Filed under: Central, Incarceration, Repression, US
During his time at the Telford Unit, Jason Renard Walker faced continual retaliation and harassment from staff attempting to silence his writing and organizing, including several attempts to frame him on false charges and to prevent him from being able to defend himself effectively. After getting his story out and appealing for outside support and solidarity through outlets such as the San Francisco Bay View, Incarcerated Workers and It’s Going Down, Jason was able to prove wrongdoing by some of the staff who conspired against him, a story that has now made it into the mainstream media. In this pair of articles, he reflects on the experience, and asks for the input of his readers as to whether or not he should bring criminal charges against those who conspired to cause him harm.
by Jason Renard Walker
Former Telford Unit employee Sheila Forte was recently fired for her role in falsifying records, connected to a false disciplinary case I received on Sept 13 2018. Forte held the job title Counsel Substitute III, which is supposed to act as a prisoner’s advocate during disciplinary hearings.
But evidence reveals that Forte deliberately conspired with other officials by failing to notify me (and possibly others) that we had pending major disciplinary cases. Then falsified records by claiming that I refused to attend the hearing and refused to sign the waiver form.
According to Ellis Unit OIG employee “Lawson”, this incident is just a small fraction of a bigger on-going investigation that may possibly net more employees, criminal charges, and civil suits.
On Dec 17, 2018, Lawson advised me of my right to press criminal charges of Forte for her effort to intentionally and maliciously cause me harm. He also said I could sign a waiver relieving her of criminal charges.
This disciplinary case is just one of many I received, where Forte had a hand in me not being able to attend the hearing or collect evidence, and where she provided me no due process assistance during the appeals process.
This exposed act is only the stem of a long-running culture of staff’s lack of integrity and recognition of the few rights prisoners have. When I made an effort to expose this plot with the help of outside supporters, Telford Unit Head Warden Garth Parker threatened to do something to make me stop “nosing around” in this endeavour. And called me a “lying motherfucker”.
If Telford Unit staff are being investigated for such normal abuses of power, why are Ellis Unit employees such as Counsel Substitutes A. McMillian and Wiseniske, and Disciplinary Hearing Officers Michael Hill and Cpt Lawrence, flying under the radar? The false documenting game and lack of counsel substitute advocacy here is far worse and more mendacious than anywhere else I’ve been or heard of.
The practices Forte engaged in are systemic and not isolated to her; TDCJ as a whole promote the violation of prisoners’ due process rights.
Since it is the public and my readership who helped net this big catch, I will put it in your hands to determine her fate. Criminal charges, yea or nay?
Jason Renard Walker, 1532092, Ellis Unit, 1697 FM 980, Huntsville, TX 77343
Prison-assisted cover-up: On the Telford Unit, once again
“Despite the apparent lag in referring the matter to investigators, Desel pointed out that in both cases, prison officials caught the problem, looked for other instances, and doled out discipline.”
This is a quote from Houston Chronicle journalist Keri Blakinger in her piece, “Criminal probe launched after Texas prison workers admit to falsifying inmate disciplinary records”. In it, TDCJ spokesman Jeremy Desel attempts to protect Telford Unit’s administration from liability for failing to notify the Office of Inspector General when Counsel Substitute Sheila A. Forte was busted twice committing felonies while on the job.
In fact, “prison officials” were the overseers of her acts, as she received two months of job probation for the first act, and briefly remained employed after the second.
While Keri’s report did alert the public to Telford Unit’s corrupt inner sanctum, I will draw the connection between Forte’s acts, and officials’ knowledge of them, and their complicity to allow them to continue. And, of course, the cover-up when things went haywire.
Back in Jan 2018, Forte and Disciplinary Hearing Officer Cpt Tony Rust were caught conspiring to falsify 41 disciplinary reports by falsely stating that the accused were transferred to another prison. While prisoners are on bench warrant or away temporarily, the time limit to run the case stops, and can be extended in 40-day allotments. Their claim is that this crime was in fact done in good faith, to relieve the over-loaded case docket. Rust received a year’s probation for his acts.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Forte falsified 18 cases, while Rust did 23. Twenty of the cases were dismissed due to this fix, two were dismissed for unrelated reasons, and nineteen were caught in time to be run appropriately.
TDCJ documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle state that Forte and Rust said their acts were part of an effort to improve the unit’s disciplinary case time response stats, thus making the prison disciplinary program look good for observers on the outside. “Each region is different, but they want to keep down the amount of days it takes from when you write the case to the hearing”, claims former Telford Cpt Mark Adcock, who also suggests that if that number is high, it draws the attention of senior officials in Huntsville, who want to know why cases aren’t being run on time.
Desel denies this allegation, and says that staff aren’t ever pressured regarding “statistical analysis”. But Desel is merely a spokesman, and has no knowledge of Telford Unit incidents beyond what he cherrypicks from unit-devised reports and then feeds to the media.
Forte’s job is to be an advocate for prisoners during disciplinary hearings, so it’s not clear why she and the Disciplinary Hearing Officer would be engaged or interested in disciplinary statistics. But, according to a Feb memo from Program Supervisor Connie Tisdale (referred to as C. Tisdale PS III in my November Bayv;iew piece), “during the interview with Mrs. Fort’s [sic], she states she did this under the direction of Captain Rust.” Tisdale continues, “she went on to state that she had informed him at that time that this was not allowed. However, Captain Rust insisted that she just do it because he did not want the stats to look bad.”
Rust admitted to interviewers that he gave Forte those directions, but claims he had no idea they were illegal, and that Forte never told him they were.
On Sept 20, 2018, at 2:27 PM, Forte falsified my disciplinary report from a remote location. She claimed at that time that she attempted to notify me of the charges, but I declined service and gave no statement or plea. On Sept 24, 2018, she falsified documents saying I refused to attend the hearing on that day. I wasn’t aware of the hearing until I received a copy of the findings in the mail.
This was brought to Warden Marshall’s attention, who then viewed the surveillance camera that showed Forte hadn’t been to my cell on the 20th or 24th of Sept 2018.
The case was overturned sometime after, and Forte was allowed to continue her job duties. The discipline she received from the unit is unknown.
On Oct 8, 2018, Forte served me two disciplinary cases that were both trumped-up charges written by Rebecca Drager and Officer S. Cook. The evidence and information I gave Forte to assist me wasn’t documented. On the day of my hearing, another counsel substitute was there, who refused to consult with me on Forte’s failure to relay my evidence. I was found guilty of both cases and ignored when I sought assistance for the appeal process, which Forte has a duty to help me with.
Despite Desel claiming that the administration fulfilled their duty by disciplining Forte, this discipline was merely in-house punishment as a way to distance themselves from being exposed as the puppet-masters who really benefit from disciplinary cases, while also keeping Forte in her role, ready to commit more crimes.
Forte wasn’t fired until the Office of Inspector General launched a criminal probe. Desel never explained why the OIG was never contacted, though Forte committed felonious acts two separate times, and would never have been exposed the Houston Chronicle hadn’t contacted the OIG in Dec 2018. The OIG claimed they weren’t aware of either incident.
Desel says my incident was isolated, no other similarities were found, Forte was fired, case closed. But that’s not so. Remember, Desel said himself that Forte fell into another internal investigation when I “came forward” about my case. What about the dozens of prisoners like Logan Newsome #2163761 who were written false threat cases by Laundry Manager Renitia T. Davis, then had their cases run without them being called to attend the hearing? These prisoners never came forward, and many are still serving the assessed punishment.
Prison officials allowing staff to commit crimes against defenseless prisoners is a crime in itself, and that’s what’s going on at the Telford Unit.
Instead of the OIG trying to “get to the bottom” of what occurred, they need to investigate from the top, as firing one staff member and replacing them with another allows the culture of criminal acts to continue.
It’s not the bad apple in the barrel that’s resulting in this behavior, but the bad barrel that’s creating bad apples, who are only pawns in a human game of chess that has unlimited pieces, and create-as-you-play rules.
Investigate the Unit Classification Committee (UCC), Mailroom, STG Office, Warden’s Office, and Grievance Office, and the lateral mind-trap puzzle they’ve built to hide what’s really going on will reveal itself. It always does!
Jason Renard Walker, 1532092, Ellis Unit, 1697 FM 980, Huntsville, TX 77343