To: Gene Johnson, Director, Virginia Department of Corrections, 6900 Atmore Dr., Richmond, VA 23225
Reply c/o: Kevin Johnson, No. 1007485, Red Onion State Prison, P.O. Box 1900, Pound, VA 24279
Date: June 8, 2010
Re: Obstructions of Red Onion State Prisons Complaint and Grievance Procedure
Dear Mr. Johnson:
Since Red Onion State Prison opened in 1998, your office has exercised almost zero oversight of its operations and conditions. In fact you modified the prisoner grievance procedure to basically eliminate appeals to your level of complaints of abuse and mistreatments. This has allowed for untold corruption and abuse to reign here, for your office to hide behind the ‘plausible denial’ of having no knowledge of goings on here, and for ROSP to operate as something of a fief unto itself.
As a particular matter ROSP’s staff, who preside over the inmate grievance procedure, are among the most corrupt and dishonest, and reflect the character of ROSP and its administrations. Presently, numerous prisoners are having their complaints and grievances ‘disappear’ and not being processed, particularly those addressing blatantly illegal staff actions which are likely to be litigated. I should add that ROSP warden Tracy Ray permits and encourages this.
For example, I have been recently placed by the warden and his grievance staff on “informal complaint” restriction on account of my persistent challenges of abusive conditions and treatments here. I am allowed to file only one informal complaint per week.
Our access to informal complaint forms here is strictly controlled. Therefore abuse by us is impossible. We can only access the forms from a unit sergeant, whom we must first explain our issue to, and only if she or he cannot resolve it and if she or he feels the issue warrants a complaint, will we be given an informal complaint form.
Despite that my access to and use of complaint forms is strictly regulated in this manner, ROSP grievance staff along with Warden Ray, claimed as grounds for restricting my complaint access, that I would establish a pattern of habitual misuse and excessive fillings of informal complaints. Again, how could this be when unit sergeants control and authorize what I complain about?
The actual motive as I will show is to attempt to frustrate potential litigation and to eliminate records of abuse complaints.
Furthermore, now that I have been placed on complaint restriction the grievance department refuses to allow me to file even one informal complaint per week. Since being placed on complaint restriction, I have tried to file an informal complaint each week. Yet they are not processed nor answered. Other prisoners experience similar obstructions.
For example, one prisoner, Carlos Johnson #1085080, who was recently diagnosed with E-coli on March 13, 2010, has tried repeatedly to file informal complaints about this matter, denied referrals to a doctor, and ROSP officials’ persistent efforts to cover up his having contracted this infection from being served unfit food. None of his complaints have been processed. Indeed, the bulk of my own complaints have been against our being constantly served rotten spoiled, unripe, contaminated, unsanitary, under-cooked and vermin-infested food. Another prisoner, Malcolm Springs, has tried repeatedly to file informal complaints about the personal property department’s refusing to process his requests to order free publications from a particular approved vendor. His complaints are not receipted nor answered. Both Carlos Johnson and Springs have tried to compel cooperation in having their complaints processed by filing emergency grievances, to no avail.
Judicially Recognized Corrupt and Dishonest Grievance Staff
The informal complaint and grievance procedure at TOSP is presided over by three ROSP employees: namely Rena Mullins, Fonnie Taylor, and A. Nixon. Mullins and Taylor have held their positions in ROSP’s grievance department since before Tracy Ray became warden in 2004. Interestingly, the federal courts have found their handling and processing of complaints and grievances to be blatantly dishonest and “unreliable”. In fact Taylor was caught in repeated lies under oath while testifying in a prisoner, Donell Blount, Sr.’s, federal case, where she had been called by the prison official defendants (her colleagues) to “prove” that Mr. Blount failed to properly exhaust the prison’s complaint and grievance procedure before filing his lawsuit, as the law requires, and that his case should therefore be dismissed.
During that hearing, as the attached findings of the judge reflect, Taylor was caught in lie after lie, and finally the judge remarked that after years of having ROSP grievance staff appear before her court testifying that prisoners who had filed lawsuits had not properly exhausted their administrative remedies, and consequently having their lawsuits dismissed, the court now found overwhelmingly that it was ROSP officials who had been obstructing their proper use of the procedure.
Yet, Warden Ray, who is obviously very satisfied with their services, still has the very same corrupt and dishonest staff running the grievance department at ROSP. Indeed, they are the very people who prepare the level one responses to grievances we file, which Ray signs his name to. And in most all of my appeals of these responses, I demonstrate them to be blatantly dishonest answers, which regional staff disregard, rubber stamping whatever was fabricated in the level one response. Also most prisoners here suffer Taylor’s and Mullin’s refusing to process their grievances upon blatantly fabricated grounds or pretending not to comprehend the nature and content of the issues grieved, etc. Doing exactly what the court found Taylor and her colleagues did to Mr. Blount to frustrate and obstruct his use of the procedure.
What do you intend to do about this?
[Signed “Kevin Johnson”]
Excerpts from Decision on “Donell J. Blount Sr. v. J. Fleming, et al.”
Civil Action No: 7:04cv00429
Western District Court of Virginia, Roanoke Virginia
By Pamela Meade Sargent, United States Magistrate Judge
June 29, 2006
“Here, Blount produced evidence at trial that, despite the defendants’ contentions that he did not exhaust his administrative remedies with regard to either his excessive force claim or his freedom of religion claims, he did everything that he could to utilize the prison’s grievance system in accordance with prison policy.” (p. 4)
“Fonnie Taylor, the Inmate Grievance Coordinator at Red Onion, testified that she was responsible for reviewing all inmate grievances. She stated that Blount never filed a grievance relating to the alleged assault by Fleming and Vanover on May 5, 2004. However, Blount submitted into evidence copies of the informal complaints and the grievance filed by him in relation to the alleged May 5, 2004, assault. Thus, it is clear that Blount did, in fact, file the grievance. Blount produced additional evidence at trial to further diminish the credibility of Taylor and the defendants’ contentions that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Specifically, Blount testified and produced evidence to show that Red Onion officials returned grievance forms to him that actually belonged to another inmate. Moreover, Blount claims that, when informed of this mistake, officials refused to retrieve the grievance from Blount and deliver it to the proper inmate. Furthermore, Blount presented evidence that, on more than one occasion, his informal complaints were incorrectly returned to him as ‘repetitive.’ … However, as Blount correctly contends, these informal complaints are wholly unrelated ….” (p.6)
“Also, Blount produced evidence that prison officials had told him that grievances, unrelated to his claims currently before the court, had not been received. However, copies of those grievances were later returned to him attached to a response from the Regional Ombudsman. Moreover, these grievances were stamped as having been received.” (pp.6-7)
“However, when the Regional Ombudsman returned Blount’s August 11, 2005, grievance to him, the August 4, 2005, grievances, which allegedly had never been received, also were returned to him. Moreover, these grievances were stamped as having been received by the Grievance Coordinator on August 5, 2005, the day after they were submitted, and six days before F. Stanley informed Blount that the grievances had never been received.” (p.7)
“Taylor, the Inmate Grievance Coordinator, testified that Blount’s June 15, 2004, grievance was never received in her office. However, Blount has submitted into evidence a copy of the grievance form that was returned to him, unsigned and undated, but which state that “You have not used the informal process to resolve your complaint.” Thus, it is clear that Blount’s grievance was, in fact, received. Moreover, as outlined above, Blount produced evidence that calls into question the reliability of the DOC’s grievance records and procedures followed at Red Onion.” (p.9)