The Firing of Warden Barnhart:Tapping into the Prison Rumor Mill
Jan. 16, 2013At 11:30 am on January 10, Maine State Prison Warden Patricia Barnhartwas escorted out of the prison allegedly upon being terminated by CommissionerJoseph Ponte.The shroud of secrecy quickly thrown over the incident had Department of Corrections spokesperson, Jody Breton, saying, "The Department has nocomment".That the Department has no comment comes as no surprise to journalistslong frustrated over the system's lack of transparency. For those of us with limitedinside experience, absence of comment customarily masks a crisis-drivenmanagement style devoid, with or without comment, of logical explanation.Experience dictates that one can safely assume that the firing of Warden Barnhartwas not even on the radar a week or two before it happened - allegedly happened,that is.The reaction on the part of a lawsuit-averse press is simply and quickly tomove on for lack of documentation.As I witnessed this rapid retreat and marveled at how quickly and effectivelythe corrections culture can circle the wagons out of fear of reprisal, I decided that Imight open a dialogue with the rumor mill for snippets of information, publishing afictional scenario on the basis of those insider perspectives.After sending out an appeal to former staff and informed members of thegeneral public, I decided to create a loosely-structured concept that I dubbed"Decidedly Deep Throat" - DDT. The response was rapid and enthusiastic,suggesting that a fictional, undocumented account of actions within the prisonsystem might well have sufficient elements of truth to coax corrections officialsout of their shell onto the slippery slope of "comment".Here are the DDT rumblings from the rumor mill:
DDT-1, 1/10/13: I was talking with a staff member at the prison today whosaid that the Commissioner came in this morning and told WardenBarnhart to pack her things and get out, along with another officer...