Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chaos Inside Dismas Pre-Release Halfway House Program For Prisoners

Are Problems Within Dismas Charities In St. Albans WV Isolated -Or Part Of A Corporate Level Meltdown? by Jack Swint

“It’s our responsibility to keep them (prisoners) from running around and we do a very good job of that. We have strict rules and regulations and we are vigilant about monitoring them… These are the lowest security level prisoners, some who wrote bad checks to some who sold crack cocaine.” Jan Kempf, Dismas Charities Inc 2001

Background

Dismas Charities is a non-profit organization headquartered in Louisville Ky. The original concept for their prisoner halfway house programs began back in 1964 by Father William Diersen, a Catholic priest, who at the time was chaplain at the Kentucky reformatory. According to the Dismas website, Father Diersen was frustrated by the seemingly revolving door of people returned to prison for violating conditions of their release.

The name Dismas was decided on because he was the repenting thief hung on the cross beside Jesus. Who, until that day, lived in the desert, robbed and or murdered anyone unlucky enough to cross his path. Today, Dismas Charities Inc. has emerged into one of the largest state and federal corrections industry pre-release programs, with 27 facilities and 9 support offices in 12 states. Their claim is to allow prisoners the opportunity to reintegrate back into society, find suitable employment and strengthen family ties.

But, what else is occurring inside these pre-release prisoner facilities and within corporate headquarters that they don’t want the public or the Bureau of Prisons to know about? Illegal Drugs, Sex, Escape and Mismanagement top a reported list that one staff source inside the Dismas facility located in St Albans WV claims is occurring. Reports in other Dismas locations across the country name the same type problems, but, also include murder, bribery, abuse and more. And, there are the problems within Dismas Charities Headquarters in Louisville KY.

Dismas Federal Halfway House St. Albans WV

In 2008, Dismas purchased property at 113 Edgar Street, located in an area notoriously nicknamed the “badlands,” US Route 60, in St. Albans WV. They built this new facility amongst strip bars, churches and family neighborhoods after being denied to buy the former Tyler Mountain School back in 2001 because of resident’s complaints of bringing federal prisoners, potential crime and drugs into their neighborhood. Were those residents’ fears and concerns at the time legitimate?

At any given time, there are approximately eight female and thirty five males residing in this Dismas facility. Another 15 or so offenders live on home confinement and monitored by staff. According to one inmate’s pre-sentence investigation report, the estimated fees paid by the bureau of prisons to Dismas is $1,800 a month for each person under their direct supervision.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) 2010 contract shows the St. Albans facility receives $954,139.20 a year through November 2014. Residents, who are physically able, are required to work in the community to save money for their release. They are also required to pay 25% of their gross wages to Dismas each payday to help defray costs. Staff assist in job placement opportunities through numerous contacts in the area with local businesses.

Those who work and participate in programs are allowed to leave the center daily. They are also afforded 12, 24 and 48 hour community and or home passes by themselves or with family and friends. Residents are allowed out of the facility during any scheduled work hours. (24 hr period) And, until 9pm for doctor’s visits, church, shopping, or recreation. Upon approval and a valid driver’s license and insurances, they can also have a vehicle to drive.

Back in 2001, Dismas Corporate also made assurances to Tyler Mountain residents that no convicted violent and or sex offenders would be housed in their WV programs. In the past 6 months, resident criminal records include federal drug crimes, white color, child sex offenses, racketeering, murder and bank robbery.

In-House Drug Problems from Marijuana To Cocaine And K-2 To Bath Salts

The majority of men and women who pass through Dismas St Albans (all pre-release programs) abide by the rules and benefit greatly from a re-entry program back into society. But, some don't! Inmate’s use of pills, marijuana and cocaine has been an ongoing problem at the center since opening. Each person is reportedly drug tested at least once a week. But, approximately 3 to 5 residents fail these tests each month and most are returned back to jail and or prison.

Over the past 6 months the halfway house has become engulfed in both the illegal contraband synthetic drug “K-2” and “Bath Salts.” These drugs have been used nightly in the bathrooms where residents light up joints of marijuana or K-2 and blow the smoke into the ceiling vent fans to help keep staff from smelling it. Staff became aware of this ongoing problem early on, but, unable to conduct urine screenings for the K-2 substance until April 2011.

Within 3 weeks, eight of ten inmates tested positive for K-2 and were sent back to federal lockup. Four of them were in the prison drug abuse and treatment program (RDAP) and had received a year off their sentence for successfully completing that course. According to policy, the year off will automatically be reinstated, along with any new charges and or loss of time off for good behavior if returned to jail from the halfway-house. (Dismas programs do include contracted drug, alcohol and psychological services.)

At least one female was reportedly returned to jail for admitting using “Bath Salts” over a 3 day period. She requested medical attention from staff after becoming mentally distraught from the side effects. In June 2011, five people were returned to jail for drug use and one male resident was said to have been arrested at his job by US Marshall's for actually selling drugs after only being out of prison for 2 weeks.

According to our inside employee source, alcohol has always been snuck into the facility, mostly on weekends when only two officers work per shift. Inmates are drinking in the evening after the 10 pm curfew in the dorm sleeping areas and bathrooms where camera’s can not monitor.

Reportedly, staff members are doing their best in trying to eliminate the problems. “Its not that the staff isn’t trying to stop the contraband from coming in. Each time a resident returns to the center from a pass or work, they are searched. A breathalyzer and metal detector are also used to deter contraband from entering the facility.” Two to three people a month fail breathalyzer tests upon reentering the facility after being out in the community. Staff also conduct random searches of resident’s lockers and perform pat-downs.

Sources say that, the lack of adequate staffing, poor morale and miss-management is the contributing factor to not being able to stop the influx of contraband and its use. Lack of staff also reflects prisoners not being held totally accountable for their whereabouts while out in the public. Employees do make daily phone calls and periodic unannounced visits at resident’s workplaces and or homes to verify that they are were they are supposed to be.

“We know that some people here are not going where they claim they will be. It’s a cat and mouse game, and they know if we catch them out of bounds, they face going back to prison or in-house restrictions.” Residents have to fill out staff pre-approved agendas each time they leave the facility that includes where, when and a phone number.

One veteran staff member explained that Dismas Corporate has an unusual philosophy on how they justify sending so many residents back to prison on violations. “The more people we send back to prison, makes us look like we are doing our job.” In reality, one would think that the least number of people who were sent back to prison would show that the Dismas halfway house program is working?

Child Sex Offenders At St. Albans Dismas

Even though Dismas Execs claimed to have a policy that excludes child sex offenders in their program, there have been at least 18 since January 2010. Our source for this story provided the names of four child sex offenders either currently at Dismas or recently released. John K. Mitchell, (Preston County) James W. George, (Berkley County) Richard Andrew Bonyak, (Evans City PA) and David Cremeans. (Cabell County)

Cremeans (AKA Kicker), is a Former Pagan motorcycle member and child sex abuser who currently resides at Dismas St Albans and works at a local restaurant in Charleston. He was part of the huge federal indictment back in 2009 that netted 55 motorcycle gang members. Charged with numerous federal charges ranging from attempted murder, drugs, firearms and involvement in an ongoing criminal enterprise, (RICO) he was allowed to plead guilty to just racketeering. Cremeans received 24 months in prison and will serve 3 years supervised release. His projected release date from Dismas is July 2011.

The sexual molestation conviction dates back to 1998 where he pled guilty in State Court (Cabell County) to sexual abuse of a minor by a parent or guardian. He received a 1 to 5 year prison sentence, but, that was suspended to 5 years probation and a court order prohibiting him from living anywhere where there are children.

According to Terry Swaggert and Emily Roberts with the WV State Police Sex Offender Registry, sex offenders living in either federal or state community release centers, who are court ordered to register, must do so while there because they are “out walking in the community.” To date, only two of these four men named above have appeared on the sex registry. Cremeans was recently added after our inquiry to the WVSP registry. Sex offenders are also allowed out of the center to work and for community passes etc. We also spoke to an officer at the WV State Corrections work release center in Charleston who said that there are no violent or sex offenders currently at that center, and he was not aware of any who will be.

Rape Accusations To Consensual Sex Between Staff And Residents

In June and July of 2010, mainstream media across the US was quick to jump when 30 year old David L. Bennett, who was residing at the halfway house in St. Albans, was arrested for allegedly raping Dismas female counselor Kathleen I. Angell. According to her affidavit, Angell claimed he grouped and fondled her, forcibly raped and then performed oral sex on her. He was immediately arrested, jailed and charged with several felony counts from sexual abuse to rape.

But, shortly after his arrest her story began to lose credibility. Prosecutors dismissed the charges within 60 days according to Kanawha County Circuit Court records, case # 10-CRM-454, which shows all charges dismissed in September 2010. Assistant county prosecutor Daniel Holstein motioned the court to do so because of “insufficient evidence.” Authorities had obtained DNA samples of both Angell and Bennett, but, it’s not known what the results were.

According to our staff source, Bennett was believed to have been having an ongoing relationship with Angell, “Something didn’t seem right from the beginning when she reported the rape. The proximity of her office to other staff and residents was only a few feet away. Someone would have heard her resisting him and struggling.” One piece of exonerating evidence may have been the reported text messages that were discovered between Angell and Bennett. Media never reported that all charges had been dropped against Bennett, or why. This is not the only alleged staff / inmate relationship that has occurred at this Dismas location.

Former staff supervisor Scott Hively, (married at the time) reportedly became involved with a female resident (Kim) and ended up having to resign in early 2011 after evidence surfaced of their ongoing affair. Senior staff allege that he also was accused of harassment and submitting false reports against residents to boost his work performance record. Hively was also accused of bringing in alcohol to the females and had attempted to plant drug paraphernalia (K-2) on at least one resident at the center to cause their return back to jail and enhance his work performance record.

Recent Increase In Escapes

In 2001, Dismas executive Jan Kempf bragged in a town hall meeting that in 2000, a total of only 5 people had escaped from all of their facilities across the country. Over the past forty-five days, 6 people have walked away from Dismas St. Albans WV. Whenever someone escapes, staff notify local authorities, US Marshall's, US Bureau of Prisons and the US Probation Department.

Three Facility Directors In The Past Year

As of May 1, 2011 a new facility director inherited all of the ongoing problems at the federal facility. Former 17 year Charleston Police Captain, James A. Sands, is the 3rd one in the past 10 months. Former director, Pernel McCoy, resigned as director after only 6 months and the one before him, Wendy Easton, was terminated and escorted out of the complex sometime in August 2010.

Director James Sands actually has a 2007 Kanawha County conviction for “obtaining money under false pretenses” stemming from his admitted moonlighting for extra money while on duty as a police officer. He had been suspended and placed on leave from police duties during an investigation and later resigned.

Problems On The Corporate Level Include Lavish Parties And Reckless Spending.

Lavish parties and luxury suites at sports venues are just some of the issues revealed in the most recent corporate financial audit alleging misuses of state money and violating their not for profit tax status. (Audit is linked below) Dismas Headquarters in Louisville Kentucky was openly criticized by state officials last year for spending more than $155,000 for suites at the KFC Yum Center and at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Also, $15,000 to $20,000 annually on a hospitality train car for University of Louisville basketball games. Dismas have also been the financial support behind the Bellarmine University’s basketball team and hosting various social events. Golf outings for the executive staff, expensive Kentucky Derby Gala’s, extravagant dinners and parties for the Board and Executive staff were routine.

The state auditor also questioned the enormous salary paid to top executives. In 2009, Dismas Inc paid its president a salary of $602,000 and its executive vice president $469,955, which ranks above the 90th percentile nationally for transitional care organizations.

In 2009, Dismas received “Signature Sponsorships” on behalf of the law firm Stites & Harbison and software provider KiZAN technologies rewarded them with payments of $247,413 and $400,931, respectively. Keep in mind, Dismas Inc. is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code, which is administered by the Internal Revenue Service.

Dismas Facility Scandals On The National Level Include Bribery, Sex Abuse, Lying And Murder

These are but a few examples of the growing problems just within Dismas Charities.

March 2011, a 61-year-old licensed chemical dependency counselor was indicted and arrested for allegedly billing the government for counseling services he never provided to inmates at Dismas Charities in Midland TX. He is being charged with six counts of making false claims to the United States.

March 2011, former Dismas Charities Manager, Richard Lynch pled guilty to using the company credit card for his own personal use.

On May 23, 2011 Richard Thyberg, one of the Marshals Service New Mexico’s Most Wanted Gang Offenders was arrested carrying a loaded 9mm pistol. Thyberg had been living at the Dismas Charities Residential Reentry Center in Las Cruces as part of his sentence with the Bureau of Prisons for Felon in Possession of a Firearm charges.

Thyberg escaped from Dismas after he walked away on March 18, 2011 and will now be charged with Felon in Possession of a Firearm for the loaded handgun and escape from custody for walking away from Dismas. Thyberg’s extensive criminal history, gang affiliation and continued propensity for violence is why he was placed on the Marshals Services New Mexico’s Most Wanted List.

The Louisville KY Dismas work release program has had its share of embarrassing problems. One scandal stood out in the media involved a contract between Dismas and the Metro Animal Shelter between 2009-2010. According to Jason Gunnoe, with MAS, there were numerous occasions of…

“Dismas workers fornicating with employees and volunteers, using drugs and accused of misappropriation of city property.” Reports state that this was on such a large scale that the animals in the shelter were being neglected. Gunnoe went as far as to describe one instance involving an impromptu love shack constructed out of donated boxes of cat food, a makeshift red heat lamp and a radio. “He had arranged the boxes in a walled-off area with a couch and a heat lamp…I couldn’t believe it.” Dismas tried to say they had no knowledge of the ongoing problems until a June 2, 2009 e-mail proved they did.

In Atlanta Georgia, former Dismas Charities employee Terrence Clay received a sentence of one year and one day in prison and a $1,000 fine for soliciting and taking bribes. At least twice in 2007, Clay solicited and received $1,000 from a prisoner in exchange for certain favors.

Mose Lewis, a Dismas Lubbock Texas halfway house staffer admitted he lied to federal investigators about his sexual activities with residents. He was originally indicted for Sexual Abuse of a Ward, Abusive Sexual Contact, and False Statement. Lewis decided to take a plea bargain and told how he engaged in certain sexual activities with at least one of the residents of the Dismas.

In June 2008, federal inmate Randy Bowman was living at the Louisville KY Dismas Charities Halfway House and killed a fellow female resident. He stabbed her with an ice pick and then ran. Bowman, 54, had been in and out of prison since he was 18. He has been convicted of rape, arson and most recently was in prison for not reporting the death of the woman he lived with in Texas.

In 2009, Rafael Vega was a resident at a Texas Dismas halfway house when he and another man were convicted of abducting a known drug dealer and transported him to a Juarez Mexico drug cartel. According to reports, they first chopped off his hands then brutally murdered him. Prosecutors said the kidnapping was in retaliation for a marijuana load linked to the Sinaloa drug cartel that was seized at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint at Sierra Blanca.

In Closing…

State and Federal halfway house programs serve a very important role to prisoners being released who need stability and resources to get adjusted back into society and to help ensure their success. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contracts with halfway private companies like Dismas to provide assistance to inmates who are nearing release. They are to provide a safe, structured, supervised environment, as well as employment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance, and other programs and services. Halfway House programs help inmates gradually rebuild their ties to the community and facilitate supervising ex-offenders' activities during this readjustment phase.

According to now Georgia Supreme Court Justice and former US Attorney, David Nahmias… “Corruption by those who administer our prisons and other correctional institutions undermines the safety of everyone in those institutions, and further undermines the critical role they play in deterring and rehabilitating criminals.”

The business of operating state or federal community re-entry programs for prisoners has fast become one of the most profiting businesses in the country. The recent audit (linked below) and news reports on Dismas Charities outline the mega -millions of dollars each year Dismas earns in the community corrections industry. In fact, in 2009, Dismas Charities reported a total of $38,924,654 in revenues from their combined federal and state contracts, donations, public contributions, grants and membership fee’s. Out of that, $27,376.067 came from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and $2,539,050 came from prisoner’s subsistence payments.

Dismas's Mission Statement claims that they… “Provide quality, cost-effective, community–based supervision, treatment services, and programs to individuals within the criminal justice system and assist them in becoming positive, productive members of their community.” In reality, their programs sound great on paper and in sales pitches to the public. Just in 2009, Dismas official Bob Yates told citizens in Martinsburg WV, that if allowed to open a pre-release facility in their neighborhood, that location would only house "low-risk offenders." Which is the same mistruth given to Tyler Mountain residents in 2001.
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Bottom line...It appears on the surface that, Dismas Executives and Board members may be to busy enjoying life on the taxpayer’s dollars, instead of operating community based corrections facilities. It also appears some local level employees and residents are enjoying themselves too.

End Of Story…

Jack Swint - Publisher
West Virginia News
E-Mail: WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com
Website: http://WVNewsOnline.com 
Blog: http://WestVirginiaNews.blogspot.com
Twitter:  @WVNewsOnline  
LinkedIn: Jack Swint



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Links

Dismas Charities Website

Bureau Of Prisons List Of Halfway House Locations

BOP Community Programs

Dismas Audit By Kentucky State Auditor

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