State puts whistleblower on sex offender list, starving him after release

The Tennessee department of corrections has put whistleblower Grenda Harmer on a sex offender registry, making it impossible to get aid, work, lodgings and care after his release from prison. The conviction is from 1979; the registry law began only in 1990.

My correspondent Grenda Harmer, 66, is on the streets of Knoxville, abandoned by the state department of correction and tagged as a sex offender in a seeming illegal act of retribution against a whistleblower.

By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM

Mr. Harmer was locked up 25 years in various of the state’s prisons, most recently at the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg. He was released Feb. 26 and was effectively ordered to sign a waiver clearing the state of its responsibility for his medical care. The order was a threat of arrest by the Morgan County sheriff’s office, according to Jane A., a Knoxville resident who has seen Mr. Harmer since his release and who asks not to be publicly identified.

Grenda Harmer

“He’s going to arrest you for 30 days,” she recounts, “and once you’ve served that 30 days he’s going to put you out on the street in front of the Wartburg [prison]. That caused him to have to sign the waiver. That route was a dead end. In doing so, he absolves them of anything they were going to have to do for him.”

The grounds for arrest would have been trespassing on the TDOC property.

“I’m very angry about it,” Mrs. A. says.

“‘If you sign this release, this waiver,'” Mrs. A. says, quoting, “‘we will have someone drive you to Knoxville and we will have someone work out arrangements for you to have a lace to stay.’ Well, guess what, that didn’t work either. They did bring him to Knoxville, and they did take him to a place, some kind of community resource in West Knoxville. And they were not able to find him a place to stay, which doesn’t surprise me at all. You cant get those places on an hours notice.”

Mr. Harmer was placed on a sex offender registry near the end of his stay in prison. “They managed somehow to get into the system where he was listed and, somehow, declare him, and put him on the sex offender list.”

Mr. Harmer told Mrs. A. that he’d watched a prison worker try to install his name on the sex offender register, and “was very joyous” when he finally was able to do it.

“He can’t get in any shelter in Knoxville, because they don’t take sex offenders.”

Mr. Harmer had a sex offense conviction in the 1970s, Mrs. A. says. “You can’t hold anybody responsible for something that happened prior” to a law being enacted. The Tennessee sex offender registry was created in 1990.

According to Robert Reburn of the Tennessee department of corrections, Mr. Harmer is properly tagged as a sex offender for a state offense.

“Mr. Harmer’s sentence expired on February 26, as you stated. The Tennessee Department of Correction cannot withhold/detain an offender, unless they have a detainer for another crime, beyond the expiration of their sentence. As for Mr. Harmer being on the Sex Offender Registry, that is the result of a sex offense that occurred in Knox County in 1979 and if he is required to register with the SOR, that is the result of his sentence per the courts. Furthermore, the SOR is operated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.”

This information is from Sharon Rondeau of The Post & Email.

Mrs. A. took Mr. Harmer to get boots and clothes and to eat. Mr. Harmer is “not in good physical shape. His feet are in bad shape, and his knee is gone. *** The last I saw him was Friday afternoon when I took him to a medical clinic. I also took him by to find out about food stamps and applying for a telephone. He’s getting very depressed. He’s having to sleep outside, in 20 degree weather, under bridges. I don’t know how, given his age and medical condition — how much longer that’s going to last.”

Mr. Harmer’s friend has a bleak prognosis: “They’ve set him up for failure.”

The David Tulis show is 1 p.m. weekdays, live and lococentric.

The Grenda Harmer story — a whistleblower’s valiant fight for rule of law

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