Apparently Paul Henry’s counselor at Pendleton is not a reader of this blog, and none of its readers in the Indiana Department of Corrections saw fit to warn her. I was making no idle threat when I said that if anyone lifts a finger to harm Paul Henry, we would snip it off.
Yet now, based on recent events and research into Pendleton counselor Michell Griffith’s background, I want the whole arm. But I’ll just present some of the facts we’ve found. I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions of what’s right.
I began feeling a sense of alarm when Paul Henry’s mother told me that Michell had threatened to reduce his mother’s visits if he did not begin opening up and discussing the circumstances that had landed him in Pendleton. Since a notice of appeal had been filed on January 26th—just a week after his arrival at Pendleton—we had been warning Paul Henry not to speak with anyone about the April 20th shooting of Philip Danner nor any of the circumstances surrounding it. Yet here was a key prison staff person who was insisting that Paul Henry do exactly what we did not want him to do, and backing it up with threats to interfere with his primary lifeline for preserving a sense of healthy self and well-being. According to Nicole Gingerich, Michell was insisting that such participation and openness were essential to Paul Henry’s successful completion of “the program.”
I discussed this with Monica Foster, Paul Henry’s attorney, and she agreed that he should not discuss his case with anyone in the prison and that it could, in fact, adversely affect his appeal if he did. She said she would speak personally with Michell.
Nevertheless, Michell has continued to insist that Paul Henry participate more in group meetings, etc., which his mother has encouraged him to do within the restrictions set by his lawyer. Paul Henry is a naturally quiet boy and has assured his mother that he has been making an effort to comply. Nicole has verified with the superintendent of the facility, who attended at least one meeting where Paul Henry was present, that Paul Henry had made an effort and did participate. Yet, curiously enough, Michell continued to claim that he is not making an effort and continued to threaten restrictions of his mother’s visits.
This is bothersome to me because I know that only a small minority of child inmates receive visits from their families, and this is known to have negative impacts on their mental health, general well-being, and successful rehabilitation. Wouldn’t it make more sense for a psychologist to be encouraging parental visits, rather than the opposite?
Two days ago Michell finally made good on her threat and denied Nicole permission to visit Paul Henry on Thursday. When Nicole asked Michell the reason for this denial, Michell answered: “Because Paul Henry’s scores have not been very good lately.” She wasn’t talking about his marks in school, but the scoring system used to document all inmates’ behavior on an hour-by-hour basis.
Contrary to what Michell claimed, we knew from the Guardians’ reports that Paul Henry’s earned scores had been consistently excellent. The maximum possible points that can be earned on any given day are 54 (100%), and for any given week 378 (100%). In the week of 3/05-3/11, Paul Henry earned 313 points (82.8%). In the week of 3/12-3/18, he earned 320 points (84.7%). In the first six days of this week, he has earned 275 points (84.9%). His daily scores in this time period have ranged from a high of 52 (96.3%) to a low of 41 (75.9%). All of these measures are more-than-passing scores and, in my opinion, reflect the efforts of a young man who is doing a remarkable job adapting to the demands of a new, strange, and often hostile environment. Where exactly were these “low scores” of which Michell spoke?
This question was later answered for me when we learned from one of the Guardians of a rumored “dual-books” system at Pendleton. There is the real set of books that show the scores as we have been seeing them on a daily basis. And then there is a falsified set of “books” that are said to be whatever a counselor or other staff person wishes to represent to a parent or other concerned outsider to justify some form of coercion or manipulation of an inmate. Although Michell did not present a series of scores for Paul Henry which we could have compared against the real scores, she did claim that his performance was unsatisfactory enough to justify a denial of visitation privileges between mother and child.
But where—and against what performance standard—is the unsatisfactory performance? I just don’t see it.
What I do see is an attempt to misrepresent facts, isolate the child from his outside support system, and coerce/manipulate the child to conform to a particular staff member’s compulsion for control—for me, three big red flags.
So we began looking into just who this Michell Griffith is. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got a virtual peek into her personnel file and we made two very disturbing discoveries.
The first was an aggregation of 23 inmate exit interview evaluations of Michell’s professional work on a five-point scale, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. Here is what they said: I would recommend this counselor to others – 1; I trust this counselor – 1; this counselor is helpful – 2; this counselor listens to me – 1; this counselor spends adequate time with me – 1; this counselor is friendly – 1. These are all failing scores in my opinion.
The second discovery was even more disturbing. Michell Griffith appears to be diagnosing an unusually large number of inmates as suffering from paranoia or scizophrenia, both of which are diagnoses for which psychotropic medications are indicated.
Before I make my next statement, I must make three disclosures. First, I believe a disproportionately high number of mental health workers are as loony as their patients, if not worse. Second, I believe we are overmedicating young people at levels which interfere with healthy brain and personality development. Third, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in public institutions has skewed the incentives to benefit the drug companies at the expense of patients.
For example, up to 10% of all kids are diagnosed with ADHD, and most of these kids are drugged for this supposed disorder. Yet research has conclusively shown that two-thirds of all ADHD cases are reactions to diet. With simple diet modifications, two-thirds of these kids would not have to take drugs which have been shown to wreak havoc with kids’ brain chemistry, behavior, and development.
So I don’t trust shrinks, I abhor their drugs, and I believe they are turning kids into drug-addled zombies for perverse reasons. So feel free to ignore my suspicions if you wish. But if I were a power-tripping shrink and I wanted to take a normal, decent kid like Paul Henry and condition him into an institutionalized little robot who will be a manageable and compliant subject for the duration of a thirty-year prison term, what would I do?
I would isolate him from his family and everything representing his present reality; I would begin playing manipulative mind-games through which I’d reconstrue innocent behaviors into pathological meanings; and I would get him on drugs so he will stop thinking for himself and comply with whatever he is told to do. I would thus remake him into a perfect prisoner.
Is this what Michell has in mind? It is too early to say with complete certainty. But we are looking deep into her background and have made some very amazing discoveries that I will be sharing with you next Tuesday when our initial investigative pass will have been completed.
What the “dual books” allegation points out is that there is great potential for deception and manipulation in the way that prisons are operated. Prison staffs have relied on opaqueness to have their ways with prisoners without outside interference. Thanks to the information provided by the Guardians, a window has been opened to us regarding the true workings at Pendleton.
Nicole was so outraged at Michell’s misrepresentation of Paul Henry’s performance that she told Michell that we knew his true scores. As Nicole began spouting off numbers and percentages, Michell backed off in a hurry. A little later Nicole received a call from the superintendent telling Nicole that her Thursday visit had been approved.
On Friday a staff meeting was held where everyone was told: “If anyone is caught giving out information, they will be subject to immediate termination.” This has been said before and the Guardians are still sharing the truth.
On Friday, too, another curious thing began to happen. Overnight Paul Henry’s scores dropped by about a third. It is unlikely his behavior changed one iota. Over the previous eight weeks his performance had been remarkably consistent. It is more likely the guards’ behavior has changed, that certain staff are employing a new tactic. Rather than holding the visitation hostage, they now appear to be flirting with the idea of holding Paul Henry hostage.
This would be an unwise thing to do. We had been hearing rumors that certain staff members were planning to make things rough for Paul Henry, and we’ve been preparing for it. As our revelations on Tuesday will demonstrate, we are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to shed light on the backgrounds and character of corrections workers who mistreat children in their care. If corrections officers do not discharge their duties with honesty and integrity, their misdeeds will become known. If they are corrupt, they will be exposed. If they are cruel and do damage to children, we will see that they are punished.
Paul Henry is a good kid who is in a place where he does not belong. We are committed to protecting him and preventing him from becoming a typical product of a “corrections” system that is too often a school for crime and a breeding ground for dysfunction.
Paul Henry is already demonstrating that he is a positive influence in his unit. Until the day that we can restore his freedom, we will continue working to insure that no one and nothing changes this to his detriment or to the detriment of the institution.
Groove of the Day