Troubled Over Bridgewater

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  September 13, 2010

The most revealing part of Weinrebe's case is what one of his fellow guards said, on the witness stand, about DOC culture. Steve Kenneway, then the president of the Officers Union, had previously been an Army officer at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. At a 2006 hearing for Weinrebe's appeal to be reinstated — which was denied — Kenneway testified that Weinrebe should keep his position at OCCC. According to court records: "Lt. Kenneway testified on behalf of the Appellant that domestic violence is becoming more prevalent among DOC personnel and that DOC requested a meeting to discuss this problem. Kenneway further testified that a Captain who shot his wife and spent six months in jail is still a Captain after the case against him was dropped. He also testified that there is a current case pending regarding a Captain who pistol-whipped his wife, and is still a Captain."

Offensive as his comments may have been, Kenneway was just following guidelines. Union members are candid about their brotherly discretion, so much that the Officers Union once published a list of commandments including: "Though shall not 'rat' on a fellow employee," "Thou shall not surrender thyself to management," and "Though shall not bear witness against one another." In a 2006 review titled "Improving Prison Safety: Breaking the Code of Silence" that was published in the Journal of Law & Policy, former DOC commissioner Dennehy wrote: "Corrections professionals must face the fact that we work in an environment where a long-established code of silence can flourish and overshadow common sense and common decency." The Officers Union did not return Phoenix requests for comment.

Old Colony's stop-snitching culture is a recurring theme on public Web forums where DOC employees post anonymous notes. One current target of officers' angst is Mendes — the previously mentioned lieutenant accused of scheming the DOC out of thousands of dollars that he allegedly used to buy, among other items, a bow and arrow and multiple semi-automatic weapons. (Mendes's attorney denies the charges.) Fearing that Mendes will flip in order to pad his own punishment, commenters have suggested the use of intimidation: "Mendes is being arraigned on the 28 of July in Brockton [Superior Court]" read one recent thread. "Let's get together and hire a bus to go and see this rat bastard sweat and cry in court. This ballsucker should go down like the coward he is."

Mendes is not the only contentious topic in OCCC forums. On the Bitch Boards, as they're better known, officers chat about everything from sexual-misconduct investigations and union elections to specific prisoners and co-workers. They have plenty to bitch about. In the past year alone: former officer Robin Pearson was arraigned on charges of having inappropriate sexual relations with a convict. Manson Brown escaped OCCC minimum-security, bringing the state legislature's attention to the prevalence of contraband cell phones behind bars. (Brown's escape also strained relations between prison officials and the Bridgewater Police Department, since Old Colony officers did not alert local authorities until two hours after discovering that Brown was missing.) All this while emotionally disturbed inmates are being transferred to OCCC, and the struggle between Caucasian guards and minority prisoners seems headed for an irreconcilable deadlock.

Unhappy Kwanzaa
The case of Darrell Jones illustrates how petty and vindictive the relationship between guards and inmates can be.

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