Letter sent to 'The Tennessean' Newspaper on behalf of Harold

TO   The Tennessean
       Gannett Co. Inc.
       1100 Broadway
       Nashville, TN  37203                                                Nov 10, 2005
Dear Sir:
    This is not a "Letter to the Editor," although I would welcome its publication in the newspaper; however, it is primarily to describe a certain disgusting situation in one of Tennessee's prisons, the NWCC in Tiptonville, and I think it is very newsworthy.  Perhaps you might assign a reporter to do a story about it.
    On October 124, the prison paralegal for Site 2, Harold H. Thompson, 63 years old, was brutally beaten up in the Law Library by a bunch of Aryan Brotherhood thugs.  This is the 2nd time Mr. Thompson has been targeted by this hate group for doing legal work for prisoners of color.  Mr. Thompson is white.  The first attack occurred at the prison in Only, TN, which resulted in Mr. Thompson being transferred to Tiptonville about 4 years ago.  Mr. Thompson at one time had, while incarcerated, a brain aneurysm which was terminally dangerous and which required brain surgery, with a metal plate being inserted into his skull, so beatings to the head are especially dangerous to him.  He also experienced multiple lacerations and a dislocated finger when his hands were ground into the floor by booted feet, and has been coughing up blood for 3 now, post this attack.
    Per prison protocol, the victim of a beating is locked up in a segregation setting, called High Security Annex, as well as the perpetrators, and while there, his belongings were subjected to the intense scrutiny that the perps also receive.  It so happens that Mr. Thompson had a Brothers Word Processor which he had bought with his own money in order to type the legal briefs, as the equipment provided by the state is shabby and inadequate.  In those days, this purchase was permitted, but later the rules were changed so that prisoners can no longer purchase typing equipment.  Those that already had it, though, were "grandfathered."  Next, the rules changed again so that grandfathered machines could no longer be sent out for repair.  When Mr. Thompson's typewriter broke down (the 2nd one of his own that he typed to death in the course of his paralegal work), he had no way to fix or replace it.  The State machine he was given to use was a manual typewriter with one inoperative key.  The only elec. typewriter available had to be shared with a counselor's aide.  Further, the Law Library which is federally mandated to be open 37.5 hours per week, was being used frequently as a place for disciplinary hearings and meetings, so that the mandated nr of hours was falling seriously short.  Making compliance with the mandate even harder was a certain sergeant who insisted for a while--although the Law Library was not under her jurisdiction--that Mr. Thompson should be locked in his cell on Sundays (one of his assigned workdays) so that he could not go to work.  When this petty harassment was brought to the attention of the warden by sensible counselors, it stopped, but just at this time. Mr. Thompson took the risk of purchasing a similar-type word processor from another inmate who was being transferred.  This kidn of exchange, normal in free society, is again the rules in prison, being called "unauthorized transfer."  But because the State would not provide workable typing equipment, Mr. Thompson, out of devotion to his job--which, after all, is a "volunteer" one of sorts, as he is not paid for doing it--took the chance of buying this machine which, like his, had been "grandfathered in."  When he was severaly beaten up and placed in the HSA, it was discovered that his new-model Brothers word processor did not have the same serial nr as his old model, so the new machine, which cost $250 (a fortune for a prisoner) was confiscated.  And for what purpose?  So that the Law Library will STILL not have workable equipment for the proper processing of legal briefs.
    So now Mr. Thompson sits, injured, jobless, bereft of his newly purchased word processor, and totally demoralized in the HSA.  Can you imagine, in the free world, any person so dedicated to his job that he would take such risks to person and property to volunteer to help others with their legal work?  It reminds me of those who made such sacrifices to register voters in the South in the early '60's of the Civil Rights era.  Our country has REAL problems--people killed daily in Iraq, victims of hurricanes without proper emergency assistance, skyrocketing fuel costs.  It seems unbelievable that so much bureaucratic energy could be wasted impeding a person trying to do necessary legal work at every turn.  Really, it makes no sense whatsoever, and I put it to you:  why not make an exception, considering it is a voluntary provision of essential work-related equipment not provided by the State, and allow Mr. Thompson to have his newer work processor as a replacement for his original one that he totally wore out in performing his unpaid job?  I am certain that someone in authority, if he has common sense and thinking power, could bring himself to make a decision of that magnitude.  Only, considering the reality of the imprisonment setting, cut off from outside scrutiny, such a fair and sensible decision would not be made--without your help.  Therefore, I urge you to turn your influence and attention to this real-life situation, and enable this hardworking and elderly prisonor to get on with his life's vocation:  helping others file their legitimate legal paperwork.  Is this asking too much?
    Lastly, Mr. Thompson was convicted to a life sentence for the murder of a police informer, J. Walter Crawley, who was himself convicted, then released on appellate bond, in the beating death of the mother of Mr. Thompson's son, at that time a child and an eyewitness to the death of his mother, about which he testified at trial.  Mr. Crawley, when released, bragged in a bar that the son of Mr. Thompson would not live to testify against him at his re-trial.  The State convicted Mr. Thompson of Crawley's murder, altho there were no eyewitnesses to testify to his identity.  Mr. Thompson has now been incarcerated 25 years.  How much more evidence of rehabilitation could one need other than such devotion to an unpaid job to benefit others that one would risk beatings and confiscation of essential and costly equipment in order to help them?
    Thank you for your interest in this matter.