Jailer's Jihad

Ex-corrections officer Bill Haro thinks he knows exactly why his former employer, the Arizona Department of Corrections, suffers from a severe shortage of prison guards these days.

It's a lousy place to work, says the 16-year veteran of the Florence gulag, and it's not because of the low pay or because of dangerous, unpredictable inmates who threaten to kill their jailers just for the fun of it. Those aren't the real problems, he says.

According to Haro, corrections officers leave DOC in droves because of a malevolent bureaucracy that protects corrupt bosses and discriminates against the honest guys in the trenches, the lowly corrections officers.

In a blitzkrieg of grievances he filed against his superiors before he finally got fired last month, Haro says DOC managers repeatedly retaliated against him for pointing out in 1995 that a prison official had roughed up a shackled prisoner.

In a nutshell, Haro says some of his superiors are liars.
DOC says Haro's the one who's lying by making false, malicious allegations about his superiors.

On October 28, DOC Director Terry Stewart asked Haro to sign a "settlement agreement" that amounted to this: If Haro would accept an unpaid 10-day suspension, control his nasty temper and, most important, admit that he'd lied about his superiors, then DOC would not fire Haro for lying about them. Of course, that makes no sense, and argues for the idea that DOC wanted to let the matter drop because Haro really hadn't done anything wrong in the first place.

Haro said he didn't lie, and he wouldn't sign Stewart's proposed settlement.
So Haro was fired on November 9 for "dishonesty and intentional untruthfulness." In his dismissal letter, Stewart noted Haro's conduct "brings unnecessary discredit on high ranking officials."

Haro has appealed his dismissal to a state personnel board, which will hear the case in April 1999. And he's also filed a Superior Court suit against DOC, alleging retaliation and discrimination for blowing the whistle.

Because of the ongoing litigation, DOC spokesman Mike Arra wouldn't comment on Haro.

And since the cases have not been heard, we don't know for sure who's telling the truth. All we know now is that Haro's struggle against DOC is his personal jihad, and he vows to fight for his honor and the brotherhood of corrections officers until the end of time.

DOC may well regret taking on Bill Haro.
Magma Copper Company certainly did.
Twenty years ago, Haro was a young copper miner who worked at the Magma mine in San Manuel. One day in 1978, Haro was ordered by his superiors to uncouple a 15-ton railroad car--alone.

Haro refused.
He did not want to be crushed to death or dismembered by a 15-ton railroad car. He told his bosses that the task he had been ordered to undertake alone was usually performed by two men--for safety's sake one miner needed to signal the engineer controlling the ore-car train while the other man actually uncoupled the railroad car.

At the time, because miners were routinely killed in unnecessary accidents, the landmark federal Mine Safety and Health Act had just been passed. Among other things, the act prohibited discrimination of miners like Haro who voiced reasonable concerns over safety matters. But the new law didn't protect Haro, who said his bosses began discriminating against him for refusing to uncouple the railroad car.

That single incident launched Haro on a six-year campaign to defend his honor, and, perhaps secondarily, to fight for mine safety. In the course of his battles, he filed a series of written grievances in which he pointed out other safety violations. Each time he perceived he was discriminated against for noting safety violations, he filed even more grievances against Magma.

Of course, he was eventually fired.
Naturally, he also protested his firing. He lost that dispute, too.
A few years later, he filed a malpractice lawsuit against the lawyer who represented him in the case protesting his dismissal, and won $50,000.

Haro's six-year campaign had another, more important effect--it generated thousands of pages of public records that were reported on in an an award-winning 1984 series in the Arizona Daily Star. Although Magma Copper Company would not comment for the stories, the newspaper reported that in the six years Haro was involved with the company, 15 Magma workers died in accidents. Haro had exposed Magma's ugly side.

Fortunately, Bill Haro found another job shortly after he was fired from Magma. He started working for the Arizona Department of Corrections in 1982.

He loved the work, considered it a public service. He soon became a case manager for the most violent criminals in the system. He had some lessons to learn, though. Early on, in 1984, he was disciplined for tackling a prisoner who had taunted him, and for lying about it. Haro claimed he did not lie, admitted he should have let the prisoner slug him first instead of anticipating a blow and downing the inmate before he hit Haro.

A few years later, Haro was disciplined for accepting some copied legal material from convicts who worked in the law library. Prisoners are not supposed to do favors for corrections officers, but Haro said he didn't ask for the cases, and had thrown them away immediately after the inmates left the room.

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