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Forrest City Federal Prison: Where Prisoners Don't Have a Prayer

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Judy on Christmas, 2012
(Image by Judy White collection)
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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 has been moved most recently to Federal Prison in Arkansas. [BOP is Bureau of Prisons.]

This is installment #27. [Links* to entire series at end of article.]

My guest today is Judy White, whose husband is currently serving time in Forrest City FCI [Federal Correction Institution]. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. 

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JB: What's new with you and Gary?

JW: Thank you, Joan.

As I'm sure you understand, the past several weeks since our last update have been very difficult and sad, with Christmas, Gary's birthday and the new year having passed.  But the BOPers at Forrest City have been up to their usual meanness and dirty tricks and even managed to raise the bar for the season.

JB: Give us an example, please. 

JW: Mail, for instance.  Prisoners and their families have no "normal" life together - no normal sharing of family time or daily experiences, no prayers or mutual support during difficult times, no watching the news or a television show together, no running errands, no shopping for gifts for the kids, no taking care of the family pets, no daily "good mornings" or "good nights", no smiles, hugs, kisses or even holding hands, no waking up together on Christmas morning and no blowing out birthday candles together.  IF they decide to allow communications at all and if the prisoner's family has money to pay for the privilege, what "family" means to the BOP is less than 10 minutes a day of telephone time, a very limited and expensive version of "e-mail", and mail - the United States Postal Service.  (For what it's worth, in my opinion, the rest of the "free" country owes the continuing existence of the USPS to prisoners and their families, those of us who are compelled to use the USPS, given no other options to maintain family relationships.)  So, want to guess what the Forrest City prison employees gave the prisoners and their families during the holidays, and, in our case, Gary's birthday?  NO MAIL!

JB: Tell us more, Judy.

JW: Thinking back over the past year, I remember "the-sky-is-falling" cries from government employees because of sequestration and in relation to the government shutdown, with grave predictions of dire consequences, yet what I remember most clearly was the punishment of the American people, through government shutdowns of free monuments.  With federal prisons exempt and unaffected by the shutdown, and with all that long past before December, prison employees should have been on their jobs, actually DOING their jobs, but it doesn't work that way.  You see, it's about overtime.  Apparently, prison employees want and expect to be paid for just showing up, but for them to actually fulfill the responsibilities of their jobs, they want and expect overtime.  And when better to make overtime demands than to shut down mail to and from prisoners during Christmas, when the prison employees likely need extra cash for their own needs?

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'Confirmation of delivery to the prison ... But why hasn't Gary received this mail 19 days later?'
(Image by Judy White collection)
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We know the "rules" and we plan ahead.  In addition to Christmas and birthday cards and letters sent separately, I had sent Gary a USPS Priority Mail envelope with books and magazines, cards, and some printouts.  The separate cards and letters have never been delivered to Gary, nor has the Priority Mail envelope that USPS records show was delivered to the prison on December 19th.  Our daughter also sent a gift of books that tracking documentation proves was delivered to the prison on December 26th, yet her gift has never been delivered to Gary either, nor have the cards and letters she and others have sent for his birthday and Christmas.  The BOP's written regulations require that mail received at prisons must be delivered to the prisoner to whom it is addressed within 24 hours of the prison's receipt of it, with books and published materials required to be delivered within 48 hours, but like all their rules and federal laws, prison employees and administrations simply ignore them, to the detriment of prisoners and their families.  Prison employees are lazy and don't want to work, nor do they want to be bothered with any requirements, and we have previously established that prison employees freely steal and/or throw away mail sent to Gary.  Remember their motto:  WE DON'T CARE.  And even though we report these violations through the BOP hierarchy, there is no response and nothing changes.  Or more accurately, nothing improves.

There have been "changes", though.  "Retaliation" is a "change", but the specifics are part and parcel of the pattern and practice of abuses we have experienced from the beginning, including the withholding of Gary's prescription medication and termination of communications, with prison employees directly lying to me the weekend before Christmas when I was unable to make the trip because of severe weather, telling me the telephone system was up and working and there was no reason Gary could not have called me, when, in fact, the system was down due to a storm and BOPers were too lazy to reset and get the system back up.  And most recently, Gary's prescription medication was again withheld for over a week as we both begged for it to be given to him.  But we have had one new experience this year:  the prisoners' outgoing mail has been held hostage inside the prison and not taken to the post office so their families and others can receive their mail.

JB: How does this work? 

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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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