A former employee of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Ashlee Teafatiller, had her termination overturned after a use of force incident with an inmate. Teafatiller was fired on June 8, allegedly for excessive use of force, following an incident that occurred in February in McAlester. According to her termination letter from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC), security footage showed an inmate blocking the cell food port with his arm when Teafatiller entered the quad run to conduct a count.
The termination letter cited surveillance video allegedly showing Teafatiller’s body language reflecting her berating the inmate in an unprofessional manner. It further stated that the inmate threw a liquid substance, possibly urine, at Teafatiller as she walked past his cell. The letter claimed that Teafatiller deployed pepper spray even though the inmate had relinquished his method of assault by throwing a cup at her.
However, Teafatiller’s attorney, Matthew Frisby, argued that the termination letter was factually incorrect. He stated that the video evidence did not support the claim that Teafatiller closed the food port before deploying the pepper spray. Court documents also revealed that the inmate displayed an improvised edged weapon to Teafatiller, which prompted her to use the pepper spray.
A judge ruled on Monday to overturn Teafatiller’s termination, ordering back pay and benefits to be awarded to her. The ruling was seen as a victory for Teafatiller, who has been without a steady income since June. The ODOC has 10 business days to file a petition for a rehearing.
The case of Teafatiller is not an isolated incident, as the Oklahoma Corrections Professions (OCP) Executive Director, Bobby Cleveland, stated that there have been an increased number of cases filed against the ODOC in recent months. Attorney Matthew Frisby confirmed this, mentioning that he currently has more termination and demotion cases than ever before.
The ODOC declined to comment on the possibility of filing for a rehearing.