Part 2 of 2
Fallout From A MCF Visiting Room Kiddie Rape: The Day the Minister’s Wife Condemned the Warden
The Hell I Will
At the request of a state senator, Warden Biggins met with Reverend Carlson and his wife Dorothy at WSF prison in the deputy warden’s office. Seems the reverend officiated at the senator’s church. They wanted to talk about their inmate son, Paul.
Paul Carlson’s PSI told Warden Biggins that Carlson was a White male in his late forties and a school bus driver who repeatedly molested a nine-year-old boy on Paul’s bus. The victim was the last stop on Paul’s route, a circumstance that Paul arranged (aggravating factor) when other routes were possible.
In Michigan, after a defendant is found guilty, but before a judge imposes a sentence, a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) is completed that describes the crime in detail, noting any aggravating factors (such as level of violence) and mitigating factors (such as history of mental illness), family background, educational and job history, and often statements by the victim. At the point the judge accepts the PSI, it becomes the official version of the crime.
The victim’s family began suspecting something was amiss when their son became sullen, non-communicative, stopped eating, periodically wet his bed, and complained about anal pain. They had a physical exam performed and were advised the child had been anally raped, most likely multiple times (penetration-aggravating factor). The child was then interviewed by a victim advocate psychologist and identified Paul as the person who forced (aggravating factor) him to have sex. Paul maintained his innocence but was found guilty by jury. Paul had no criminal or arrest history (mitigating factor), was married, and had two young children.
Paul was found guilty of Criminal Sexual Conduct, First Degree and sentenced to 25years to life.
They sat at a large conference table with the reverend and his wife on one side opposite Sam Apple and Warden Biggins. Sam was head of the WSF Sex Offender Treatment Program and had an extensive background working with child protective services. In addition, he was one smart motherfucker who knew all the sex offender tricks.
Biggins started by introducing Sam and his credentials and stating they read Paul’s file and knew the facts of his crime. The warden then asked about their specific concerns. The reverend, decked out in a black suit, white shirt with red, silver, and black rep tie, had a syrupy smile. With his dark black bookish glasses, he looked the most dapper fellow to ever shit behind two shoes. The reverend’s tongue licked the corners of his mouth and said they had two issues: they were concerned that their son was not allowed into sex offender treatment; and that he is not allowed to visit his children.
Warden Biggins turned to Sam to explain the WSF sex offender treatment program, one of the largest in the nation, and in his careful and deliberate manner (which sometimes drove Biggins nuts with its slow-paced speech) describe how they manage sex offenders:
“At WSF we have a sex offender treatment board staffed with at least two psychologists. To gain entry to our treatment program an offender must show he is not in denial to such an extent that our treatment efforts are a waste of time. Some examples of what I’m saying are when an offender denies the crime ever happened, or blames the victim, or says he lost control and didn’t know what he was doing. If we judge a prisoner’s denial to be too deep, he doesn’t get in the program because having offenders who flat out deny their crime undermines the work other offenders are trying to do in group psychotherapy; to understand why they did what they did, and develop strategies to avoid such future behavior. Your Son was interviewed and insisted he did not commit the crime.”
The reverend asked, “Then why not give them individual therapy instead of group therapy?”
“Because,” Sam said, “individual therapy for sex offenders does not work. To be effective in individual therapy, the therapist must establish a trusting relationship with the client. That is not possible with sex offenders because they lie like hell. And with all due respect, your son is a case in point. Until he displays more willingness to deal with his behavior, he will not get into therapy.”
Dorothy Carlson, whose hollowed-out eyes filled with tears, softly said, “But the parole board will not even grant him a hearing until he completes therapy.”
“Correct,” Biggins said, noticing the small gold cross affixed to a gold chain around her neck, dangling between the large lobed lapels of her pink frock, “but what good would therapy do if your son is in fact innocent…when we have many men waiting to get treatment who admit to their crimes?” She wore a black granny hat that rounded her otherwise boxy face.
“But that’s a catch-22!” blurted the reverend, now nervously fidgeting with the buttons on his jacket’s sleeve.
“It is,” Biggins said. “One of your son’s own making.”
When it comes to meeting with the families of sex offenders, this was not Sam’s and Biggin’s first rodeo. Typically, there is a noticeable lull in the conversation when the family members realize, they are in a conversation that will challenge everything their offender has told them about his crime and why he’s not guilty. At this point the family either gets combative or breaks down and gives up.
Denial is preservation, particularly for the deeply religious.
“Does every prison do things your way?” said the reverend
“We’re the only ones, at least in Michigan. I’m not sure about other states.” Biggins said.
“I understand,” the reverend went on, “that other places don’t have therapy review boards.”
“That’s true,” Biggins said, acknowledging the reverend had done his homework.
“So perhaps we should have him transferred elsewhere to get his treatment.”
“Yes, you can. Perhaps you can enlist your senator to help make that happen. But let Sam explain what that means.”
Sam, used to this tag team approach, chimed in:
“Before we developed the WSF program, the department had individual psychologists determine who would get into their treatment groups, and each therapist had her own criteria for entry. Since there were so few psychologists at each prison, only a few men got into treatment at any one time. This means that each prison had a long waiting list.”
The warden then picked up:
“WSF used to be a medium security prison with work crews under the supervision of civilian crew supervisors. When we were re-designated as a secure medium and started receiving many sex offenders, we realized we no longer needed work crew supervisors because sex offenders are not allowed on work crews that go out in communities. We traded work crew supervisor positions for therapist positions because it was only a matter of time before the department got sued on a liberty rights issue. What that means is that the parole board made sex offender treatment a condition for parole consideration, but the department didn’t offer enough treatment programs to allow sex offenders to meet that condition. What the department did instead was to declare that being on a waiting list was the first phase of treatment, so all those on waiting lists were declared in treatment. Naturally the parole board said bullshit. And we realized no court in this state would see a waiting list as a treatment phase. The upshot is that we developed the WSF program to take care of all the waiting lists. To their credit, the powers that be saw that we were saving their bacon.
“So, you may succeed with getting Paul transferred to another prison, but I’ll guarantee you there will be only one therapist there slowly moving sex offenders through therapy.”
Dorothy Carlson’s body was now shaking as she tried controlling tears and Biggins reached across the table and placed his hand on hers. “My best advice is that you talk with your son and encourage him to be honest with the therapy review board.”
“But what if what he says is true…that he didn’t do this terrible thing?” said the reverend.
“Then there is not a thing we can do for him.”
“So, he’ll just rot?”
“That’s up to Paul. My job is to keep him safely locked up until the Parole Board says otherwise or he reaches his maximum sentence. If you have evidence of his innocence, you need to take that to a judge.”
The reverend stared at the warden with a smile endowed with pitying chagrin. Biggins knew he was thinking he would get the good Senator to intercede. Let him. She won’t be the first politician who’s tried. And Biggins was pretty sure she wouldn’t try.
“What about our grandchildren getting to visit their father?” the reverend said. “I understand the department wants to encourage prisoners to maintain family ties.”
Biggins nodded agreement.
“In fact, I have here a copy of the department’s visiting policy and nowhere does it state that sex offenders can’t visit their children. Why is my son being denied this right?”
Warden Biggins explained what happened in the visiting room at MCF, an adjacent prison . He said that both the MCF warden and deputy warden were disciplined because there was information that staff may have known something was amiss. Biggins ended with:
“The way I read things is MCF staff either didn’t know what was going to happen, or put departmental policy ahead of protecting a child. The policy says we must allow sex offenders to visit their children, or any children except their victims of record as long as the child is accompanied by a parent. MCF followed that policy. I refuse to. Let me tell you what I told the deputy director when he called to remind me of the policy. I told him I didn’t give a shit what the policy said. If a sex offender has any history of child molestation, he will not get into my visiting room with children present…not even his own children.”
“And he accepted that?” the reverend asked.
“Damn right he did. He’s smart enough to foresee this issue ending up before a judge and his having to tell a judge in open court why I should allow a person convicted of molesting children have another crack at it in my visiting room. My only question is, are you smart enough to see yourself having to explain that same thing to a judge.”
The reverend looked toward his wife who sat with her hands clasped on the table and tears creasing her middle-aged face. For the first time Biggins noticed her brindled hair and her little pierced cross earrings to match the cross on her necklace.
The reverend’s brow furrows deepened, as did the lines radiating from the corners of each eye. “How about non-contact visits,” asked the reverend.
“Were not equipped for it,” answered Biggins. “There’s little non-contact visiting in the Michigan DOC, with most of it in higher security facilities.”
“You mean this is all about covering your butt to not get disciplined? You’re willing to destroy what chance my son…our son…has of rebuilding his family…of being a father to his children.?” the reverend said oozing the disgust you’re forced to swallow when your child imposes a burden on you like a mortal sin.
“That’s right,” Biggins said, “and maybe I’ll also prevent a child from getting raped.”
“My Son is not a child rapist.” Dorothy whispered. “May God have mercy on your soul.”