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Life Arts

BOP: Not Only Cruel and Unusual - Insensitive, Vindictive AND Just Plain Ridiculous

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In these interviews, we have also discussed other prisoners who have been denied medical care and treatment, including prisoners who have died as the result of withheld medical care and one who almost died of sepsis and had multiple amputations because the prison employees refused to treat a toenail infection in a diabetic.

Today we are very concerned about Dave, one of Gary's fellow prisoners in Forrest City. Dave is 71 years old and should be released in October, just about four months from now. In fact, Dave should have already been moved to a halfway house. For the past two years, Dave has sought medical treatment because of blood in his urine. As his condition has become dramatically worse and Dave has become much sicker, his medical needs and efforts to obtain treatment have been consistently ignored or denied by prison employees. The BOP routinely and purposely withholds treatment, then releases sick prisoners to get whatever help they can get on their own. Dave's medical needs became even more urgent when he began passing blood clots along with lots of blood. Seeking help, he went to medical, only to again be told no, that there were "procedures" and he had not been approved for assessment or treatment.

Dave understood that he was in serious trouble and that prison employees live by their unofficial motto: We Don't Care! So he begged to be taken to the hospital. Denied, and told to go back to his housing unit, Dave had no choice but to take a stand. He told the prison employees he was not leaving medical, that he had to be taken to the hospital. Eventually, Dave was taken to the hospital, where it was quickly and easily determined that he has multiple tumors and needs emergency medical intervention and surgery. The emergency treating physician told Dave that if he had not gotten to the hospital, he would be in the newspaper. In the obituary section.

Want to guess what happened next?


Dave was taken from the hospital back to the prison where he remains today, without surgery and without a treatment plan to save his life. It's like they are gambling with Dave's life, taking a chance that he will live until he is released and no longer be the responsibility of the BOP. In an act of pure cruelty, they gave Dave hope, taking him from the prison to see a doctor, but after he sat in chains in the doctor's office waiting all day, it was determined that the prison employees had taken Dave to the wrong doctor, so they took him back to prison where he remains, living in fear that the tumors growing inside him will kill him because the BOP refuses to provide treatment to save his life. If Dave survives until his release in October, he will be shifted to the VA system, another government-run healthcare system known for corruption and for denial of care.

Field of Shattered Dreams
(image by screenshot of prisoner art)

Then there is also John, another prisoner who has been very ill and seeking medical treatment for some time. John actually had an appointment set up to see a doctor at the prison, an outside doctor contracted to provide medical care for prisoners. as I understand it. When John finally saw the doctor, he took John's blood pressure, then dismissed him. John protested and told him he had serious medical problems, which was why he needed to see the doctor. The doctor told John to see the prison nurse, that he - the doctor - was only there to take his vitals so the BOP could "CYA" (the doctor's terminology, not mine). John was incredulous, asking why the nurse didn't take vitals and the doctor assess and diagnose, only to be told that is not how the system works. Obviously not, as it is all about denying care and treatment while covering for prison employees and, apparently, contracted doctors go along with the BOP healthcare denial.

Speaking of contracted doctors, a BOP administrator was indicted for corruption just over a week ago. [See this link.]

JB: Unspeakably sad; Dave must be beyond discouraged. Well, we've "covered" medical. Now where, Judy?

JW: Now I would really like to talk about paper plates because it's a bit bizarre.

those versatile styrofoam plates
(image by

JB: Okay. Go for it.

JW: I visited Gary Sunday. It was our anniversary and being aware of our special day, the BOPers saved our special seats for us, the ones designated for solitary confinement prisoners, directly in front of the desk where the prison employees stare at us throughout visits. A prison employee named Brockway actually assigned four other prisoners' visitors out of order just so we would be front and center all day. Then they announced a brand new Paper Plate Policy. It's an actual written policy with ominous undertones, hinting that a prisoner somewhere in prisondom had somehow used the lack of a paper plate to smuggle in contraband, and the memo ended, as always, with a threat, but prisoners are not allowed to print or share it.

We've discussed the disgusting prison food situation, including the predominant use of expired and "not for human consumption" labeled meats and food used to feed prisoners, and we've discussed that the food and drinks purchased from vending machines during limited visits from family is the only healthy, nutritious and safe food prisoners are able to consume. The time Gary and I are allowed to spend together is so very important, and part of the importance is that for those few precious hours, I am able to purchase for him the best food he will be able to have until our next visit. Sad, isn't it, when the best hope for healthy food is a visitor armed with cash for vending machines. But I digress.

There was a memo from a prison employee higher-up stating that effective last Saturday, prisoners would no longer be allowed to receive vending machine food in wrappers or packaging, but the visitors would have to take the food from the vending machine, remove the wrapper, place the food on a paper plate and deliver it to their imprisoned loved one. The prison employees expanded that to include visitors, too, even children. There was a stack of paper plates placed on a desk between the desk where the prison employees "supervise" visitation and the vending area.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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When the prison guards and administrators become p... by M.I. Lee on Saturday, Jun 7, 2014 at 6:38:58 PM
These days, we are all at risk. That is for sure.T... by Joan Brunwasser on Saturday, Jun 7, 2014 at 10:36:38 PM
Great article! Your insights add further credence... by Barry Sussman on Sunday, Jun 8, 2014 at 9:35:38 AM
Yes, indeed. While this is not true of every singl... by Joan Brunwasser on Sunday, Jun 8, 2014 at 10:39:43 AM