OIG Complaint Reports Widespread Corruption at the Talladega Federal Prison
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Public Corruption Inside the Talladega Federal Prison
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on November 8, 2020
Four months into my imprisonment at the Talladega, Alabama Federal Prison Camp, I observed and documented widespread public corruption in the form of fraud, waste, abuse and the theft of federal property by certain staff members and correctional officers. On January 27, 2020, I filed a confidential “whistleblower” complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) in Washington that detailed this public corruption. [Click below to read the OIG complaint.]
The public corruption reported in the OIG complaint thrived for three reasons: (a) a clear lack of proper administrative supervision, (b) inadequate systems of financial controls, and (c) society’s tendency to dismiss the reporting of wrongdoing by inmates. One Camp executive who tried to do the right thing was transferred to another federal prison on the East Coast.
A System of “Dominion and Control” Breeds Corruption
A prison is the only legal institution of slavery permitted under the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Because state and federal criminal justice systems have been systematically “rigged” in favor of prosecutors for many decades, the threshold for enslaving millions of Americans in prisons is extremely low, especially for black and brown Americans.
Federal prosecutors and judges were surprised and embarrassed when President Donald J. Trump said out loud what most of them know is true – the federal criminal justice system is “rigged”. Yet, none of them publicly disputed Trump’s presidential pronouncement in this regard. How could they?
It is axiomatic that any criminal justice system that produces a 99% conviction rate every year is, in fact, “rigged”. The attorneys who work in the nation’s 94 U.S. Attorney offices are mostly average lawyers who are afforded preferential treatment by federal judges who often act as special prosecutors during pre-indictment legal proceedings. Added to this mix are criminal justice defense attorneys who “represent” their clients, but do not “fight” for them.
Within this system of “dominion and control” prison staff members and correctional officers can easily, conveniently, and safely participate, if they are so inclined, in engrained public corruption at any prison. Good staff members have little to no interest in reporting this kind of misconduct for fear of retaliation. Any “slave” reporting this public corruption is quietly removed from the general inmate population, dismissed as “not credible” and subjected to unbearable retaliation.
In my case, the January 27, 2020 OIG complainant was discovered by prison officials after they seized my personal property on April 27th and held it until May 6th while they searched my legal binder. Their discovery of the confidential OIG complaint prompted then to unleash hell on me.
“Planting” Evidence to Support a Bogus Charge
On May 12, 2020, a white officer with a prior adverse history with me “planted” an item of contraband – a cell phone charger – in my unsecured locker during an early morning security search of my dorm after all inmates had exited the area. I was promptly removed from the Camp and imprisoned in the maximum security Special Housing Unit (SHU), a/k/a the “Hole”, at the Talladega medium security prison. I have been locked behind a metal door in a small, filthy dungeon 24 hours per day, 7 days per week since that time.
On May 20, 2020, a handpicked Bureau of Prisons (BOP) disciplinary hearing officer (DHO) conducted a 15-20 minute perfunctory hearing in which she scolded me for using “Perry Mason” tactics to defend myself. Even though I denied the charge, as did my dormmate, the DHO found me guilty of possessing a phone charger. [DHO report below} She based her decision on: (a) the reporting officer’s 2-sentence, unsworn, “eyewitness statement” in which he claimed he “discovered” the charger in a potato chip bag in my locker and tied it to me using prescription medicine bottles and mail with my name on them; (b) one photo of a potato chip bag and two photos of a cellphone charger; and (c) a ”Chain of Custody Log” for the “evidence” that was completed by a Lieutenant who also had a prior adverse history with me.
My prior adverse history with both officers is described in “My Journey to Hell on Earth” published on May 3, 2020.
On May 20, 2020, the DHO ordered me to serve 30 days in the SHU, with a release date of June 18, 2020. Prison officials have used every trick in their playbook to extend my 30-day sentence in the SHU. I recently completed my 6th month in the “Hole” on a 30-day sentence. This is my punishment for filing the OIG complaint.
Exposing a “Fixed” Case
In their haste to frame me on a bogus cellphone charger infraction, prison officials botched their own “planted” evidence. For example, the reporting officer claimed he discovered the charger in a chip bag in my locker. Yet, he took no “on-the-scene” time and date-stamped photos of his “discovery”. The officer also claimed that medicine bottles with my name on them linked me to the charger. He forgot that my prescription bottles were returned to Health Services on the day he and the same Lieutenant took me to the SHU – April 27th – where I was held for 3 days and released without charges. The officer also forgot that my mail had been “packed out” during this period as a result of my April 27th to May 6th detention in the “Hole”.
The so-called “evidence” photos relied on by the DHO were taken at an office nearly 3 hours later by the Lieutenant who received these items of “evidence”, but not from the officer who “discovered” them. A close look at the “Chain of Custody Log” for this evidence is damning. First, the Log does not list the potato chip bag at all. Second, the Log lists the cellphone charger but does not state in the section at the bottom of the form who the reporting officer “released” the evidence/charger to. Third, the reporting officer does not state that he placed the charger in the “Overnight Drop Box”. Yet, the Lieutenant claims that he received the charger from the “Overnight Drop Box”. Fourth, no witness attested to the Lieutenant’s claim as required by BOP policy. These serious flaws establish a break in the chain of custody. As such, none of this “evidence” was properly before the DHO on May 20th. However, evidence doesn’t matter in a case that is “fixed”.
On September 18, 2020, the BOP’s Regional Office upheld the DHO’s ruling. Talladega prison officials did not provide me with a copy of this ruling until October 23, 2020 – 5 days after my 30-day time period to appeal the adverse ruling to BOP headquarters in Washington had expired. I appealed anyway even though Talladega prison officials refused to give me the documents I requested to prosecute my appeal.
Public corruption is flourishing at the Talladega Federal Prison, and nobody cares. This is not surprising when we consider the fact that earlier this year Wells Fargo acknowledged committing 2 million acts of bank fraud from 2012 to 2016, and not one Wells Fargo bank executive was prosecuted for bank fraud charges.
I knew on January 27, 2020 that the price of reporting public corruption at Talladega would be severe retaliation. I closed my complaint with this paragraph:
I have been warned that I will be subjected to retaliatory measures by the Camp officials for exposing the fraud, waste and abuse reported in this letter. The retaliation may likely come in the form of my segregation in the special housing unit on trumped up disciplinary charges, or an involuntary transfer to a distant prison camp. Presently, I have never been written up or disciplined for any violation of prison rules. I do not use cell phones, tobacco products, recreational drugs, alcoholic beverages or other contraband items. I am also presently not a subject in any current investigative procedure at the Camp. Therefore, if I suffer a disciplinary action in the not too distant future, it will not be unrelated to the submission of this letter to the Inspector General. For this reason, I request anonymity in the reporting of this fraud, waste and abuse.
As a lawyer and an officer of the court, I had no choice but to report this public corruption. I have done my part. Will federal prosecutors do theirs?
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