[by Susan Ashline]
Mid-State Correctional Facility employees are not happy I wrote a book.
And the way they retaliated affects you.
Some of the incidents depicted in A Jacket off the Gorge are subjects of lawsuits against the prison in Marcy, New York. I’ve had direct communication with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision about the book and have been publicly vocal about the lawsuit, including appearances on the radio in the very community where the prison is located.
And they don’t like it.
On November 15, 2016, the subject of my book, Jon Fontaine, met with his prison counselor, Lawrence Zick. Zick informed Jon that as a condition of his release, he would not be allowed to have contact with four people: individuals with orders of protection issued by the sentencing judge. Those individuals were connected to the case as witnesses, but only one, Dora Rosser, was the actual victim of Jon’s theft.
Pay attention. That comes into play.
Two days later, on a document dated November 17, that “no communication” list changed. Within just two days, a mysterious, unnamed state employee swapped my name for the name of Fontaine’s only victim, Dora Rosser.
Got that? A prison employee surreptitiously put my name on the list of individuals Jon is not allowed to communicate with upon his release. At the same time, they removed Rosser’s name (Jon’s only actual victim).
Why? No one can tell me. They claim they don’t know. And here’s the part that should concern you: state employees do what they want, outside the bounds of their authority, with no oversight. And there is nothing you can do about it.
When I first obtained the document with the “no communication” list, I didn’t notice my name was substituted for Rosser’s. I first called the New York State Parole Board to inquire why my name there. After looking up the file, they told me they had no idea; that there was no reason given on the request. They said the recommendations originated from the prison. Without so much as questioning why my name appeared, and why Rosser’s was glaringly absent, parole board members approved the document. They simply rubber-stamped it.
I contacted Mid-State prison to inquire why my name was on the list. I first spoke with a “Counselor Picente.” He seemed puzzled. He looked up information on his computer and said there was no reason given. He looked up other information and confirmed the facility had clearly approved me unhampered communication with Jon, and indicated that made it even more puzzling. He transferred me to the supervisor of the department, Ron Meier.
Here’s where things get… bizarre.
After looking up information on the computer, Meier stated he, too, had no idea why my name was on a list stating Jon will not “communicate” with me in any way. I told him I wanted my name removed. I told him a state employee has no right to revoke my civil liberties; I have a constitutional right to associate with whom I please.
He argued the “communication” restriction wasn’t on me; it was on Jon. However, by its very definition, “communication” is interactive. I told him I could talk to a tube of toothpaste all day long, but if it doesn’t respond, it’s not “communication.”
Ronald Meier stated he couldn’t do anything about it. He also said he had no idea who put my name there, or why.
Then, I received an official copy of the document. The only name on it is: Ronald Meier – the very person who feigned ignorance of the entire thing.
So I sent Meier a polite but firm email (read it here) stating I had the document – with his name printed at the bottom – and that I would like him to correct the document and send it to the parole board for amending. I said I would follow up with a phone call.
A week after no reply from Meier, I called him. He was waiting for me. He verbally ambushed me, chastising me for sending him an email. He kept nervously repeating I shouldn’t email him at the facility.
I can think of only one reason.
Needless to say, as a state employee, he is a public servant. We pay his salary. I told him my preferred method of communication was email, as I like to have things documented in writing. Evidently, he does not want anything documented in writing.
He then claimed he could not adjust the document, and would not. It was then I pointed out that the name of Jon’s actual crime victim was omitted. After stuttering and stammering, Meier said that was “odd” and tried to come up with a justification. There is none. The names of the other three individuals with orders of protection are there; Rosser’s is omitted. My name aside, it is a fact the document omitting the victim’s name is incorrect. Yet, the state employees at Mid-State prison refuse to correct their error.
This is why you should care. We pay their salaries. A single individual is making decisions, without oversight, that affect your life. And even when the documents are in error, no state employee is willing to correct it.
They are not doing their jobs. There is no way to make a state employee do his/her job.
Meier left it as – regardless, he can’t change the document and is unwilling to take steps to correct it. I asked to speak with his supervisor and left a detailed message. Anne Joslyn, a deputy superintendent at Mid-State, has refused to return my call or address the issue in any way. I have also emailed the interim Superintendent, Matthew Thoms. This is the person inserted in the Superintendent position after the NY Times reported a rogue band of guards raided a dorm and urinated all over the floor, beat the inmates and sodomized them with metal objects.
The state employees at Mid-State think they have power. And as long as no one reins them in, they do have power. Simply by pushing it across the desk, they got the parole board to sign a document that makes no sense and is actually dangerous to a crime victim (Rosser).
And that kind of unbridled power is dangerous. Trampling a citizen’s constitutional rights, with no recourse – is dangerous.
Today it’s me, tomorow it will be you.
Also published on Medium.