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CBCC Warden Fired in Telemarketing Hoopla

As part of the CBCC shake up that occurred over publicity of prisoner Parker Stanphil sending holiday cards to women whose addresses he obtained while employed at his Correctional Industries telemar-keting job, Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC) superintendent Robert Wright was fired. In numerous media interviews Wright claimed he was being scapegoated for CI policies over which he had no control. He is probably correct.

As reported in detail in past issues of PLN , Wright became CBCC warden in 1992 after spending 22 years in the Oregon DOC. As CBCC warden Wright presided over a virtual orgy of civil and human rights abuses ranging from the sexual and racial harassment of DOC employees; the rape, stabbing and beating of prisoners; blatant brutality and racism by his staff; repression and much more. While one mid level Washington DOC official once commented that CBCC was run "like a Nazi concentration camp," Wright's management style, or lack thereof, garnered high praise in Washington DOC command circles. In 1996 Wright was nominated as the WA DOC's candidate as "Warden of the Year" to the North American Warden's Association.

It is high irony indeed for Wright to be fired over two post cards sent to members of the public rather than indicted for his other misdeeds. Wright has, however belatedly, become a convert to previously alien concepts like due process.

Wright refused the DOC's invitation to resign. He was fired by DOC managers Phil Stanley and Dave Savage on January 16, 1998. Tower guards at CBCC were ordered not to allow Wright into the prison without Stanley's authorization and if allowed to enter to clean out his office he was to be escorted at all times.

Wright has since sent e-mail messages and letters to legislators, DOC employees and concerned citizens urging them to lobby against the Senate confirmation of DOC secretary Joseph Lehman and to loudly protest what he claims is a "botched dismissal," defamation, breach of contract, wrongful discharge and a human rights violation.

In a January 24, 1998, e mail, Wright self righteously proclaims "...incompetent and corrupt leadership practices unchecked will contribute to the deterioration of the quality of life for inmates, staff and safety of the general public. When chaos and destruction is the order of the day, prisons become dangerous pits." Since Wright did more than his share to ensure CBCC became, and remained, "a dangerous pit," this is indeed a late conversion.

While Wright expressed indignation at being locked out of the prison he apparently forgot that a few years ago he did just that to prison teachers who lost their jobs when he denied them access to the prison after they balked at signing a contract that changed their job descriptions and conditions. Wright successfully argued in court that his decision to terminate the teachers was not subject to court review. A court decision that will probably preclude him from challenging his own firing. See: Foss v. DOC of Washington , 82 Wn.App. 355 (Ct. App. Div. II 1996).

In a January 19, 1998, letter to Dave Savage, Deputy secretary of the Office of Correctional Operations, Wright discussed his January 16 firing over the card incident. Wright was astonished that he too could be deprived of counsel and due process and states: "I expect there will be no retaliation for not capitulating to your wishes..." High irony indeed from the man who institutionalized retaliation at CBCC.

The point of Wright's firing is not so much that human and civil rights abuses occasionally catch up to the perpetrators, but that prison slave labor is, and will likely remain, a volatile issue as fraught with pitfalls for its modern practitioners as it was for the slave owners of the pre civil war era.

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