This was taken on November 22, 2008. Gary smiles, unaware of the dangerous creatures lurking and the harm that is about to befall him, as 22 months later, his imprisonment began.
Thank you, Joan. It's been a while, and so much has happened I hardly know where to begin, but the beginning is as good a place as any, and while some things change, it seems the abuse of prisoners just never ends. And for us, while there have been endless abuses, it all began and continues with medical abuse.
As you know, two years and two months ago, Gary self-surrendered to federal prison, taking with him all of his prescription medications, as he had been directed to do. All those medications were taken - stolen by prison employees - and that was the beginning of Gary's escalating medical decline, due to the unlawful withholding of his prescription medications and medical treatment, which have been determined by federal courts to be civil rights violations of the 8th Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.
Tuesday, for example, was particularly cruel and unusual. Among the effects of Gary's medication being withheld has been the documented rise in his PSA and Gary's documented suffering. Gary had been diagnosed with prostate disease prior to his imprisonment but, thanks to the care and treatment by his competent physician, Gary was doing well, with no pain, no constant trips to the restroom, and a PSA level of 2 - which is normal, while anything over 4 is high and requires prompt medical attention. Within seven months of this medical abuse of withholding Gary's needed prescription medication, his PSA had more than doubled and was over 4. That was documented in April, 2011, right after his release from being illegally locked in solitary confinement for 27 days for no reason and without having committed any violation, as acknowledged by the BOP.
The prison employees, aware of the documented harm being done to Gary, did nothing about his elevated PSA until, months later, they had Gary re-checked by an outside urologist, chosen by them, of course, who documented the continuing rise in Gary's PSA, then prescribed and recommended the same and exact course of treatment and medication that had been prescribed by Gary's doctor and withheld .
You might think - great, so he got the medicine he needed - but you would be wrong, thinking as a rational human being, a thought process that doesn't exist at the BOP. Despite the medical evidence of the harm being done to Gary and despite their own chosen doctor's prescribing Gary be given his medication, they continued to refuse and withhold! And as our complaints made their way through the system, rather than do the right thing, the prison's employees shifted the problem - and Gary - west to Millington, where he has been for eleven months, where he has continued suffering without his medication for almost another year, with periodic testing and documentation of Gary's ever-rising PSA level. Four months ago, the last time he was tested, Gary's PSA was over 5.3, and they did " nothing.
Until late Monday, that is, when Gary was notified that he was being taken to an outside doctor Tuesday morning for his prostate problem. And guess what that doctor prescribed - the same and exact course of treatment and medication that had been prescribed by Gary's doctor and withheld . This doctor even gave the medication to Gary - put it in his hand! - out of concern that he needed to begin taking it immediately, in an effort to save Gary's health and possibly his life. Gary was taken from the prison a little after 8:00 and was returned around 2:00, the whole time with nothing to eat or drink, even water, so he wasn't able to take the medication.
Upon his return to prison, it was like deja vu all over again, with the prison employees again taking the medication from him and telling him he would not be allowed to have it! Talk about "cruel and unusual", to have possible life-saving medicine right there in his hand after two years and two months, knowing relief would finally be coming and he would begin to feel better, only to have it unexpectedly snatched away. "Cruel" has been the word used most often as I have shared this with family and friends. And not just cruel and unusual, but stupid, really.
After all, the BOP has documented medical evidence that they are harming Gary and violating the law. (And so do we - I like that word "documented".) Rather than just give him his medication, prescribed by his competent physician, they have had Gary see not one, but two consulting specialists in two different locations, paid for by our tax dollars, and - surprise! - there have now been three doctors prescribe the same medication, and - surprise! - they have withheld and stated their intention to continue to withhold! For lawsuit purposes, that makes the harm and injuries "aggravated", but that is far secondary to Gary's daily severe suffering and the long-term damage to his health for the past 793 days.
I'm so sorry for your nightmare, Judy. And all this is on top of discouraging news from the courts. What happened this week on that score?
This has been a very difficult week for us. Having no attorney and with the prison system and its employees doing all they could to prevent Gary from exercising his legal rights, we had managed to file Gary's petition with the Supreme Court. The Solicitor General then filed, stating he was waiving the right to file a response. Our petition, it seems, wasn't even worth a response.
But then something happened that gave us a spark of hope. The Supreme Court requested a response from the Solicitor General. We were told that was rather unusual and indicated at least one justice saw something that merited a review. Even though it was after the deadline and after an additional extension, the response was finally filed, and we filed a reply prior to the Supreme Court conference where they would decide whether to accept Gary's petition. Monday morning, they posted on their website: DENIED.
Very depressing, and even more so when I had to tell Gary. Also Monday morning the prison employees put the entire camp back on "lockdown until further notice" - in violation of international law prohibiting group punishment. Poor Gary - wrongfully imprisoned, abused and medically abused, and on lockdown. What a way to spend the holidays, or anytime, really. Not just Gary, but all the prisoners are mistreated. But this "group punishment" is particularly wrong, as it is known to incite violence. There was just a NY Times
article recently about the predictable results of prisoners being made to discipline each other and, if I'm not mistaken, prison employees are being prosecuted. How was your Thanksgiving, Judy? It was undoubtedly rather challenging to feel thankful when all this is going on.
Thanksgiving in New York City, November, 2000, where the kids marched with the band in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (the last one before the skyline changed - we still have the ornament showing the twin towers, and we stayed at the hotel between them that was destroyed).
Despite everything, we do have so much to be thankful for, and we understand that, even when we face terrible times and don't feel like being anything other than depressed. We're so thankful for my parents, for example. My daddy has been very sick and in the hospital for several weeks, but he got better in time to be home for Thanksgiving. We are especially thankful for the love and kindness of family and friends. And it was Millie's (our Millington prison kitty) first Thanksgiving with us.
The Supreme Court conference at which they would decide whether to accept our appeal was scheduled for Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which was also one week after I had surgery. We had hope, and I had a Plan! We hoped the court would overturn Gary's conviction when they met on Tuesday, then I planned to go pick him up from prison on Wednesday and he would be home with our family for Thanksgiving. As Tuesday passed, no decisions were posted and when I found out the decision wouldn't be made public until Monday, it was very disheartening, to say the least. Another holiday without Gary, and, for him, being alone away from family and friends. The prison employees, true to their nature, even got into the spirit, playing the role of the Thanksgiving Grinch perfectly, leaving the prisoners without the planned turkey sandwiches the day after, but instead, the choice of a fried bologna sandwich or a barbecued bologna sandwich.
I know Memphis is famous for its barbecue, but who knew that included bologna and who would have dreamed up such a culinary (mis)treat? I had to ask Gary, who shared the secret: barbecued bologna is fried bologna with barbecue sauce! Now we know, in case there is ever a trivia question, not that I plan to add it to my future Thanksgiving feast menu. As I struggled with the delay in announcing the court's decision and the realization that meant Gary wouldn't be home for Thanksgiving, Stephanie offered encouragement: Christmas! So after Thanksgiving apart, we went to visit Gary on Friday, but not before making a couple of pre-dawn Walmart Black Friday purchases, including a new battery-powered toothbrush for Gary's homecoming, which I took home and set next to the bathroom sink for him.
I'm constantly amazed by your ability to plod on, somehow holding onto your sense of humor. You are an inspiration. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
Thank you, Joan, for your interest. Gary and I try - and sometimes it isn't possible - to find ways to let others know what goes on in our federal prison system, hoping others will relate and come to understand that we - prisoners and their families - are human beings and that our government uses and abuses all of us - prisoners and their families - in the most horrible and unimaginable ways. Again, going back to the beginning, Gary and I were responsible and conscientious members of our community, raising good and caring children, working productively in our jobs and as volunteers for several non-profit organizations, singing in our church choir, when Gary became a target of our government because he refused to lie to a federal grand jury as demanded by a corrupt prosecution team [regarding the Don Siegelman case].
We never would have believed the things we have experienced could happen in America. Our eyes have been opened, through our own suffering, to the plight of the imprisoned, many of whom share Gary's innocence but none of whom deserve what our country does to them. I hope there are others among us whose hearts will be moved. For all of us, there is a huge price being paid, as prisoners and families and as taxpayers. We - Americans - should be better than this.
Thank you so much for talking with me again, Judy. May 2013 be better for you and Gary.