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Life Arts    H2'ed 12/15/13

Forrest City FCI: Where Visitors, Civil Rights and Human Dignity Are Unwelcome

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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 #26. [links to entire series at end of article.]

My guest is frequent OpEdNews contributor, Judy White. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. 

JB: When I read about the recent federal indictments of jail officials in Los Angeles,  I thought about you and Gary.  Those sheriff's deputies didn't stop with beating up prisoners. They beat up visitors, too! What's been going on at Forrest City federal prison?

JW: Thank you, Joan.

As you know, our last installment in this series was posted around 6:30 p.m. on November 11th, Veteran's Day.  By early the following morning, BOPers had begun retaliating by interfering with mine and Gary's communications, slowing down the prison system's version of e-mail, but just between Gary and me, not systemwide.  Messages that "normally" take between an hour and ten minutes and an hour and a half to be transmitted were delayed as long as seven hours.  Likewise, mail I had sent to Gary was withheld and not delivered to him within the time set by federal law and BOP written policy - "law" and "policy" are just words to be ignored without consequence.  That is what they do.  When they don't like what we say, they literally block our communications, also defined as First Amendment Retaliation, both a criminal act and civil rights violation, but federal prosecutors have no interest in enforcing the law or protecting the rights of prisoners or their family members.

But that wasn't all.  By later that night or actually, the pre-dawn hours of the next morning, BOP Inmate Locator began showing Gary was back in Edgefield, where he was five prisons ago before the BOP began bouncing him around like a hot potato.  The same thing happened with Inmate Locator the last time they retaliated against our exposures of their corruption by moving Gary to Forrest City.

JB: That must have been unnerving.

JW: BOPers do all that to inflict emotional distress, knowing how upsetting it is for family and me, in particular, to not know where Gary is or even if he is alive.

Additionally, the next time I was allowed to visit Gary, I was mistreated particularly badly, then made to wait an hour and ten minutes once I made it into the prison visiting room, as they simply didn't page Gary or let him know he had a visitor or allow him to move from his housing unit to the visiting room to spend time with me.  They treated the wife of one of the other prisoners who shared what had happened similarly, not paging her husband as she waited.

The mistreatment of visitors in general has reached a new low, I'm sorry to say.  At Forrest City, visitors are clearly discouraged and unwanted by the BOP, even though they are fully aware of visitation RIGHTS and the known benefits of prisoners having visitors.  One research study I read some time ago identified the two most important factors in low rates of recidivism as active involvement in religious faith practices and family ties, with the number and frequency of visits while in prison being directly tied to recidivism.  High level of family visits equals low recidivism; low level of family visits equals high recidivism.  Yet the BOP persists in making family ties as difficult as possible, placing prisoners in prisons far removed from their homes and loved ones, effectively penalizing the children, wives, parents and other family members and friends who want and need to spend time with their imprisoned loved ones by requiring long costly trips for each visit, only to be outrageously abused by BOPers when they come.  

JB: I don't get it Judy. Why?

JW: As we've discussed before, prisoners are capital, and the BOP wants to maintain and increase prisoners, budget dollars and federal prison jobs.  They simply have no incentive for reducing recidivism, as that would directly and adversely impact "their" money - our tax dollars - and some of the overpaid, underworked federal government employees would lose their cushy jobs.

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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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