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Federal Bureau of Prisons - Is There a Doctor in the House?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser       (Page 1 of 5 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   5 comments, 3 series

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Judy and Gary White, circa 1996
(Image by courtesy of Judy White)
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Background: 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 [DOJ].

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 serving ten years and is currently in a facility in Montgomery, Alabama. [BOP is Bureau of Prisons.]

This is installment #33. [Links to entire series at end of article*.]

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My guest today is frequent contributor, Judy White.

JB: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. What's on your agenda today?

JW: Hi, Joan. It has been a long time - over a year - since we discussed our adventures in BOP-world. So much has happened in the past year. But let's start where it all started with these installments: medical abuse.

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JB: Okay. Please begin. How's it going in Montgomery?

JW: Believe it or not, Montgomery - Gary's latest stop in the BOP shell-game of moving him around from place to place - is a significant improvement over anywhere else we have been, in a number of ways. Several of the prison employees seem to have human traits or hints of humanity, as opposed to the total absence or single token human employee in the other federal prisons where Gary has been a "guest". There is minimal harassment and abuse of family/visitors compared to other places, although some of the BOPers still seem to forget from time to time that we - visitors - must not be mistreated, and that visitation is crucial to prisoners and their families. I wonder if the president thought about the terrible impact on the prisoners and their families when visitation was entirely cancelled because of his visit to the area to attend and speak at the Selma-to-Montgomery commemoration. As I saw him on television, holding the hands of his wife and daughters, I couldn't help but think of all the wives and daughters and sons of prisoners who wanted to be with their husbands and dads, who must make sacrifices and plans just to be able to hold hands and talk for a few brief hours during prison visitation on weekends, but got cancelled because of the president. To make matters worse, visitation the following weekend was cancelled because of a walk or run. And if there is bad weather anywhere nearby, visitation is delayed.

You will be surprised, though, that the Montgomery BOPers, unlike anywhere else, seem to make occasional efforts to recognize the importance of the prisoners' family relationships. At Christmas, for example, there was an extra special time for children to visit their daddies. They have weddings where prisoners marry their fiancees. (Required under federal law, but all the other wardens have just ignored that.) And the biggest shock of all has been the marriage retreat.

Yes. The prison's chaplain, Chris Douglas, conducts a marriage "class" for prisoners and the ones who successfully complete the class have their wives invited to prison for classes for two days. And of course, Gary took and passed the class and, along with some other wives, I spent two days in prison! Or I should say, parts of two days. We even ate prison food! It was a remarkable time and certainly beneficial toward meeting one of the BOP's stated goals of "maintaining family ties." Warden Stamper is to be credited with encouraging and facilitating these family events, as well as the more family-friendly visitation atmosphere. In reality, though, visitors at every BOP prison should be treated no worse than at Montgomery, keeping in mind that even though prisoners' security classifications and locations may vary, every child deserves the type of visits the children have at Montgomery, and the same goes for wives and other visitors.

JB: That's encouraging, Judy, and a welcome change. Why do I feel that's not the end of the story?

JW: I wanted to share that because of the overwhelmingly abusive and negative experiences Gary and I have encountered. And while Montgomery does some things right, there are, unfortunately, a number of issues and failures, including medical abuse.

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Gary has experienced a number of serious problems, some of which you and I have discussed and shared with readers. Gary and I understand, as do most prisoners and their loved ones, that the BOP constantly violates the Eighth Amendment, subjecting prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment in various ways, with medical abuse being at the top of the list; it has to be at the top of the list because of the often catastrophic consequences, including deaths. In short, the BOP habitually exhibits deliberate indifference to the suffering and serious medical problems of prisoners.

Not long after Gary's arrival in Montgomery, an elderly imprisoned doctor whose prescription medications were being willfully withheld suffered an almost fatal heart event; he was on life support in intensive care for quite a while and not expected to live. More recently, another elderly prisoner, after suffering terribly for a long time, was taken to the hospital for surgery then returned to prison with an antibiotic prescription and discharge instructions to return in ten days for removal of his stitches. The prison employees simply ignored all that - first refusing to give him antibiotics (after major surgery!) then not taking him back to have his stitches removed. The excuse was that they had "lost" his discharge instructions, but that is no excuse. All they would have had to do was contact the facility where his surgery was performed and ask for a copy. Instead, they just ignored him for weeks as he developed infection, then belatedly gave him antibiotics and weeks later took him to have his stitches removed. Just like all the other BOP prisons, there are endless examples.

And just like all the other BOP prisons, Gary's medication has been unreliably provided and his medical needs have been ignored or flatly refused. Back in April - without Gary's knowledge, without monitoring him, without providing the federally-required prescription insert, without warning him of serious side effects - they suddenly changed one of his prostate medications, switching tamsulosin to doxazosin. It wasn't long after taking his morning medications, including the unknown doxazosin, that Gary began to feel very ill. He called me and I begged him to go to medical, which he was hesitant to do, saying, "they don't care and they won't do anything to help me." But he realized something was very wrong and he did go to medical where, after yelling and threatening to punish him for seeking medical help, the BOPers took his blood pressure, then took it again, then took it a third time. The highest reading was 68/48, and Gary's heart rate was over 120. His organs were being starved for oxygen because of his severely low blood pressure and his heart was working harder to try to prevent organ damage.

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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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