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Life Arts    H2'ed 12/30/11

Bureau of Prisons "Disappears" Federal Prisoner Just In Time for His Birthday

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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.

Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. I'm sure the holiday season is particularly challenging to families of prisoners. What's been going on at Edgefield these days?

 Gary and Judy (in happier times) at Gary's 50th birthday sock hop

Hi, Joan.  Thanks for your interest.  I could give the simple and dramatic answer - murder and mayhem.  So much has been going on, all bad and corrupt.  But yesterday morning, Gary was removed from Edgefield, and I have not heard from him, leaving me desperately concerned.  Diesel therapy, withholding of his prescription medications, being locked in solitary confinement again, and cutting off all contact with me and our family and friends - and his birthday is Friday, meaning he will not receive the cards and gifts sent to him by his loved ones.  We don't know where he is or where to go to visit him.  I'm very upset, along with the rest of our family, as you can imagine.

I can imagine! Do you have any idea what precipitated this drastic action? How did your last visit go? Did you have an inkling of what was to come?

No, neither of us expected anything.  That's part of the psychological abuse by the BOP [Bureau of Prisons], intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the prisoners and their families.  Gary called me this morning as he always does at 6:15, said he was going to be working in the law library today and would call me at 11:15, as usual.  I haven't heard from him since, so I called the prison when I left work and asked.  They told me, "He is no longer at this facility."  They said he was in Atlanta and refused to tell me what had happened or anything else.  But their website says he is at Edgefield, and no one answers the phone in Atlanta.

I visited Gary Friday and Saturday, encountering abusive prison employees both times, as usual.  Christmas Eve,  the visitors were given the gift of being locked outside, shivering in the cold and windy weather for 45 minutes, waiting for the opportunity to spend time with their imprisoned loved ones.  I expect I am not the only one who now has "Byrd flu" - that is what I am calling it because prison employee Byrd came to the door and told the waiting visitors that their printer was not working and they had no visitor forms, so they were having some brought over from the FCI.  When I asked if we could come inside to wait, pointing out that it was cold and there were small children who were freezing, he was even more cold than the frigid wind, responding, "No, you can't come inside.  We have policies."  Isn't it great to know that our own government has policies that allow federal employees to not do their jobs while small children, elderly mothers and the rest of us are locked outside the federal prison in cold weather trying to see our husbands, daddies, and sons for Christmas?

Did they make up for it by apologizing at least and giving all of you more visiting time at the other end, Judy?

No, Joan, no apologies and no caring on their part.  I asked if visiting would be extended due to it beginning so late.  "NO, visitation is from 8 til 3!"  Even though it wasn't, and no one was allowed in until almost 8:45.  But Friday, they terminated several visitors' time early, just because they can.  It's so depressing to go there in the first place, with all their abuse and corruption.  Holidays are extra bad, with most visitors being like me, having to be away from children, parents, sisters - basically, to visit the imprisoned, you have to abandon the rest of your family and friends and give up being "home for Christmas."  Friday night I cried, and I've cried since, seeing two young girls visiting their daddy, having their visit terminated, watching them openly sobbing, giving him last hugs and kisses before Christmas and being forced to leave early.  The only ones who seemed unaffected were the prison employees, one of whom - Landy - seemed to enjoy the pain he was causing.

It sounds rather sadistic, actually. I know we've talked about it before but it seems so counter-intuitive to make prisoners so isolated from their closest links to the outside world. And it's so cruel and unnecessary to punish prisoners' families who have to travel long distances, expending lots of time and energy with little to show for it. I bet many families just give up. It's probably a lot easier that way.

Nothing is easy, nor do the prison employees want anything to be easy, least of all for the families.  I don't believe they see any of us as human beings.  Prisoners are a commodity, translating into federal budget dollars and federal jobs.  The best way for prisons to get more money and jobs is to keep prisoners coming back, so they benefit by failing to prepare the prisoners for family and job success, instead doing everything they can to destroy families, because statistically, the least likely people to return to prison are those with intact marriages and families.  
The BOP routinely imprisons men and women far away from their families, making it difficult or impossible for family and friends to visit. Then they limit telephone calls to 300 minutes a month, illegally delay, interfere with and steal mail, and when people do visit, the prison employees make it as uncomfortable as possible (including temperatures in the 50s in summer).  It is truly sad to see how few visitors are there, especially on holidays, and when you meet someone who shares that they have not been able to visit in months or even years because of these abuses by the BOP.  Has there ever been any governmental agency that worked hard toward reducing their "share" of the budget pie or eliminating employees?  Of course not - they want all the power, dollars, and jobs they can get, so they need more and more prisoners.  

We have previously discussed some of their waste, but you might be interested in their recent spending spree, buying an unnecessary piece of equipment that cost close to a quarter of a million dollars, new SUVs, and sixteen (16) new 42" plasma televisions, even while refusing to provide paper napkins and hand soap for the prisoners.  And their withholding of medical care resulted in the recent death - murder by medical abuse - of a prisoner who begged for help, only to be refused.  James Walker died a week before Christmas, leaving his family to pay for his dead body to be shipped home for Christmas.

You mentioned families giving up.  When I was visiting Gary in prison, another prisoner locked his eyes with mine and said, "Between a year and a half and two years."

I waited.

"That's when family and friends stop visiting."

Thinking of our own reality and that of so many others I had met, I asked, "Because they run out of money?"

"Because they run out of love."

It hit me like a ton of bricks and brought tears to my eyes, both then and every time I think of that statement.  That's what prisoners fear most - that those they love will give up on them, that they will run out of love.

Gary's birthday is tomorrow. What are you doing to mark the occasion?

Our family and friends had sent cards, letters, books and magazines, the only things we can send, and we had planned to visit him on his birthday.  Gary and I had previously shared Twinkie and candy bar "toasts" on "special occasions" when I was able to visit.  We had planned to share his birthday and wishes for a happier - or at least less awful - new year, on Friday.  But he won't receive the cards or letters or books or magazines, nor will he have any visitors or kind, loving wishes shared on the telephone.  Since we began this interview, I have confirmed that he has been moved to Atlanta, where he is being held in solitary confinement conditions, locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, except for weekends, when he is locked in the cell 24 hours a day.  He is allowed no visitors for 30 days, then they plan to move him again, to Memphis, and repeat the cycle, preventing Gary and me, and our family and friends from having any contact.  And it is no coincidence that they are doing this at a time that is critical for our legal appeals and the lawsuit we filed because of all the abuse and corruption at Edgefield.

How did you find out that Gary had been moved, Judy? That must have come as a shock.

Gary called me as usual yesterday morning at 6:15.  He said he would be working on things in the law library and would call me at 11:15.  He never called.  When I left work yesterday, I called and asked if their phones and e-mail were "down" (another one of their frequent dirty tricks is taking the phones and e-mail down), telling the prison employee who answered the phone that I was concerned because I hadn't heard from my husband.  He replied, "He is no longer at this institution."  He said Gary was "in Atlanta."  And it was very shocking and upsetting.  But the BOP website still showed him as being at Edgefield.  I called Atlanta repeatedly beginning at 4:56 yesterday, and no one ever answered the phone until 2:12 this morning, trying to find Gary and find out what had happened.  I still don't know, and the Atlanta prison employee who confirmed Gary is there would not confirm whether he had his medication, which has been intermittently withheld since his imprisonment began on September 29, 2010.

What a story, Judy. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?  

No one should be treated this way, subjected to abuse and tortured by our government.  No one.  We are human beings, with God-given human rights.  The United States is always ready and willing to condemn such abuses beyond our borders, while actively engaging in the worst and most outrageous conduct imaginable.  I never knew, and I doubt I would have believed it if someone had told me what goes on in our federal prison system.

When you're able to be in touch with Gary again, please send him warm regards from the readers at OpEdNews. Thank you for sharing your story, Judy. Our hearts are with you two.

Other 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
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


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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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