Tyheem Henry and SCDC Update
We were greeted this morning with a flood of notifications about a new article in The State newspaper about the problem of inmates with contraband in general and with Tyheem Henry in particular.
The article, written by Noelle Phillips, tells us Henry is still in lock-up and facing internal SCDC administrative charges of Creating/Assisting With a Social Networking Site and Participation in a Security Threat Group/Unauthorized Inmate Activity. The first charge, of course, deals with Henry’s Facebook page which we found and exposed. The second charge is actually the most significant. In the corrections world the words “security threat group” are fancy-speak for gang activity and associations. This is the first official acknowledgement of Henry’s participation in a gang. Even the prosecutors in the case knew of his gang involvement, but refused to acknowledge it. The family of Carter Strange shouted that fact to the mountain tops yet the police and prosecutors refused to address it.
According to the article these charges are just internal administrative charges within SCDC, but Henry could receive additional time on his sentence. We have no idea how much more time. SCDC likes to keep that stuff secret, citing the inmate’s “right to privacy”. That is one thing that needs to change eventually. Those infractions should be attached to the inmate’s record in the database and accessible to the public.
There is one thing that can be changed immediately, however. As the article notes, and as we have seen on these pages, possession of contraband in a detention/correctional facility is a crime. Unfortunately, it is a crime rarely charged by SCDC. When we have seen it charged we normally see solicitors dismissing it. The reasoning is probably that it is too expensive to transport and try inmates for that crime and we all know those solicitors have more serious charges they can plead down and dismiss. We find that curious given the attempted murder of one of SCDC’s own Captains. An attempted murder arranged via the use of a contraband cell phone. From what we have seen in a year and a half of documenting arrest records, convictions for contraband in a jail or prison are few and far between. At the moment, getting caught with contraband is nothing more serious than getting caught with cigarettes in high school and having to spend a few weeks in “in school suspension”.
While inmates will be inmates and try to get away with as much as possible, successful convictions of this crime would have some effect on the contraband problem. The current punishment for contraband, as laid out in Section 24-3-950 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, is a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 and/or a prison term of one to ten years. When you start slapping additional prison time on these people some of them will get the message.
There is a paragraph in this article we find extremely interesting. It is quoted below:
“Since the Facebook postings were made public, the corrections department’s inspector general plans to monitor the Charleston Thug Life website to help keep tabs on other participating in illegal activity in prison, Newsome (sic) said.“
We aren’t quite sure how to take that. Is that an olive branch being extended? SCDC went from ignoring us initially to taking a pointedly adversarial stance recently, including comments from and interviews with spokesman Clark Newsom and downright derogatory comments made by Division Director Blake Taylor about CTL, the concerned citizens calling in and his own Corrections Officers. Those comments by Taylor were made publicly in his presentation at a conference of corrections professionals. In spite of all that, we have noticed hits on the blog since the Tyheem Henry story went up and those hits come from IP addresses and internal IP numbers of SCDC networks.
So, how do we handle what appears to possibly be a change in the stance of SCDC? Well, folks, while we might harbor resentment against certain administrators there for their recent mistreatment of citizens of South Carolina, our original offer still stands. Our goal is, and always has been, to help law enforcement make our communities better places to live.
Anyone at SCDC can pick up a telephone and call the intelligence section at the Georgia Department of Corrections. A private email to us will even get you a name of someone to talk to. Here is how we worked with GDOC when we were running their inmates on a regular basis. We found the inmates and attempted to identify them. We documented the activity through our time stamped screen captures. Once that was done the link to the page was forwarded to GDOC and we gave them a couple of days to act on the information. After a certain amount of time passed, or after we were notified a raid or cell search had been conducted, we published our post. If GDOC cleared us to publish the results of their search, we did. If GDOC had the page deleted before we published it was no big deal as we already had the documentation in our files. Either way, GDOC came out smelling like a rose because they acted on the information, collected the intelligence available from the inmate’s page, then had it deleted.
Anyone who has read this blog since it’s inception knows the response of SCDC has always been exactly the opposite of the GDOC response. It was a reaction we never understood from a common sense point of view. Those of us who have worked for various levels of government in the past understood the reaction all to well, however.
SCDC perceived our activities as a threat, a way to make them look bad, when in fact all we wanted to do was offer them our available resources (time, research, documentation) because we know they don’t have the funding or the staffing to do this on their own. Don’t forget - we don’t get paid for what we invest in this endeavor, nor did we ask them to subsidize our work in any way. We tried to help them be more efficient and more effective and it wouldn’t cost them a dime. Unfortunately, the organization, or rather the administration, chose to declare us the enemy. When you started calling and writing they included you as enemy combatants.
The lesson in all of this is, when you declare war on people who have the best of intentions don’t be surprised when it eventually blows up in your face. We definitely are not the biggest blog out here in the ether, but with unique hit counts currently ranging from six-thousand on an average day to fifteen-thousand on a busy day, we can gin up a lot of citizen support for our mission. When it comes to recalcitrant and combative government agencies, that citizen support translates to political pressure and the kind of heat no one wants to have to face. And we don’t plan on going away for the foreseeable future.
Let’s be honest here. The only thing that precipitated all of this attention in recent weeks was the discovery of Tyheem Henry’s page and the resulting fallout from some well connected people who applied pressure in the right places. Not to mention the pressure from the parents of Carter Strange who have been living this nightmare and dealing with reluctant police, prosecutors and media outlets for years now. Imagine how differently all of this could have gone after we found Henry’s page.
Had SCDC chosen to use the common sense approach we would have had a contact to whom we could forward that information. They could have handled the situation on their end very quickly. When we posted the profile on Henry we could have noted, “SCDC was notified two days ago and acted very quickly on this information.” You can’t buy P.R. like that. That’s all it would have taken, folks. Everyone involved would have been happy. Carter’s parents wouldn’t have had to take time out of their busy lives to contact the media and various politicians in order to get something done. They could have had their morning coffee while thinking how awesome it was their government was doing the right thing.
That being said, if the IG of SCDC would like to assign a liaison, we can be contacted at [email protected] We have an idea how to set things up, but it is your call. As we have previously stated, in spite of the previous acrimony demonstrated by some in SCDC, we are more than willing to work with the agency just as we did with GDOC. It’s a win-win situation. SCDC gets the evidence to do what they need to do, but simply can’t on their shoestring budgets, and we keep the citizens informed about what is going on.