Daniel Bans Reporters from JoCo Jail
By Investigative Reporter John Taft
April 12, 01
From Sgt. Banks Approved: Sheriff Daniel______ Lt. Williams _____
Re: Visitors Restrictions
Grants Pass, OR -- Taft’s comments: In an unprecedented move, Dave Daniel banned two investigative reporters from talking to inmates in the Josephine County Jail. When asked for a copy of the banning paper Daniel refused to comply until Taft forced him to comply by using an Oregon Public Information Statute. When Taft asked Daniel for a signed and dated copy of this paper, Daniel refused to comply with that request. The following paper is what Daniel delivered to Taft along with a copy of the jail visitation rights, for a fee of $10.00: Read Strobezone for more information on the battle with Daniel for access to public records about the county jail.
Sheriff’s paper: Due to safety and security concerns for the Jail and those who work here, the following individuals will no longer be allowed to visit any inmates starting Saturday, October 16, 1999: John Taft and Michael Sieradzki.
Those two individuals have so incited and inflamed certain inmates they have visited that disrespect of staff, contempt of jail discipline and threats of violence against staff have increased beyond the norm. For instance, we have in our files a written statement from Mike Owens saying, "If you can’t put a leash on that bitch in heat, I will." The same inmate told another officer, "If I get a chance I will kill that f______ c___ b____" This inmate writes that he is counting on the Taxpayer’s Association to investigate his grievances and to sue jail staff.
In a recent incident, Owens challenged staff to restrain him, pounding on a cell door until they did, and then caused self-inflicted injuries to his writs to make it appear the cuffs were applied to tightly, when staff had made doubly sure they were not.
Taft’s comments: Neither sheriff Daniel or Mr. Banks contacted this reporter to discuss the allegations. We were not given the courtesy by this publicly funded county agency to voice our side of the story. It appears the truth had nothing to do with the banning decision. Political expediency had everything to do with the decision to ban.
At no time did either investigative reporter use abusive language or encourage prisoners to act up. This document issued by Daniel is in Huckleberry Finn’s words, "just a lot of flapdoodle." As investigators our purpose is to determine conditions in the Josephine County Jail. Since there is no review panel overseeing jail conditions, we are interested in prisoners’ food, health care, jail conditions, and guards. There allegations of: poor response to medical conditions, lack of proper attention to medication, uncaring nurses, and lack of doctors due to cost-cutting efforts to save dollars. Many of the problems we have discussed such as foul air, frequent sewage overflows, and alleged abuse by guards in the form of intimidation and threats are a direct result of bad policing and jail conditions. Another complaint is the use of female guards watching the men’s section of the jail while men are using the toilet, or going and coming from the showers.
Daniel is accepting more inmates into the new jail than he can handle for political reason. At the present time there are over 170 prisoners and overseeing this many inmates is beyond the ability and training of Daniel’s staff. Overfilling the jail results in poor care and discontent.
The sheriff’s paper complains the inmates were going to tell the Josephine County Taxpayers Association and they were going to sue the sheriff’s department. Well, I see little difference between that and the inmates calling the local newspaper and complaining about conditions in the jail. The paper did a front-page report on the complaints by inmates and their relatives. What’s the sheriff going to do now, ban the paper’s reporters from talking to inmates? Of course not, that wouldn’t be politically expedient
Prisoners have made threats in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Profanity is the normal condition in a jail, for both the deputies and inmates. The sheriff’s department used Taft and Sieradzki as scapegoats in an attempt to stop the reporting of jail conditions. Daniel was looking for an excuse; he had no legitimate reason to expel the two investigative reporters. The problems lie within the Daniel administration not out side
Sheriff’s paper: Demonstrations of violent behavior by Walter Phillips occurred at the time he was having the Taxpayer’s Association looking into allegations of a physical injury. Inmates Allison, Scott, Daily and others have made comments about the T-A when acting out in various ways.
Taft’s comments: Walter Phillips never had the Taxpayers Association do anything. I spoke to Mr. Phillips once or twice and asked the county commissioners to look into the problem he was having with his arm. The Taxpayers Association offered to pay an outside doctor to examine Phillips’ arm. This would have been a quick and easy way to resolve the arm issue. Daniel refused to accept the offer. The sheriff’s complaints are bogus!
Sheriff’s paper: Denial of visitation Privileges is authorized by Josephine County Sheriff’s Policy 394.05 which reads, "Visiting with persons confined within the facility is a privilege and may be revoked by a staff member or terminated if the safety, security or good order of the facility is jeopardized.
Taft’s comments: It appears Sheriff Dave Daniel ordered denial of visitation rights in retaliation for our publicly reporting on sensitive conditions in the Josephine County Jail. It is believed the Michael Owens’ story was pivotal in causing Daniel to take the locally unprecedented action of excluding Taft and Sieradzki from visiting inmates. The Owens’ story was first printed in the Oct. 1999 issue of the JCTA Newsletter. This story is now on a website called Strobezone.http://www.strobezone.homestead.com. It is also listed on the World Wide Web. Daniel had to stop the reporting on jail conditions, and his denial of visitation rights is an issue that will haunt him as long as he holds office.
Sheriff’s paper: Denial of Visitation Privileges by media representatives was upheld by the U-S Supreme Court in Pell v. Procunier (4176 U.S. 8171974). The court wrote, "When the question involves the entry of people into the prisons for face-to-face communication with inmates, it is obvious that institutional considerations such as security and related administrative problems, as well as the accepted and legitimate policy objectives of the corrections system itself, require that some limitation be place on such visitations". The court added,
Newsmen have no constitutional right of access to prisons or their inmates beyond that afforded the general public." And, "The right to speak and publish does not carry with it the unrestricted right to gather information.
In another case (Kentucky Dept. of Corrections v. Thompson 109 S. Ct. 1904 1989), the Supreme Court ruled that visitors may be excluded who "would constitute a clear and probable danger to the institution’s security or interfere with its orderly operation.
Taft’s comments: The court ruling may have applied to legitimate cases, but to use them in this instance is a farce. Mr. Banks, who apparently wrote this banning document, sent it to the jail staff. Banks knows what is going on inside the jail. After his alleged beating in the jail, Owens reports Banks said, "They shouldn’t have done that, Everybody is tense because of all the things going on." This alleged beating is fully described by Owens on Strobezone.
There is no question that the sheriff’s department is third best in comparison to the city and state police forces. Check out the qualifications discussed in Strobezone’s "Is Fat Belly Flab a Sign of Police Corruption?" This referred to the reporting of problems in the jail. From this reporter’s perspective the new jail run by Dave Daniel is under staffed, poorly managed, and is a pox upon the inmates and the people of Josephine County. The problem in the jail is not with Sieradzki and Taft, but with the sheriff and jail staff. The jail staff needs to treat inmates civilly, stop their profanity directed at inmates, and they may see a turn around in the attitude of inmates towards jail staff. The jail ban smells of corruption.