Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Marianna Federal Correctional Institution Employees and Inmates Interviewed in Computer Poisoning Claim

MARIANNA, Fla. — The federal government sent representatives from at least two agencies to Marianna this week in connection with UNICOR, a prison-based computer recycling program that has sparked multiple lawsuits from workers and prison inmates claiming illnesses stemming from chemical expose (busted up computers).

The visits were confirmed by Jennifer Sadd, the public information officer at the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna. Sadd, however, referred specific inquiries about the federal officials’ activities to the central office at the Bureau of Prisons.

A doctor from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, was assigned to interview former workers at a motel Tuesday, and more meetings there were scheduled for Wednesday.

Assisting in arranging the meetings at the remote location was attorney Bill Reeves, who has filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court in Tallahassee to force the disclosure of certain information for all his clients. He is also seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

His clients include some current or former prison employees, as well as some inmates who worked on the computers slated for recycling. Several of those who attended the Tuesday night meeting at the motel left visibly frustrated with the process.

The man who essentially started the UNICOR program at FCI was among them. Joe McNeal was the first manager for the UNICOR operation at FCI Marianna.
He said after talking to the doctor that he felt she wasn’t listening, and that she tried to imply his symptoms were not related to his work on the UNICOR project. McNeal left his job at FCI-Marianna about two years ago, shortly after he started showing symptoms he believes may be related to having been exposed to chemicals in computer monitors.

McNeal, who made $85,000 in his job at the prison, said he left his job under pressure, shortly after filing paperwork asking that his symptoms be reviewed.
He said he supervised employees, some of whom in turn supervised a crew of roughly 50 inmates working on the computers. McNeal said the workspace in his area was constantly covered with a silver dust that came out of the computer monitors.

He subsequently began to have a multitude of symptoms that he suspects were the result of exposure to toxic materials like lead, cadmium and arsenic.
Among his complaints are pain in his liver and kidneys, swollen and painful joints, and other bone-related maladies. At this time, he is not part of the lawsuit being handled by Reeves.

The 26 current litigants in that suit include prison employees and inmates who worked in or around the recycling program. They believe they may have been exposed to hazardous substances like lead, cadmium and arsenic contained in the computer monitors that were being broken down.

The computer recycling operation was first established at FCI-Marianna in the mid-1990s and was later introduced into six more prisons across the country.

More prisoner abuse in Marianna Fl, see my prior post on Marianna Fl, Thursday, February 05, 2009, Former Marianna Dozier School For Boys Inmates File Lawsuit Against "One Armed Man Troy Tidwell" and The Florida Department of Agriculture Et Al.

Bill Warner
private investigator