Friday, August 03, 2007

Retaliation against prison guard blogger?

Prison guard bloggers at The Back Gate have alleged retaliation against one of their number for reporting on problems at the Darrington Unit. Reports Duane Stewart:
The Backgate Website staff member that broke the story of Darrington Warden Thomas Merchant, and other ongoing issues at the region 3 Darrington unit, among other issues, has come under fire by regional, and unit staff. Our reporter, who will remain nameless at this point, has come under fire , and possibly been retaliated against for his reporting of misdeeds in region 3.

The situation arose about a week ago when admin. staff of the CT Terrell unit in Rosharon, where the anonymous reporter is assigned, was placed into a precarious predicament with the payroll dept. in Huntsville. The reporter, who is assigned to that unit, was denied relief by the region 3 director, Jackie Edwards, when the issue was brought to light , even when the situation was proven to be admin error. Thus possibly creating a situation where the reporter will be denied salary benefits.

As current employees of the agency, and also the reporters of truth with TDCJ, we all knew that the time may arise when an agency administrator would attempt to violate our constitutional rights, and retaliate for our true, and proven stories we post here for the Texas public, and TDCJ staff.

In this case, with the advice of site legal counsel, all we can say is there was a witness that was present when the reporter was unveiled in the wardens office sometime back, and that witness can verify that there was a negative attitude shown about this employee for that almost 12 months back for nothing other than his participation with this website. Not to mention a paper trail a mile long.

See the rest of the post for more. Back Gaters are asking supporters to contact elected officials to get the warden off the blogger's back.

TDCJ has always had a brutally cutthroat internal bureaucratic culture. This episode casts a ray of light into the dark corners of our prisons where employees and prisoners rights alike historically have be trampled without anyone speaking up. As the blogosphere grows there will inevitably be more such conflicts in the future, but ultimately some protocols must be established at state agencies to protect whistleblowers and the First Amendment rights of state employee bloggers.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Grits, this is also a very real problem at TYC. Speak up on this blog and they will try and identify you so that they can make your life a living hell....its happening to so many of us and it is such a shame, but that's the way it is.

Anonymous said...

sounds like this Merchant guy is a primo candidate for a TYC Supt. position.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@10:20 - I hear there's an opening in Beaumont.

Just kidding.:-/

Anonymous said...

When questioned about prior escapes from termination/discipline by Merchant some administrators stated he was Ed Owens "cuz", therefore a protected species. I never asked Ed if he was related.If true that does explain it.

Anonymous said...

They are friends, and have been for awhile. Merchant was moved from 3 different agency jobs " administratively" in a 3 year period by Owens. They guys was creating a trail of pissed off employees, and mismanaged departments. So how did TDCJ handle it? You guessed it. They put him on some other poor group of unsuspecting employees.

This Edwards guy over region 3 is also in that group of about 5 of them that have known each other for sometime, and have always looked out for one another.

There is litigation right now on the federal level ongoing on the Merchant/Edwards deal on the Darrington unit in Rosharon. Get ready Texas taxpayers, your pockets are going to be raided again soon when those employees get thier settlements.

Thanks for posting this story Grits and keep up the good work. If we allow government to censor personal websites, and to harass whistle blowers, where have we allowed ourselves to be put?..

You guys please support calling your local legislator on this one, it will help out TYC and TDCJ alike.

nurit said...

I have worked within and without the field of corrections for a very long time. This field attracts power-seekers. If you see a punishment mentality towards prisoners, you will see the same concepts applied to employees. It's difficult for any individual to split their core beliefs dependent upon the setting.