|Apparently Donal Campbell, Commissioner of Prisons in
Alabama, only knows how to shoot the messenger. What kind of management
is this, especially when lives and health of citizens are at stake?
Perhaps Commissioner Campbell wants to see a "lawsuit, riot, death or serious
injury for anyone to take this crisis seriously," or has chosen to remain
blinded to truth? God knows some of the correctional guards
at Donaldson Prison try to provoke unrest every chance they get. But for
years, Campbell has ignored us. Now he is ignoring one of his wardens.
For your edification, I've enclosed excerpts from the Warden's memo as
well as an article on the overloaded sewer system (due to overcrowding)
to which Warden Bullard refers. Does any of this matter to the Commissioner?
Shooting the messenger is not the answer.
You can write to the Commissioner's boss, the Governor of Alabama at http://www.governor.state.al.us/contact.htm Here is my letter to the governor.
It's bad enough when the ordinary citizen is ignored and of course when a prisoner is ignored, but when one of the Wardens of a prison is ignored and even punished for speaking truth, I must say WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ALABAMA???? Where is the outrage? Please see the article below that is spreading like wild fire across the internet. At some point in history, this issue will be heard. If not now, when? If not by you, then by whom?
Respectfully, Sherry Swiney
----- Original Message -----
From Rick Halperin
Canary in a coal mine
It's a good thing Birmingham News editorial writers don't work for Alabama's prison system. We might be placed on leave.
Obviously, a little explanation is in order:
Donaldson Correctional Facility Warden Stephen Bullard sent a memo warning of "catastrophic circumstances" at the prison just a few days before being put on mandatory leave.
"I am concerned that it is going to take a lawsuit, riot, death or serious injury for anyone to take this crisis seriously," Bullard wrote in the March 1 memo to his boss, Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell.
"I am of the opinion that the staff at Donaldson has been asked, no ordered, to endure what equates to nothing more than taking advantage and abuse of dedicated employees," Bullard wrote.
Donaldson, with space for 1,000 prisoners, houses 1,625, many of whom are mentally ill and some on death row. The crowding has overloaded the prison's sewage system.
Corrections officers have been forced to work as much as 32 hours of overtime per week, the warden wrote. Some officers are refusing to work mandatory overtime, routinely obtaining doctors' excuses restricting their work hours. If an employee is injured or sues for harassment or unfair employment practices, "the department would have no legal standing to defend these charges," Bullard wrote.
March 4, Bullard was notified that Campbell had placed him on a mandatory 10-business-day leave. Tuesday, Campbell said he placed Bullard on leave because of health concerns, which Bullard mentioned in his memo. But Mac McArthur, executive director of the Alabama State Employees Association, which is representing the warden, called the leave "a classic case of shooting the messenger."
Let's hope Bullard's leave has nothing whatsoever to do with speaking the truth about problems at Donaldson, specifically, and the prison system, generally. This editorial page for years has written of problems in Alabama prisons, such as overcrowding, understaffing and dangerous work conditions. Campbell, himself, has acknowledged the problems, although not in such strong language as Bullard's memo.
It shouldn't take a lawsuit, riot or deaths or injuries to get officials'attention on prisons. But if it does, they can't say they weren't warned.
(source: Opinion, Birmingham News)
Truth is more of a stranger than fiction .... Mark Twain
----- Original Message -----
Warden's memo puts him on leave
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Days before being placed on mandatory leave, Donaldson Correctional Facility Warden Stephen Bullard sent out a memo warning of "catastrophic circumstances" at the prison.
"I am concerned that it is going to take a lawsuit, riot, death or serious injury for anyone to take this crisis seriously," Bullard wrote in the March 1 memo to Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Donal Campbell.
The warden's concerns focused on correctional officers, who have been forced to work overtime, sometimes 32 hours per week. The staff shortage took a toll on him, as well, affecting his health, patience and tolerance, he wrote.
On March 4, Bullard was informed that Campbell had placed him on a mandatory 10-business-day leave, which could be extended.
Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett said that, because the leave is an administrative matter, he could not comment on the reasons for it.
Campbell has acknowledged the staffing shortages and crowding at Donaldson. He approved a 5 percent pay differential for Donaldson officers in an attempt to recruit more to the ranks.
Bullard used stronger language, however, and said the state was taking advantage of employees.
"It is also my opinion that should an employee be injured or even sue for harassment on unfair ... employment practices the department would have no legal standing to defend these charges," he wrote.
With space for about 1,000 prisoners, Donaldson houses 1,625, crowding that has overloaded the prison's sewage system. It houses many mentally ill inmates and some of the people on Death Row.
Bullard said in an interview that he has asked many times to be transferred to another prison but was turned down.
"Donaldson is considered by most in the department to be the most stressful institution in the state," he said. "I've paid my dues. I've been there for five years, and it's somebody else's turn."
Most recently, officers are refusing to work mandatory overtime, calling in sick and requesting counseling and medication. It's become difficult for him to force overtime, he wrote in the memo.
Still, Bullard said that these are conditions he's spoken about in the past. And it's never resulted in forced leave, which he did not want to take.
"I'm very, very confused. I don't understand the tactic
that is being used, and hopefully it will resolve itself," he said
----- Original Message -----
It's time for prison to clean up its act
Sunday, February 06, 2005
A great case in point: Donaldson Correctional Facility's illegal dumping of sewage in west Jefferson County waterways. Donaldson has been violating its sewage-discharge limits for years, to the detriment of the Black Warrior River, its tributaries and the people who live near them.
We're not talking about small violations, either.The prison
is allowed to discharge 270,000 gallons of sewage a day into Big Branch
Creek, which runs into the Black Warrior. But on some days, the discharge
has been as much as 990,000 gallons a day - more than 3½
Prison officials say the violations are the result of having too many inmates - 1,590 of them in a prison built for 990 - and not enough money to overhaul the sewage system. That may explain how the problem began. But it doesn't explain why the problem continues today.
For that explanation, you must understand that Donaldson has had an ally in the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, which is supposed to protect state waterways from pollution. In the face of serious and chronic illegal discharges from Donaldson, ADEM issued warnings from time to time and once even wrote a consent decree requiring the sewage system to be upgraded. But it never imposed a fine or otherwise forced the prison system's hand, even as Donaldson continued breaking the law.
Ultimately, a group called the Black Warrior Riverkeeper filed a notice to sue over Donaldson's illegal dumping of sewage. Afterward, the Alabama attorney general's office filed the same suit - which seems like a good move until you understand the likely intent and certain effect of the attorney general's suit was to abort the first lawsuit and shelter the prison system from any serious consequences.
That's a shame because, at this point, serious consequences
are in order. Prison officials ought to understand that better than anyone.
Prison officials should hold themselves at least to the same standard they use for inmates. The Black Warrior River isn't any less polluted because Donaldson has reasons for exceeding its sewage limits. The Department of Corrections needs to fix Donaldson - or face the music.