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Life Arts    H1'ed 2/24/19

Federal Bureau of Prisons' 50 Shades of ... Brown?

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Prison employee Dawson-Perkins, who was at the desk, had some women visitors count out their money and made at least one visitor put several dollars in a locker. She never had any man remove whatever money he had in his pockets, show it to her or count it.

When I was summoned by Dawson-Perkins around 8:20-8:30, I handed her the form, my drivers license, my inhaler in the plastic bag and money bag. After a pause, she looked at me and told me I was going to have to change clothes, saying, "You can't wear all brown."

What's wrong with this picture? Judy's
What's wrong with this picture? Judy's 'offensive' attire
(Image by Judy White)
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JB: You're kidding, right?

JW: I wish, but no, not kidding. First, brown is not and has never been a prohibited color, neither at FPC Montgomery nor at any other federal prison. Second, I was not wearing "all brown." As I pointed out to Dawson-Perkins, I had on cream-colored corduroy pants, a dark chocolate-brown turtleneck sweater, and a light cream-colored jacket. But it was obviously not about any actual violation. I had filed an internal affairs complaint, which is pending, against Dawson-Perkins, and she was unlawfully committing First Amendment Retaliation against me. On January 22, 2019, Dawson-Perkins was the prison employee who tried to prevent me from visiting for wearing prescription eyeglasses and who later refused to allow me to leave, resulting in my complain against her. Additionally, she was discriminating against me, as I was singled out for enforcement of a rule that does not exist while other visitors wearing brown were admitted without any problem.

"You can't wear brown. You have to leave and change clothes," she persisted. I asked to see the duty officer. "No," she responded, "you have to leave." I pointed out that pursuant to the Program Statement, she does not have the authority to unilaterally refuse visitation and if I ask to see the duty officer, she is required to summon him or her. She told me to sit down and wait, but she did not call the duty officer.

Walking past the other visitors who were waiting and also shocked that suddenly brown was prohibited, I saw another woman wearing a lighter brown or khaki jacket. She had not been denied visitation, so I asked if I could have her name for my complaint. She told me her name, which I have included in my complaint to the BOP.

Dawson-Perkins, while refusing to call the duty officer as I had requested and she was required to do, completed processing all other visitors in line. Oddly, after I was unlawfully refused entry, the prison employee who had been "wanding" visitors stopped entirely and disappeared. When the second bus arrived, I asked Dawson-Perkins if she had called the duty officer and she told me she was waiting for him to call back. In the meantime, I copied down the exact wording regarding clothing restrictions on the recently-posted red sign showing "new" rules in the sign-in area: "Avoid green colored clothing/outfits and anything that looks too similar to the types of clothing worn by inmates."

JB: Then what happened?

JW: It was after 9:00 when the duty officer and another prison employee finally appeared. The duty officer, true to BOP protocol, was only there to back up the prison employee who was committing the violations against me. He summarily told me that brown is prohibited, going on to state that "even though [I] don't see them, there are inmates in the back who wear brown." That is a false statement; at FPC Montgomery, no prisoners wear brown or tan or khaki. Other than the green uniforms, food service prisoners wear white while working, but no prisoners at FPC Montgomery wear brown. The duty officer looked surprised when I told him that I have seen prisoners in "brown," knowing that there are none there, but not knowing where all I have been.

For readers who are unaware, federal prisoners at "camps" wear green; federal prisoners at "low" facilities wear tan-khaki. The duty officer also told me falsely that the rules prohibit brown. I pointed to the posted rules and specifically the rule stating "green" and that brown is not on the sign. He told me I could not go by the sign, specifically saying "what's on the signs doesn't matter," even though the new signs have just recently been put up for the specific purpose of displaying the "new" rules. If visitors cannot "go by the sign," and if "what's on the signs doesn't matter," what is the point of having signs?

JB: Good point!

JW: Federal law prohibits enforcement of laws and rules that do not exist and/or have not been made known, and federal law is very specific that laws and rules must be in writing and made public to be enforceable, all of which are regularly violated by FPC Montgomery employees. I also pointed out the obvious, that Dawson-Perkins was retaliating against me because of my internal affairs complaint against her, as well as her discriminated against me. The woman I named had on a light brown-khaki jacket, and visitors to another prisoner included the wife who was also wearing a light brown-khaki jacket while a young woman with her was wearing a brown-khaki sweater. The duty officer told me that didn't matter, evidencing discrimination, as federal law requires laws and rules to be uniformly enforced. The duty officer told me brown was prohibited "by the rules" and that I had to comply with the rules in order to visit so I asked to see the rule I was supposedly violating. He told me the rules were available online. I responded that I have read what is online and there is nothing prohibiting brown or green. Then he seemed angry and told me he was going to "let [me] see" the rules, at which point Dawson-Perkins handed him several sheets of paper that were stapled together and opened to a page where someone had underlined and bracketed the following "rule" that Dawson-Perkins and then the duty officer were finding me in violation of:

"clothing that looks like inmate clothing (khaki or green military-type clothing)"

JB: What exactly was the objectionable clothing you were wearing?

JW: They were fixated on the dark chocolate brown turtleneck. Nothing I had on "look[ed] like inmate clothing" and nothing I had on was "khaki or green" and nothing I had on was "military-type clothing." Pointing out the obvious had no effect on the duty officer, as he was only there to back up the unlawful actions of Dawson-Perkins. I asked for a copy of the page he had shown me but he refused, telling me - falsely - that it's available online* at bop.gov . As an aside, visitor forms yesterday were printed on cardstock, not copy paper, and cardstock is considerably more expensive than copy paper, but it's only tax dollars being wasted. And yes, I have the cardstock form from yesterday, as my notes, including in the presence of the duty officer, were made on the back of the form.

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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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