Wasted Honor -

Carl R. ToersBijns is the author of the Wasted Honor Trilogy [Wasted Honor I,II and Gorilla Justice] and his newest book From the Womb to the Tomb, the Tony Lester Story, which is a reflection of his life and his experiences as a correctional officer and a correctional administrator retiring with the rank of deputy warden in the New Mexico and Arizona correctional systems.

Carl also wrote a book on his combat experience in the Kindle book titled - Combat Medic - Men with destiny - A red cross of Valor -

Carl is considered by many a rogue expert in the field of prison security systems since leaving the profession. Carl has been involved in the design of many pilot programs related to mental health treatment, security threat groups, suicide prevention, and maximum custody operational plans including double bunking max inmates and enhancing security for staff. He invites you to read his books so you can understand and grasp the cultural and political implications and influences of these prisons. He deals with the emotions, the stress and anxiety as well as the realities faced working inside a prison. He deals with the occupational risks while elaborating on the psychological impact of both prison worker and prisoner.

His most recent book, Gorilla Justice, is an un-edited raw fictional version of realistic prison experiences and events through the eyes of an anecdotal translation of the inmate’s plight and suffering while enduring the harsh and toxic prison environment including solitary confinement.

Carl has been interviewed by numerous news stations and newspapers in Phoenix regarding the escape from the Kingman prison and other high profile media cases related to wrongful deaths and suicides inside prisons. His insights have been solicited by the ACLU, Amnesty International, and various other legal firms representing solitary confinement cases in California and Arizona. He is currently working on the STG Step Down program at Pelican Bay and has offered his own experience insights with the Center of Constitutional Rights lawyers and interns to establish a core program at the SHU units. He has personally corresponded and written with SHU prisoners to assess the living conditions and how it impacts their long term placement inside these type of units that are similar to those in Arizona Florence Eyman special management unit where Carl was a unit deputy warden for almost two years before his promotion to Deputy Warden of Operations in Safford and Eyman.

He is a strong advocate for the mentally ill and is a board member of David's Hope Inc. a non-profit advocacy group in Phoenix and also serves as a senior advisor for Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council in Chino, California As a subject matter expert and corrections consultant, Carl has provided interviews and spoken on national and international radio talk shows e.g. BBC CBC Lou Show & TV shows as well as the Associated Press.

I use sarcasm, satire, parodies and other means to make you think!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Death investigations inside a jail or prison - are they Mickey Mouse investigations?

Death investigation inside a jail or prison - Mickey Mouse Investigations? -

A prison death related investigation is a complicated process, which involves a number of different members of the assigned investigative unit or department as well as other forensic disciplines working together towards the goal of solving the case and determine whether or not it was a suicide, homicide or a death of natural causes.

Unfortunately, crime scene inside a prison is not as meticulously performed as it is on the outside as there are many minor violations performed that tramples on the evidence gathered. The most common mistake is “communications” – the moment a body is found, the detention or correctional officer or first responder does not take into consideration it is a crime scene and results in serious errors made that may affect the outcome of determining whether or not a crime had been committed.

On the outside, the outcome of a case is determined by the active participation of first responders trained in crime scenes and how to handle evidence or other specific responsibilities. Inside jails or prisons, there is no such quality control or emphasis placed on such urgent needs to abide by specific protocols. Many don’t know how to preserve a crime scene according to the protocol established for best practices and or training of officers.

Compared to the participation of officers, detectives, medical examiners and forensic experts, a death investigation is hardly ever an elongated process and is rather short in all actuality. In reality, a homicide is almost treated the same as a suicide as there are simple investigative mistakes made that leads to the wrongful conclusions of such findings. Culturally speaking, due to the frequencies, the tone is mundane, and urgency is often lacking to commit in details.(Mind you, there are exceptions to this rule, as there are some good investigators out there who want to find the truth but are politically hampered to do so.)

One must wonder why the culture is so permissive in the manner deaths are handled inside jails or prisons and it really comes down to the ideology, the political will and the need to find the truth in order to summarize how a carefully a death case is completed. This is the vital key to any core value of the investigations conducted. The deliberate attempt to design a desirable outcome.

Mistake – Assuming the Case is A Suicide Based on the Initial Report – inside prisons, this approach carries a very heavy responsibility to ignore such initial reports. The truth is, there is a traditional bias established with all involved that causes a direct apathetic approach to the means to find the facts or truth related to the death.

Once the call is made it is a “suicide” the whole approach is changed and critical errors begin. An assumption begins a chain reaction that is rarely stopped long enough to reconsider the cause of death. In most cases, the criminal investigator called makes an assumption by the intimal report of an unqualified first responder or individual that the cause of death was a suicide.

This preconceived notion changes theories and hamper effective investigative tools. Any preconceived theories or notions are dangerous in professional death investigation. In addition to errors of assuming a “suicide” or natural death other preconceived notions may include deaths, which appear to be drug related and/or domestic violence. Inside prisons, there are no detectives available to handle the call – there are criminal investigators called who rarely have the special skills of a detective to determine a suicide, homicide, drug overdose or natural death has occurred.

With a 90 per cent chance of the crime scene being disturbed, this poorly-skilled investigator is already having to deal with a condition that markedly restricts one's ability to function physically, mentally, or socially as there are many barriers in place that would not be present in a similar situation on the outside of prisons.

First of all, there are usually more witness found or contacted in the free world than the imprisoned world and if there are witnesses in the prison world, culturally speaking, the art of snitching is unacceptable as a social cultural norm.

Secondly, the tampering with evidence, although in most cases, not deliberately, hamper genuine efforts to the fact-finding process.

Thirdly, the initial responders, including administrative personnel are quick to declare a death as a suicide to lessen vicarious liabilities involved and prepare to make reports of such in writing and gather the statement in the spirit of a suicide rather than the possibility it was a homicide or anything else other than a natural death.

Suicides are non-amenable offenses that are not recorded in same matter homicides are, therefore are considered less important than other events. Without a doubt investigators take “short-cuts” when they hear the word suicide. I have reviewed many suicide cases where it was apparent that the investigators did not take each point to its ultimate conclusion. Sufficient photographs were not taken and certain tests were not conducted. In some instances the deaths were suicides, but the incomplete and insufficient preliminary investigation raised legitimate concerns.

Mistake – Failure to Conduct Victimology as it pertains to both suicide and homicide investigations is significant in ascertaining motives, suspects and risk factors. In suicide cases, this becomes paramount in determining Motive and Intent.

Does the victim fit a “Suicide Profile?” Was there any evidence of marked depression or suicide ideations? Did the victim have both short and long term plans? However, the major element of a ‘suicide profile” is whether or not there is a mental health history documenting prior attempts or suicide ideations documented in the file.

“Victimology” is the collection and assessment of all significant information as it relates to the victim and his or her lifestyle. Personality, employment, education, friends, habits, hobbies, marital status, relationships, dating history, sexuality, reputation, criminal record, history of alcohol or drugs, physical condition and neighborhood of residence are all pieces of the mosaic that comprise victimology.

The bottom line is “Who the victim was and what was going on in his or her life at the time of the event.” The best sources of information will be friends, family, associates and neighbors and that will be the initial focus of the investigation. In this case, this step is frequently or deliberately omitted and rarely actively pursued as other inmates interviewed related to his behaviors prior to his time of death, will not talk about it and spend their time watching television, sleeping, working out or listening to headphone and not paying attention to what is happening around them.

When such information appears, the case becomes streamlined and the “assumption” of suicide speeds up to the delivery of the report and unless the coroner or medical examiner concludes differently, the case is closed. The failure to consider other options become automatically moot and causes an apathetic mood to continue this case. This often results in a lack of effort to find a weapon, re-examine the injuries or wounds, or the existence of a motive or intent on the part of the victim’s cellmates to take a life.

Since a suicide is often a prefixed conclusion on mental health history or recent reports of being desponded or depressed, the emphasis to look for evidence contradictory to a suicide is almost never done. Injuries and wounds in suicides may be very similar to those observed in homicides. However, certain observations that the wounds found on the body are consistent with homicide or suicide should be made.

Remember: It’s not the number of wounds that are self-inflicted, but the lethality of these wounds and what particular organs have been impacted. In a logical deduction, there are several things that need to be done in order to avoid wrongful assumptions in deaths.

This includes the failure to properly document any suicide notes, or obtain samples or the victim’s writings to make sure the note was really written by the victim and then determine if it was written voluntarily and with suicidal intent. Since the entire investigation is based on a below par investigator in most cases, the concentration of cause is often misplaced or misunderstood.

The major hindrance of the application of a “Psychological Autopsy” might be useful in drawing conclusions but only if the information obtained for this instrument is taken concurrent with the event and not after people have formulated an opinion. This is what separates adequate death investigations from mediocre or shoddy ones.

Special notation –

“It should be noted that the final determination of suicide is made by the medical examiner/coroner after all the facts are evaluated. However, the investigation at the scene and an inquiry into the background of the deceased may indicate the presence of life threatening behavior or activities that suggest suicidal intent. Of course, the medical examiner/coroner is supposed to avail him or her of the input of the investigators, who were present at the scene and conducted the death investigation.” Thus the possibility of a predetermined cause of death is contagious to the official report of the medical examiner finalizing the case forever.

Reference materials:

Vernon J. Geberth, M.S., M.P.S. Homicide and Forensic Consultant
©2013 Vernon J. Geberth, Practical Homicide Investigation
Originally published by Law & Order Magazine, Vol. 61 No. 1 January, 2013 pp 54-567