Background: 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 in Edgefield Federal Prison in South Carolina.
My guest today is Judy White. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. What's new with Gary?
Thank you, Joan. As always, I appreciate your interest.
Friday was Gary's mother's birthday, and with Valentine's Day having just passed, I can't help but think of the terrible hurt our entire family and our friends continue to suffer, which doesn't compare to what Gary suffers daily, but a dear friend made a profound statement. On September 29th, when I left Gary at the prison and drove away, I sent a text saying, "Gary is now in prison." He responded, "A part of all of us is." So, my mother-in-law's birthday was our 143rd day of imprisonment, and she could not hear from her only son to wish her a happy birthday, nor were we able to share Valentine wishes with each other.
Do I recall you telling me that Gary's mother doesn't know he's in prison?
Yes, Joan, that's right. It was a decision made by the other members of Gary's family not to tell her.
If it's not prying, why not? Is she physically ill or mentally impaired?
Gary is 64 years old, and his mother is in her 80s. A couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with dementia. Gary saw her last summer before being sent to prison. She knew him and they had some happy times together. Unless Gary is freed soon, he may not see his mother again.
late 2009, Gary with mother and stepfather
No, Joan, it's even worse than that. Gary isn't allowed to call anyone. [He's had his calling privileges suspended for six months for an alleged violation of prison telephone rules*.] But even when he could do so, he couldn't call his mother. You see, when you answer a call from prison, there is an automated message that the call is from a federal prison, with the prisoner saying his name. Then, every couple of minutes the system interrupts to remind you that you are speaking with a federal prisoner, which also serves to break up any meaningful or normal communication. So, Gary hasn't spoken with his mother since September, nor have I. Because if I called her, she would expect to speak with Gary, and would surely ask about him, at which point I would fall apart, if I hadn't already.
How stressful for you. How does she explain your silence? Does she think you're angry at her for some reason? What happens on holidays or at get-togethers?
I hope she doesn't, but I don't know what she thinks has happened to us. I can't imagine just never hearing from my only son or his family. Gary grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and that is where his extended family still is. We kept in touch through telephone calls and visited as much as we could, usually once or twice a year. But since Gary has been in prison, his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years passed, and now his mother's birthday has passed, without any contact.
Were you close with Gary's parents?
Gary's father died in 2000. I adore Gary's mother and step-father, who have been so loving and kind. My mother-in-law is not only sweet, but she is incredibly funny and loves to laugh and play around. Gary got his sense of humor from her.
It's especially cruel that, at the very moment when all of you have been deprived of Gary's presence, you and his family can't offer one another comfort.
You're right, Joan, but everyone connected with Gary pays a very high price as a result of his imprisonment. None higher than Gary, of course, who is subjected to daily violations of everything we always held dear and believed about being Americans.
What specifically are you referring to, Judy?
I really don't know how to describe it, other than that the prison is so completely corrupt, with the very people charged with the responsibility of rehabilitating prisoners being above the law, it seems, and untouchable. They freely ignore and willfully break laws imposing obligations and responsibilities on the prison system and its employees, then go to whatever extremes necessary to abuse prisoners.
I understand that Gary received a warning the other day. Can you tell us what happened?
Gary has been threatened by four different prison employees, and he has been warned, more than once, that he is in "extreme danger" from the prison employees, that he has a target painted on him by them, and that the prison employees have made it known they are going to "get" him. And, unfortunately, they can. Everyone is aware that employees of the prison have planted and "discovered" contraband, including weapons, in the living space of prisoners with whom they are unhappy, for which the prisoner, with no rights or recourse, is severely punished. Everyone is also aware of instances when prison employees have encouraged or directly solicited actions by other prisoners against a particular prisoner.
with Charles Barkley, at UAB [U. Alabama, Birmingham]
Minority Health and Research Center Gala, 2006
Do you believe that the abuse is primarily directed at Gary or do other targets experience similar treatment?
Of course, I'm most familiar with Gary and the abuses to which he has been subjected. But he is not the only one by any stretch of the imagination, with medical abuse seeming to be at an extreme level at Edgefield Prison, in addition to psychological abuse. There are so many heart-breaking and tragic situations. Just one recent example involves a prisoner who was so severely ill and in pain that he was unable to walk. His "counselor" was notified by other prisoners that he needed help. She told them to have him come to her office, and specifically told them not to assist him.
Every Edgefield prisoner is someone's son. Most prisoners are someone's husband, daddy, brother, or friend. Every prisoner is a human being. I'm not so sure the same may truthfully be said about the prison employees who so sadistically mistreat those with whose care they are entrusted and who they are paid - very well - to help. Our tax dollars pay the abusive counselor that said to have a prisoner crawl to her office over $50,000.00 a year, in a state where the median household income is less than $45,000.00 and the per capita income is a little over $23,000.00.
So what have we learned today? That inmates can, with little recourse, be singled out, threatened and isolated from both family and the general prison population. And that these actions affect many innocent people beyond the targeted individual, including other prisoners and family members.
Previous Judy White articles
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