Week of April 4, 2001

Ornery Cuss
I agree, the answer wasn't jail: I read with great interest your story about Donald Thweatt [Bruce Rushton, "Hard Luck, Hard Times," RFT, March 28]. I worked as a corrections officer at the jail for seven years leaving in October. I was assigned the eighth floor, maximum security and the infirmary for most of my employment. I am very familiar with Mr. Thweatt. We never knew what the day would bring with him. Black officers were referred to as "nigger," "porch monkey," "spook," etc. Females were called "nigger bitch" and "black bitch." White officers were treated no better. "Fuck you, bastard," was how the staff was addressed. He would lie in his cell and piss on himself, refusing to get up and go to the bathroom. He ruined numerous mattresses, which, of course, are paid for by the taxpayers. He had that whole area smelling like a barn.

I don't dispute Mr. Thweatt's brain injury, but he also knew what he was doing and could be very ornery. When on duty in the infirmary, I went to his room and told him to prepare for the nurse, who is a lady in her 60s. When we arrived at his room, he had his pants down with his buttocks spread, exposing his anus. We were subject to this kind of nonsense on a daily basis.

Once I and another officer attempted to count his write-ups. We stopped somewhere around 60. I estimate he has been the most trouble of anyone in the history of the St. Louis County Jail. Many times I listened to him cry, and at times I actually felt sorry for him and bent over backward to help him.

I was very surprised that Mr. Thweatt was acquitted on the charges pertaining to the assault on Officer [Michael] Sullens. I did not witness the assault, but I was in the unit control area when he came out, and he appeared injured to me. Were any of the witnesses to the attack called to testify? There would have been reports from all of the officers involved, including supervisors. Were these reports submitted? What about the medical reports? How was he acquitted?

Mr. Thweatt's claims of staff abuse are false. If anyone was abused, it was us. The administration of St. Louis County is strict as to how the jail is run. That kind of behavior is not allowed. We actually have to address inmates as "Mr." or "Miss."

I think his story is sad, and it was amazing to see pictures of him when he was well. It is like he is a completely different person. I don't know what the answer is, but I agree that it is not jail.
Michelle McMurray
St. Louis

Reading is fundamental: It seems that the people who are handling Don Thweatt's case, especially in jail, understand that the problem is in his brain, but they don't understand that his brain is also the solution. They have a highly intelligent man on their hands who wants desperately to learn -- it's pretty obvious from reading your article that every time Thweatt gets out of jail or the hospital, he signs up for a class.

While his behavior problems are not of the kind to ever completely go away, and he does need nursing care, it seems that part of the answer might be encouraging him to spend as much free time as possible reading whatever he can get his hands on -- at least when he's reading the Bible, he's not hurting himself or anyone else, and if people encouraged him to learn, they might find he appreciates the respect. I hope that he is not routed to more jail time, though his hospitalization or institutionalization sounds like a necessity.
Name withheld by request
St. Louis

Vision and Guts
RCGA needs to get on the ball: I am in agreement that the RCGA in St. Louis has unique methods of calculating numbers, as well as operating their "business" [Safir Ahmed, "Fuzzy Math," RFT, March 21]. The RCGA has been after all of my businesses with one of the strongest sales departments in St. Louis, trying to raise membership dues, which it utilizes to pay for parties and hobnobbing with politicians. They have very little concern for St. Louis businesses that are driving revenue into our city and county unless it serves them politically.

They need to lower the amount of board members they have, as no real business could operate with as many members as they have without being deadlocked or stalemated by indecision. They also need to lobby companies such as Anheuser-Busch and Ralston, as well as the government, to put capital into emerging companies in St. Louis. If we want our city to be a life-science hub with no technology industry, the RCGA is doing a fine job. Otherwise, fire Dick Fleming and put someone with some vision and guts into the job.
Peter Roberts
President, Telibrick Networks

Taking advantage of the peasants: In reference to the article "Fuzzy Math," correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the way the government has always done math? If this article was supposed to shock us, we are way past that! Every day we hear atrocities of how those who are entrusted with our hard-earned tax dollars manipulate them to serve the chosen, to benefit the rich and to line their own pockets. The problem doesn't really lie in the political crooks, it lies in the taxpayers who refuse to see what is going on!

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