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Life Arts    H2'ed 8/1/14

BOP: 'Til Death Do Us Part?

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JB: Unbelievable. How do you know all this?

JW: A few days before Dave's loss of consciousness and near-death, he called me. At that time, he was afraid he was not going to get out of prison alive and he wants so badly to live and go home to his family. He told me he is about to become a grandfather and he spoke of hoping to be able to see and hold his grandchild. His family wants him home as well, and they all want to share happy times together. He called me again the day after he was returned to prison, and we keep in touch through e-mail. And there are other prisoners and family members who keep in touch. We pray for Dave and his family to be able to have happy times together. But Dave really must get out before the BOP kills him.

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JB: Talk about a life sentence" Meanwhile, what's happening with Gary? Is he glad to be closer to home?

JW: Yes, he is; we are both glad. At the same time, it makes us angry that he was ever imprisoned outside the state. Statistically, the BOP claims it imprisons prisoners closest to their homes and in compliance with judicial recommendations almost 100% of the time, but our experiences and the experiences of all the prisoners and family members we have met prove those claims by the BOP are not true. For almost four years, Gary begged to be in Alabama.

Along with the ridiculous wastefulness with guarding hospitalized Dave, the BOP was also wasteful in moving Gary. Remember that Gary was moved - illegally - to Forrest City after he and I were threatened in Millington/Memphis that if I did not shut up, Gary would be moved to a higher security prison further from home, a First Amendment retaliation threat that was then carried out. Every day of the year and a half Gary was in Forrest City was unlawful imprisonment.

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Gary was finally informed that his repeated requests to be transferred had been approved. But of course, the prison employees had to be abusive about that, too, so they told him he was being moved but would not tell him where or when or how he was being moved.

JB: What do you mean, Judy?

JW: BOP policy states that camp-designated prisoners should be moved through furlough, which means being picked up by his spouse or family member - people on whom the BOP has done background checks - and driven to the new location, just as I drove Gary to Edgefield. You know they had to treat Gary and me differently, though, so they refused to allow anyone to pick Gary up and move him at our expense.

Instead, after several "false starts" and mix-ups - final torture at Forrest City - Gary was told to dress in his grey sweatshirt and sweatpants (in June when temperatures were above 90 degrees), then, a fellow prisoner drove Gary in a white Ford Escape to Memphis, an hour away, and dropped him off at the bus station with a bus ticket to Montgomery. There were bus station waits, stops and changes along the way, including in Birmingham, our home area. What would have been a less-than-eight-hour drive by car became an ordeal lasting almost 20 hours by Escape, bus and taxi, courtesy of our federal government. By the time Gary was able to go to sleep, he had been awake almost 40 hours.

I was very worried about Gary and whether his prescription medications were withheld, as they have been every time the BOP has moved him and frequently during his imprisonment. But my worries about that were needless. Gary told me that just before he got into the Escape, they handed him a large clear plastic Ziploc-type bag filled with bottles of pills - Gary's medications - which he held for the next 20 hours, having no pockets, of course.

THAT is how Gary was moved - a 67-year old prisoner dressed in sweatpants and a sweatshirt holding a clear bag filled with bottles of pills on a commercial bus.

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JB: Thanks for the inside look at our tax dollars at work. How does your current commute compare with Gary's other placements?

JW: Gary is now "only" 100 miles south of home, almost all interstate and a much safer, less scary trip. For all the other prisons, he was about 300 miles or more away, so I was traveling on often deserted roads in the dead of night. For almost four years, I had to get up between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. on visitation day, usually Saturday or Sunday morning, leave home and drive five to six hours through rain, hail, snow, heat, cold, dark of night, road construction, traffic accidents and bathroom breaks, while battling sleepiness and fatigue through consuming gallons of caffeine. I tried to get to prison and in line before 7:30 a.m. to have the best chance to be able to visit Gary. If I didn't get there in time, if the prison employees cut off "processing" visitors or did so slowly as they often purposely did, they would simply declare they were stopping for "count" and the visitors who were waiting had to leave while prisoners were counted, from 9:00 or 9:30 until 11:00 or later.

Then the visitors were allowed to come back and try again to visit their loved ones. The process at Forrest City was extremely abusive, involving rudeness and harassment by prison employees, metal detectors, ION scans, physical assaults in the name of "pat searches", fluorescent hand stamps, and it usually took an hour or longer before Gary and I would actually get to see each other, then we had to sit across from each other and "talk", but it was more like yelling because of the distance between us and the noise in the room.

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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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