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The Devil's in the Details: More Tales from Edgefield Federal Prison

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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, Judy. Please bring our readers up to speed on what's been going on with your husband, who is a prisoner at Edgefield Federal Prison Camp, in South Carolina.

It's been a very bad week.

On Friday morning, I put on a blue turtleneck. Gary had called me early and told me that it looked like one of our mountains was being moved. I knew what he was talking about.

The judge had said at sentencing that Gary would be sent to prison closest to home, which is Montgomery, Alabama, not Edgefield, South Carolina. Before his imprisonment, Gary had asked to be reassigned, but was ignored. Once someone is in prison, there is a designated person who has to sign for a transfer request to be considered. Gary went into prison with letters from my surgeon and doctor saying it was dangerous for asking, for my sake, that he be moved to Alabama and me to have to travel that far. The day he met the designated prison employee, he told her he needed to be transferred and attempted to show her the letters. She refused to even read them and told him, "I will never sign a transfer for you."
Gary was very distressed when he told me about it, and somehow, "Calm Rational Judy" took over. I said, "Gary, if that's what she said, we have to accept that she will never sign. But that makes her a mountain that must be moved. Just as we are praying for every mountain and obstacle to justice to be moved, if she has chosen to be a mountain, she will be moved, and someone else will sign, or you will be freed without her doing anything. Because God loves justice and HE loves you." So we, along with our "prayer partners" have prayed without ceasing that every mountain will be moved. My mother even asked for her name so she and my aunt could pray for her by name.

About a month ago, while Gary and I were in the visiting room on a Sunday afternoon, this prison employee had some kind of breakdown or meltdown, as I understand it, having what sounded like a violent temper tantrum, threatening prisoners and not allowing them to go to lunch, and then she put Gary's unit on lockdown and went through the prisoners' belongings, seizing every morsel of food they had and throwing it into 55 gallon barrels. Hearing about it reminded me of the Grinch - 'twas the season and all. Then she locked up the TV room so they couldn't watch football (or anything else), and flew off on her broom. Oops, I meant her Grinch-y sleigh.

There were lots of complaints about the situation, and there was even a "town hall meeting" about it, resulting, not surprisingly, in more threats against the prisoners. (It's no wonder the prison is on lockdown so much of the time, with the prison employees running the place being nothing but thugs themselves.) Complaints were sent to the regional office in Atlanta, and even to DC. But not, of course, by Gary, who, by divine plan, was not even present at the time. There were rumors that the employee was in trouble, that there were too many complaints and too much documentation of what she had done, and that she was being MOVED! Transferred, so she will continue to abuse and wreak havoc on other unfortunate prisoners, but MOVED!

That's what Gary meant. And when he said it, I was so thankful for the answer to so many prayers, even understanding, in the grand scheme of things, she was a "foothill" type of mountain. But with a range to be moved, it starts with one. I sent a message to the kids and prayer partners to let them know a mountain was moving and asking them to continue praying, along with me, and I thought we would surely Coke-toast the good news when I visit tomorrow.

I never wear the blue turtleneck without remembering that I was wearing it the day Gary was arrested. But Gary's mother gave it to me for Christmas, and he always liked for me to wear it. I thought, maybe I'll start to remember it as what I wore the day it all began to turn around.

But at 8:07 a.m., my phone rang, with Gary calling, which was unusual. When I answered, he told me he had just been called to the office and told to call me and tell me my visitation had been terminated for six months, effective immediately, while refusing to tell him any reason, saying I would be mailed a letter.

I was stunned, and called the prison. I was connected with William Mackelburg, who had obvious glee in his voice as he told me I couldn't visit my husband for six months because I wore a green velvet dress on Christmas.

the infamous green dress, Christmas, 2010

So, instead of it being a good sign, you got devastating news. That's doubly depressing. Please try to explain to us why your wearing a green dress could lead to this draconian punishment, Judy.

Because it was me. Because they have retaliated and threatened since my first visit on October 15th, when they were "uncomfortable" with my letter to the President and my interview with you. Because they don't like OpEdNews, or what you do, and they especially don't like what I do and what Gary and I do. Because they don't like their wrongdoing and abuse of prisoners to be exposed.

In fairness - a concept foreign to the prison employees - the prisoners wear green and wearing green (apparently all shades of green and all articles of clothing, not just clothing that looks similar to the prisoners' clothing) is prohibited, as I was informed on Christmas. The prison employee who enjoys strip-searching Gary said nothing to me as I was "processed in." But a couple of hours later, he called the duty officer, who came into the visiting room, approached only me - even though there were other visitors wearing green as well as other prohibited attire - and told me I needed to leave my coat on because I had on green and green was not allowed. I had my coat on already, and I did as I was told and kept it on. So, I did unwittingly violate a rule, but it is a rule, like so many others, that is not enforced, or selectively enforced - just me.
In fact, Friday evening, on the very day I was banned for six months and Gary was called in and subjected to a tirade of verbal abuse for submitting complaints, a visitor in green was allowed to visit, not turned away, not punished nor banned for any time at all.

Ultimately, however, the prison employees, according to federal law, have the responsibility to provide each prisoner with written information, including a dress code, to be sent to their visitors. Gary has never been given such information, nor have I. Specifically, "Upon approval of each visitor, staff shall provide the inmate with a copy of the visiting guidelines and with directions for transportation to and from the institution." That has never been done by "staff," at least, for Gary. Additionally, "Staff shall make available to all visitors written guidelines for visiting the institution. Staff shall have the visitor sign a statement acknowledging that the guidelines were provided." That has, likewise, never been done by "staff." I have never been offered, provided, or otherwise had made available anything at all, nor have I been asked to sign any acknowledgement that anything was provided.
In fact, Gary has been imprisoned for more than 100 days, and has never yet been asked for his visitor list, which, again according to federal law, "Staff shall ask each inmate to submit during the admission-orientation process a list of proposed visitors ." A&O [Admission and Orientation] is, by law, required to be completed within the first thirty days of imprisonment. And, in order for the warden to legally restrict my visitation, it must be "necessary to ensure the security and good order of the institution."

Maybe this takes us back to the exposure of wrongdoing and abuse thing, because, really, that - exposure - is what may constitute a threat to their job "security and good order." And the reason they have banned me from visiting my husband is because they have been unsuccessful in their draconian [great description, Joan] efforts to silence us, even with all the threats, retaliation, harassment, abuse, and just plain meanness.

I remember you've mentioned how they've threatened not to let you visit from the first time you were there. It looks like they have now accomplished that. What has Gary done? Are they allowed to punish him for filing complaints, or for any imaginable thing?

Federal law, written policies, procedures, and the prison's handbook don't "allow" abuse of prisoners (or their families), but who is responsible for compliance or enforcement? Edgefield's administration not only allows such abuse, but also encourages it and participates in it. They just promoted a prison employee who is under investigation for threatening Gary! Does that sound like the administration takes threats against prisoners "very seriously," as they claim in numerous written documents? Gary's imprisonment, from the first day, has violated so many rules and laws, beginning with withholding of his prescription medications, medical abuse, and his falsified medical records, to failure to provide basic human necessities, including heat and adequate living space and conditions, uncontaminated and unexpired food products, and adequate, season-appropriate, clean and dry clothing. Food, shelter, and clothing are recognized as basic necessities, even in third-world countries, but not at Edgefield.

And, without exception, every issue or need brought to the attention of the prison employees has been ignored, beyond generating abuse, retaliation and threats, always threats. At the same time, the prison employees blatantly ignore and break the law, without fear of consequences, understanding no one in a position to hold them accountable cares about the prisoners, and the system is set up to give them a free reign of terror. I keep thinking of Abu Ghraib, and the public outrage over the abuse of potential-terrorist prisoners in the custody of our military. Edgefield's federal employees are charged with rehabilitating and modeling legal, ethical, and moral behavior for the prisoners who have been removed from "normal" society. What do they learn?

Gary has done absolutely nothing wrong or impermissible, but that hasn't stopped them from abusing and threatening him. They really seem to be offended by complaints. So they simply ignore them, again in violation of laws and rules that require specific actions, tracking, and time frames for responses. Even inquiries from our senator haven't caused them to comply with the law; they have simply printed a response letter full of false information, affixed the "signature" of the warden who isn't even there anymore, having been promoted to the regional office in Atlanta, and retaliated against Gary and me, seeking to silence all complaints.

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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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