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June 6, 2014

BOP: Not Only Cruel and Unusual - Insensitive, Vindictive AND Just Plain Ridiculous

By Joan Brunwasser

For two years, Dave has sought medical treatment because of blood in his urine.Eventually, Dave was taken to the hospital, where it was quickly determined that he has multiple tumors and needs emergency medical intervention and surgery. The emergency treating physician told Dave that if he had not gotten to the hospital, he would be in the newspaper, the obituary section.He remains in prison,without surgery or a treatment plan


The Happy Couple - Before
(Image by photo collection of Judy White)
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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 #30. [Links to entire series at end of article*.]

My guest today is frequent OpEdNews contributor, Judy White.

Joan Brunwasser: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. What's on your mind today?

Judy White: Prison employees, a unique breed of purely abusive beings. As we have discussed before, Forrest City employees are especially unprofessional in endless ways. Only at Forrest City have prison employees been allowed to come to "work" less professionally dressed than employees at Walmart or Waffle House or any fast-food restaurant. While taxpayers provide uniforms for federal prison employees, that's just wasted money at Forrest City, where the prison employees are allowed to wear t-shirts and jeans, fishing hats and ball caps.

And while visitors are constantly and summarily - and illegally - denied visitation with their imprisoned loved ones at the whim of prison employees, those prison employees are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights through statements on shirts that are abusive and demeaning to the prisoners for whom they are supposed to be setting positive examples. The BOP claims they do not allow the abuse of prisoners, assuring the public and the powers-that-be in Washington that they "respect" prisoners. What a lie.

JB: What do you mean? Are you talking about something specific?

JW: Last month, for instance, a federal prison employee in Forrest City had the poor judgment to wear a shirt proclaiming "IF YOU BUILD IT" - depiction of prison complete with razor wire - "THEY WILL COME", meaning prisoners, of course. The sentiment demonstrated by the shirt and its wearer is a perfect illustration of what prison employees are interested in: more prisons, more jobs and money for more and more prison employees/union members.

Is that statement representative of our federal government, particularly at a time when the need for "justice" reform is moving to the front burner, in no small part because of the unaffordability of imprisoning more people than any other nation in the world? The shirt demonstrates not only disrespect and a demeaning attitude towards the prisoners and the public, but a narcissistic perspective that it's all about jobs for prison employees. In fact, the federal prison's only legitimate claim to success is at providing jobs for sociopaths and individuals who would be otherwise unemployable. With a dismal record of rehabilitating anyone and a high rate of recidivism that translates into "We'll leave the light on for you" (as one prison employee told a man who had paid his debt to society and was being released), it is clear that prison employees understand that more and more prisoners are needed to provide more and more jobs for the "prison industrial complex."

Anyone who has the attitude expressed by the shirt should not work for the government in any capacity, and no one should be able to wear that shirt to any government job, least of all a job where they come into contact with prisoners. While there may be no help available for idiots, prisoners and the public would benefit from providing sensitivity training for prison employees. We would all benefit if prison employees actually fulfilled their responsibilities and did the jobs they are charged with doing, rather than working to ensure the constant flow of people into the prison system.

JB: That's a rather macabre T-shirt and I agree, quite inappropriate as well as disrespectful. What else is going on?

JW: There is so much! But let's start with the constant issue of medical abuse and a strange new issue: paper plates. I can't wait to share paper plates with you, but let's start with medical, because of a recent development far from Forrest City. In New York City, a prison employee has been charged in the death of a prisoner after the guard failed to obtain medical care for that prisoner. [See this link.]

JB: That's awful. On the other hand, I'm glad that medical abuse is at least finally getting some media attention.

JW: Since Gary's self-surrender on September 29, 2010, he has never been provided proper or reasonable medical care. His medications have been repeatedly withheld for days, weeks or months at a time, placing his life and health in danger, and he has not been allowed to see or be seen by a doctor. The BOPers have noted in Gary's official prison records that they believe he has cancer, but Gary has not been seen by a doctor in over a year and a half.

In these interviews, we have also discussed other prisoners who have been denied medical care and treatment, including prisoners who have died as the result of withheld medical care and one who almost died of sepsis and had multiple amputations because the prison employees refused to treat a toenail infection in a diabetic.

Today we are very concerned about Dave, one of Gary's fellow prisoners in Forrest City. Dave is 71 years old and should be released in October, just about four months from now. In fact, Dave should have already been moved to a halfway house. For the past two years, Dave has sought medical treatment because of blood in his urine. As his condition has become dramatically worse and Dave has become much sicker, his medical needs and efforts to obtain treatment have been consistently ignored or denied by prison employees. The BOP routinely and purposely withholds treatment, then releases sick prisoners to get whatever help they can get on their own. Dave's medical needs became even more urgent when he began passing blood clots along with lots of blood. Seeking help, he went to medical, only to again be told no, that there were "procedures" and he had not been approved for assessment or treatment.

Dave understood that he was in serious trouble and that prison employees live by their unofficial motto: We Don't Care! So he begged to be taken to the hospital. Denied, and told to go back to his housing unit, Dave had no choice but to take a stand. He told the prison employees he was not leaving medical, that he had to be taken to the hospital. Eventually, Dave was taken to the hospital, where it was quickly and easily determined that he has multiple tumors and needs emergency medical intervention and surgery. The emergency treating physician told Dave that if he had not gotten to the hospital, he would be in the newspaper. In the obituary section.

Want to guess what happened next?


Dave was taken from the hospital back to the prison where he remains today, without surgery and without a treatment plan to save his life. It's like they are gambling with Dave's life, taking a chance that he will live until he is released and no longer be the responsibility of the BOP. In an act of pure cruelty, they gave Dave hope, taking him from the prison to see a doctor, but after he sat in chains in the doctor's office waiting all day, it was determined that the prison employees had taken Dave to the wrong doctor, so they took him back to prison where he remains, living in fear that the tumors growing inside him will kill him because the BOP refuses to provide treatment to save his life. If Dave survives until his release in October, he will be shifted to the VA system, another government-run healthcare system known for corruption and for denial of care.

Then there is also John, another prisoner who has been very ill and seeking medical treatment for some time. John actually had an appointment set up to see a doctor at the prison, an outside doctor contracted to provide medical care for prisoners. as I understand it. When John finally saw the doctor, he took John's blood pressure, then dismissed him. John protested and told him he had serious medical problems, which was why he needed to see the doctor. The doctor told John to see the prison nurse, that he - the doctor - was only there to take his vitals so the BOP could "CYA" (the doctor's terminology, not mine). John was incredulous, asking why the nurse didn't take vitals and the doctor assess and diagnose, only to be told that is not how the system works. Obviously not, as it is all about denying care and treatment while covering for prison employees and, apparently, contracted doctors go along with the BOP healthcare denial.

Speaking of contracted doctors, a BOP administrator was indicted for corruption just over a week ago. [See this link.]

JB: Unspeakably sad; Dave must be beyond discouraged. Well, we've "covered" medical. Now where, Judy?

JW: Now I would really like to talk about paper plates because it's a bit bizarre.

JB: Okay. Go for it.

JW: I visited Gary Sunday. It was our anniversary and being aware of our special day, the BOPers saved our special seats for us, the ones designated for solitary confinement prisoners, directly in front of the desk where the prison employees stare at us throughout visits. A prison employee named Brockway actually assigned four other prisoners' visitors out of order just so we would be front and center all day. Then they announced a brand new Paper Plate Policy. It's an actual written policy with ominous undertones, hinting that a prisoner somewhere in prisondom had somehow used the lack of a paper plate to smuggle in contraband, and the memo ended, as always, with a threat, but prisoners are not allowed to print or share it.

We've discussed the disgusting prison food situation, including the predominant use of expired and "not for human consumption" labeled meats and food used to feed prisoners, and we've discussed that the food and drinks purchased from vending machines during limited visits from family is the only healthy, nutritious and safe food prisoners are able to consume. The time Gary and I are allowed to spend together is so very important, and part of the importance is that for those few precious hours, I am able to purchase for him the best food he will be able to have until our next visit. Sad, isn't it, when the best hope for healthy food is a visitor armed with cash for vending machines. But I digress.

There was a memo from a prison employee higher-up stating that effective last Saturday, prisoners would no longer be allowed to receive vending machine food in wrappers or packaging, but the visitors would have to take the food from the vending machine, remove the wrapper, place the food on a paper plate and deliver it to their imprisoned loved one. The prison employees expanded that to include visitors, too, even children. There was a stack of paper plates placed on a desk between the desk where the prison employees "supervise" visitation and the vending area.

So far, so good, and actually a decent idea for sandwiches, although not at all "green" as prison employees like to portray themselves and the BOP. But I had purchased a fruit cup for Gary, containing mandarin oranges and "100% fruit juice." When the prison employee stood and announced the new policy and the requirement that "all" vending products be removed from their packaging and placed on paper plates, Gary had not even been allowed to join me, but I was front and center, which was convenient for me to stand holding my fruit cup, and point to it. A BOPer I hadn't seen before said, "Yes, you have to put that on a paper plate." "Fruit? And fruit juice?" I asked.

After a brief discussion with another BOPer, they decided that they had better check with someone higher up since the contents of my purchased fruit cup could not be placed on a paper plate. In the meantime, until the details of managing the fruit cup on a paper plate were worked out, I was allowed to keep the fruit cup in its clear plastic cup. When Gary was allowed to join me, I let him know about the fruit-and-juice-on-a-paper-plate controversy and he quickly drank the juice and ate the fruit lest I be ordered to put it on a paper plate, which would make quite a mess. Since it was Sunday, they were undoubtedly unable to reach anyone high enough up in the BOP bureaucracy to be able to make a definitive decision that fruit-and-juice cups and paper plates just don't work together.

JB: Unbelievably pointless and ridiculous. What a mess, on all fronts.

JW: Speaking of messes, back in the visiting room, things were getting really messy. The BOPers had brought in additional garbage cans to accommodate the paper plates. The garbage cans have flat tops, so, along with the desk with the paper plates, the garbage can tops became makeshift tables for food preparation, with visitors having to place the paper plates on the garbage can lids then move the food from its packaging to place it on the paper plate. I mentioned sandwiches, but everything had to be on a paper plate - M&Ms, crackers, candy bars, gummy fruit, cookies, everything. Then, all the paper plates were gone, but those innovative and flexible BOPers dealt with the crisis by bringing out a huge package of styrofoam plates which were replenished with additional styrofoam plates throughout the remainder of the day.

Styrofoam, as you know, is on the extreme environmental no-no list, not only because it doesn't break down, and not only because of the environmental damage inherent in manufacturing styrofoam, but because of the harmful toxic fumes emitted when it is microwaved, which should never be done. Everyone in the room undoubtedly got a lung full of those fumes Sunday as hamburgers, chicken wings, egg rolls, barbecue sandwiches, breakfast foods and other microwaveable foods were placed on those styrofoam plates and microwaved hour after hour, all day long.

The nice thing about the styrofoam plates was that children were able to use them along with plastic forks for craft projects. I saw one little boy using the fork to make eye and mouth holes and create a mask.

The rumor was that a visitor had somehow smuggled drugs into the visiting room, disguised the container holding the drugs as a food item, and that the prisoner being visited had swallowed the drugs in the container for later use or distribution. One visitor. One prisoner. Who was caught, apparently, even without paper plates, but this one incident had to be blown up and used to create a crisis while blaming the constant availability of contraband in prison on visitors bringing items in during weekly visits. This is, of course, ridiculous.

JB: Why's that?

JW: Prison employees are the primary source of drugs and all other contraband in federal prisons. Think volume. Even if every visitor smuggled in drugs at every visit, they would not be able to smuggle in a sufficient quantity to supply just that single prisoner between visits. Most prisoners never have any visitors and most prisoners, in Gary's and my opinion, do not participate in the contraband smuggling business. There are thousands of prison employees with unlimited capacity to bring in whatever they want every single day. Remember when Gary was in solitary confinement? Only prison employees could supply contraband to that area. Yet contraband was readily available to Gary from the first day he was there. And remember the gallon jugs of whiskey in Millington? How exactly would a visitor smuggle in a gallon of anything, pass it to a prisoner, and have the prisoner pass the post-visit search? It simply is not possible.

BOPers do not want to stop the flow, as it is too profitable for prison employees who sell contraband to prisoners. And the problem of prison employees' involvement in smuggling in contraband for personal profit has been well-known at the highest levels of government for over a decade even as they have chosen not to do anything to address or resolve the problem, according to this Department of Justice Office of Inspector General report and others.

JB: Your assessment of who's responsible for supplying most of the contraband is correct, Judy. I skimmed the governmental report and discovered those findings for myself [see pages v and 35].

JW: As for visitors, BOPers will never be able to stop any minuscule amounts of contraband brought into prison by visitors (competitors with BOP smugglers) because they are too busy focusing on whether there are any exposed toes or visible upper arms or V-neck tops or skinny jeans or whistleblowers to be harassed, and they are too obsessively focused on harassing me in particular and watching every move I make. It gives special meaning to the phrase, "They can't see the Forrest for the trees," doesn't it?

JB: At least you've somehow kept your sense of humor, Judy. Thanks so much for continuing to share your story with us. Please send our regards to Dave as well as Gary on your next visit. I hope the BOP finally wakes up and properly takes care of him and the other prisoners.

And I understand that we'll be discussing some interesting new developments in our next installment. So, dear readers, please join us then.


* 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

Scrooged! Millington Federal Prison Camp's Version of Christmas Spirit , December 24, 2012

The Bureau of Prisons, The Flood and Your Tax Dollars At Work , January 27, 2013

Revenge of the BoP: OpEdNews Censored in Two Federal Prisons , February 17, 2013

Warning: Incarceration in US Prison May Prove Hazardous to Your Health , February 23, 2013

Battling Injustice: the BOP and Corrupt Judges , June 18, 2013

Ties that Bind: How the BOP Undermines Families, Part One , July 27, 2013

Ties that Bind - How the BOP Undermines Families, Part Two , July 30, 2013

Anti-Crimson Tide Discrimination? September 15, 2013

Inmates Stick Their Necks Out to Cast Light on Recent Prison Death November 11, 2013

Forrest City FCI: Where Visitors, Civil Rights and Human Dignity Are Unwelcome December 14, 2013

Forrest City Federal Prison: Where Prisoners Don't Have a Prayer January 7, 2014

Here They Go Again! Watch BOP Make Up Infractions On the Fly February 22, 2014

Inside the Polygon of Club Fed - Where Severe Weather and Sadistic Federal Prison Employees Are a Nasty Brew April 30, 2014

Submitters Website: http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html

Submitters Bio:

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 transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning. Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations - authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we're all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done. When Joan hit one million page views, OEN Managing Editor, Meryl Ann Butler interviewed her, turning interviewer briefly into interviewee. Read the interview here.

While the news is often quite depressing, Joan nevertheless strives to maintain her mantra: "Grab life now in an exuberant embrace!" Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz.