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Life Arts    H1'ed 10/27/10

The Feds and the Prisoner's Wife - Do Unto Others... as You Please

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As for my "medical condition," it is no secret that I had major back surgery at the end of May, including the implantation of two bones in my spine, which are intended to fuse and provide stability along with the surgical repairs to the nerve and nerve canal. Driving or riding, or even sitting or staying in a position without moving for extended periods of time is not recommended, and sometimes causes severe pain and other difficulties. Additionally, being a responsible driver means eliminating prescription medications that could affect my driving. Regardless of the risk to myself, Gary had been without his proper prescription medications since the day he was imprisoned, and from speaking with him on the telephone, it was clear he was not doing well. So, the most important thing was to try to take care of him.

Gary and I sing, or I should say, we used to sing. We were members of our church choir and had been rumored to do karaoke from time to time, but we always sang in the car, sometimes along with CDs. It was a good way to learn new songs, and we enjoyed it. My car has several CDs, but I haven't enjoyed really singing or anything else since Gary's imprisonment, especially considering the withholding of his medications. It was strange, and silent, and unbearably sad in the car, but I was on the way to see my husband, so I was okay, until I approached the Georgia state line.

Even though it meant I was one state closer to getting there, when Gary and I travelled, we always kissed on state lines - not yucky, mushy kisses, just State Line Kisses. We also kissed on the Mason-Dixon Line when we crossed it. So crossing into Georgia, and hours later into South Carolina, were "crying" times. I had let my family know of the change in plans and that I was going alone, so they called from time to time to check on me. My mother was terribly concerned about my condition and whether I would be able to manage. And my closest fellow member of the "Sisterhood" called to check on me as well.

Along the way, I had to stop for more gas and to visit the restroom, and with traffic and accidents, I was delayed and worried. I was trying to get there before 5:00 p.m., because visiting time was supposed to be 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. I hadn't been warned about "government time." 5:00 came and went, with the door locked with the visiting family members waiting in line. The other visitors seemed to be used to it, and were chatting among themselves. I had been warned that visitors were not allowed to talk to each other inside, but I guess the constitution was still in force until we went through the locked door.

I was surprised to hear the other waiting visitors talking about Gary's situation. None of them had ever seen him (or me), but they had become aware of what was going on, thanks to OpEdNews (and other web-based news sources that picked up the story) reporting on the withholding of his medications. I overheard several of them expressing gratitude and hope that maybe this media exposure would bring positive changes. (I also overheard concern about the consequences to Gary, and how mean, vindictive, and retaliatory the prison employees are, especially to anyone who asks questions or makes requests - such as to be provided proper medical care.) But the overwhelming sentiment was hope that perhaps somehow their loved ones' conditions might be looked at and improved. I just had no idea, at that time, what some of those conditions included.

That drive didn't sound like much fun. It's encouraging that OpEdNews coverage of your story even reached the visitors to that federal prison in South Carolina! So what did you find when you finally got in to see Gary, Judy?

The most important thing was that Gary and I were able to see each other after the longest time we had ever spent apart. But there was a price to pay, as we both quickly learned. It became clear that those in control of visitation - and let me stress "in control" - intended to make our time together as painful as they could, through threats, insults, intimidation, humiliation, embarrassment, and fabricated and false accusations. By the time I had to leave on Saturday, I wondered if my visit had been more harmful to Gary, who bore the brunt of the abuse, than helpful to either of us. There was definitely retaliatory and punitive treatment directed toward us because of our efforts to have Gary's proper medications given to him, as commented upon by the other prisoners and their visiting family members. This was despite my assurances from the prison administration that we, specifically Gary, would not be subjected to retaliatory or punitive treatment. Perhaps those in control of visitation didn't get the memo. When our time together ended, I was able to leave, with little they could do to me, at least until my next visit, but Gary had to stay and continue to endure the mistreatment.

On Friday afternoon, October 15th, just before the scheduled 5:00 visiting time, I arrived for my first opportunity to see my husband since I took him to be imprisoned on September 29th. I had never before visited anyone in prison, and had no official information, just the helpful tips from the Sisterhood - nothing sleeveless, nothing where my arms or legs would show, nothing green or camo or orange (at least there would be no uniformed Tennessee fans), no purses, lipstick, cell phones, and so on. I thought about a burka, but that wouldn't work either - no hats or head coverings. The Sisterhood suggestion was to take my driver's license and money for the vending machines in a small pouch, and to be friendly and outgoing to the prison employees, particularly the guards, who have the ability to make life in prison similar to the different stages of hell, with the level of suffering determined by the mood of the guard.

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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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