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Life Arts    H2'ed 4/25/12

Are Federal Prisons Finding it Hard to Let Go?

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My guest today is Judy White, whose husband Gary is currently in Millington Federal Prison. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. You've seen a lot of systemic abuse since September 2010, haven't you? 

Easter 2009

I had never thought about or realized the incestuous relationship and co-dependency between the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice, with prisoners being their common currency, the fuel that keeps the system running and tax dollars flowing freely.  The DOJ prosecutes - often corruptly - providing a stream of prisoners to the BOP, an agency of the DOJ.  In return, the BOP does everything possible to prevent those who have been wronged by the DOJ from being able to appeal their convictions and seek redress of their grievances, even though the Constitution guarantees that right in the Bill of Rights.  It is no mystery why America imprisons more of our fellow citizens than any other country on earth - prisoners are needed so that the public will continue funding the excesses of a broken and corrupt system.  Obstructing prisoners' appeals and their legal rights is not only illegal, but morally wrong.  They do it anyway, just as they murder human beings through withholding medical care.

Let's talk about the appeals process. You have an appeal deadline coming up really soon. How has that been going?

Not well, unfortunately.  The deadline for Gary's petition to the Supreme Court appealing his wrongful prosecution and conviction is April 27th, this Friday.  We don't believe it was a coincidence that Gary's legal mail notifying him of the denial by the appeals court and his attorney's abandonment of his case were illegally opened by the prison employees in Edgefield, then Gary was put on a bus for transfer without any of his personal belongings, including his legal materials, which were taken by the prison employees and withheld from him for almost a month of the limited time for appeal.  And, according to the BOP, Gary was "ineligible" for that transfer, but I suppose their need to get him out of Edgefield, separate him from his legal materials at a crucial time, and obstruct his ability to exercise his legal rights and appeal his conviction, pro se , meaning without the incompetent attorney who abandoned him, are what mattered.  BOP and DOJ interests are what count, and they are always contrary to the interests of prisoners and their families, as well as the general public.  Since Gary has been at Millington, he had no "living space" for three months, being compelled to sleep on a middle bunk of a 3-bunk stack in a hallway outside the restroom, and the repeated requests for legal calls and legal visits by Gary and the only attorney trying to help have been wrongfully denied by the warden Delores Stephens and the unit manager Audrey Smith.  
At the same time, Gary has been required to work in the prison's food service and in the law library (two separate jobs done by one prisoner), and he has been assigned to teach two classes.  BOP rules require that when a prisoner has a court deadline, they are to allow him the time he needs to protect his legal interests, but that is just another rule on paper only, as Gary's request for time to attend to his legal matters was summarily denied.  With the prison employees being completely aware of Gary's deadline, they then ordered him to begin the prison's "drug program", starting April 19th, eight days before the deadline, to eliminate even more of his time for working on his appeal.

What drug program? What are you referring to, Judy?

Sometimes I wonder if the prison employees are literate or if they simply choose not to read or comprehend.  I wonder why, after nineteen months, Gary was suddenly ordered by prison employees into the drug program, a pointless exercise in futility, waste of taxpayer resources, and abuse of authority.  Not only is there no indication or record of Gary having a drug problem (unless you want to count the illegal withholding of his medically necessary, prescribed medications), there are explicit statements in the record that he has not been involved in illegal drug abuse.  Admittedly, he did acknowledge having smoked marijuana once when he was in college.  Gary is 65 years old and graduated from college when he was 21, so his only illegal drug use would have occurred decades ago.

I am reminded of another bizarre experience at Edgefield.  Gary had been asked by a program director to work in education.  He was paged to education one day and believed it must be about the job.  When he arrived, he was told that he would be beginning the GED program - as a student, not a teacher.  Gary explained that he not only graduated from high school, but he also graduated from college.  (High school graduation is required for admission to Gary's alma mater, Florida State.)  The BOP auto response?  "That isn't in the record.  Unless you can produce proof, you will begin the GED program."  (There are endless examples of false and falsified records, created by prison employees.)  We were able to prove Gary's graduation from high school - and college.  But we discovered that prisons get extra money for having prisoners attend the GED program, and bonuses when they take the tests, with higher bonuses when they pass!  Tax dollars.  Paid as bonuses to do what prisons are required to do.  Bonuses to do a job they are already being well-paid to do.  So, of course, there is no incentive to have accurate records showing high school graduation of prisoners, when there are substantial financial incentives to the prison to herd prisoners through needlessly so they can get more money - $2,000 per prisoner, we were told.

I asked whether prisons have similar incentives for sending prisoners to the drug program, and what bonuses, fees, and/or incentives are given for prisoners going to and/or completing the drug program.  The response?  Deafening silence.

But, you will love this.  Last Thursday morning, Gary reported as ordered to the drug program, where he had his first opportunity to ask why and how he was ordered into the drug program, being that he is not and has never been a drug abuser.  The prison employee in charge of the program looked at Gary's paperwork and responded, "YOU ARE SHOWN AS VOLUNTEERING FOR THE PROGRAM."  Of course, that is not true and evidences yet another of the long list of false and fabricated government records created by prison employees, all to Gary's detriment.  Gary assured the prison employee that he had not volunteered for the program, nor did he want or need to be there.  Gary then asked if he could un volunteer and be excused.  He was told he could do so, but that he "may be called back."

This entire incident is an outrageous abuse of the unrestrained and unaccountable dysfunctional Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Naturally, I informed the prison bureaucracy and demanded an independent investigation into all the falsified records, among other wrong-doing.  And I sent a written demand for information about the drug program and "incentives" - information that should be public, but information the deputy regional counsel refused to provide, telling me I would have to file a Freedom of Information Act request with Washington.

While we're waiting for that request to be filled, Judy, what else is on your mind?

With the current public scandals engulfing the Secret Service, the GSA, and segments of the military (along with not-too-distantly-exposed excesses of the Justice Department), why does it not occur to everyone that the corruption is systemic, that ill-advised, illegal, and outrageous waste, fraud and corruption permeate the federal government and all of its agencies and divisions?

For almost nineteen months, I have been doing my part to call attention to wrong-doing in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, putting myself and my husband in the position of having been repeatedly criminally and civilly violated by federal prison employees.  I have spoken, written, and made calls to our federal elected officials, including the President, as well as the Attorney General, the Director and officials of the BOP, our Senators and Congressmen, members of committees, and others, providing substantive information and evidence of corruption and wrong-doing.

I do appreciate the calls for investigations of those currently in the spotlight, but why is there no investigation of the BOP?  Having spent a considerable period of my life involved in political activity, I believe the answer is "the media."  People can turn on their television and computer and see the photos and videos of their "tax dollars at work" - because the violators, in some instances, were foolish and arrogant enough to record their own misdeeds.  Flashback to Abu Graib.  The BOP seems to at least do a better job of covering up their corruption, denying cameras and public access to prisons, and obsessively controlling our citizens who are in prison as well as their families, through threats, silencing and retaliation against anyone who tries to speak out and expose the wrong-doing of the BOP.  We have experienced this first-hand - if you speak out and say something prison employees don't like, you will be horribly abused, subjected to disparate treatment, locked in solitary confinement, and all contact with your family will be terminated or severely restricted.

I am only the wife of one prisoner, with no subpoena power or investigative authority, yet I have experienced and seen enough and made authorities aware of millions of misused, wasted, and mishandled dollars - our tax dollars.  Instead of investigating, are they choosing a course of willful blindness?  They have most certainly retaliated against Gary and me for letting others know what goes on in America's prisons.  But imagine the impact of efficiency in government, of even federal prison employees doing their jobs and doing them legally and with competence.  Is it only a fantasy or something that could actually happen?

Veterans Day, 2005

Both you and Gary have paid a high price for speaking out about a system rife with  abuse and corruption.  Why do you continue to do it and why does Gary continue to support what you do? Wouldn't it just be easier in the long run to lay low and suck it up?

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph in the world is for good people to do nothing."

The federal prison system is what and where it is because of their control and victimizing those who would speak out, because of their success in silencing those of us who learn the truth, because they are able to make the price paid for speaking out more than anyone can bear -- all of which is illegal and violates the First Amendment.  We cannot be complicit.  Gary is an innocent political prisoner, but we have discussed that, as long as he is in prison, it will be our duty and our mission to make known the conditions of prisoners' confinement, to expose the hypocrisy and the corruption, ultimately, to demand change to a broken system that does nothing to benefit or rehabilitate prisoners, nor does it protect society, but absorbs an enormous portion of public resources while failing in its mission more than two-thirds of the time, based on the rate of recidivism.  When you factor in that an estimated 20-25% of prisoners are innocent and never were "offenders" in the first place, the number of "rehabilitated" law-breakers may be about 10%, while the drain on the public treasury and the overuse of imprisonment has grown to the point that about one in 31 American adults is in prison or on probation or parole, according to Pew research.

Gary and I are caring people and good citizens.  We have been shocked and saddened to learn about our own government's abuse of prisoners - man's inhumanity to man.  We believe it is un-American and must be stopped.

This has been a grueling nineteen months for you both. So much of it is so hard and so discouraging. What keeps you going?

The consequences of doing nothing mean that Gary will likely become another murder victim of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  That can't happen, and it should never happen to any human being in the custody of the United States government.  Remember that we shared about the three prisoners we know about who died at Edgefield in December due to the wrong-doing of the prison employees, just before Gary's sudden move.  Medical abuse is not so common at Millington, where, upon Gary's arrival, the doctor there finally gave him medication that had been withheld for fifteen months.  That doesn't erase the damage, and supports the necessity of our fight to get Gary's medications, as well as wrongness of the actions at Edgefield.  The Edgefield doctor, Rex Blocker, by the way, has also disappeared, from what I hear, not too long after Gary was moved and the deaths of the prisoners.  But Millington is abusive, too.  Just recently, for example, an elderly prisoner was assaulted and badly injured by another prisoner who was much younger and stronger.  His injuries included a broken jaw and, I believe, a concussion.  Rather than provide proper care, treatment, support, and compassion, the victim of the assault was locked in solitary confinement!

Yikes! What happens if you don't have your appeal ready on April 27th which is fast approaching?

The appeal has to be received in Washington, DC by that date, so our actual deadline is the 26th, with overnight mail.  The prison and prison system have systematically denied and deprived Gary of his civil rights, through refusing to allow him even the minimal legal assistance, advice, and guidance that has been offered.  They seem to confuse prisoners' exercise of their legal rights with attempts to escape the abuse of the prison system.  Around this time last year, Gary was locked in solitary confinement for 27 days at the medium security prison in Edgefield for asking for a legal call with his attorney, then released back to the prison camp with a finding that he had done nothing wrong, but not before they shackled Gary and set up a call to his attorney that occurred with Gary's hands in handcuffs behind his back while a prison employee - M.F. Huger - held the phone to his ear and two other prison employees illegally remained in the room, in violation of Gary's right to privileged and confidential communications with his attorney.  We are still trying, and hope that we will be able to meet the Supreme Court's deadline.  Otherwise, the prison system's abuses will have cost us the right to appeal Gary's wrongful prosecution and conviction.  It makes me wonder about anyone in government's claims and oaths of office to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" when federal employees become domestic "enemies" and keep prisoners in overcrowded prisons through obstruction of justice and outright preventing them from appealing their convictions.

I know what you mean. Well, thanks once again for sharing your story with us at OpEdNews, Judy. Good luck on getting your appeal in on time. We're pulling for you!

Thank you, Joan.  We need all the good wishes, luck and support we can get.


Judy White series:
Judy White Fights For Incarcerated Husband's Access to His Prescriptions  October 13, 2010  

The Feds and the Prisoner's Wife - Do Unto Others... as You Please  October 27, 2010  

Come and Get It! Prisoners Served Expired Food, "Not for Human Consumption"   November 10, 2010  

Judy White's Giving Thanks for Prison Visit: It's All Relative  November 29, 2010  

No Heat in the Cooler: More Tales from Edgefield Federal Prison  December 16, 2010  

The Devil's in the Details: More Tales from Edgefield Federal Prison  , January 11, 2011

Hello Kitty Mysteriously Disappears from Prisoner's Mail at Edgefield  , January 24, 2011

Edgefield Prison's Commitment to "Maintaining Family and Community Ties"?  Sunday, March 6, 2011  

Winter in July? Trying to Stay Warm in Edgefield Prison   Wednesday, July 6, 2011  

Neglect at Edgefield Federal Prison Causes Inmate to Lose Toes  September 27, 2011

Bureau of Prisons "Disappears" Federal Prisoner Just In Time for His Birthday December 29, 2011
Magic Behind Bars: The Case of the Disappearing 600 Pound Chicken February 22, 2012
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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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