Commentary

Letters to the Editor

Page 3 of 5

Guarded opinions: I try not to draw conclusions without knowing all the facts, so I intend to comment on things I do know about our institution and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. First off, I have never worked at the United States Penitentiary in Florence, nor do I know any of the alleged "cowboys." I have worked at FCI Englewood for almost eighteen years, and currently hold the position of Drug Treatment Specialist, GS-11. It is important to note that I am not speaking for the agency.

It appears that at the time these alleged beatings occurred, inmate violence and abuse against staff was out of control, or close to it. Administrators were restricted and/or negligent in responding to the conditions, so they indirectly encouraged "old school" justice, then bailed out when the shit hit the fan. This is not to say that I would condone abusing inmates. That would be an inexcusable abuse of power. I thought Alan Prendergast's article offered a balanced portrayal of the prison conditions and the situation, but again, I was not there. Based on reports that these "beatings" never resulted in serious injuries, most union officials are taking the position that these correctional officers were railroaded.

As you may guess, labor and management sometimes disagree on circumstances and the severity of discipline taken against both staff and inmates, but what supposedly happened in Florence is an extreme example. Of course, confrontations sometimes occur in a prison setting, but the public needs to understand that despite that fact, most interaction between staff and inmates is positive. Fair and equal treatment, the importance of programs, and positive life changes are all emphasized. Most staff are very professional and take a lot of pride in their duties. Most inmates do their time smoothly and make some effort to change their circumstances. A major problem that perpetuates the public's opinion of "life on the inside" is the consistent focus on the negative aspects of the prison environment. I think that falsely misleads the public into believing that staffers are sadistic and all inmates are evil. That is just not the case.

Timothy D. Allport, president, Local 709
American Federation of Government Employees

The cowboy way: I am a former Federal Correctional Officer who was recently acquitted of all charges concerning inmate abuse at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado -- the "Cowboy" case. Instead of being elated, relieved and happy, I am bitter, disappointed and mad. Three of my brothers were found guilty. I am confident that they are victims of the whole weight of the U.S. government.

Prosecutor Mark Blumberg spent almost six years, three grand juries and more money (our tax money) than we will ever know to indict and bring to trial seven correctional officers, in the hopes that all or some of these officers would plead out and turn lies into truths so he could go after captains, assistant wardens and wardens, with maybe a few lieutenants thrown in for good measure. During the course of this indictment and trial, all seven correctional officers were afforded the opportunity of pleading to lesser charges if we cooperated and turned evidence against our superiors. Up to the final minute, the government was trying to get us to plea out.

The first indictment returned by the grand jury was incorrect, so Blumberg went to a fourth grand jury and changed some dates and added a new charge. The first charge, "conspiracy," had over 55 overt acts listed. During the trial, Blumberg did not mention two-thirds of these. In other words, the grand jury returned an indictment with evidence that the government could not prove.

During the trial, Blumberg did not want you, the jury or the judge to hear how the government coerced, threatened, intimidated and flat-out lied. Every time the defense tried to bring this information to light, the government sought to block the testimony. The government did not put the inmates who were allegedly assaulted on the witness stand. Why not? Here is one theory: Nothing the inmates said happened! The inmates' history, personality and lack of injuries were detrimental to the government's case. One inmate involved said all his front lower and upper teeth were knocked out and that he was beat within an inch of his life; pictures during trial showed this inmate standing with a smile and all his teeth. Another inmate was attempting suicide, and these officers went into his cell to save his life -- and now they are serving time for doing their jobs.

The grand-jury system needs to be revamped; the prosecutor now gets to present evidence without a judge or defense attorney being present. The government does not have to prove anything that is presented to the grand jury. This process is being manipulated by prosecutors across this great nation. Half-truths, misdirection, smoke and mirrors and straight-out lies spew forth from prosecutors and their puppets so that the agenda can move forward.

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