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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Surviving Warden Nash’s Retaliation for Whistleblower Complaint

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on January 22, 2021

After publishing my December 27, 2020 article about the contraband trafficking ring that operated from Warden Cheron Y. Nash’s office and the Special Investigative Services (SIS) Unit at FCI Talladega, a lot of people outside of the prison system expressed concern for my physical safety. This concern is sincerely appreciated.

I fully understood when I filed my January 27, 2020 confidential Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG) complaint about fraud, waste, abuse, and contraband trafficking at FCI Talladega that I could be subjected to retaliation and elimination if my complaint was revealed. I made the following statement in the last paragraph of the complaint “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. 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.”.

After studying Warden Nash’s behavior from August 28, 2019 to January 27, 2020, it was my sincere belief Nash is sadistic and bipolar. She also represents a classic example of affirmative action gone wrong. From December 2019 to April 2020, I watched Nash deny camp inmate Mack Smith access to the medical care he needed for his chronic fevers, non-stop coughing, shortness of breath, and immobility until it was too late. Smith, who was an elderly, white, first-time, non-violent offender, applied to Warden Nash for a compassionate release in the Fall of 2019, Nash denied his request. Smith died from his illness on April 24, 2020 in a Birmingham hospital. Weeks later, during legal proceedings the government moved to seal Smith’s medical records and autopsy report in another inmate’s compassionate release case in Connecticut so that the public would not know Smith’s cause of death.

I also watched Nash publicly humiliate former Camp Administrator Benton in front of the inmates in T-Dorm in April 2020. Ms. Benton, who is white and who was one of the most competent and respected executives at the Camp, broke down in tears in front of these inmates after Nash’s tongue-lashing. She later transferred from FCI Talladega to another federal prison.

Based upon these behavioral observations and many other things, I know what Warden Nash and her sidekick, Unit Manager Destiney Lassiter/Brooks, are capable of. After officer R. Overton planted a phone charger in my dormitory locker on May 12, 2020 as instructed by one of his supervisors, Lt. E. Vaughan, Lassiter, and Nash joined Overton at my dorm. When Nash saw that Overton had completed his assigned mission, she clapped her hands in excitement and gleefully said, “We’ve got him now.”.

Thereafter, I was snatched out of the Camp and placed in the maximum security Special Housing Unit (SHU) at Talladega’s medium security prison where I was locked down 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. I was handcuffed whenever I was allowed to shower. This detention was two custody levels above my Camp-level incarceration. Interestingly, Lt. Vaughan had previously told SHU officers on April 27, 2020 that I was a “POW”, whatever that means.

Nash and Lassiter, both of whom are implicated in the OIG complaint, used a “management variable” technique to override my objective points for a return to custody at the Camp-level. They claimed that I possessed an item of contraband (i.e. the cellphone charger that was “planted” by Overton) and that I exhibited the greatest threat to the safety and operation of the prison. This technique allowed Nash and Lassiter to keep me in the SHU from May 12, 2020 to November 23, 2020. I was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta on November 23, where I remain. The Atlanta facility is three custody levels above my Camp-level custody classification points.

Even with the bogus cellphone charger infraction, my custody classification points are 8 points better than the number required for custody in a prison camp. What is more, my Bureau of Prisons’ PATTERN risk assessment score is a minus 16 for “general risk” and a minus 5 for “risk of violence” as of April 22, 2020. Yet, I am housed in a prison unit with convicted murderers, drug dealers, and armed robbers who are serving lifetime sentences. These inmates co-mingle with me on a regular basis, in violation of Bureau of Prison regulations.

Fortunately for me, I know how to stay safe in very hostile environments. I also have a gift for making new friends from diverse backgrounds. Finally, I also have the kind of evidence of contraband trafficking at FCI Talladega that would support a U.S. Senate/House Judiciary Committee investigation, as well as a federal grand jury probe into this misconduct. Obviously, Nash’s and Lassiter’s efforts to place me in harms way have not produced the results they desired. I survived.

The only question remaining for me is whether President Joe Biden’s DOJ will root out the cesspool of corruption at FCI Talladega. Time will tell.

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