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Speaking Out About Potter County Jail

Jul 17th, 2010 | Category: Potter County, Reports, Stories

Captain Haney, I was in your facility for several weeks this year – 2010, not because I have a long history of crime but because I chose to serve my time and get it behind me. I am a college educated professional myself but even though I chose to take the shortest and more uncomfortable route of sitting my time out, I encountered several things during my stay that I wanted to bring to your attention.
Whether you do anything about them or not is up to you, but I wanted to send you an email for a future reference that I did notify you about these issues, as it seems that most deputies there seem to share this same pattern, and it might be considered acceptable behavior by you.
I wish I could feel confident enough to give exact dates and names, including my own, but after my experience with our so-called ‘system of justice’ I see nothing ‘just’ about it and I fear retaliation.
With the understanding that it is ‘jail’ and not a weekend at a Hilton Resort, there was a big problem any time there was a need to communicate any need or situation to the officers. Filling out a ‘request form’ was the way an inmate was supposed to communicate with the deputies or guards, but I can honestly say that I submitted several myself and helped others fill out the forms and ALL (no exaggeration) went ignored and unanswered. They were not silly requests either, but were things such as wanting to know release information and medically related questions. Another example: several other inmates were booked and had their prescribed eyeglasses taken away at booking and when they requested them back – ALL went ignored and without response. Why be told to fill out a request form when it is not going to be responded to anyways? When asked any on-shift deputy to look into the matter, all said they would look into it but NONE came back with an answer.
I remember one kid that needed his glasses and asked me to help him fill out the request form since he could not see it to fill it out; one guard came back and said he searched his property bag and did not find his glasses. The next week this same inmate was accepted as a Trusty and the following day he was seen with his glasses on. Makes it look like the guard was not telling the truth.
Another inmate had severe diabetes and was incapable of staying in a top bunk as I personally saw him fall out of the top bunk, so he had to sleep on the floor with his mat since no bottom racks were available. His phone PIN number was never activated and he could not contact his family to seek help. I personally wrote his Request Form for him because he too could not see it because his glasses were taken away – and his request for his phone PIN to be activated as well as to obtain his prescription eye glasses also went ignored and unanswered. His blood sugar levels was so critical that he had to receive his insulin shots twice each day and one day his afternoon shot was not given to him and he brought it to a female guard’s attention after the evening meal and I personally heard her response which was ‘Well then you shouldn’t haven’t eaten dinner if you didn’t get your shot!’ What a response! No mention of remedying the problem of getting his medication taken care of but criticism for eating. I myself was taking a medication and was denied that medication one evening solely because I was asleep in my bunk when ‘meds’ came by that evening, and they would not wait long enough for me to get out of the bunk and get to the door so they shut the door and left while I was walking towards the door.
Food: The so-called ‘diabetic tray’ was far from being diabetic friendly. The only thing that was replaced was the desert items such as cake or pudding with orange slices or apple sauce, but everything else was the same. This included daily items HIGH on the glycemic index such as bread, corn (and especially the frequented ‘corn bread’) pasta, white rice and potatoes – all of which will cause a sharp rise in any diabetics blood sugar level.

Booking process and methods of punishment: When I was taken into custody at about 11 AM from court (knowing I was sitting out my time) I spent over 12 hours in the freezing holding cell waiting to be processed and allegedly waiting on ‘medical’ to call for us, as she was supposedly ‘getting evening meds ready’ even as late as 10:30 PM that night as I kept asking what the hold up was. I later found out that what we were told was untrue, as they have evening meds over with even before 8:00 PM at night.
It was after 1:30 the next morning before I was able to hit the bunk and get some sleep and warm up with a blanket. Being kept in a freezing cell for over 12 hours with no way to stay warm with anything, such as a blanket, may appear as a form of physical punishment and being lied to about why we were kept that long, again seems to be the norm with the guards. Two guys in our cell got into a fight one day and ‘conveniently’ after that incident the AC was shut off for the rest of the day and the entire night, with temps on the outside in the upper 90s that day. Rather than dealing with the two that got into the fight, the whole cell was punished for the action of 2. When we asked the guards about it, we were told ‘they’re working on it’ – although we found out that no other cells had their AC off, just ours.
I know there are ‘grievance forms’ that could be filled out for this but my thinking is if the request forms all went without their due attention, so will any grievance form.
Hopefully these routines and behaviors are not acceptable to you and the procedures that are supposed to be used at the detention center by the deputies and inmates as well – SHOULD be followed and variations away from it should be addressed and dealt with accordingly. I therefore respectfully request that you look into these matters and take corrective actions towards them.

A Former Potter County Inmate


If you check out the rules for county jails*, you’ll see the following statement:
[County jails] shall provide for the firm, fair, and consistent application of rules and regulations.

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Penny Smyth RN
8 years ago

My son, Marc Ciarniello Jr was recently admitted to the Potter County Jail in Amarillo Tx. My son has a mental condition and is supposed to be taking medications for treatment. So far, the nurse at the facility has told him that he was “full of shit” when he asked for medications, informed her of his medical condition both mental and physicial. He has had open heart surgery, has a pacemaker on top of his mental health. He is also permanently disabled. She has been disrespectful, cursing at him, arguing with him. He requested several times to be able to fill out a grievence and was denied this right. He is supposed to be taking Seraquil and Depakote, he is bipolar. I saw him this evening and was told this. I spoke with a sherriff there and advised him of his medical conditions and medications and requested the nurse act in a professional manner and not push him to the point that he gets additional charges against him. I am an RN of 35 years. To my knowledge, every person, including inmates have a right to medical treatment, to be treated with dignity. What can I do, who do i contact to get this situation resolved. As a professional RN myself, every person has a right to medical treatment, respect and dignity, especially the disabled. Thank you for your time.

dale mullins
7 years ago

my husband brother and i were falsely arrested on feb 15th. That is Amarillo police dept. screw up. But when we were taken to Potter county detention center, we were all treated like we was dogs. The correction officers were cruel to us especially me. I had been crying because of being wrongfully arrested and in shock that i was put in a nasty cell, listening to the guards laugh at the prisoners. when i tried to get their attention they ignored me. i did not know how the phone system worked and when they finally came to see what i wanted one of the guards made fun of my name because i am a female named Dale. He said ” is that your real name? ” when i said yes he told me ” if my parents named me that and i was a female i would kill them!” all the guards started laughing at me! Both of my parents have passed away. GOD REST THEIR SOULS. I was named after my Father and Mothers middle names. I was bullied my whole young school life, and here i am as an adult with men of authority making fun of me. I was treated better when they put me in a cell with the female inmates. they prayed for me. and told me that was normal behavior of the guards. My husband and my charges were dropped, but my Brothers were not and he did nothing wrong. His bond was set at 20.000 dollars. were is the justice? My Father was a Amarillo Firefighter for 35 years! I used to be proud of being a Amarillo native but now i am scared to go outside in my own yard afraid my neighbor will attack me on my property with a axe like he did my Husband my Brother and Me. My brother is still in potter county and he better not get any retaliation over this complaint and treated worse then he has been the whole time he has been there. And another problem i have is the the visiting area. it is so dirty!! the glass is so nasty with scratches and dirty fingerprints. and the phones are even nastier. the dirty finger prints and footprints are everywhere even on the walls, that is for visitors not prisoners! it makes me sick..