For first-time readers, Gary White was a county commissioner in Jefferson County, Alabama. Good friends with Les Siegelman, he introduced Les's brother, [former] Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to Richard Scrushy, a local Republican businessman. Because of this, White became inextricably intertwined with Siegelman, who was one of the biggest targets of the Rove-directed, heavily politicized Department of Justice.
Scrushy and Siegelman were later indicted and convicted on charges stemming from that relationship. According to affidavits provided by Gary [and Judy, who was also in the room] White was asked to perjure himself before a Grand Jury in order to make the case against Siegelman and Scrushy. White refused and the very next day, the DOJ started delivering subpoenas to build a case against him. White is now serving ten years. During that time, he has been shunted from one federal facility to another. The recent passage and signing of the First Step Act was supposed to result in the immediate release of Gary and 4,000 other inmates. That has not yet happened. This is installment #35 of our ongoing series*.
My guest today is Judy White, frequent OpEdNews contributor. Welcome back, Judy!
Joan Brunwasser: We just spoke recently. But a lot more has been happening, even in that short time. Would you like to get us started?
Judy White: Saturday [December 29th] was intended to be a special day to celebrate Gary's birthday. As his unlawful imprisonment by the BOP continued, we had missed Christmas together - the first Christmas Gary was legally entitled to be home in nine long hard years. But as the BOP has persisted in violating federal law and illegally keeping Gary in prison, the kids and I made plans to visit Gary in prison for his birthday. It would be the first time the four of us had been to see Gary together and the first visit with Stephanie and her new husband since their wedding, which we were all heartbroken that Gary was not allowed to be part of.
JB: How did that go?
Prison guard Ms. Graves was processing visitors, and she was being particularly abusive, perhaps due to the looming presence of a prison employee who is not normally present at visitation. They rejected a number of visitors for having too-tight jeans and made visitors turn around so they could look at their rear ends. It was embarrassing even for those of us watching. Then, it was our turn as we were summoned to approach the desk.
Graves immediately told my daughter that she would have to change clothes because she had on leggings, despite the fact that she had on leggings under a dress, a dress that in all respects met the prison dress code rules, meaning it was long enough, it was not tight, it was not low-cut or revealing in any way. Her leggings were to keep her legs warm. We pointed out to Graves that her leggings were extra, worn under an acceptable dress, not as pants, but power-mad people are often immovable, having disengaged any use of their brain or logic. Graves acknowledged that the only problem was her leggings, saying that leggings are prohibited period, even if they are worn under perfectly acceptable clothes.
We asked to speak with the duty officer, and the woman standing behind Graves stated she was the duty officer. Stephanie asked if she could just remove her leggings. Graves and the other prison employee, whose name was Moses, then had a discussion about whether the dress code required her dress to be no more than two inches above her knees or two inches below her knees, which makes absolutely no sense. In all the years I have been visiting Gary at all the different locations they have sent him (and me), I have never seen a prison employee have anyone hike up a dress above her knees to be sure the dress is a sufficient length below her knees. They even made Stephanie sit down to see how far up her legs would be exposed.
JB: How humiliating.
An enlarged version of the dress code is posted on the wall in the area where visitors sign in. One would think -- and we have every reason to expect -- that prison employees would have read and know the rules before attempting to reject visitors, especially during the holidays and on special occasions. But in the BOP, logic is rare, as is prison employees' actually knowing the rules they are allowed to enforce on visitors. Fairly and consistently applying the actual rules is unheard of. Stephanie asked again if she could just remove the prohibited leggings. Graves and Moses consulted and, having no legitimate reason for rejecting her, begrudgingly told her she could see Gary if she removed her leggings, but that we would have to sit in the first section so they could keep an eye on us at all times and that we would not be allowed to go outside, punishing us for being right, for following the rules and expecting them to follow the same rules.
But it clearly made them furious. As Stephanie went to the restroom to remove her leggings, Graves turned her abuse to me, taking the clear bag I have carried to every visit with Gary and dumping it, repeatedly telling me, as if it were a threat, that she was dumping my bag. Graves was shaking as she removed everything from my bag, closely looking at everything. She flung pepper packets down, telling me loudly NO PEPPER. They were the pepper packets I had received in the visiting room on a previous visit, but no big deal. She acted as if I had created murder when she tossed paper clips onto the counter. Almost screaming now, PAPER CLIPS ARE NOT ALLOWED. The paper clips had been used to clip dollar bills together. She opened my Kleenexes and handled them, then threw them onto the counter with NO TISSUES.
Examples of Judy's dangerous (and confiscated) contraband
(Image by courtesy of the author) Permission Details DMCA
Excuse me, I said politely, as she was obviously unhinged, I have an email from a regional counsel confirming that tissues are allowed. She turned to Moses and sarcastically asked ARE TISSUES ALLOWED, at which point Moses got out the handbook and began flipping through pages to find a list of what is allowed, disregarding that the list is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive in practice. Hats, gloves, coats, scarves and other items are examples. They went through the list item by item then Graves said to me NO TISSUES, TISSUES ARE NOT ON THE LIST AND THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED, YOU WILL HAVE TO THROW ALL THAT AWAY. As if I would use tissues anyone had put their hands all over. But she also handled my inhaler, touching every part of it, making it also unusable, before putting it back in my bag. (Inhalers are not on the list, but like numerous other visitors, I have frequently brought my inhaler and properly disclosed it on my visitor form.) Next she made all of us add extraneous and unnecessary "N/A"s to our forms, before finally allowing us to sign in, then directing us again to sit in the first section so they could keep a close eye on us.
JB: For what purpose? To make sure Stephanie's prohibited leggings did not reappear?