Thank you as always for your interest, Joan. All holidays and family events, especially Christmas, are difficult for prisoners and their families, while providing special opportunities for abuse by sadistic prison employees, knowing how sad we are to have our family not be together. I've mentioned before that Gary crochets and makes some gifts for our family. The federal prison camp at Millington, under the (mis)direction of the warden of the Memphis FCI, has been on lockdown almost continually since spring, with prisoners restricted from such activities as reading, walking, watching television, engaging in religious activities (a First Amendment violation), and working on crafts. Gary was able to make and send pretty scarves, which I just received last week. We'll get back to the scarves in a moment.
"Tis the season for gifts and parties and all kinds of seasonal expenses and, with the economy - and government - hurtling toward the fiscal cliff, those prison employees likely have Christmas wishes Santa won't help them with. (Most are on the "Naughty" list!) Sure, they can - and do - steal the food intended for the prisoners, in addition to having the prisoners prepare food for the warden's recent Christmas party, taking food purchased and identified as food for prisoners that, instead, went to the warden's party. But what to do when they need cold hard cash? Cell phones!
It is well known throughout prisondom that prison employees are the primary source of contraband being brought into prisons and sold to prisoners. The Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General published a report saying so more than a decade ago, and there have been Memphis federal prison employees prosecuted just this year for their criminal involvement in bringing contraband into the prison. If I recall correctly, one prison employee was documented to have profited around $85,000.00 through selling contraband to the prisoners.
What is not well-known is the BOP's - or at least Camp Cupcake's [Judy's nickname for the Millington facility] - policy of giving prison employees cash awards for "finding" cell phones.
How brilliant! And industrious, too. Prison employees could take cell phones in, sell them to the prisoners (cha-ching), then "find" them and collect a cash bonus (double cha-ching)! And when a cell phone is "found", they put the entire prison camp on lockdown, an unlawful practice. They even put the prisoners on lockdown when an unattended cell phone with no SIM card was "found" on the adjacent Navy base, not in the possession of any prisoner or even on prison property!
Not only that, there have reportedly been instances when an unattended cell phone has been "found" in an open or common area, again, not in the possession of any prisoner. Cash for the finder and punishment for the prisoners. But what is quite likely and believable is that some industrious prison employee(s) - perhaps even the same one(s) who steal food - could just go to Walmart or Radio Shack or a convenience store, buy cell phones, drop them or plant them somewhere, then "find" them and collect a reward, courtesy of the American taxpayer, that makes them a nice profit. And who cares that prisoners continue to be unfairly punished, abused, and blamed with no evidence whatsoever?
That's what America has become.
So Camp Cupcake is very frequently on lockdown - with every prisoner being punished without due process or reasonable suspicion of any wrong-doing, and even if only one single prisoner is alleged to have committed a violation and that prisoner has been punished. By comparison, a recent stabbing at Memphis FCI resulted in no lockdown. But "discovery" of a cell phone or a cigarette at the "camp" means group punishment. Speaking of cigarettes, four prisoners were recently sent to solitary confinement when some cigarettes were allegedly "discovered" in an area near their cots. The BOP mentality is that there is no need to make any effort to determine who should be punished, just choose whoever they want to punish and punish them or punish all.
I won't be able to see Gary on Christmas, so our "Christmas visit" was on Saturday. As usual, I got up at 2:30 a.m. and drove to Millington. Along with a black top and pants, I wore the scarf he had made and red boots. And a black coat, as it was in the 20s outside. When I entered the visiting room, rather than the usual two prison guards, there were five there to abuse visitors. (Overtime, you know, and who cares about the fiscal cliff?) The family ahead of me was being turned away, ordered to go to Walmart to get something else to wear. (I wonder if Walmart gives them kickbacks for sending all the customers.) The woman behind me was ordered to return her coat to her car - it had a hood. (Again, temperature in the 20s.) As I was signing in, three of the prison employees were practically drooling, staring out at the approaching family members trying to come to visit their loved ones in prison on Christmas weekend. "Look at that one." "Oh, no, she's not coming in here in that ." Openly discussing and planning how they would reject each one, right there next to me! That's how the BOP "supports family and community ties", something they falsely claim in their written policies. They could apparently find nothing to harass me about, so they paged Gary.
Almost an hour later, Gary and I were talking and playing cards, and the guards had been staring at me intermittently. Then Lipnek - a white heavy woman with very short dark hair, who is believed to plant contraband in prisoners' belongings and steal from them - came to me and demanded my scarf! Why, I asked. "You're not allowed to have that in here." The prison employees, not satisfied with all the family members they were rejecting and harassing, just made up something new to harass me! "Yes I am, I've worn scarves many times before. They are not prohibited." "You are not allowed to wear it. You have to give it to me or return it to your car." Now, that is absolutely a violation - to allow a visitor to go to their car and return is not permissible, as we know all too well. On a prior visit, I obeyed the prison employee who told me to return something to my car only to find, upon my return, Gary being chewed out and threatened that my visit would be terminated. Because I did as I was told by one employee, another employee abused and threatened us . Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. As I mentioned, Gary and I were mid-game; I removed the scarf and handed it to her and, in doing so, my entire ensemble no longer "worked" - without the red in the scarf, the boots just no longer made sense!
As soon as we finished the hand, I went to the desk and asked Lipnek for a copy of the visiting rules showing scarves were prohibited, something I knew did not exist, having seen the rules on previous occasions when I have been harassed wrongfully. "You can have it when you leave," she stated. "I would like to see it now, please." I am always polite. "We don't have any copies, we'll have to make some," she lied. (I had seen them giving copies to other rejects and showing copies to still others, and they continued doing so even after my request was refused.)
I returned to my seat. At the desk, there was a sudden hustle and huddle of all the prison employees there. They made telephone calls and several other prison employees appeared, huddled, then disappeared. They were all intently reading something on white paper. The visiting rules, as it turned out, and there were plenty of copies, but not one that they would even show me . By 9:30, they were all aware that their actions were unlawful and harassing and abusive of the visitors, but true to form, they were in full back-up and cover-up mode and were not about to let the BOP's own rules stop all their fun and games at the expense of the visitors and prisoners. Even after they were fully aware that there was no rule and no prohibition of scarves, they continued to confiscate them or send visitors back to their cars. Power corrupts, absolutely.
I have to mention another prison employee, too. His job must have been "rear-view checker," because with each arrival, he would scurry out of the "command center" (an outer office with lots of windows where the prison employees sit and survey the prison domain), stare at the rear ends of the visitor-wannabees, and give hand signals to the prison employee behind the desk at the computer. As I mentioned, there were five of them Saturday to do the "work" normally done by two, so I suppose they had to find something to justify their existence and overtime. Staples has "The Geek Squad"; federal prison's Camp Cupcake has The Goon Squad. The rear-view checker had a higher calling, however, as he left around 11:00 and returned with Chick-Fil-A bags about 11:30, after which there were very few rear-view checks. And I have to say I'm glad, not just because it's creepy, really, to have some man staring at mostly women's rears and being paid by our tax dollars to do it, but because this particular prison employee wears sunglasses at all times, whether inside or outside, day or night, summer or winter. I had wondered before if he had a visual impairment, but he apparently sees well enough, even with sunglasses, to be the prison's rear-view visitor checker.
When the time came and I had to tell Gary goodbye again, I signed out, retrieved my perfect and perfectly permissible scarf from the desk and again requested a copy of the rules showing the scarf was prohibited. Upon giving me the copy, the prison employee stated "it's not on there." "I know," I responded. "That makes this illegal, harassment and abusive." The prison employee went on to state that they had checked with the lieutenant (I believe they pretend they are in the military, with military-type "ranks" such as captain and lieutenant), who said that at the FCI, scarves "could be" used to smuggle in contraband.
That's how utterly senseless they are! First, the minimum-security camp is not the medium-security FCI. Second, if scarves "could be" used to smuggle in contraband, anything "could be" used, based on the same "logic", which is really not logic, but just prison employees backing each other up - even when they are wrong and even behaving criminally. What about pockets? I would guess almost everyone coming in has pockets somewhere. Will they ban pockets? What about shoes? They require closed-toe shoes; surely someone would have more capacity to smuggle in their shoes or boots than in a scarf. Will they begin confiscating everyone's shoes or ordering them to return them to their cars and only allow barefoot visitors?
But the real issue, as I told the prison employee, is that their actions are unlawful - criminal, as deprivation of civil rights under color of law. (That's statutory language related to such criminal acts being committed by law enforcement.) There is no provision for any and all prison employees departing from the written rules to ban whatever they want to ban to harass and violate a visitor or visitors. Federal law, including case law, requires that in order to be enforceable, laws and rules must be sufficiently clear to allow one to choose between compliance or violation. The visiting rules regarding scarves meet that standard, but in favor of the visitor. There are two pages of written rules stating specific apparel and items that are not permitted. Scarves are not listed, meaning they are permitted. (Hoods are also not listed, meaning they are also permitted.) At the end of the second page is the statement, " It is imperative that the visiting regulations be adhered to ...." But they never are adhered to by the prison employees , who use every possible way - even inventing, lying and claiming rules that don't exist - to deny visitation, to the harm and detriment of the prisoners and their families.
This will now be the third Christmas that Gary has "celebrated" in prison. What kinds of things happened around Christmases past, Judy ? What does he have to look forward to?
The first Christmas, they terminated my visitation rights for six months because I wore the green dress. Right after last Christmas, they "disappeared" Gary, illegally moving him from place to place, shackled and in handcuffs, not allowing him sufficient or clean clothes, including underwear, or a shower for days on end, and denying him all visitation and contact with humans from December 28th until mid-January. We are both very distressed, suffering from PTSD - the "gift" that keeps on giving - and are trying to brace for whatever they will do to us this year. BOP employees are experienced abusers, and they seem to enjoy harming prisoners and their families. In a conversation I had last year with one at the regional office, after my informing them of deaths due to medical abuse was met with dead silence, I said, "You just don't care." The response: "Now, Ms. White, we do care. When a prisoner dies in our custody, that's a lot of paperwork for us." What they care about is not prisoners, not deaths of prisoners, not preventing deaths of prisoners, not harm or injury of prisoners, not the mistreatment of prisoners, not the rehabilitation or education of prisoners, nothing helpful or beneficial to prisoners or to society or the communities to which the prisoners will return if they survive the abuse of federal prison.
Your assessment, sadly, seems to be right on target. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
The first "country" Christmas song I recall hearing as a child was Johnny Cash singing, "And in despair, I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men." No truer words could describe our experiences with BOP employees, filled with such hatred and illegitimately abused government authority. The song continues: "The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, goodwill to men." That is my hope.
Amen. Thanks so much for catching me up again, Judy. Next time, we can talk about the flood at the prison and the serious violations that stemmed from it. Best wishes to you and Gary for a better new year.
Judy White series, in its entirety:
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"? March 6, 2011
Winter in July? Trying to Stay Warm in Edgefield Prison 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? April 24, 2012
Happy Father's Day! and the Justice Department's War On Families June 16, 2012
Federal Prison's "Camp Cupcake" - Putting the Fun[ny] in Dysfunctional August 14, 2012
Gary White and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week , November 29, 2012