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White Inmate's Shoulder Injury Means 70 Months for Black Prison GuardTim King Salem-News.com
There is a strong rumor in Salem that up until the early 1960's, signs stood at each end of town reading, "Welcome to Salem, 99% White". I think it is really a fact, but I have never seen the signs; my understanding is that they still exist.
(SALEM, Ore.) - (Update: We have been advised that the individual in this story received a substantially lesser sentence than anticipated, involving only probation.)
Advocates for a former African-American Oregon corrections officer, say a recent court decision in Marion County rings of older times, when racism was practiced openly and at will in Salem. This story involves a black corrections officer who injured an inmate as he defused a racially-motivated fight between convicts in the Oregon State Correctional Institute, where he was employed.
On behalf of an inmate serving prison time, the local court convicted Jamin Dumas, a 60-year old father of eight with a nineteen year record of excellence with Oregon Corrections, of second-degree assault. The minimum sentence means just under five years in prison.
"Mandatory minimums" as they are called, are a method prosecutors exploit to take power away from elected judges. Many people believe the laws border on fascist, and are unfairly used to keep more young black American men in prison, than in college. It's been going on for years, along with the ruling class decimation of the middle class. Racism takes on some strange faces, but just like the constant anti-Obama rhetoric, the disguise does little to skew the true motivations.
The damage inflicted by this officer? I expected to read about an inmate with with his head split open, some type of egregious injury. But instead I learned that one white racist came out of it with a shoulder injury.
According to testimony, this inmate at OSCI was angry because he had to listen to an African/American guard, and because he had to wait to go to the prison yard, so he took a swing at the black officer, and everything spun out of control from there, sort of. Last time I checked, prisons are full of murderers and rapists and violent individuals.
The only thing really spinning out of control, it seems, is the system that this state imposes.
As the Crow Flies
Oregon courts have this inmate's six. Apparently his rights vastly outweigh those of the black officer who he attacked. Jim Crow would be pleased. It may be hard for some to believe, but this state has a deeply rooted history of affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, and many high level state officials in the past were connected. For some it is not hard to believe.
I'm not suggesting that the court officers are hanging out in white hoods on Saturday nights, but a few decades ago they were, and only idiots forget things like that. They should have considered how this seemingly ridiculous case would appear to the fairly decent, somewhat educated residents of this state, and every other state for that matter.
William Coleman is one of Mr. Dumas' advocates who contacted Salem-News about the plight of this man. He says it was almost two years ago, in May of 2008, when this Oregon State Correctional officer with a 19-year exemplary record, had to make a quick decision to stop a racially motivated disturbance among some inmates.
Coleman said, "The inmate was injured because he had to be restrained, due to his attempted assault upon the officer. The officer was immediately placed on administrative leave, pending charges of Assault 2 which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months in prison."
Coleman says many fellow officers, friends and family, as well as experts, rallied to assist, as well as to give testimony at his trial.
"Unfortunately even though most of the evidence, except for the inmate's testimony, pointed toward the officer's innocence, the ruling was that he was guilty of Assault-2 and official misconduct."
It is a fact that Oregon will roll up its corrections officers without much hesitation, whereas street police officers, deputies and troopers almost always evade responsibility for injuries they inflict on suspects. Ironically, they typically overuse the term "officer safety". I gather that officer safety is not a priority at OSCI. Some consistency would be good here.
I find it disturbing that this individual would actually be looking at several years in prison. If a person assaults any police officer on the street, they are instantly looking at years behind bars. State law penalties for assaulting an officer mean police are worth more as human beings, quite literally, than we are. Apparently they're also worth quite a bit more than the uniformed officers in our state prisons. There does not appear to be any type of similar standard in play in this case.
Coleman says the officer's family has been devastated, as well as their friends and those who worked with him.
He says Jamin Dumas did everything within the scope of his employment, and should have been commended for doing a good job in preventing a situation from turning volatile, instead he was punished.
"This man in his 60's, a father of eight, has lost his job and career at an age where an alternative career is doubtful and employment is problematic."
He says Dumas' great reputation, his ability to pay into his retirement fund, his health insurance, and now his freedom itself, are threatened at a time when he should be looking forward to a happy, healthy retirement.
May 21, 2008
Dumas explains that on the day in question, he had just returned from lunch, where he worked in a 120-man housing unit at OSCI, with two lower tiers and two upper tiers.
"There is a left side, bottom and top, and a right side bottom and top tier. The left side of this unit houses most of the inmates that are released from the Disciplinary Segregation Unit," Dumas explained.
When the incident happened, Dumas was in the 'officers’ area' where the bar box is located, which is the box containing the buttons to open and close the cells.
There were approximately ten inmates who entered the unit, from the corridor, after returning from lunch, he said. Most of these inmates resided on the bottom left side of the unit.
One inmate who is white, walked up to Dumas asking why he couldn't go to the yard, with a spew of profanity underscoring his annoyance.
The officer says he ordered the inmate to proceed to his cell and again the prisoner stated "this is bullsh*t, I don’t know why I have to suffer for these other guys."
Dumas says he told the inmate that he could go to the yard at 1:20 pm which was approximately 30 minutes away.
"He said, while glaring at me in a hostile manner, 'this is bullsh*t I want to go to the yard.' I ordered him to go to his cell. There were other inmates starting to mill around the officers' area and observing this inmate's actions. I told all inmates to go to their cells, 'go to your cells now, gentlemen.' Several of them began to ask me questions regarding different topics. I informed them that I did not have the time, at the moment, to answer any questions."
He says the disruptive inmate proceeded down the tier toward his cell, which was one or two cells from the end of the tier, while saying “this is bullsh*t, that guy is f*cked up, this cop is stupid.” Dumas says the man's anger rose as he continued to lash out verbally at Dumas.
The inmate walked to the cell, where another white inmate was conversing with the disruptive inmate. In Dumas' opinion, this inmate was trying to stir the first, who was already clearly agitated.
Dumas says he tried to reason with the inmate, who then began to say, "I hate all you f*cking niggers. I hate all you nigger bitches."
Dumas says the man continued by saying, "If my granddaddy were around he would take a whip to all of you and beat the skin off your backs," adding that the man said, "I hate all niggers."
About that time, according to Dumas, a group of African/American inmates were beginning to congregate because the white inmate was now expanding his hateful comments to all African/Americans.
Dumas said, "I noticed that an African/American inmate had approached the white disruptive inmate and was angry with him about his racist comments and he had his fists up ready to assault the white inmate. There were at least seven inmates on the tier at the time, with some cell doors still open."
I can only imagine what was going through the mind of Jamil Dumas at this time. He knew that gangs in his unit included Crips, Bloods, Skinheads, Black Gorilla Family, International Peckerwood Syndicate, etc. He says he knew that it could erupt into an all-out racial incident at any time. The state of Oregon is going to make Dumas pay big for what seems like more than reasonable behavior.
"In the back of my mind was the fact that there had been a racial riot at another Oregon prison a few weeks previous. I quickly turned around to head back toward the disruptive inmate’s cell, while ordering the African/American inmate to go to his cell, when I noticed the officer who had relieved me for lunch, had shown up in response to my call for backup."
He says he continued to order the African/American inmate to return to his cell, but he and the disruptive inmate continued to prepare to fight.
"When I had almost reached the two inmates, the African/American inmate stepped back from the white inmate’s cell. When I arrived, I stepped across the threshold of the disruptive inmate’s cell, to stand between the two inmates and also to talk to the disruptive inmate to try to calm him down, in an effort to get him to stop his racial tirade."
The inmate who used the Oregon courts to convict Dumas, reportedly then threw a punch at the officer with his right hand, which Dumas blocked with his upper left arm.
"I immediately reached under his upper right arm with my right arm and placed my right palm in the back of his neck while pulling the left side of his back toward me and placed my left arm under his left arm and put him a full nelson position to restrain him. He continued to struggle and I forced him over the stool and the desk in the cell. I grabbed a hold of his hair with my right hand in order to maintain control. In a matter of seconds, I heard the Corridor Sergeant, who had also arrived in response to my backup call, indicate that he was there and that I could release the inmate to him, which I did, without further incident."
Dumas is the only Oregon Corrections officer I know of that has received very questionable treatment from the state. I am sickened at what is taking place, and cannot imagine how or why this could going on in 2010. Is it an indirect message to black people from the core of Oregon's capitol city? I was astounded to learn by an Internet search that nobody has covered this case, and I am sorry that I am just coming in at the end of this part of it.
In a world where police tase people to death fairly often, this person who had to deal with the worst dregs of society as a law enforcement official, has no choice but to watch the system he represented turn on him.
I was not able to determine if any white corrections officers in Oregon have ever been sent up the river without a paddle for assaulting a black inmate; we are looking into it.
Jamil Dumas is set to be sentenced early tomorrow morning.
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