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Life Arts    H4'ed 1/24/11

Hello Kitty Mysteriously Disappears from Prisoner's Mail at Edgefield

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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. What's new with Gary these days? How's he faring in Edgefield Prison?

Hello, again, Joan.  Hello Kitty has been taken - cat-napped, I'm afraid, the possible victim of fatal rhetoric and dishonest prison employees.

Excuse me, Judy. I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Clue us in, please.

Stephanie and Hello Kitty, college, 2008

I believe I had mentioned that Gary crochets in prison - legally, with a crochet permit - and has made heartfelt gifts for loved ones.  Our youngest daughter loves Hello Kitty and her birthday is coming up soon.  So Gary had asked me to send him something with Hello Kitty on grid or graph paper so that he could crochet as a birthday gift for her.  I found several options, printed them, and mailed them to him on January 10th, along with other items he needed or I needed to send him.  The envelope was, as all of his mail is, opened and searched by prison employees before being given to him on January 18th.  But Hello Kitty was not included - she had been taken, as I discovered to my great dismay.  When Gary told me he had received the mail,  I asked if he liked the Kitty options, only to have him tell me there was no Hello or Good-bye.  She was just gone.

That's disturbing. What would the staff want with your Hello Kitty patterns? What did you do?

I let the prison officials know and requested an investigation.  Mail theft is, after all, a criminal act punishable by ten years in prison and a $250,000 dollar fine.  And the prison employees are, after all, charged with modeling the highest standards of ethical and legal conduct.  At least, that's what it says on paper, in black and white.  But the response was predictable:  denials, and standing behind provable Kitty-nappers.  And it isn't that I believe they really want Hello Kitty, they just don't want Gary to have her. 

Missing Hello Kitty grid

It sounds so incredibly tacky and childish. And it's lucky you asked Gary. Otherwise, you would have assumed that he got the patterns  and he would probably have assumed that you hadn't gotten around to sending them yet.

Unfortunately, it's more necessity than luck. But mail problems, we have learned, are part and parcel of prison life, for both the imprisoned and those who care about them.  The rhetoric is the Federal Bureau of Prisons' written words "encouraging" and "maintaining family and community ties."  But the reality is that, just like everything else, mail is just something to be withheld, rejected, delayed, lost or taken - all intended to frustrate those who care about a prisoner and want to be supportive.  Tonight when I got home, I had a message from friends who had sent mail to Gary that was rejected and returned to them today.  The rules require them to notify Gary when anything is returned, but they have seldom done so.  Apparently, the only rules that count apply to the imprisoned; rules for prison employees are freely ignored.

Now what?

What goes on at Edgefield Prison is mind-boggling in so many ways.  Hello Kitty is now the poster-child for all that is wrong with their abuse of the mail.

If you look at the photo, you'll see that Hello Kitty has no mouth. She speaks from her heart. If only the employees at Edgefield did as well, conditions there would instantly improve. There are plenty more examples of abuse through the mail and we'll get to them soon.

Okay. Thanks for talking with me again, Judy.  Will you try to re-send Hello Kitty?

Thank you, Joan, and, yes.  Gary asked me to do something very simple so he would be able to do something for our daughter for her birthday.  Hello Kitty is once again in the capable hands of the U.S. Postal Service, fearlessly returning to the scene of the crime.

Well, you know what they say: "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds." I'm just not sure if Edgefield Prison is included in the list of potential hazards.  I hope that Hello Kitty can break into prison and get to Gary in time for Stephanie's birthday, Judy. We'll be pulling for her.


Other Judy White articles in this 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
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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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