My guest today is Judy White, wife of Gary White, former Jefferson County Commissioner (Alabama). Welcome to OpEdNews, Judy. This week, you made the front page of OpEdNews with your passionate appeal to President Obama. Your husband Gary reported to federal prison on September 29th to begin a ten-year sentence. Besides the "normal" stress that goes along with a situation like that, you've had additional concerns that led you to contact the president. For instance, you found out today that Gary's currently in a Chronic Care Clinic. What is it, where is it, and why does he need it? Was he sick? I know that when he reported to prison on the 29th, he had enough of his medications to make sure that none of the prescriptions lapsed.
I don't know what a "Chronic Care Clinic" is, or where it is or why he needs it. I know he was in good health, properly medicated when I left him at the prison shortly after noon on September 29th, along with his prescription medications that he was told by prison staff to bring with him when he self-surrendered. He was given no medication at all from Wednesday until just before he was allowed to call me Friday evening, and the medications he has been given since have been incorrect or completely withheld. He had been able to call me daily since Friday, October 1st. Today, the first workday after the federal holiday during which I begged our President for help, I have not heard from him at all, but I did hear from the prison officials. I suspect [his] being sent to wherever he is is retaliatory.
Gary's in South Carolina. You're in Alabama. How far is that from where you live? Wasn't there anywhere closer?
another retaliatory situation, I'm afraid, tied to a lawsuit I filed against
Alice Martin and the U.S. Attorney's office. Keep in mind: he is innocent. Gary is in a
Federal Prison Camp (FPC) in Edgefield, South Carolina, more than 300 miles and
a different time zone away from his home, clearly intended to punish his family
and him by making visits very difficult. Gary has been recognized as
indigent by the court, and at sentencing the judge ordered that he be assigned
to the FPC nearest his home. That would be Maxwell in Montgomery,
Alabama, just 90 miles south. We live in north central Alabama.
When I drove him to the prison, I drove completely across Georgia (which also has FPCs) and into South Carolina. In order to visit on "his" weekends (not every weekend, like at most FPCs), I will have to leave home at 1:30 a.m., and drive 5 1/2 hours, which, with the time zone change, will allow me to arrive at the prison at 8:00, which is when visiting time begins, then, after visiting, must make the long drive back home. Just the cost of gas was over $60.00, and I certainly can't afford a hotel stay and meals.
Back up a second, Judy. You say that the judge at sentencing ordered that Gary be assigned to the FPC nearest his home. But he was not, which is pretty blatant disregard of his order. Is there no recourse?
let me say that we are not familiar with "the system" as neither we
nor anyone in our families have ever been charged or convicted of a
crime. Additionally, the lawyer didn't respond to questions, although she
did tell us, after repeated calls, texts, faxes, and phone messages,
that we had 30 days to object, and Gary told her to object however it could be
objected to. We've never seen anything indicating she did so.
Additionally, we contacted our congressman and senators, who wrote letters asking that Gary's assignment be changed, primarily for the benefit of his family; my surgeon and another doctor also wrote letters asking that Gary be assigned to Montgomery, as I am recovering from major back surgery and it is dangerous to me to drive or be a passenger for such a long distance. Finally, Gary personally objected directly to the assignment, reminding the Bureau of Prisons that the judge had ordered him to be close to home. The only response was sent to our congressman and stated that the decision was theirs alone. Did I mention retaliation?
The prison camp that Gary is in has other deficits besides for its distance from your home. It also lacks email or Internet access for its inmates. Is that typical?
We had researched on the Internet and had been told by others that there was Internet access available, including e-mail, for a fee, just like telephone usage, but it would allow families to keep in touch. Gary and I had discussed me trying to get a cell phone that would allow me to receive e-mail for that purpose. Only after he was there did we find that not to be true. On a positive note, I have been contacted by several wonderful women and welcomed into "the sisterhood" - wives of prisoners. One in particular said that being able to e-mail with her husband saved her life. I have been told that Gary is in the only FPC that does not allow e-mail contact with family and friends.
Gary, Judy and Annie
If the inmates can't keep in touch via the web, how do they stay connected with their near and dear?
I have come to believe that prison officials want to completely disconnect the imprisoned and make them think they are worthless. Gary (meaning me) is allowed to purchase 300 minutes of telephone time per month, which averages 10 minutes a day, making it impossible for him to call family members other than me, especially right now, with me having to fight for his medications. We write letters, but marital communications are not privileged - all his mail is opened, read, and copied or scanned, before being given to him, but we don't really know how that works either.
I sent him "Priority" mail on Monday, October 4th that he still has not received. And, certainly, we can apply for approval to visit. Gary, who is a numbered inmate rather than a person, may be allowed visitors on alternating weekends and federal holidays. (We have been told most other FPCs allow visitors on all weekends.) Again, the distance causes more heartbreak - as long as Gary is where he is, I will have to choose whether to see my husband or our family on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays. I can't have him be alone during those times, but it is so hurtful to our entire family. If he were in Montgomery, we could all visit while still maintaining traditional family celebrations.
This week, you wrote President Obama. Why? What other avenues had you already tried?