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Associated Press investigation: Prison chief promoted for beating inmates


The prison staff did not know much about the new acting warden. Then, they said, he made a strange and dangerous confession: Years ago, he beat up some inmates and got away with it.

Thomas Ray Hinkle, a high-ranking US Bureau of Prisons (BOP) official, is sent to restore order and confidence in a women’s prison affected by a scandalous scandal. Instead, activists add, he left the federal prison in Dublin, California, even worse.

The staff regarded Hinkle as a harasser and his presence – following allegations that the previous warden and other staff had sexually assaulted inmates – the hypocrisy of an agency that had publicly pledged to end its abusive and corrupt culture.

So, during a staff meeting in March, he confronted the then-BOP director and asked: Instead of firing Hinkle years ago, why was the agency willing to continue promoting him?

Michael Carvajal replied, according to those in the room, “That’s something we have to investigate.”

Three months later, the BOP promoted Hinkle again, putting him in charge of 20 federal prisons and 21,000 inmates from Utah to Hawaii as executive director of the Western Region. Among them: Dublin.

multiple charges

An Associated Press investigation found that the BOP repeatedly promoted Hinkle despite numerous red flags, rewarding him repeatedly over a three-decade career, while others who attacked prisoners lost their jobs. and they have gone to jail.

The agency’s new head defended Hinkle, saying he was an individual man and a role model employee, endorsing him and pledging to work with the Justice Department and Congress to root out employee misconduct. And Hinkle, in response to questions from the Associated Press, admits he assaulted inmates in the 1990s but regrets that behavior and is speaking out about it now “to teach others how to make the same mistakes.” avoid doing.”

Here are some of the Associated Press’s findings:

At least three inmates, all black, have accused Hinkle of beating them while he was a corrections officer at the Florence, Colorado, federal penitentiary in 1995 and 1996. The allegations were recorded in court documents and in formal complaints to prison officials. In recent years, colleagues say, Hinkle has spoken out about beating up inmates when he was a member of a violent and racist gang called “The Cowboys.”

– One inmate said he was scared when Hinkle and another guard pulled him down a flight of stairs and slammed him against the walls. Another claimed that Hinkle was among the guards who threw her to the concrete floor, spit on her, and used racist language against her. A third said that Hinkle slapped her and held her down while another guard sexually assaulted her.

— The BOP and the Justice Department knew about the allegations against Hinkle in 1996, but promoted him nonetheless. The agency promoted Hinkle at least nine times after the alleged beating, culminating in June as acting regional director.

At least 11 guards associated with “Los Vaqueros” have been charged with federal crimes, but not Hinkle. Three were convicted and sent to jail. Four were acquitted; The four plead guilty and agree to cooperate. Hinkle was promoted twice before the criminal investigation was completed.

– In 2007, while he was an assistant warden at a federal prison in Houston, Hinkle was arrested for public intoxication during a concert after police, saying he was intoxicated, showed his BOP identification card Showed up and refused to drop the warrant. After the case was dropped, the agency promoted Hinkle.

Hinkle has also been criticized as a senior official of the agency. He was reprimanded by the Justice Department in March after accusing him of trying to silence an informant. The BOP said it was taking corrective action after blocking an investigation by a member of Congress and sending emails to all employees criticizing him and the agency. Three months later, he was promoted to interim regional director.

– The BOP, already under intense congressional scrutiny for numerous crises and dysfunctions, did not make Hinkle’s promotion public. Instead, the agency left its predecessor’s name and biography on its website and declined requests for basic information about him.

The Associated Press has spent months investigating Hinkle, obtained more than 1,600 pages of court records and reports from the National Archives and Documents Administration (NARA) and reviewed thousands of pages of documents from related criminal cases and appeals, and interviewed dozens of people. Has interviewed. Many spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation or because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Taken together, all of this shows that while the Bureau of Prisons has vowed to change its toxic culture in the wake of the Dublin and other scandals – a pledge recently reiterated by the agency’s new head, Colette Peters – it has taken the one person involved The promotion has continued through one of the darkest and most humiliating periods in its history.

“we are all human”

Hinkle’s alleged misconduct and his subsequent promotion to the highest ranks of the BOP were never disclosed. The Associated Press findings raise serious questions about the agency’s standards, its selection and vetting of candidates for top-level jobs, and its apparent commitment to rooting out abuse.

Alan Turner, a former federal prison warden who reviewed the Associated Press’s findings, said, “At the very least, the incident at the concert, the whistleblower’s handling of the matter and the congressional investigation reflect extremely poor judgment.”

“This should have been a red flag to any promotion board, and it certainly is not the appropriate level of judgment expected of someone in a leadership role in a correctional facility or field,” added Turner, who is in the Department of Criminology. is a research professor. Law and Society at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

This story is part of an ongoing Associated Press investigation that has uncovered deep, previously unreported flaws within the BOP, the Justice Department’s largest law enforcement agency, with more than 30,000 employees, 158,000 inmates and an annual budget of nearly $8,000 million. Is.

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