Thursday, November 5, 2009

Objection to the Building of another Oklahoma Prison -
"Christian" Prison to be built in Wakita, Ok and to use Prison Industry under Federal PIECP Program

November 4, 2009 - Corrections Concepts, Inc., a Dallas based non-profit is working to get Wakita, Oklahoma to sponsor the building of a new private prison. The facility would be the first all Christian prison in the U.S. Volunteering inmates would be supervised by Christian guards, and staffers. In addition, the inmates would work at the facility in a prison industry under the federal PIECP program. However, Corrections Concepts intends to not abide by the PIECP mandatory requirements of paying inmate workers in the program prevailing wages - instead choosing to pay them federal minimum wages - for their labor.

This avoidance of paying prevailing wages was first presented by Corrections Concepts founder, Bill Robinson to Texas Governor Bush in 1995 when Bush's support was sought. Bush so liked the idea of combining faith-based community initiatives with prison industries for prison inmates, he authored Resolutions there in Texas making it easier for such initiative programs to get state tax dollars for their operations. Once in the White House, Bush brought the concept with him, establishing White House Offices of Faith-Based Community Initiative satellite offices in every Federal Department and Agency including the Department of Justice that oversees the PIECP program. Bush did this by Executive Orders within days of taking office in 2000.

PIECP-Violations opposes the building of such a "Christian" prison in Wakita, Oklahoma - not on religious grounds, rather due to the stated intention of not abiding by the federal PIECP requirements regarding the planned prison industries. Too many prison industries and their private sector partners are already taking advantage of this important program, by not paying prevailing wages to the inmate workers. This allows for more corporate and prison industry profits at the expense of the work force. In addition it provides these violators with an unfair advantage over private sector companies who manufacture the same or similar products on the open markets. The PIE Program allows prison industries to sell and distribute prisoner made goods upon the same markets as private sector manufacturers and to openly compete for private sector market shares for those products. The prison industries are already disadvantaging the private sector competitors by giving their "partners" leases of huge prison facilities for $1.00 a year, no health insurance, no workers unemployment premiums, no paid vacations or other perks the private sector competing companies must provide to their employees. This results in the loss of private sector jobs to those citizens in desperate need of keeping their jobs, by transferring those jobs behind prison fences and walls and giving them to inmates.

Currently - as stated elsewhere on this site - there is a serious lack of actual, effective oversight of PIECP operations nationwide. The Bureau of Justice Assistance has outsourced this oversight to a private non-profit "Association" - the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA). There can be no real oversight or compliance with the PIE Program's rules and laws while an Association made up of the prison administrators, managers and vendors involved in the program oversee themselves. The NCIA is made up of just that - vendors to, administrators, managers and employees of the participating PIECP industries operated in each state.

The residents and citizens of Wakita, Oklahoma should review the PIECP Guidelines and ask pointed and specific questions of Corrections Concepts, Inc. about the proposed Prison Industry they plan on opening at the prison complex. These residents should know what the program is about and whether or not the prison industry will result in the loss of private sector jobs or unfairly compete with local Oklahoma Private Sector manufacturers of similar products. This must be done to protect Oklahoma jobs from disappearing behind the prison fences.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Daytona Beach Jury finds Enoch Hall Guilty

After less than 3 hours of deliberations a Daytona Beach, Florida jury found FDOC inmate Enoch Hall guilty of first degree, premeditated murder in the death of FDOC Officer, Donna Fitzgerald.

The defense did not deny that Hall killed Fitzgerald on June 25, 2008. Instead they argued that it was a spur of the moment decision made by Hall who really did not intend to kill Fitzgerald. They alleged that Hall had been taking pills all day and staying high and when the other inmates were returned to their housing areas, Hall stayed behind to look for more pills.

The jury apparently disagreed, finding that when approached by Fitzgerald, Hall was holding a homemade knife and attacked, stabbing her approximately 22 times - four of those stab wounds were to her back after she had stopped fighting for her life and lay motionless on the cold concrete of the shed used by PRIDE Enterprises' as a vocational training facility.

Hall was assigned to work for PRIDE at Tomoka CI because of his ability as a welder. Over the few years Hall worked for them, he received at least four Disciplinary Reports (DR's). One charge was for assault of another inmate and a second was for "gunning" or masturbating in front of a female staff member. When an inmate works for PRIDE and receives a DR, they lose their job and must be reassigned. This is both PRIDE and FDOC's policies. In addition Hall was serving two life sentences. I and others had continuously raised the issue of PRIDE's using inmates with such sentences, as a dangerous practice, placing officers and inmates alike in danger due to the tools available to inmates in the program. These arguments made directly to the PRIDE Board of Directors in 2006 and in a 2008 Independent Report provided to the FLorida Senate, FDOC, PRIDE, BJA and the Department of Justice. All such requests to halt this practice failed, and Donna Fitzgerald paid the price for the refusal by all concerned to take action to stop such hiring and employment practices.

In Hall's case, Tomoka classification returned Hall to his PRIDE job after each DR because PRIDE managers asked for his re-assignment. In two of the DR's Hall was not made to serve the sentence handed down by the institutional DR hearing officer before being sent back to PRIDE.

Eight command staff personnel at Tomoka CI were demoted one pay grade and transferred to other FDOC facilities following the investigation into the circumstances of Fitzgerald's death. The PRIDE Heavy Equipment Industry Manager, Bruce Hall (no relation) was transferred to sales following the incident, though FDOC requested PRIDE terminate him. PRIDE refused and Hall is purportedly still a PRIDE employee.

Sentencing or penalty phase of the Hall trial begins on Tuesday with the reading of victim impact statements and jury considerations of mitigating and aggravating factors as they decide whether or not to impose the death penalty.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hall Trial continues in Fitzgerald Murder

October 19, 2009 - Jury selection continues today in Daytona Beach, Florida in the Enoch Hall murder trial. Hall is accused of killing Donna Jo Fitzgerald, a Correctional Officer at Tomoka CI on June 25m 2008. After five days of trying to select a jury, the prosecution is hopeful that a full jury will be seated by this afternoon and the actual trial start tomorrow.

Family members of Ms. Fitzgerald are in attendance, including Donna's mother, Joanne Dunn who traveled back to Florida from her home in New Hampshire last week. Various public and private organizations are also in attendance in an apparent attempt to gain media attention during the high profile trial. We believe it does a discredit to the memory of Ms. Fitzgerald to have so many trying to advance their own causes and agenda's through such a venue.

Monday, October 12, 2009

PRIDE the Florida Department of Corrections and Murder

In Memory of Donna Jo Fitzgerald - and questions as to why she had to die.
This week the trial of Enoch Hall begins in Dayton Beach, Florida. On June 28th of last year, Hall was incarcerated in the FDOC at the Tomoka CI. He was serving two life sentences in Florida and had another 42 year federal sentence awaiting him if ever released by Florida. Hall's charges included rape, attempted murder, sexual assault and more. He was listed by the FDOC as a "high risk" inmate, labeled and HO-4 or 5. That's about as high a security classification as an inmate can have absent a death penalty.

PRIDE had an evening overtime project operating in June of 2008. Hall was employed by PRIDE as a welder in their Heavy Equipment Industry located at Tomoka. He hid from the lone female supervisor when it was time to return to the housing area that night. His absence was noted when the other inmates were returned. The supervisor, 50 year old Donna Fitzgerald notified authorities of the missing inmate and returned to PRIDE's plant to search for Hall.

Fitzgerald located inmate Hall in a welding shed. When she attempted to take him into custody, Hall attacked here, stabbing the woman repeatedly. She put up a fight - attested to by the defense wounds later found on her hands and arms - but the brutal attack took her life. An hour later other officers searching for her and the missing inmate located both at the PRIDE plant. They found Ms. Fitzgerald draped over a hand cart, partially wrapped in a blanket, her uniform pants and underwear rolled down around her ankles.

Hall was apprehended near her body and made statements that he didn't know "...why I killed her. I just snapped." Apparently as officers broke into the shed area, their presence stopped Hall's rape of Fitzgerald's lifeless body.

This brutal incident is hard to stomach. This is especially true when one looks back to 2003 and Charlotte Correctional Institution. In June of that year a female correctional officer, Darla Latherm was was assigned to supervising 5 close custody inmates working a nighttime construction detail in one of the dormitories. All 5 had lengthy records with convictions for murder, rape and assaults.

At approximately 10:00 in the evening two inmates were spotted with a ladder against the inner perimeter fence and another inmate was seen between two of the security fences. The inmates by the ladder turned and ran back into the dorm being worked on, leaving the ladder against the fence. While some officers apprehended the inmate between fences trying to escape, other officers went to A-Dorm where the construction crew was working and where the fleeing inmates had gone into.

In A-Dorm, Quad 3 the officers found Officer Darla Latherm secreted behind a locked door to a mop closet. She had been brutally murdered by bludgeoning with a sledgehammer to the head and face. One of the inmates assigned to the work detail was located locked in a cell with similar head injuries - he died days later.

As in the recent murder of Fitzgerald, the FDOC claimed there were regulations in place limiting female officers supervision of violent inmates and sexual offenders. In addition there was always supposed to be 2 officers supervising such work crews at night. Neither regulation was obeyed. Investigations after both of these horrendous murders determined that on both occasions, the inmates were under supervised by female officers who should not have been responsible for solely supervising such violent offenders and known sexual predators.
PRIDE Enterprises had been warned on no less than five occasion by this author that the hiring of inmates serving long or life sentences in a "Vocational Training Program" defeated the purpose of the entire program: training and acquisition of skills to allow an ex-offender to become better able to gain employment once released. In addition I argued time and again that the use of this class of inmate not only restricts inmates with shorter terms from availing themselves of that training, but it places the most violent inmates with little to lose in close proximity to "Class A" and "Class AA" tools. These tools could be used as weapons or to manufacture escape paraphernalia.
I attended 3 PRIDE Board of Directo meetings in 2006 where I discussed this very topic and urged them to cease the practice. In December 2007 I released and Independent Review of PRIDE and the federal PIECP program. In that report I again warned against the continued practice of allowing lifers and those serving huge sentences, as it endangered staff and other inmates alike.
Sadly my last warning on this subject came on June 25, 2008 in a discussion with Florida Department of Corrections Secretary, Walter McNeil. McNeil phoned me at 5:00 in the afternoon about my concerns about PRIDE and their operations and business practices. I again told Secretary McNeil how dangerous using those long termed sentenced inmates in the vocational program was due to the tool and safety issue. By the close of the conversation Secretary McNeil offered no comments about the issues raised and discussed.
Within 3 hours of our hanging up, Donna Jo Fitzgerald was dead from her injuries allegedly inflicted by Enoch Hall. She left behind a son, Kyle who had lost his father in the past year and in one instant found himself completely parent-less. Ms. Fitzgerald was a daughter, mother, aunt and sister. Her family lost a valuable member of their family...why?
The investigations began and in October of 2008 the FDOC Inspector General released their report. Unbelievably - but not surprisingly - this report indicated that under the then current rules and regulations, the FDOC seemed to be in compliance with most of them. The report was more or less indicative that Institutional staff members failed to follow proper protocols: classification, the Chief Correctional Officer, Classification Supervisor, Warden and 2 Assistant Wardens. They failed to supervise others who actually assigned Hall to PRIDE and PRIDE who requested Hall's re-assignments to the industry even after his bouts with disciplinary confinement.
For instance, FDOC and PRIDE policies disallow an inmate from being assigned to the Prison Industries unless prior to hiring they are disciplinary free (DR) for a period of six months. Once hired as a worker, an inmates forfeits his job if he receives a DR. In Hall's case, he received no less than 4 DR's during his assignments to PRIDE. One was for assault upon another inmate and one was for exposing himself to a female staff member. In each of the 4 cases, PRIDE requested Hall be reassigned to PRIDE as he was a welder, and they claimed institutional need for his abilities. In each case, Hall was not even made to complete his confinement sentences. The head of Classification at Tomoka CI simply wrote a memo to the institutional classification team overriding their reclassifying Hall to another job. This issue alone would have saved Ms. Fitzgerald's life.
How did the FDOC staff at Tomoka and PRIDE's employees pay for their actions or lack of actions? Five FDOC personnel were demoted one pay grade and transferred elsewhere in the huge Department. PRIDE? Their Industry Manager, Bruce Hall who should have been there that night - or seen to it that another supervisor was there to supervise the inmates - was transferred to PRIDE's Sales Department. This move was seen as a lateral occupational change.
Maybe others who follow my blog can explain to me how any of this is right. When doing that consider this: the FDOC is attempting to deny death benefits to Ms. Fitzgerald's family, because in their eyes she was "moonlighting for PRIDE" that night, her official day shift being over. This despite she was in uniform, had assigned FDOC radio, was on duty to fulfill those duties supervising FDOC inmates. Another FDOC excuse to try and deny benefits? PRIDE was paying Tomoka officers to supervise the night shift inmates, instead of simply reimbursing the DOC for their time (which is now done).
At what point and after how many needless, senseless and preventable deaths of good hard working FDOCemployees will Florida arrive at holding the FDOC and PRIDE accountable for their actions?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What is PIECP and why should you care?

Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) is the federal program that allows state prison industries to "partner" with private sector manufacturers, businesses and corporation to use prison industry facilities and inmate labor to make products that are then sold to public and private consumers across the country.

You should care because the manner in which this important program is being abused is causing the closure of private sector businesses and corporations who are in competition with the prison industries. This also causes the loss of private sector jobs to inmates behind the fences and walls of the state's prison industries.

The products prison industries make are in direct competition with private sector manufacturers in your state or neighboring states. These products are made using cheap labor with no benefits paid to the workers, low annual leases given to the "partners" by the prison industries and other overhead saving short-cuts.