Skip Barnett is a Michigan Corrections Officer who cares…and no one is listening!
This story gets its roots in a recent staff meeting that was held at the Alger Correctional Facility in Munising, where Barnett serves as a CO. He was not at the meeting, but the word came down at the Deputy Warden had advised staff that he wanted the facility to go backward in time, where it would be a “fun” place to work…and he didn’t want issues coming across his desk.
A word of clarification here. By “fun,” he didn’t mean that this would be an exemplary place to work. He meant that, in the olden days, it was fun to mistreat prisoners. He was allowing it again...he just didn't want to hear anything about it. Judging by response from the staff, according to Barnett, they were digging it.
Here’s how Officer Barnett put it, in his message to our office: …there certainly is an unsavory aspect to a Deputy Warden in a small prison upstate, with almost exclusively white staff, being told to come into work and “have fun” with the primarily African American prison population, and to tell the staff to 'NOT let me know what is going on.'
We’re not just talking about some disgruntled prison guard here who has a grudge against his superiors. Barnett is a 15-year veteran of the department, is a graduate of West Point, and has a law degree.
Explaining why he is trying to blow the whistle, he said, “I worked at a prison downstate where inmate Souders died…and the state wrote out a huge check after getting a big, black eye. I’d like to avoid going down that same road. We have a high percentage of new hires on second shift. They need to be trained to follow policy and procedure, and deserve leaders with open door policies.”
In my further discussion with him, he said, “I’m tired of it. They ‘bully’ everyone. I’m not going to be a part of it!”
He explained that he had raised other issues about how the shift command and inspectors are failing to properly hold officers to an acceptable performance standard. But when he complained, he said, his superiors laughed. “I’d like to stop this train from going in the direction it is heading before something happens that causes Michigan to break out their check book…”
With our exposure of this story, we’re hoping it reaches the right people, and we’re hoping for positive results. It would be a shame to lose a quality CO like Officer Barnett, while we keep scoundrels in positions of authority.
He’s not trying to be soft on crime. He’s not even saying that he’s “pro-inmate.” What he is saying is that there are correct policies and procedures, and the exemplary wardens in this state are those who exude integrity, treat prisoners in a humane manner, and maintain an “open door” policy.
Is that too much to expect from our tax dollars? Too much to expect re the proper treatment of human beings of all races and creeds in our state prison system? He has written to higher authorities. He has written to the Michigan Attorney General. He has contacted the media. No response. No response!
Having fun with the black inmates is simply unacceptable.