the whole arm

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

Listen to The Black Keys performing “Set You Free”

11 Responses to “the whole arm”

  1. 1 Wolfgang
    March 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    That what they did with Paul Henry is unbelievable.

  2. 2 Matt
    March 26, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Veritas lux mea! – The truth enlightens me.

    As a parent, I have watched with sad curiosity, the seeming over diagnosis of ADD and ADHD amoung school aged children, and the accompanying pharmaceutical solutions being applied. I am appauled that some parents seem to almost brag about what mind-altering drug little Johnnie or Suzie is taking. When did responsible parenting get replaced by convenience? Now instead of “Mother’s Little Helper” that the Stones sang about, everyone wants to medicate the kids. Valium has been replaced by Ritalin!!!

    In a situation like a juvenile corrections facility, wherein the State assumes the role of guardian “in loco parentis”, the situation must be monitored carefully to avoid exactly the type of conflict of interest (what is convenient for the facility v. what is in the child’s best interest) Dan has addressed here. In a previous post to this blog, I cautioned that this pharmaceutical approach might likely be be applied to Colt Lundy, who seemed to be having such difficulty adjusting to his incarceration, but in my naivete’, I simply didn’t think about it being applied to an inmate (such as PHG) who was not having such difficulties.

  3. March 26, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I think that you have a good instinct for what is going on. Trust that instinct regardless, as it seems to me that it has been mainly right in the past. And the fact that you have prepared yourself that things might go wrong shows awareness of how easily things can go wrong.

    one of the worst things, as I see it, is that this is kids! When kids grow up they will mainly learn by mimicking the people around them. of course there are exceptions, but being in a environment like prison with guards and staff like that, most of the kids they are responsible for don’t stand much of a chance.

    Paul Henry is very lucky to have you as a part of his support team!

    • 5 Gloria
      March 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm

      I guess that means? you have no words? because that’s how I feel. However I’m going to try to express how I feel about reading this today. Unbeliavable that this can be done to a Kid. they are not supposed to rehabilitate instead what they are doing is try everything in their power to destroy this kid? so shameful.

      quoted from above: “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.”

      Geez, that says it all about Pendleton, those cowards even had the guts to threaten to those who won’t stand for abuse and will let the abusers go on.

      Dan in your post on pushing a rope I recall reading something like “There is an urgent desire within IDOC to reform its organization and root out the “bad apples” instead.”
      Well, they should start now, because that was a direct threat to decency inside pendleton. what would become of Pendleton if those guardian angels wouldn’t be there. How they dare to threaten people for doing the right thing.? Well IDOC show us that you really don’t stand for this and start to put those bad apples out of pendleton, otherwise it wouldn’t be more sensible to close down that place, since it seems abuse there doesn’t stop and they are not willing to do their jobs about rehabilitating instead they are more focused on retribution and vengance.
      Really this post got on my nerves. Hope Dan to read one day Paul is out of there and that that particular staff member receive what she deserves.

  4. March 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I worked at a Youth Ranch as well as an emotionally disabled school and I am aware of the constant drugging of our children. At the school they kept a nurse to administer the drugs but at the youth ranch I was one of several employees that administered “medication” to the boys and of all of my jobs that was the most single worst thing that I can remember ever doing. Kids are far too often drugged for staff to have an easier time to control them and less for the treatment of a problem and if you ever question why a pharmacy producing company gives away so many FREE samples, it’s paramount to a drug dealer giving a kid their first taste of cocaine, heroine, weed, LSD………etc..once you go fishing it’s just a matter of time before you make a major catch. Kids are being forced in our public schools to take their drugs as we had a policy in one facility that the school claims if you have a child that refuses their MEDICATIONS, do not send them to school..The thought of drugging our kids in a prison setting is disturbing at best because these institutions make up their own rules as they go, the Escambia County Jail was a prime example when they had Alex and Derek King and Daniel Carter at the same time. It is the single worst thing in America today whether they be free or captive…………Bill

  5. 7 Jeanne
    March 27, 2011 at 4:54 am

    It seems to me that Michell has a job to do. Her job is to counsel Paul Henry. If Paul Henry is has an appeal pending, I am sure she is aware. I am sure she has to understand his boundaries, and I am certain there are professional way to establish rehabilitative interaction, without forcing a child to place his appeal in any jeopardy. Shame on her for not utilizing these skills that are within her profession. Shame on anyone that would let a child so young go without a visit from his mother. That is not a good form of establishes a trusting relationship with a young person. Something a child needs desperately at his age. Not to mention that his parents also need this reassuring that their child is in the hands of someone decent, honest, and law-abiding.

    I feel very bad to hear that Paul has the stress of fearing what he can say something to harm his appeal. He should not have this stress. As a professional, she should be seeking other avenues to help Paul without punishing him. There are very healthy manners of interaction I am sure he can participate in that will not hinder him in rehabilitative efforts.

    When I think of Michell I picture two things that could be going on. She is either burned out or has worked in the system so long that she has become the ugliness within it. However, I hope I am wrong and that she has just failed in an attempt to open up a child in the process of rehabilitating him.

    That word rehabilitating has a little mysterious effect on me. I cannot help but think that children, with their underdeveloped brains, do not really need so many years to rehabilitate. When you consider a child like Paul, and his circumstance, one realizes he acted without forethought. Once he learned the penalty, I feel children this young in age go through such shock that they are immediately desiring anyone to help them, to forgive them, and to do good. They want to feel better. They want to erase their deed.

    When you have very troubled kids in prisons acting out like Colt, they are crying for help. It is the facilities job to find the right avenue to help each child in their own way. It should not be so rigid and standard. Each child is different with different needs. This is where prisons fail, especially where children are concerned.

    This is why I have a hard time seeing young children being treated like adults. They simply are not. There should be alternative plans for young offenders like Paul. No slap on the hand but a different kind of institution for children.

  6. 8 Kitty
    March 27, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Again I am feeling helpless about these kids. Paul’s “counselor” is trying her darnedest to get that kid to say something which will incriminate him at his upcoming hearing. This kid is a golden egg to IDOC and they want him in there. I hope he can stay strong in the face of this evil and just know that his support system is strong and in place so he can do exactly what his attorney has told him to do, no matter what they threaten him with. I am mad!!!! I want to make some noise!! Isn’t it about time to turn the dogs loose on these scumbags?? You really think that the counselor is doing this to him (and all the other kids she’s trashed) on her own? She’s not big enough to take something like that on by herself. She’s taking orders. She’s nothing more than a corporate groupie … go higher … that’s where you’ll find the real sickos responsible for this. She’s got a cush job and she wants to keep it … so she does what she is told. That’s how I see it, anyway.

  7. 9 Dana Hoffman
    March 27, 2011 at 7:16 am

    When I sit and think about all those involved in kids cases (especially Paul Henry right now)I want to throw up. Here are all these so called educated adults, that are supposed to be doing right by these kids and making sure that they are treated fairly and taken care of, and they are the biggest abusers of them all. From the very officers that arrested them all the way up to the incompetent Judges. When you have a justice system that not only acts this way but continues to repeatedly show NO form of compassion what so ever two things come to my mind. Either they need to find another job to suit them, or somewhere along the line they have a hidden agenda that lines their pocket some how because the childrens BEST interest is not where it is supposed to be. How on earth are these kids going to ever be able to trust, respect, or look up to authority when it’s been the ones that were supposed to be protecting them, that were harming them the entire time. I look at the prosecutors job like that of an anesthesiologist, because in most cases that childs life lays in the hands of that prosecutor. These people need to start being held accountable for their actions. If not then they are going to continue to keep doing this because they can, Michell knows better than to do what she did. Her role to is vitally important because she is dealing with that childs developing brain and it is her job to see that it doesnt suffer any more harm than it already has instead of adding to the problem. Go read the manual from the IDOC that they put out for the family/consumers and read. If after reading that manual, and knowing the facts that Dan has provided as to what Michell has done, and seeing the mound of their own rules that she broken if that doesnt piss you off then youre not paying attention. I have complete faith in you Dan and know that you WILL get to the bottom of this. They are all going to rot in hell for the awful things that they have done to Paul Henry and the other children.

  8. 10 Linda Thompson
    March 29, 2011 at 1:23 am

    I am without words= it is so easy to manipulare children in tis arena. He needs to be able to trust his “therapist” And positive reinforcement works the besr. As a Special needs teacher and when I worled in schools for SED, I always tried to relate with compassion and love. I disliked the drugs- only a few times in 30 years did I see anyone who needed medication. What is happening breaks my heart- to me this iscruel and unjust punishment. I pray it will change. I am without words.

  9. 11 Armando Marrufo II
    March 29, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Very well said as always Dan Dailey thank you for such kind and caring words.

    Here is a video I found about the Even The Troops Are Waking Up.

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