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Life Arts

Ties that Bind - How the BOP Undermines Families

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Headlined to H2 7/27/13

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Judy by the Judy White Collection

Background: Gary White was a county commissioner in Jefferson County, Alabama. Good friends with Les Siegelman, he introduced Les's brother, [former] Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to Richard Scrushy, a local Republican businessman. Because of this, White became inextricably intertwined with Siegelman, who was one of the biggest targets of the Rove-directed, heavily politicized Department of Justice [DOJ].

Scrushy and Siegelman were later indicted and convicted on charges stemming from that relationship. According to affidavits provided by Gary [and Judy, who was also in the room] White was asked to perjure himself before a Grand Jury in order to make the case against Siegelman and Scrushy. White refused and the very next day, the DOJ started delivering subpoenas to build a case against him. White is serving ten years and has been moved most recently to Federal Prison in Arkansas. [BOP is Bureau of Prisons.] Judy and I spoke earlier this week.

Installment #22 [*entire series at end of article]

My guest today is Judy White. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. I understand that this was a big weekend for you and Gary, Judy. Can you tell our readers how and why?

JW: Thank you, Joan.

What a week it had been.

After the BOPers had exacted their full six months of unlawful abuse and vengeance against us, on Tuesday Gary and I were to once again be allowed to communicate by telephone and e-mail, and I would be able to go see him.  Additionally, he would be allowed to purchase necessities, including food and toothpaste again.

For over six months, Gary and I had not been allowed to see or speak with each other; Gary had been allowed no contact with human beings at all, other than some of his fellow prisoners.  Despite his serious medical conditions and in violation of federal law, Gary has not been seen by a doctor, dentist, or psychologist, nor has he been provided with basic human necessities, including a haircut, for over six months.

Our unlawful punishment was to be officially finished on July 15th at midnight.  Of course, we couldn't and didn't trust the BOPers to do the right thing -- we are not completely insane yet.  Shortly after midnight, I woke up and tried to sign in to the e-mail system, only to receive the same message as before, that Gary did not have e-mail "privileges".  That meant the system had not updated at midnight, and Gary was still blocked.  I unsuccessfully tried again later, before e-mailing a complaint, then going to sleep, very depressed, as I had so hoped Gary would be able to call me at 6:00 Tuesday morning -- the time they turned on the telephones -- the time he used to call every day to tell me good morning, check on me and our family, and tell me he loves me.

At 6:02, I was awakened by my phone's ringtone.  Gary was calling!  I was so relieved to hear my husband's voice after more than half a year -- but we could only talk a few minutes.  Gary is only allowed 300 minutes on the telephone each month, less than ten minutes per day, so as much as we needed to talk and hear, we couldn't dare to use those precious minutes.  We splurged and talked for thirteen minutes.  We e-mailed throughout the day, and Gary called me two more times -- we shared 23 minutes on the phone on our first day of being allowed to speak with each other.

But something else happened to Gary that day.  Late in the afternoon of July 16th, near the end of the business day of the very day after the BOP completed six months of unlawful punishment without due process, Gary was summoned and given the report that the BOP was required to have given him no later than January 31st, only 166 days after the deadline set by federal law to ensure due process was not violated.  So much for due process!

Something else happened to me that day as well.  I had a follow-up medical appointment with the doctor who operated on my foot in April.  There have been "complications" and it seems I will have to have another surgery soon.  For now, though, I have not been able to regain the use of my foot or wear "normal" shoes.  Anything touching the incision area causes severe pain and swelling.  When I spoke with Gary and told him about my foot, the sound of his voice broke my heart as he said, "they won't let you visit."  The warden at the prison has arbitrarily decreed that visitors may only visit wearing closed-toe shoes, something I am unable to do without further injury and pain.  The surgeon wrote a letter that I am not yet able to wear closed-toe shoes.  Tuesday afternoon, I scanned and e-mailed the letter to the prison, requesting an exception to the closed-toe rule.

Having received no response, on Thursday I sent a follow-up e-mail requesting a response. Saturday was less than 48 hours away; Saturday, July 20th, was the day I would be allowed to see my husband for the first time since January    5th.  Still no response.  Friday morning, a prison employee told Gary's civil attorney for whom I work that a decision had been made: I would be allowed to wear one open-toe shoe, but only one; the BOPers deemed it reasonable that would be required to wear two different shoes, causing balance, walking and back problems.  The attorney protested, and the prison employee told him the decision was being reconsidered, but that the reconsideration would not likely be done before the following week, so I would have to wear two different shoes as they required, or I would have to wear closed-toe shoes, causing harm to my foot.

As an aside, such meaningless and unreasonable rules for visitors are really wrong.  There is no BOP policy or federal law restricting footwear for visitors, but each warden is the dictator of his or her prison kingdom.  They just make up whatever rules they want to impose on visitors.  Gary has been a frequent mover, as you know.  In Edgefield, there were no shoe rules; open-toe shoes, sandals, and flip-flops were welcome, but green was taboo.  

In Millington, green was perfectly fine, but V-necks and exposed toes were no-nos.  Now, at Forrest City, green and V-necks are fine, but khaki (which has always been fine) and exposed toes are not.  It is totally arbitrary and capricious, and excessive exercise of pure, unbridled power.  The exposed toe rule, for example.  BOPers, in trying to justify banning exposed toes, have stated the rule is necessary because some prisoners are sexually attracted to feet.  Using that same (il)logic, I have reminded the BOPers that some prisoners are sexually attracted to children, but they don't ban children from visiting and being seen in prison.

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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 (more...)
 
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