Monday, May 11, 2009

Department of Corrections Chief Alvin Keller: a big disappointment

With experience as a military judge, and his imposing “no nonsense” persona, the newly appointed secretary to the North Carolina Department of Corrections seemed to bring promise to the position. However, not far into his tenure, those aspirations have been hopelessly dashed. Mr. Keller’s reaction and response to the crimes committed by his officers against a mentally ill inmate, Timothy Helms, only goes to verify that the deplorable situation in the correctional facilities in the Tar Heel state will continue.

There is a long litany of emotional and physical mistreatment and abuse of inmates in North Carolina prisons and jails. It is no secret that inmates are frequently subjected to inhumane treatment by correctional staff. They have gotten away with their criminal abusive activities in the past, and by judging the way Secretary Keller handled the case of Timothy Helms, they will continue to have free rein to inflict as much bodily damage to inmates without fear of any disciplinary action. The correctional officers have been given carte blanche to torture and inflict physical and mental injury on inmates based on the response to Mr. Helms’s beating by Secretary Alvin Keller, the purposefully inept investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, and the deafening silence coming from the Attorney General’s Office and office of Governor Bev Perdue.

To its credit, the media has mentioned occasional instances of abuse, otherwise I would not be able to document what I know is taking place in North Carolina’s prison system. But the media could and should do more to bring this serious moral and humanitarian blight on our state and society to the attention of its subscribers, the public. Calls for serious and significant changes in our state’s penal system are lacking.

What I would recommend would be for the state to take the following rudimentary, but important steps:
1. Change the mindset of the staff to understand that even though inmates may be caged like animals, they are, in fact, human beings. They should be treated, at the minimum, with respect.
2. Change the mindset of the staff to understand that they will be held accountable for their actions towards inmates, and that if they act outside of professional, legal, or moral bounds, they will be held liable.
3. Change the mindset of the staff to understand that inmates are not incarcerated for the purpose of being subjected to punishment. The purpose of their detention is to protect people and property outside the prison walls.
4. Allow inmates better access to family members will help assure that they are treated better by the staff. I’m not suggesting that supervision of visits or communications should be eliminated; the amount of supervision should be based on a case by case model.
5. Assure that prisoners are watched by staff of the same gender. Unclothed inmates subjected to observation and handling by staff members of the opposite sex is a situation that is not only humiliating and embarrassing, but can result in emotional and psychological damage. Specifically, inmate Bill Rayburn stated that while he was naked a female guard sprayed him in his genitals with pepper spray and laughed about it. This Abu Ghraib type of activity is deplorable and should not be allowed in North Carolina or this country.
6. Attempts should be made to identify those inmates with mental illness and see that they get appropriate treatment. Definitely actions should not be taken to exacerbate emotional problems, such as holding Mr. Helms in solitary confinement much longer than is recommended.
7. Finally, I would recommend that the Department of Corrections opens up its records, investigations, and other activities for public scrutiny in order to help assure that the inmate population is not mistreated.

Although most of the inmates in custody have been convicted of a crime, that does not necessarily mean that they are all guilty. Nor does it mean that they are necessarily bad, malicious, and evil people. Some may have made bad choices, or been especially hard hit by the downturn in the economy… and some may be innocent. Whatever the reason for their incarceration, the bottom line is that all inmates are human and deserve to be treated humanely. If the correctional officers treat the inmates better, I am certain that they will find that the inmates will reciprocate and be more cooperative with them.

Unfortunately I do not have much hope that any of the aforementioned recommendations will be adopted by the DOC, especially in light of recent action by its secretary, Alvin Keller with regards to Timothy Helms.

9 comments:

Walt said...

You wrote: "There is a long litany of emotional and physical mistreatment and abuse of inmates in North Carolina prisons and jails. It is no secret that inmates are frequently subjected to inhumane treatment by correctional staff. They have gotten away with their criminal abusive activities in the past, and by judging the way Secretary Keller handled the case of Timothy Helms, they will continue to have free rein to inflict as much bodily damage to inmates without fear of any disciplinary action."Yet those very same prisons are exactly where Mike Nifong wanted to send the innocent Reade Seligman, Collin Finnerty and David Evans. Perhaps since your blog concentrates on what you claim is the injustice done to Nifong you should address how to atone for his crimes of lying to the court about discovery. Making extra-judicial statements that were both untrue and prejudicial to the cause of justice and pursuing indictments long after it was clear that the defendants had nothing what so ever to do with Crystal G. Mangum.

Walt-in-Durham

ScarletHill said...

Walt,

Are you advancing the Bill Anderson argument here? Do you also think Bell, Brodhead, and Nifong are guilty of attempted murder? Regardless if you go to prison 'guilty' or 'innocent', any abuse or mistreatment you receive is wrong.

kilgo said...

.

Hi Walt-in-Durham,

We love your stuff on Liestoppers.

Knock some sense into their heads.

Do you know another Walt who
lives in Durham, who was an
investigator for the NC State Bar
Disciplinary hearing that railroaded
Mike Nifong?

Did Walt Harlow ever look at the
Durham Police forensic photo CD's.

Thanks Walt.

Oh- why did you cut out the part
of the quote from Ed Clark about the
CBS 60 'bullet' in your report to the Liestopps?

.

Walt said...

I am not Bill Anderson, he will have to advance his own arguments. However, the charge of attempted murder is a little serious to lay against Nifong, Broadhead and Bell. As this blog is about Nifong, I will limit my comments to him. He is a disgrace to the practice of law. He richly deserved his disbarment.

I don't know Walt Harlow other than by reputation. He is a fine investigator, far more diligent than some found at the Durham Police Department. I don't know if he reviewed the forensic photos at the DPD, but there was no railroad at the bar. They gave Nifong the rights he so flagrantly denied the defendants in the lacrosse case. They tried the case in court, not the media. The DHC gave Nifong the opportunity to mount a defense, confront and cross examine witnesses and most importantly, to have timely access to the discovery. Nifong went into court as prepared as the State. A standard he very much wanted to deny the lawyers in the lacrosse case.

I did not include the "bullet" comment because I was not sure I heard it correctly. My notes had a big "?" by it. Lacking certainty, I did not include it.

Walt-in-Durham

kilgo said...

.

Thanks, Walt.

Have you read Gottlieb's Deposition
posted here on another thread?

Do you see where he talks about
the Durham Police evidence given
to the Grand Jury?

Do you see where he talks about
the scratch on the arm of David Evans
shown in police forensic photos from
the voluntary lacrosse team ID
session on March 23, 2006, where
police were anxious to document
injuries allegedly inflicted during
the alleged attack on the NCCU
student? Have you ever seen
this photograph showing the scratch
on the arm of the indicted Evans,
presumably also shown to the
Grand Jury?

Do you think this is why the defense
lawyers were so keen on getting
Dr. Brian Meehan, whose DNA lab
work came up with a 99.9 %
non-exclusion match to Evans
from the false fingernails found
in the trash at 610 NB, belonging
to Mangum?

Do you think this is why it was so
important to destroy Nifong, so that
he would never get this evidence
before a Jury? That and all the other
evidence Durham Police had gathered,
that Roy Cooper made vanish under
the phrase "not credible".

Do you see why it was so necessary
the destroy the credibility and reputation
of the young NCCU mother, and the
reputations and credibility of all those
who came in contact with this case?

Walt, how on earth does a man survive
in a Courtroom for 27 years doing
his utmost to serve Justice on behalf
of the State and the People, with an
exemplary, unblemished record, get
tossed to the wolves for doing the
right thing?

.

Walt said...

Thanks, Walt.

Have you read Gottlieb's Deposition
posted here on another thread?
I read the dep some time ago. Not recently.

Have you ever seen
this photograph showing the scratch
on the arm of the indicted Evans,
presumably also shown to the
Grand Jury?
I have not seen the Evans photo.

Do you think this is why the defense lawyers were so keen on getting Dr. Brian Meehan, whose DNA lab work came up with a 99.9 %
non-exclusion match to Evans
from the false fingernails found
in the trash at 610 NB, belonging
to Mangum?
You are misreading the DNASI report. They cannot exclude Evans, however it is not a match. In fact, there is as much chance that the DNA strand matches Dr. Meehan as it does David Evans.

Do you think this is why it was so important to destroy Nifong, so that he would never get this evidence before a Jury?

Nifong destroyed himself. Had he not made all those prejudicial pretrial statements to the media, had he been honest with the court, had he turned over the basis of the DNASI report, he would not have been charged with misconduct. Of course, had he read the file before deciding to proceed with the case, he would not have moved forward at all.

That and all the other
evidence Durham Police had gathered, that Roy Cooper made vanish under the phrase "not credible".
That evidence was not credible. It was rather incredible.

Do you see why it was so necessary the destroy the credibility and reputation
of the young NCCU mother, and the
reputations and credibility of all those who came in contact with this case?
I feel genuine sorrow for Crystal Gail Mangum. She is apparently very confused about what if anything happened and when if at all it happened. But, she told so many conflicting stories that she destroyed her own credibility. The DPD collectively destroyed its credibility with its violation of GO 4077. I know that the reason General Orders exist is to hang someone within the department when top management wants to. But, GO 4077 is there, and Gottlieb and Himan knew it was there. They should have followed it. That way they would not have had their credibility destroyed. Meehan destroyed his own credibility with his own testimony.

Walt, how on earth does a man survive in a Courtroom for 27 years doing his utmost to serve Justice on behalf of the State and the People, with an exemplary, unblemished record, get tossed to the wolves for doing the right thing?Lane Williamson for the DHC attributed it to Nifong’s greed and inexperience with the political system. If we are to believe Mike Nifong, he was grossly unprepared for the case. He never read the file, he never interviewed Crystal Gail Mangum about the facts. In one regard, I disagree with the DHC. I think this was just the first time Nifong got caught railroading suspects. He and the DPD just did it too easily to be the first time. (To be fair to the Bar and the DHC, this was the only instance of Nifong’s misconduct before them.) I think he was never very good at doing justice. Apparently he never prepared his cases well. And, he seems to have long had a win at any cost attitude.

Walt-in-Durham

Justice58 said...

Lane Williamson is full of himself!


When has the bar ever intervened in a case while there is an on-going investigation? GMAB!

Justice58 said...

Sidney,

Where is Roy Cooper on this situation?

http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/berger_appoint_special_prosecutor


Roy Cooper, Why are you silent?

Justice58 said...

Sidney,

Here you go! I believe you had an article about this back in March.

http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=news/local&id=6813435

"DURHAM (WTVD) -- Wild parties and college life seem to go together at campuses across the country - including our big three in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham".

"But it's the parties in Durham that have been the most controversial in recent years - prompting one local leader to compare Duke students to cats who use the Bull City as their sandbox.

"Fall and spring are usually the worst times of year. However, when there's a fraternity next door to you, it seems to be all year round," offered Trinity Heights board member Christine Westfall.

"Westfall claims party season wreaks havoc on her historic neighborhood every year".