My guest is Judy White, whose husband, Gary has been incarcerated* since September, 2010. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. What's on your mind today?
At Memphis's satellite camp in Millington, Tennessee, the prison employees really don't seem to like for the prisoners to have their family members visit, despite all the published propaganda claiming - falsely - an understanding of the importance of maintaining family ties. Could it be they don't want our eyes and ears? Visitation, the prisoners' and their families' designated time to spend together, is commonly and casually - and illegally - denied for the most arbitrary reasons, based on the preferences and moods of whatever prison employee happens to be sitting at the desk, and the identity and characteristics of the particular visitor. (I don't believe they understand the concepts of civil rights, disparate treatment and such.) With the arrival of temperatures in the 90s in the South, Millington prison employees seem to be obsessing over toes, knees, and "V"s - insisting that visitors' wearing of sandals or open-toe shoes, clothing that allows knees to be visible, or V-neck garments would be a risk to the security of the prison. And this is a prison that has been badly embarrassed by the recent broadcast in the local media of the well-worn trails of "escape" and contraband. The prison employees don't seem to notice the obvious, but they go to great lengths to find or invent reasons to deny visitation and harass visitors. I wonder if the prison employees are really being paid off, as they are rumored to be. I wonder what the going rate is for certain favors. As they say, inquiring minds want to know.
Judy: "A kiss from his mother on Gary's wedding day. She passed away in March without a goodbye from her only son, who also was not allowed to attend her funeral."
It isn't just me, unfortunately. And I've seen too many examples of visitors wearing near identical type garments, with one allowed to visit and another turned away, along with the prison employees ignoring clear violations by some visitors while inventing violations by others just to harass and upset them by refusing to allow them to visit after driving long distances.
A couple of weeks ago, two women arrived with three small children, one being so little she was being carried. Gary and I were sitting outside on the patio and saw them go into the building. I knew right away that they would have trouble. One of the women had on sandals, a v-neck top and knee-length shorts. Sure enough, after a minute, they came back out, got into their automobile and left. After about half an hour, they returned. The shoes and top had been replaced with a t-shirt and tennis shoes, but the knee-length shorts remained. They entered and again came back out and left. More time passed, and they returned for the third time, with the woman wearing capri pants well below her knees. The second woman didn't even get out of the car that time. I commented to Gary, let's hope the third time is the charm. But no. After another few minutes, the woman and children came back out, got in their car and left. It was getting late in the day, but I don't believe "cut-off time" had passed. But I thought, how sad - for those children, the women, and particularly the prisoner, who was probably sitting somewhere hoping to see his family, waiting for the page that never came so he could go to the visiting room. And I thought, how awful that the prison employees would not have told them when they first came in exactly and completely what was required for them to visit, rather than have them leave, return, leave, return, leave without ever seeing their prisoner. It's like a game, where maybe you will be allowed to visit and maybe you won't.
Personally, I have been outrageously abused - threatened with being strip-seached, groped and assaulted during unreasonable "pat searches", and most recently, singled out and wrongly accused of wearing a v-neck top when I had on a collared golf or polo-style top, among other abuses.
But it really is pitiful, that people are so desperate to spend time with their imprisoned loved ones that they allow themselves and their rights to be violated. You may be interested that the ridiculousness at Millingon has spawned a new fashion trend - the v- back . Several times when visitors - always and exclusively women visitors - have arrived wearing a v-neck top (and I am not referring to anything low-cut or revealing), the prison employees have told them they may not visit, then, after enjoying their distress, "helpfully" offered a solution: go to the restroom and turn the top around. The women exit the restroom wearing a "v-back" top, with their arms at odd angles. We saw one recently with her sweater on backwards, buttoned in the v-back, with a polo player near her shoulder. I commented to Gary, "That horse got lost." At least they were able to wear their clothing backwards, something that was not an option for a young expectant woman who tried to visit recently, even though the prison employees suggested wearing her maternity top backwards.
Your daughter experienced the Millington Treatment. Care to share that story, Judy?
There are those who will respond that people are incarcerated for a reason and it's not the prison's role to coddle them. How would you respond, Judy?
Perhaps those people should advocate for imprisonment, exile or execution of entire families. Our constitution and laws - on paper - guarantee certain rights and privileges, and, in practice, this administration has extended those to include illegal aliens, people who have broken laws by their very presence in the United States, while denying citizens, including prisoners and their families, the very same protections. Ideals such as due process, equal protection, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment have become nothing more than meaningless, written and ignored words, not worth the paper on which they are written when it comes to actual practices of federal prisons. It is not the prison's role or the role of the United States' government to abuse prisoners and families or to violate their civil rights or to violate federal law and written BOP regulations and policies.
People must recognize that almost all prisoners will be released back into their communities, and it is not in anyone's best interest for those prisoners to have been abused and have spent their time being taught by the example of federal employees that criminal acts are acceptable, as long as you do a good job covering up and avoid getting caught. Prisoners with family ties intact have a much lower rate of recidivism. Yet the BOP does nothing to encourage or support maintaining family ties, despite their written words.
Regardless of how anyone feels about prisoners, they should recognize it could easily be them or a family member or friend. There are many innocent people in American prisons, with estimates of twenty to thirty percent innocent. But the guilty and the innocent and their families all are entitled to human dignity and freedom from abuse. Acts such as refusing to allow a non-violent, no security risk prisoner to say good-bye to his dying mother or attend her funeral and refusing to allow him to fulfill his family roles as father and husband are purely abusive and do nothing to "rehabilitate" anyone. Quite the opposite. And the abuse extends to the families, who become virtual government-created orphans and widows.
Well, you've certainly given us food for thought this Father's Day, Judy. Hang in there. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I hope Stephanie's beau finally gets permission to visit Gary and make a good impression.
* 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, first in Edgefield Federal Prison in South Carolina and currently in Millington Federal Prison Camp in Tennessee. The Supreme Court recently declined to hear Siegelman's case without comment.
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
Are Federal Prisons Finding it Hard to Let Go? Tuesday, April 24, 2012