Bible. If you read it carnally, you can likely find things that LOOK contradictory, but spiritually if you read it, it all flows and makes sense. It all agrees with everything God says. For a word to be true it has to agree with the rest of the genre in which it is written on.
God’s word simply cannot contradict itself, otherwise God is a liar…and He is not. The same goes with anything else, including the rules and policies we live under. If they contradict, then the foundation is not true…or the person misinterpreted it incorrectly.
As I said, the Remedy procedure clearly says that a grievance can be rejected if it is of a remedy for another inmate. So it might appear that Robeson was correct in rejecting my grievances, and Mr. Rowland and NC DOC was correct in siding with them, and then scolding me of being ignorant to the procedure. He justifies the prison kicking me out because I wasn’t going by the rules, and was a problem to the facility.
But there is a MAJOR flaw to Mr. Rowland’s assumption…simply put, he was not quoting the policy accurately.
True, the grievance procedure says that an inmate cannot seek a remedy for another inmate…in fact I still have my “green book” of the NC policies, and on page 25 it discusses the types of grievances that will not be accepted. As quoted in the book, page 25:
“Grievances will be rejected whenever inmates seek to challenge:
(f) seek a remedy for another inmate.
Now again, this SOUNDS like Mr. Rowland and Robeson is correct, that an inmate cannot seek a remedy for another inmate…but folks…that was NOT what I was writing in the grievance.
Remember folks, I wrote those grievances FOR those inmates, and they signed it as their own.
“It’s the same thing, isn’t it?”
Nope, and if you believe that, you would have been misled as well. NC DOC intentionally refused to acknowledge the intent of the rule, and twisted it to make it offensive. There is a difference is writing a grievance for an inmate, and writing to seek a remedy for another inmate.
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say I was one of the kitchen workers, and wanted to write a grievance so we could get a little more rest after our work is done. As a kitchen worker, I could easily write one myself, but what if one of the kitchen inmates is illiterate. What if they didn’t know exactly what to say? If an inmate does not have the ability to write a grievance, he can ask somebody else to write one FOR him.
If however, I was NOT a member of the kitchen crew, and felt it was my duty to write a grievance about the situation, seeking remedy for those guys, then THAT is cause for rejection.
Folks…do you see the difference?
NC DOC implies in that letter, and in misleading the rules, that an inmate CANNOT write a grievance for another inmate…that is very incorrect. In fact, by NC Policy, it is perfectly legal. Need proof?
I have with me from the NC Administrative Rules the entire section on the Inmate Grievance Procedure. See folks what inmates have in our booklet is a FRACTION of what the rules say, and inmates have been hostage to the information the prisons do not tell us. In section .0302 it talks about Accessibility of the grievance procedure.
Under this section is section A, Communication of the Procedure. There are 3 sections under this, which discuss how inmates are to have access to the procedure, and how they may be able to communicate this grievance procedure.
The first part says that BY RULE, the grievance procedure is supposed to given to all inmates when they first enter prison, and the procedure should be available any time an inmate needs one.
The second part is like what Mr. Rowland suggested I do, to get assistance by the staff of the prison. He implies to me that since I don’t know anything, the staff at Dan River can help me understand how the grievance procedure works, since I am too stupid to know how it works.
But here’s the third part of this section….and get this….
“Inmates may obtain assistance in completing their grievances FROM OTHER INMATES where classification and housing assignments permit.”
This is the rule folks, it’s in black and white.
By POLICY, inmates are allowed to help one another to complete their grievance, as long as they are in the same housing area. That means inmates in the SAME dorm can indeed help one another when it comes to writing the grievance.
Now, compare the two rules. Mr. Rowland and DOC says that I cannot write grievances for other inmates…that was his exact words. But the POLICY says I can indeed write a grievance for another inmate if he needs help.
Don’t get lost here, because this is how DOC completely ignores the problems that inmates have. Even if I write the entire grievance for a person, if he signs it, it is HIS. Even if he didn’t write the words, if he accepts them and signs his name to the bottom of that grievance, it is no different than if he wrote it himself.
You really need a spiritual eye to understand the intent of the rule, not a carnal one. If you have an inmate that is too old, or have a broken hand, or can’t read or write, is he then disqualified from ever writing a grievance because no one else can write a grievance FOR him…no.
That was not the intent of the rule at all. And DOC knew that.
There will be times that even inmates need help, and when they can’t get it from the prison (or when the prison is too busy jerking them around) they have to seek help from themselves. This is what I was doing at Robeson.
Many of those guys didn’t like the situation, and by rule, inmates have a right to write a grievance if it has something to do with the prison or other actions that are legitimate to grieve about.
The letter of the law with the rules was not to prevent somebody from writing a grievance for one who needed help, it was intended to prevent inmates from seeking a remedy in something that didn’t involve them.
If I wrote a grievance about how I felt it was unfair for Road Squad workers to be out there in the hot sun, then that can be rejected, because I am not on the road squad, and I am seeking a remedy for an inmate and a situation I am not a part of. But if I was a member of a road squad of 5 guys, and they all felt the same way, I could BY POLICY, write a grievance for each of them, and if they sign it with their own name, it should BY POLICY be treated like 5 separate grievances…plus mine.
When you look at the rule the way it was intended, you can see that Mr. Rowland was not very honest in his “appropriate” action.
Its funny, because right under that rule is another that most prisons don’t respect, which is the availability of the procedure. By POLICY it is supposed to be posted throughout the unit and the prison…I don’t think I ever saw that on any prison I was on, I’ll bet money on that.
So IF my being removed from Robeson was supposedly based on the idea that I was disruptive, we have to go back and look at this again…was I disruptive because I was breaking the rules? Of course not, if so I would have been quickly put in the hole. Prisons are often merciless when it comes to inmates making mistakes, or even if the prison THOUGHT they made a mistake…heck, it was why Sanford correctional removed me from their camp and sent me to the hole in Guilford!
But if the basis of my being removed was not against the rules, then by Mr. Rowland’s accusation, it was because I was ignorant of the policies. But we just discovered that his interpretation was extremely prejudiced and quite ignorant. No way was he going to side with a CRIMINAL over prison staff. Inmates can never be right, even with common sense.
But again, if this theory he had of me is now seen as incorrect…then what was the TRUE reason for sending me away? The idea that I could not adjust is garbage folks, this is PRISON. You don’t get a pass for not being able to adjust, you know that! Tough luck if you can’t do your time, just sit there and deal with it. There are THOUSANDS of inmates across the country that can’t “adjust” to prison, are they being moved around? NO.
So the idea of me being moved can’t be because I could not adjust, but he also said that it was in the best interest of the prison to move me. He said my “actions were disruptive” to the facility.
Folks…read between the lines here and see if you get what I am saying….
I was being disruptive, but by the NC Administrative policy, I was clearly within my rights to help other inmates write grievances, and was charged with no wrong doing…tell me again what did I do wrong?
And if I did nothing wrong…how then can this be disruptive in prison?
If I was wrong, I would have gotten a write up, or put in the hole. Neither of which happened while I was at Robeson. I have NEVER requested a transfer, so it wasn’t like I moved up the list, and by most policies of NC prisons, you have to be there at least 6 months (whether you like it or not) before you can request a transfer. I was at Robeson about a month and a half.
So tell me again what I was disruptive for, that they had to remove me from the prison?
The entire basis was that I was writing incorrect grievances, but we now know that this was not true at all. Every grievance I wrote was clearly accurate and on the mark, and by the book…it was just that Robeson Correctional refused to respect the rules and acknowledge the problems of the inmates.
So the end result seems to be, that if I didn’t do anything wrong, and there was no real need to remove me, then this could very well have been a retaliation…or a reprisal.
Interesting, because here is the rule about that:
“.0303 Reprisals: (a) No reprisal shall be taken against any inmate or staff member for a good faith use of or participation in the grievance procedure…”
And THERE is the foundation of the rules folks…GOOD FAITH.
This is what Dennis R. Rowland, the Director’s Office, the Department of Correction and the superintendents of those prisons completely ignored and refused. The rule of writing for inmates is based on both sides understanding the good faith of it, not the twisting words of it. In good faith I did what I could to help inmates who had a grievance by writing their grievances for them. They read it, accepted it, and signed their name to it. That made it THEIR grievance. By the policy I was clearly within my rights to do that for them, there is absolutely no wrong in what I did.
But DOC twisted the words to make it say the laziest thing they could, so that they would not admit that SOMETIMES the prison can be wrong. They were not acting in good faith of the rule. And by rule, it is against the rule to punish people for acting in good faith. Yet this is EXACTLY why I was removed from Robeson. This had nothing to do with my adjustment in prison, it was based on the fact that the staff at Robeson did everything they could to reject anything I wrote, and when they saw I was not going to stop, they had to get rid of me.
And sadly, the NC DOC sided with them, only because I am an inmate.
As the title says folks, prisons CAN lie, and do it quite often.
The cool thing about this is that I have all my letters, grievances and such from when I did time, and I have the words of these people who felt it necessary to belittle inmates simply because they were inmates. I am hoping I can get far enough in my books to share a LOT more of this, because there are many things that can be said about this situation, and many others.
When I reread that awhile ago, it was like I was fired up about it, as if I just received it this morning instead of almost 9 years ago. This is why saving all my works is so important, I can read what was said and almost be right back at that time when it happened.
Folks when that was going on, while I was being bounced from prison to prison for flimsy reasons, I had nobody to turn to, no one to write to. There were no blogs at the time (that I knew of) and my mom didn’t fully understand what I was doing. To her, it was easier to just do the time…I strongly disagree.
I love my mom, but mom did not understand the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of doing time. She only saw the physical, and to her, it would have been easier to just endure it all and come home.
This is actually what a LOT of folks believe too, that if their son, or husband or boyfriend just do what the prison tells you, everything will be ok and you will be home soon. Uh…that isn’t realistic folks, but that is a whole different blog.
In retrospect, I think if God knows everything, He knew what I would do, and what would happen. I went through a lot of mess in those prisons, but through it I wrote about it, and tried my best to stay in faith. It was all I had at that time, because I had nobody else to talk to about these situations. Sure, lots of inmates sympathized with me, because they knew that prisons will always defend their own, but outside of that, I just didn’t have any help. It was just me, any rules I could find, and my extreme love of writing.
And maybe God knew that, because after all, here I am, almost 9 years after that letter, writing a blog about it for you guys. I think if Dennis Rowland or DOC knew that the things they told inmates would end up on the internet, told to thousands or millions of people, they might think twice about what they are saying. Surely, Mr. Rowland and DOC did not think I would be smart enough to save this situation, since inmates are too stupid to do anything, and would likely throw all the papers away, destroying all evidence of the prisons misapplication of the rules.
Well… I didn’t.
So, do prisons lie…absolutely. Yet the stereotype is that inmates are liars and cheats. I won’t argue that many do, but let’s not be foolish to think that prison officials are pure and righteous. If they think they can get away with breaking or ignoring rules, they will do it. So it is important for you to keep that in mind while communicating with your loved ones. Consider that next time your loved one talks about a grievance or a problem he is having with the prison.
Well, its after 1am, gotta go to bed, email me if you want to support my blogs, until next time…