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Whistleblower Says BOLI is Complicit in Coverup of Oregon Prison RacismTim King Salem-News.com
Examining the role of the Bureau of Labor and Industries plays in suppressing racism in Oregon's prisons.
(SALEM) - When prison guards know that their ability to wage acts of racism within their institution is so powerful that they can operate with impunity; scrawling racist hate messages on U.S. Mail to harass inmates at will; and that no action will ever be taken against them, you are dealing with a systemic problem.
This story details how an African-American prison guard found a sure-fire way to expose blatant racism and hate crimes against Black inmates inside Oregon State Penitentiary, yet had his efforts blocked by state officials at every turn. I have written dozens of articles about former Oregon Corrections Officer William Coleman's efforts to blow the whistle on racism and crimes in the prison, and this incident is where his story in Oregon begins.
In an effort to expose crime and official corruption, and draw attention to the way staff at the prison encouraged and participated in racism toward Blacks, William Coleman filed a BOLI (Bureau of Labor and Industry) complaint against DOC (Oregon Dept. of Corrections) for discrimination in 2007. He says BOLI, like other state agencies, ignored the facts and quickly concluded Coleman's claim held no merit. In reality, Coleman knew every detail about a particular crime involving racial scrawling by a guard on an inmate's subscription magazine, and he says he knew a corrections officer by the name of Roger Teal, had written the message. It was/is in Teal's handwriting, Coleman says.
Coleman's first allegation: "I learned that one of my co-workers had defaced the picture in the magazine. I reported the incident to my supervisor on May 3, 2007. Respondent failed to take corrective action following my complaint.
DOC response: "There is no evidence regarding who wrote the comments in the magazine, much less that it was a correctional officer. Mr. Coleman did not report the incident to his supervisor or the human resources staff. Instead, he began his own independent investigation requesting the assistance of inmates in a "sting operation". He did not bring the defaced picture in the magazine to management's attention until May 30, 2007 and has never identified the person who defaced the picture and therefore has not been able to take action other than to ensure that employees are familiar with DOC's policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment."
Coleman's 2nd allegation: "I believe that I have been subjected to a hostile working environment because of my race. I believe that Respondent has failed to take appropriate corrective action to address what I believe to be racial harassment at the work site."
DOC response: "Mr. Coleman alleges in his BOLI complaint a single incident of a magazine that was defaced. The magazine was shown to him by an inmate. There is no evidence regarding who wrote the comment on the magazine or whether the writer's comment was intended to be racially derogative. This is not sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile working environment."
Mr. Coleman's reaction: "Respondent has not been able to take any action other than to investigate the allegations and to ensure that employees are familiar with DOC's policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment. OSP and BOLI did not complete an investigation of this incident: This is what OSP and BOLI refused to investigate."
"The night inmate Kimble was put in the hole I visited him and wanted to know where magazine was. My sting operation worked perfectly. I told inmate Kimble on May 2, 2007, 'to show staff and inmates what Officer Teal had written in the magazine, and when you do show people get rid of the magazine to someone you can trust.'"
Coleman says that on May 3, 2007, Officer Teal came after Kimble and arrested him on false racketeering charges. "The night I visited Kimble in the hole, he told me that he gave the magazine to Adisa Johnson aka 'Butter', who was housed in A Block. I left DSU (Disciplinary Segregation Unit or the hole), and went to A Block and retrieved the magazine from inmate Johnson. Corporal Inman unlocked A Block for me and watched me retrieve the magazine from inmate Johnson. E-mails from Sgt. Curt Hinzman to Captain Watson explaining my demeanor that night would explain I was on a mission. Sgt. Hinzman states in e-mail..."
"...it appears Coleman was down here on his own initiative, from his knowledge, he was not sent down by anyone to interview inmate Kimble. Officer Story unlocked the 2nd tier in DSU for Coleman to talk to inmate Kimble."
Coleman continued, "Story later sent an e-mail to Captain Watson explaining my demeanor that night. Officer Story's e-mail states,
"Coleman had what appeared to be a note in his hand, I assumed he was on a mission from someone. When I asked Coleman 'what's up', he said 'just checking on something.'"
Inspector Robert Bothwell investigated this incident. Bothwell's report states that inmate Johnson aka "Butter" was an "unknown" inmate inside the prison, which was preposterous. Bothwell's report doesn't indicate that he questioned Sgt. Marthaller, the first supervisor Mr. Coleman reported this incident tom on May 3, 2007, "Robert Bothwell's report doesn't show he talked with Corporal Inman, the officer in A Block who unlocked the door for me to retrieve the magazine article, or Officer Story or Sgt. Hinzman, who made statements in writing about my demeanor that night on May 3, 2007."
Coleman has letters from inmate Smith to inmate Terrence Kimble, referring to the magazine "going through the drill." Inmate Kimble's letter to inmate Smith, explains in detail how Captain Watson made threats to him, demanding to know where the magazine was located. On May 4, 2007, Watson sent his officers to search A Block looking for the magazine and they found lots of "contraband" and blamed everything they found on officer Coleman.
Kimble stated in a letter that Captain Watson told him in the departure room, "he would send him to cowboy country" if he didn't find the magazine. This was in May 2007. It's 2014, inmate Kimble is still at "Cowboy country"... Snake River Prison in Ontario. Coleman says it is all because he exposed the blatantly racist act of an officer named Teal.
"Management and administration approve hate and racism," Mr. Coleman said. "If not, they would have terminated everyone involved in this coverup. All this information is documented and factual. Why didn't BOLI do an honest investigation and raise questions that need to be answered?"
On 31 May 2011, I wrote an article titled, Snitch Sheets, Unresolved Murder and Severe Tobacco Crimes, that walks through the exact wording and reports, and has links to the reports themselves, so readers can appreciate the accuracy of this story as presented by Mr. William Coleman. I strongly suggest reading it.
BOLI's "completed investigation" by Donna M. Meredith states that in order to make a, "prima facie case of unlawful race-based harassment, a complainant must state facts that, if proved, would be sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create an intolerably hostile work environment. Complaint is unable to do so. Further, Respondent did investigate when the incident came to its attention. For the reason set above, complainant is unable to show substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination and his claim should be dismissed."
In reality, according to evidence, the magazine article was just the tip of the iceberg. Coleman tried to bring forward other information, about Murder, Attempted Murder, and other racial abuse toward Blacks and other minorities like Jews. One night a movie about the last days of Adolf Hitler's life called "The Downfall" was played at the request of White racist inmates. Jewish inmates feared for their lives that night and in the days following.
"Donna Meredith never interviewed any of my witnesses. She just took the word of DOC. There was so much paper trail in this case that proves hate crimes, and cover-ups. This is an example of how BOLI investigates reports when it comes to clear, racial harassment cases. I gave BOLI this information, explained who had written the hate message, which was a hate crime. I explained how Captain Watson was behind the effort to conceal this hate crime, and that Corporal Inmanm who witnessed me taking the magazine out the prison. BOLI had all of the factual evidence to prove my allegation, but choose to protect DOC."
By all appearances, the state agencies are working together to block the Civil Rights of William Coleman, and that BOLI could have done a great service by following its own mission statement in this case.
10 February 2014
Previous articles about Oregon's prisons:
Articles for February 9, 2014 | Articles for February 10, 2014 | Articles for February 11, 2014