Double Standard of Punishment for Supervisors, Line Staff in Colorado DOC
by Gary Hunter
Records show that supervisors who break the rules at the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) are punished less severely, if at all, in comparison with low-level prison employees.
In 2006, Director of Prisons Gary Golder was involved in a dispute with his girlfriend; he was drunk at the time and brandished a loaded weapon.
Golder’s distraught girlfriend called 911. “My boyfriend has a gun and he’s drunk, and I’m not sure what he’s going to do with it,” she told the dispatcher. “He’s come out and gone back in and told me I just [expletive] him out of a job.”
Even drunk, Golder knew he should have been fired for his actions, as CDOC regulations prohibit behavior that brings “disrepute” on the department. But Golder kept his job. He wasn’t even arrested.
In contrast, Jason Monett was not only fired, he was prosecuted for possession of chewing tobacco on prison property. Monett was a ten-year employee of the CDOC; the prison system sought to have him charged with felony possession of contraband on prison property. Monett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid the felony prosecution. It was his second offense.
“I know a lot of officers, a lot of upper echelon, who have been in trouble for tobacco and stuff, they have been fined, had letters in their files, they have been in trouble more than once, and they never got fired let alone charges pressed against them,” Monett said in his defense. “It’s just my opinion, [but] it’s a very corrupt system.”
An investigation by Colorado’s CALL7 television station found some truth to Monett’s accusations. Of the 127 CDOC employees fired since 2006, about 12 were low-level supervisors. No high-ranking supervisors were fired. About 20 of the rank-and-file CDOC employees who were terminated had violated the same “disrepute” directive as Golder.
Prison guard Derald Grasmick was fired after two offenses. On one occasion he was accused of smelling like alcohol at work; on another he received a DUI while off duty. Grasmick had a reputation of being a top employee and a “go-to-guy.”
However, CDOC Major Curtis Robinette, who had two drunk driving arrests, most recently in 2003, was disciplined but not fired.
“There’s no question there’s a two-tier process in the Department of Corrections,” said State Rep. Liane “Buffie” McFadyen. “I think it’s been part of the past culture.” She went on to say that the inequitable standards have led to low morale and pose a threat to security in the state’s prison system.
Recently-appointed CDOC Director Ari Zavaras promised to change the current standard of injustice within the department. When asked if he was going to ensure that discipline for infractions was going to be meted out in a fair manner, Zavaras responded, “I can not only say that but in many cases top management would probably be held to a higher standard.”
Time will tell. Of course, if prison staff and ranking CDOC officials didn’t violate departmental policies or commit crimes, the disparity in punishment would be moot.
Sources: CALL7, thedenverchannel.com
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