Sunday, June 13, 2010

Officer Green's Racial Experience at NYS Albion Correctional Facility

Picture of me in New York State Department of Correctional Services uniform

Several African-Americans at Albion CF experienced and complained of racial and sexual employment discrimination. One of the African-Americans females who experienced discrimination at Albion CF was Correctional Officer Debbie Green. Debbie’s story: “Officer Green was original from the South. She transferred to Albion CF after her husband retired from the New York City Transit Authority. She moved to Albion, New York in order to live out her dream of living in a rural area.

Green told me in my capacity as her real estate agent that she wanted to purchase a house that had a wood stove and a large yard in Orleans County.  Her dream included planting a garden in her own backyard. I showed Green several houses in an effort to find one to fulfill her dream.

Officer Green was an older seasoned officer who had more seniority that most of the officers working at Albion. If my memory serves me correctly Green had been employed with NYSDOCS for sixteen years when she arrived at Albion.

Green gave one hundred percent to any and all job assignments. She worked as a resource officer because she was not eligible to bid for a permanent job assignment. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between Counsel 82 Union and NYSDOCS required that officers had to be at a facility for a certain number of days in order to bid on a job assignment.

All bids were awarded based on seniority in the New York State Department of Corrections. If a bid required a particular sex of an officer that bid would be awarded based on seniority of the required sex.

The Medical Transportation A Team bid was a highly desired assignment at Albion CF. Officers wanted the A transportation bid because it was one of the few job assignments were the officers worked Monday thru Friday and had weekends off.

After waiting the required time period per the union contract Officer Green submitted a bid for the Medical Transportation A Team. Based on sixteen years of seniority Green was awarded the female designated bid of the Medical Transportation A Team.

Officer Green like many officers at Albion worked swaps with other officers in order to have additional days off. One day Officer Green was working the 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. shift on a swap. I don’t remember the exact events that took place but I do know that Green faced serious disciplinary charges after her encounter with a white male sergeant that she classified as a racist.

Council 82 union represented Officer Green during the disciplinary hearing(s). Green told me that she lost the first hearing because the sergeant involved in her incident lied during the hearing.

Albion staff offered to settle her case by giving Green a formal counseling. She refused the formal counseling offer because she had never been informally or formally counseled during her entire employment with NYSDOCS. She also refused to accept the formal counseling offer because she said she had not done anything wrong.

Debbie Green appealed her case all the way to arbitration. It was a very cold day in December when the arbitrator’s decision was received at Albion CF. Green lost her appeal during the arbitration process. She was suspended for thirty day without pay and fined $1,500.00.

On that cold December day Officer Debbie Green was escorted to the front gate and put out of the prison by a security supervisor and a local Council 82 official. Green left the facility crying as she walked to her apartment in the snow. One of the black officers who witnessed Green being escorted out of the prison told me that Green refused Albion’s staff offer to call her husband for a ride back home. (Her husband had dropped her off at 6:45 a.m.) Green later told me that she cried because she felt defeated and deeply wronged by Albion’s supervisory staff.

For the first time that I could remember the fifty-five black officers at Albion were finally fed-up and outraged. They voiced their concern that Green’s ordeal was racial motivated and that if this could happen to Officer D. Green it could happen to any of us.

Many of the black correction officers at Albion telephoned each other at work and decided that as a group we would pay the $1,500.00 fine for Officer D. Green. I was one of four or five black officers who volunteered to collect twenty-five dollar from each black officer at Albion CF in order to pay Officer Green’s fine.

January 7, 1996, my peace officer's badge and NYSDOCS ID card was stolen at Albion CF.  After trying unsuccessfully for several days to get my departmental items replaced my doctor determined that I was once again disabled from work-related anxiety and depression. (I had missed three weeks of work because of the same illness after a August 26, 1995, hostile work environment experience with Sergeant Reed).

While I was out of work due to work related depression I was notified that black officers had called the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Orleans County.
On March 9, 1996, Gwendolyn Wiley, President local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Orleans County met with Black correctional officers. The meeting was held after the officers requested the meeting to discuss racial discrimination at Albion CF. At the officers’ request the meeting was held secretly at a local church in Albion.

Due to the nature of shift work approximately 20 black officers attended the meeting. Officer Debbie Green and I were two of the 20 black officers present. In an effort to disguise the true nature of our group and because of the fear of retaliation by Albion supervisors we called ourselves “the Focus Group.”

We heard story after story of discrimination and disparate treatment of black staff at Albion CF. Many of the officers felt that incidents of racial discrimination had increased after Superintendent Andrews (a black female) was assigned to Albion.

During the meeting Green thanked us for giving her the $1,500 to pay her fine. She told us that she tried unsuccessfully to get a private attorney to appeal the decision of the arbitration board. After her experience she transferred out of Albion CF and returned to a New York State correctional facility in downstate New York. Due to discrimination at Albion Correctional Facility Green was suspended without pay, fined $1,5000, and abandoned her dreams of buying a home in Orleans County, living in a rural setting, and having a garden.

The Final Investigation Report of  Julia Day of the New York State Division of Human Rights contains a summary of her interview with the two African-Americans female officers at Albion CF. Day conducted the interviews while she was investigating my formal complaint of employment discrimination with that agency. Although both of the officers confirmed the fact that females were treated differently than male officers at Albion Day didn't interview additional female or African-American male officers at the prison.

On May 12, 1997, Day determined that there was no probable cause to support the allegations in my complaint. On November 17, 2000, Eliot Spitzer filed Julia Day's declaration signed on November 15, 2000, in support of the Defendants New York State Departments of Correctional and Civil Services summary judgment motion.

                                         Pages 65-67 of Albion CF Superintendent Andrews Deposition

The  March 19, 1996, minutes from our meeting with the local NAACP shows that the Focus Group agreed to meet again. I don’t know if the Group met again because I wasn’t notified of another meeting. 

From  pages 118, 119, 152,  240-243, of my book Screwed by Former Governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer click link to preview and/or buy the book to start a REAL employment discrimination discussion in America.
Vera Richardson

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