Marijuana Activist Marc Emery Prison Blog
[Editor's note: Marc has begun writing regular "newsletters" that he photocopies and mails to supporters who write to him. We are posting these newsletters online as part of Marc's blog. Find out more about Marc Emery, including how to help bring him home to Canada, and how to send him a letter, at www.FreeMarc.ca. Marc's blogs are also posted at FreeMarc.ca]
January 10-17th 2011: I have had many complaints about this concentration camp for foreigners. No US citizens are incarcerated here, where nothing ever seems to improve. But one aspect of my situation has gotten better.
The photocopier for inmates is finally available for use after this place has been operating 3 months. My fingers are so aching from writing five or six 8-10 page letters every day that I have decided to type up the whole story so I can mail it to people and add personalized parts at the end. I am falling behind in my correspondence; I’ve about 35 to 40 people I want to get back to but it’s not possible, so I hope this new format will suffice to keep them informed.
Marc Emery posing with his visiting wife Jodie in a photo from SeaTac FDC, July 4th 2010.Nothing at D. Ray James, this private prison run by GEO Group, ever can be an exclusively good thing, so while the photocopier is functioning, the typewriters have not had correctable ribbon for 3 weeks now, so typos will abound this original hand-written newsletter, and there is little I can do about it.
This typewriter is vintage 1983. I hadn’t seen a typewriter for over 20 years until I got to D. Ray James. Even though US citizens in a “low” security prison have access to email (hours a day), computers, word processors, and printers, that is far too much for the ‘foreigner scum’ housed here at DRJCI. My apologies in advance for numerous typos in this letter I am unable to correct. [Note from Jodie Emery: typos and errors have been corrected for this online version.]
My job here at D. Ray James is to keep the inmate reading library in good order, straighten the shelves, prevent theft, keep the noise level down, and try to encourage the powers that be to spend some money on obtaining current books and magazines. The lady that is the Head of Library Services is Doctor Davis.
I was dismissed from this job on December 20th, 2010 because I love the library too much to see it dysfunctional. Not a single book or magazine in the English Language has been acquired in 3 months since D. Ray James Correctional Institution opened “for business” on October 4th 2010. There were 20 or so beat up magazines from July and August 2010 (although the only copy of Rolling Stone Magazine was from August 2009) and about 7 Spanish magazines (for about 1,000 Spanish-speaking inmates!). The library is made up of 3,332 books (I did the official inventory), 2,930 in English, all 10-40 years old, beat-up beyond belief, decrepit, ex-library, obsolete. There are 400 books total in Spanish. These were acquired when the prison opened, but are largely classical novels. That is the only purchase I have seen this facility make for the library.
So I ordered magazine & book purchasing catalogs. I, with the kindly librarian, Mr. Folk (not a real librarian; he actually applied to be head of security, but they made him the librarian instead — and he has since retired) giving me permission, filled out requisition forms to order magazine subscriptions. I was told by Mr. Folk to order 20 subscriptions to popular magazines.
One day, Dr. Davis came in and was alarmed by a library aide (me) filling out the GEO Group Requisition forms. I nonetheless read her the magazines I had chosen: Car Craft, The Sporting News, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, TV y Novellas, National Geographic… “Oh we aren’t getting National Geographic,” Dr. Davis said. “That’s way too sexually explicit. I know what the inmates are looking for when they read National Geographic. No, we won’t be subscribing to that.”
“But” I responded, slack jawed, “National Geographic is the single most subscribed magazine by libraries the world over. Every elementary school has a subscription to National Geographic.”
“Well, we won’t be subscribing to it here. Way too sexually explicit.”
It’s noteworthy that National Geographic is specifically EXEMPTED in Bureau of Prison Policy and Procedure from being considered indecent even if it does show aboriginal tribes with exposed nipples or genitalia (which isn’t common anyway). So that’s the kind of mind-set of the HEAD of Education and Library Services.
The next day, my personal subscription copy of National Geographic arrived with “King David and His Times” on the front cover, perfect for backward southeast Georgia, with articles inside on the 12th century Christian church architecture of Spain. No naked aboriginals anywhere to be found. So I put it up on the magazine rack, and it is without question the most popular magazine amongst the inmates.
We have not received any magazines through subscriptions by the institution since the time Dr. Davis took the magazine subscription requisition form. Then, as you might be aware, I had Jodie announce to my Facebook supporters — now numbering over 35,000 — Marc Emery’s D. Ray James Library Resuscitation Program. Since this penny-pinching place won’t improve the library, I took it upon myself to do it. I asked supporters to send me like-new current magazines, and they did. Dozens of them. I asked for contemporary Spanish-language novels and fans responded by sending dozens of them, and over 100 books in English. I was sent current law texts, hardcover Spanish to English dictionaries (the library — incredibly — had none), and large pictorial books, all for donation to the inmate library.
Then the people working here started going on the internet, and they learned of my plan to improve the library despite the best effort to keep the inmates in the dark and stupid, without any current reading material (except the atrocious newspaper, USA Today), and dismissed me after 100 items for donation to the library arrived. The mailroom stopped me from receiving any books or magazines. They rejected numerous letters sent to me. They cut off my phone access over the Christmas Holidays from December 22nd to 27th, 2010, as they did to every Canadian here, and some Canadians had not even had their phone access restored 16 days later (but more of that D. Ray James perfidy later). In short, my effort to do what this institution refuses to do — make the law library and reading library viable and current — was stymied and I was punished for caring too much about the inmates’ welfare. It’s clear the people who run this facility do not care, and want the library to be moribund and of little use to inmates.
In the law library, I am still doing paralegal work. I have supplied the other paralegals, a team of 4 other inmates, with information and texts and newsletter subscriptions and contacts on the outside to help us because the institution here provides no resources other than a clunky version of Lexus/Nexus, a program that will show all existing federal statutes. The five paralegals do virtually all the documents, inquiries, motions, appeals, grievances, requests, for all the 1,000 inmates, who largely don’t speak English, and very few write credibly in English. This is a huge task, to which they get paid 12 cents an hour (in my case) up to 40 cents an hour (in the case of Guy, a Pakistani-born British man who has a college education).
Of course, we can’t use a computer for all these formal documents! We have to use these ancient, obsolete typewriters, using non-correctable ribbon. Using the word processor, which is here, connected to a printer, which is here, would be a standard at every “Low” security prison for US citizen inmates, but we foreigners are too contemptible to be entrusted with the word processor so all our work for the inmates has to be done on these ridiculously time-consuming typewriters. Even though every one of the inmates is here for a non-violent offense, many are just illegal residents within the United States, working without permits. We are treated like we are in a medium-high security prison.
I was dismissed on December 20th, 2010, but on January 6th, 2011 I was reinstated. The warden was away for 2 weeks, and on his first day back he saw me. He said, “Emery, you shouldn’t have been fired from the Library. You’re reinstated.”
“Excellent, Sir,” I said. “There are issues with the mail room I’d like to discuss. My mail is being rejected, books are restricted to me —”
“Let’s talk about that later,” he said. “Right now, can you tell your people to stop the emails and phone calls to my office and GEO Offices in Boca Raton?”
So, I’m back in the library, and at some point I can donate books and magazines to the library. I’ve never figured out the reason the top brass forbid inmates from giving books and their own subscriptions to the library. The library is, after all, for the inmates, it is common practice at any other prison. It’s all about control here. Any initiative here by the inmates is a threat to their control mentality. That’s the whole reason. They do not have any rationally grounded reason. At first it was some invented rule about the Dept. of Justice forbidding donations, but in reality it’s just that donations require a bit of 30-second paperwork, which I did when I donated any book or magazine. But it’s all about control really.
The library is unfortunately extremely pathetic. All the books are beat-up, decrepit condition ex-library books 10-40 years old. They are obsolete, largely book club fiction hardcovers. There are, inexplicably for a male-only prison, about 300 Harlequin romance novels; one of the biggest — if not the biggest — category in the library. The library hasn’t spent a dime on any new magazines since opening, so the dozen or so that have survived from summer of 2010 are falling apart now. In December there were 15 magazines that were current once my donations from people like you started coming in: Rolling Stone, National Geographic, Runners World, Dog World, Time, Beautiful British Columbia, Newsweek, and others. Donations were the only source of current material, other than the atrocious USA Today. I would donate my personal daily New York Times for actual newspaper content.
I’m going to lend around any magazines I get, but the mailroom has me on this bizarre program that in order for me to receive books I have to mail out an equal number of books. So on Tuesday, I’ll go to the mailroom, and pick up to 5 books, but I have to bring 5 books back to the mailroom to be mailed to my friend Loretta Nall. In any other prison, I could just donate to the library, give them away or put them in storage in my property, but not at DRJCI. There is no policy or procedure in their own book of rules specifying this; it’s just made up and applies only to me, as no other inmate is required to do this. But as I shall point out later, there is a whole routine of discrimination against the Canadians here by our American overlords.
[Note from Jodie: Marc has been told that the 5-book rule no longer applies, and he is now getting all of his mail and books, but only because the warden spoke to the mail room. Please keep sending mail. Address at www.FreeMarc.ca]
The Canadians, being from an English-speaking country with a modicum of civilization, know what’s rational and normal in these circumstances, and are all bitching and complaining about the bizarre conditions here and about the unequal treatment we are receiving in this concentration camp for non-US citizens. A full comparison of the differences in treatment for Canadians in the US Federal Prison system vs. how an American is treated in a US Prison comes later. Canadians know it’s wrong and we speak out.
The Hispanics, for now, know that there is little they can do about any inequities, so they tolerate them. But by summer there will be 2,500 inmates, and right now Georgia is cool in winter. When it gets hot and humid in summer, day after day, and this institutional insanity carries on, we shall see what they will and will not tolerate.
Starting on Monday, January 10th, I’ll be getting the reading library in order. It’s a mess now. The shelves haven’t been straightened. There is no method for tracking down overdue books, and many books loaned out are overdue. I get most of the paralegal books and newsletters so I’ll continue to help various inmates but that will fall to Guy, Darren, Miguel, and Eugenio to do, although many inmates come to me because they’ve seen fellow inmates get their paperwork done by me.
I had a visit from Richard Malloy Barnes, the staff lawyer for Georgia NORML. He drove 8 hours from Atlanta largely just to meet me and see how I was doing. But I asked him if he would be our prison lawyer at pro-bono rates, maybe $60 or $70 an hour, to send letters to the prison in matters of extreme neglect or obstruction of clearly defined legal rights. I figure a good letter taking 30 minutes could be sent to the prison here on a really egregious matter. For example, there is an inmate where who had his dentures lost by GEO last June, now 7 months ago. He has put in 9 requests to have his dentures replaced, but even though GEO Group lost them, they have still been unwilling to replace them. Now, after 9 refusals, GEO Group at D. Ray James Correctional Institution is saying that because he is now less than a year to go on his sentence, they don’t have to replace them! Meanwhile, his gums are in pain from 7 months of trying to eat without his dentures, and swollen too. The prospect of going another eleven months without dentures is very discouraging for him. Yet that’s what GEO Group (DRJCI) is telling him. So I looked up dental care court precedents in my Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual, a fabulous 900+ page huge tome by John Boston, and found out that “willful indifference” in the case of serious dental need — “serious” meaning there is pain and swelling of the gums — constitutes an actionable negligence. This fellow, having done 7 months now without dentures, now constitutes a willful negligence; to go another eleven months makes it a certainty. On his last grievance form, I attached the relevant court cases and law to underscore his request. Even if they didn’t lose his existing dentures, they are obligated to maintain his dental regime of adequate dentures.
In an FCI (Federal Correctional Institution) for US citizens, this would not even be a problem. It would be a routine issuance of dentures. For us foreigner scum in the US Federal System, all these for-profit prisons we are warehoused in care about is spending as little money on us as possible. There is one doctor here for 1,100 inmates, and one dentist. As you’ll see in the chart that follows, we are deprived of virtually every amenity, opportunity or facility that Americans in the US Federal System get.
So I asked lawyer Barnes if he could send some letters on behalf of prisoners here who really need a little outside help, and I would have my supporters try to raise $1,500.00 or so to retain him to do these letters and some follow-up. “It’s got be cheap,” I said. So we’re going to discuss these things further, but I think having a Georgia lawyer keeping an eye on this prison and the inmates in here is a good idea if it can be done inexpensively. If you are interested in helping with a financial contribution to legal representation on behalf of the inmate population here at D. Ray James Correctional Institution, email my wife email@example.com and discuss how you can make a $25.00 or $50.00 donation to this retainer.
I’ve received many legal texts thanks to my friend Dana Larsen. Paralegal Procedure, Burtons Legal Thesaurus, a US Jailhouse Lawyers’ Manual, Prisoner Self-Help Litigation Manual, and subscriptions to Prison Legal News (see their website at prisonlegalnews.org). The US Jailhouse Lawyers Manual is an excellent primer for understanding and doing writs of Habeas Corpus, despite there being 178 typographical errors in the first 50 pages of the book. Yes, I said 178 errors; it’s self-published I think, and maybe he put the first rough draft disc in the printer, but I hope to send him my edit and maybe I can get an editor credit in the next edition.
A writ of Habeas Corpus, a term seldom used in Canada (an American legal term that does, however, stem from British common law), is a demand to be in court requiring the state/authorities of the prison to demonstrate that the prisoner’s detention follow the letter of the law/rule of law. It is a mechanism to seek relief, from the court, of unlawful or unjust conditions, treatment, or detention. So I learned in this book when an inmate can file a writ of Habeas Corpus. The courts require an inmate, for example, to exhaust all internal remedies via the internal grievance process. D. Ray James is sneaky in that regard. Many times you file a form or grievance, the staff here simply do not answer back. What are you going to do? This is a rogue facility. They often don’t even make the proper forms available so you cannot file a proper grievance. Then they didn’t have a photocopier available so you couldn’t make copies of your documents.
It’s very complicated, all the forms, the grievance process, etc. Considering 97% of inmates here are non-English speaking and hardly literate in English, that makes the paralegal advisers very valuable. Most staff here at D. Ray James Correctional Institution do not know the correct procedure to recommend to any inmate requiring a grievance form.
All appeals about the treatment of an inmate here go to GEO Group, not the Bureau of Prisons, so there is no government agency that oversees these grievances or requests. It’s handled as a business or corporate matter, incredibly. I believe the only real way to get any help for inmates is media exposure, outside pressure, getting the truth out to the Canadian and American public. I think most Canadians are surprised to find out that Canadians in the US Federal Prison System are ghettoed into a concentration camp completely different from what US citizens in the US Federal System experience.
I’ve gotten all these great books on jailhouse lawyering from my friend Dana Larsen, who is currently campaigning very seriously for the leadership of the British Columbia New Democratic Party. It’s a quixotic campaign centered on Dana’s sound views on repealing marijuana prohibition. I fear Mike Farnsworth will be the next leader of the BC NDP. Farnsworth is a prohibitionist; he has always parroted the ‘more cops, more laws, more prisons, more punishment’ mantra that the BC Liberal Party and upstart BC Conservative Party already advocate. The only ideological alternative in the case of Farnsworth taking over the BC NDP leadership would be the BC Green Party, who seem to be poorly led by Jane Sterk, a hard-to-like, prickly matron of a leader who clearly dislikes people and politics, and certainly does little to improve her party’s standing with the people of British Columbia. Ineffectual as leader, she may as well be invisible. In the 20 months since the most recent BC provincial election, her distant personality and her lack of any common touch, along with inaction and lethargy, have made the BC Greens irrelevant and a non-factor in BC Politics, even though the brand itself is polling 12%. My wife Jodie is on the executive council of the BC Greens but she has become somewhat disillusioned. Sterk is certain to be ignored in the next election, trounced on the day of the vote, which could be this spring or this fall if a provincial election is called. It’s a huge missed opportunity that the BC Greens cannot take advantage of the political vacuum that exists in BC right now. With both the BC Liberals and NDP searching for new leaders, and the Greens as the third party of BC (the Conservatives are just starting up), no one has captured the public imagination from either party. After the BC Greens get no results in the next election, Sterk will have to resign and then the BC Greens will have only one more opportunity to get a leader with charisma, gravitas, vision, toughness and an enthusiasm for campaigning virtually non-stop. Plus some good ideas that contrast with the NDP/Liberal line, and a vision that can be clearly articulated to the voters of BC. It may take a generation to alter the way we treat the environment and the planet, so the BC Greens should focus on what can be done immediately in the field of social justice in appealing to voters. That means police reform, ending prohibition, more civilian oversight, a viable and accessible citizen initiative process that cannot be undermined by the legislature, more choice in schooling, giving more power back to the people, empowering the cynical mass of citizens who are weary of government being the problem when the solutions stare at us.
I did have a visit with MLA (member of the provincial Legislative Assembly) Guy Gentner, on Sunday, January 2nd. This thoughtful and intelligent elected representative from British Columbia (NDP — North Delta) was visiting his daughter in Gainesville, Florida, when he announced in a newspaper interview he was planning to visit me while in Florida. It took him two hours to drive here, two hours to drive back, and he spent four hours with me. We spoke of the conditions here at this peculiar place, and private prisons more generally. I supplied him with my chart outlining the discrimination faced by Canadians in the US Federal system, and urged him to take up the view that while Canadians are being treated in this segregated manner, no Canadian should ever be extradited from Canada to the United States. Prosecute them in Canada until such a time when Canadians receive the identical same regime in the US prison system as Americans. We discussed various things: the ruinous policies of prohibition, the conditions for the ten Canadians here, and our activist/political backgrounds. It was a serious talk with much discussed and I was honored to have such a gentleman take 9 or 10 hours out of his holidays to investigate my current circumstances.
So, I explained to Mr. Gentner some of the differences between what Americans receive in the way of services and amenities compared to what is provided for Canadians in the US Federal system. Firstly, all US citizen federal inmates are housed in Dept. of Justice/Bureau of Prisons facilities, subject to oversight by the courts and Dept. of Justice policy and procedure.
All Canadians, once sentenced, are housed in for-profit prisons run by GEO Group or Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which don’t have to adhere to BOP policy and procedure, have little oversight by the Dept. of Justice/BOP, and whose primary imperative is warehousing inmates at the lowest possible cost. These private prisons are contracted by the US Dept. of Justice for the 20 facilities that house foreigners exclusively, even though the cost to the taxpayer is no less than the cost of housing a US Citizen in a BOP facility.
One of the most glaring inequities for Canadians is that all Americans in the US federal prison system have Corrlinks email. At $3.00 per hour (at no cost to the taxpayer), all US citizens in a federal prison have email, hours a day, with up to 30 correspondents. (Correspondents can be added or deleted). This is extremely important for communication with loved ones, and accessing news and legal material, because both Canadian and Americans only receive 300 minutes of phone time in total for a whole month. Most months, it’s less than 10 minutes a day! This is way too little time. But when an inmate has access to hours of email a day, it makes a huge difference. Currently, sentenced Canadians have no access to email, while all federal American inmates in the corrections system have access to email.
There is no exercise equipment here of any kind. Americans in every federal prison facility have treadmills, steppers, and other equipment (in each unit’s gym). There are no plans to bring in exercise equipment here. There are only the most rudimentary courses or vocations available here. In a US federal prison for American inmates, courses are plentiful and accredited, with accredited instructors also required. For Canadians and others here, the instructors are not accredited. Nor are the courses accredited. Currently, DRJCI is offering welding classes, horticulture, and culinary arts course, but these are largely bogus course with little relevant skill-building going on.
Canadians have real difficulties putting money into a Canadian inmate’s commissary account here. Americans can have their family send money orders or wire money via Western Union, using their credit cards or cash. Canadian families cannot send money orders, nor use Western Union, nor can Canadian families of Canadian inmates use a Canadian-based VISA or MasterCard. Canadian families must travel to the USA to buy at Wal-Mart or some such place, a US-based prepaid MasterCard or VISA or Debit Card, and then place money in their loved one’s account using the Keefe Commissary Network monopoly at http://www.accesscorrections.com, where service charges are considerable. It is commonly thought that Keefe, which supplies all the items for inmates that we buy in commissary purchases as well as the deposits to our accounts, is owned principally by the Bush Family.
American inmates sent to a Low Security FCI are largely housed in 2-man cells. The “low” my judge recommended I get sent to, Lompoc FCI, has 2-man cells. In fact, a man from Sea-Tac FDC — a 9-time bank robber using a bomb threat while robbing banks — was sent to “low” security Lompoc, replete with email, exercise equipment, outdoor visitation, and dozens of courses & vocations, while I, a political prisoner who sold cannabis seeds, am at a “low” security concentration camp for foreigners without any basic amenity American prisoners take for granted. He was sent to the nearest “low” security FCI near his home in Washington State, as Bureau of Prison requirements are that an American should be placed at a facility within 500 miles of their home (though that often doesn’t happen anyway). I am 4,000 miles from my home, requiring my wife to travel by airplane for 9 to 13 hours in flight, and up to 48 hours in total transit time getting here, as has been the case on two occasions so far. All the Canadians here are in the private prison furthest away from their home, the exact opposite situation to what is mandated for American inmates. There is no Federal facility further away from Vancouver than this corner of southeast Georgia (Florida having no Federal prisons for foreigners).
The Law Library here has Lexus/Nexus, which is the complete compilation of US law statutes. That is all. Anything else here, I have brought in: the dictionaries, paralegal procedure, jailhouse lawyer manual, Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual, newsletters, etc. Without email, we cannot make requests for assistance or legal material, addresses of government agencies, or prisoner assistance groups. With only 300 minutes and a set list of phone numbers permitted for us to call, we cannot call outside legal help to send us or provide materials. Americans therefore have a far more advantageous ability to do legal work on their and other inmates’ behalf.
The reading library is supposed to have 30-50 magazine subscriptions to provide inmates with a variety of current reading material. There are no contemporary novels or reference books in either English or Spanish. 400 Spanish books, largely classical fiction, were delivered when DRJCI became a federal prison, but nothing contemporary or illustrated was amongst these books. Essentially, the library has largely useless obsolete books and management here refuses donations from outside sources, the inmates, as well as refusing to spend money on a regular infusion of new materials. A certified librarian is required in any BOP inmate library, whereas DRJCI has a part-time teacher sit in on the library, under the controlling auspices Dr. Davis, to ensure that no progress of any kind takes place.
Foreigners have unique needs here, yet there is no way they can be accommodated. No inmate is from Georgia, so any lawyer would be extremely expensive to visit an inmate here. There is no information of treaty transfers for foreigners here, or addresses of their consulates, representatives. There is not a single legally trained individual with any experience in deportations, immigration law available to any inmate here. Without email, this becomes extremely difficult to get information, ensuring each inmate stays here as long as possible.
Americans in the Federal prison system can use word processing programs (Word, for example), and have these programs connected to printers. That is not available to Canadians here, and no explanation is ever offered, even though this is a low security facility, and none of us were convicted of computer crimes. Dr. Davis even tries to restrict the law library photocopier to “legal” material only, even though inmates are supposed to be able to buy a photocopy card, and pay 10 cents a copy. The photocopier was paid for out the inmate trust fund! Canadians must use ancient typewriters instead of word processing.
Americans in US federal facilities are able to have photographs taken of themselves and their loved ones visiting on all federal holidays for a nominal cost (2 prints for $1 per photograph, up to 5 photographs, was the rule at Sea-Tac FDC). Canadians here at DRJCI have not been able to have photographs taken on Christmas or New Years, even though it requires only one inmate taking the photographs. It’s incredibly simple, but they simply don’t care here, so it doesn’t happen, like everything that ought to be provided as an inmate right for US citizens in their system.
In Federal facilities for Americans, visitation can happen in outdoor visitation areas (when weather permits). Here at DRJCI, there is no such outdoor visitation area, just a windowless room with a prison guard booth, cameras, and mirrored windows to be watched from.
In Bureau of Prisons facilities, fresh fruit is served one or two times daily, rotating between oranges, apples, and bananas. Here at D. Ray James Correctional Institution, we get the scrawniest orange imaginable once every two days. All lunch and dinner meals are virtually identical:
1) Ground up chicken or ground up beef
2) Corn product, niblets, grits or tortillas
3) A sweet cake
4) Shredded lettuce
5) Brown beans
6) White rice
Breakfast is essentially shredded potatoes and tasteless scrambled eggs with tortilla. Occasionally grits (creamed corn) too. If they don’t have a scrawny orange to give out, they give us canned mandarin slices or peach slices, but neither contain any nutrients. Fresh fruit or vegetables are almost never to be seen here. Nor can we buy fresh fruit or vegetables as can be done at other federal facilities (for example, Taft and Moshannon Valley sell vegetables in the commissary).
Americans in the Federal system have upright metal lockers. Canadians have two bins under their bunk to put all their possessions in. They had lockers in this prison when GEO took over this facility. They took the lockers out!
Americans qualify for early release, home release, and drug rehabilitation sentence reductions, none of which is available to Canadians stuck in this system.
Canadians working a long day in the kitchen, a long 8-hour day, get paid 12 cents an hour. Most inmates here get 12 cents an hour for their work. Americans get 40 cents to $1.40 an hour in their facilities.
Photo by Jodie EmeryThe staff here is almost always unaware of their own D. Ray James rules on procedures. For example, an inmate is trying to get married, and has been getting the runaround for three months. Yet the rules by GEO in their rule book are clear: the case manager puts together the request, confirms the fiancÃ©e is willing come to the facility to marry, forwards the request to the warden, who, if there are no security concerns, then arranges for the Justice of the Peace to come perform the ceremony. The inmate pays all costs of the Justice of the Peace. It’s simple, but they just can’t be bothered here, like just about everything. The mailroom, for example, makes up all its rules. There is no procedure or policy that is in the D. Ray James Correctional Institution policy and procedure book dealing with mailroom procedure.*
*Note by Catharine Leach (supporter and transcriber of this newsletter for online publication): the Warden of DRJCI, Joe Booker, affirmed to me in an email (after I sent a letter to him complaining of Marc’s mail issues and other treatment) that DRJCI follows established rules and regulations for mail policy, namely the Mail Management Manual 5800.10.
In an Americans-only federal “low” security prison, all toilets are in the cells or have doors on them in the range, and showers have doors on them. In my 64-man dorm, there is no privacy of any kind, and certainly no doors or curtains on the showers or toilets.
Yet the US taxpayer pays the same or more in taxes per inmate to house a Canadian as an American, but the executive and shareholders of these private prison corporations are instead pocketing the money.
The Bureau of Prisons, their mission statement (Policy 551.90) states: “Bureau staff shall not discriminate against inmates on the basis of race, religion, NATIONAL ORIGIN [Note from Jodie: emphasis Marc’s own], sex, disability, or political belief. This includes the making of administrative decisions and providing access to work, housing, and programs.”
Considering DRJCI is a ghetto completely based on apartheid of national origin, this mission statement is fraudulent on its face. Wages paid to Americans are greater, housing is clearly better, and programs (email, exercise equipment, music, law & reading libraries, vocations, etc.) are all clearly superior for Americans.
Currently, this prison houses 1,100 inmates, adding 300 monthly until capacity of 2,500 is reached in August. Of the 1,100 inmates currently warehoused here: 1,025 are Hispanic — 800 Mexicans, 75 Hondurans, 50 Cubans, 50 Guatemalans, 15 Salvadorans, 15 Colombians, 10 Argentinians, 5 Peruvians — and 40 are English-language born — 20 from the Caribbean (Jamaican, Bahamian, Dominican), 10 Canadians, 3 Nigerians, 1 from England, 1 from South Africa, 2 from Guyana, 1 from Belize, 10 Asians (2 Laotians, 3 Vietnamese, 4 Chinese), 10 Europeans, and 6 Middle Easterners (1 Swede, 2 Romanians, 2 Armenians, 1 Lebanese), and we have 2 from Brazil (Portuguese-speaking) and 5 from Haiti (French).
As to the staff here, the ordinary C.O.’s (Correctional Officers), while completely untrained in BOP procedure (most have never ever worked in corrections before and receive only the most cursory on the job training here), are decent people trying to do their job as pleasantly as they can. Many admit to seeing documentaries, movies, and TV shows that I have appeared in. Very few of the regular C.O.’s show mean or hostile tendencies. Most of them are probably very nice people in regular circumstances.
The inmates here I get along with are fine also. In my 59 days here at the time of this writing, I cannot say I have had any conflicts at all with inmates or C.O.’s who do guard or supervision duty. The problem is with management and the corporate dictates that come from GEO. This place has no budget of any kind devoted to inmate amenities.
97% of the inmates speak Spanish, but because all staff is local, virtually none of the staff do. I believe there are no more than 4 staff members here who speak Spanish. There is no local lawyer or legal help for these inmates. All their attorneys are in California, Arizona, Canada, Mexico, etc. All legal work for these inmates is done by 5 English/bilingual paralegals, also inmates (I’m one of them), getting 12 cents an hour. Any legal work on appeals, motions, grievances, writs of Habeas Corpus, divorces, requests, treaty transfers, access to government services, etc. is done by us on these ancient model typewriters.
Compare the time involved for an American in a federal prison requesting information or legal information. Each email takes about 90 minutes from inmate to recipient and return, so that is 3 hours. Here at D. Ray James Correctional Institution, a request by mail to Canada takes 6 to 8 days each way, meaning what might take an American 3 hours to obtain would take me, a Canadian, possibly 15 days or longer. Americans can print out their emails and have permanent copies of them too on email printers that are available for every American. So making any kind of legal claim is much harder here for numerous reasons.
I live in a 64-man dormitory with no privacy, as I have said. All 64 of us share one microwave to cook and heat up coffee. You get line-ups! American facilities have 4 televisions per range (Spanish, sports, news, and variety). Here we have two televisions: Sports and Spanish. I watch neither. There are few if any good rock and roll radio stations in this part of the world, though 3 country western stations come in clearly, as is always so true about rural America. I was spoiled at Sea-Tac FDC, having a 2-man cell, numerous great radio stations, email (Jodie says I sent her over 1,000 emails in the 5 months I was at Sea-Tac; that shows you how important email is to an inmate!), more fruit, no weird rules on books or magazines in the mail, and my newspaper came the day of issue or the day after. Here in nowheresville Folkston, Georgia, my New York Times arrives 3 or 4 days after publication.
In my 64-man dorm, I’m one of 3 native English speakers; the Armenian and Nigerian are fluent in English. The 1 Romanian and the 60 Hispanics speak Romanian and Spanish. I have no locker, but two plastic bins under my bed for all my belongings. Quite the stuffing of belongings going on there.
An ear splitting grinding-sounding (just evil!!!) fire alarm has gone off 28 times in the 50 days I have been here. It is frightening and painful on the ears. It is always a false alarm. It has actually gone off over 70 times in total since DRJCI opened on October 7th, 2010, but they refuse to fix the defective sensor in pod 6. I have been outside or at the library on about 10 occasions when it has gone off. This is not included in the 28 times I’ve experienced it first-hand. It grinds away for 5 to 15 minutes and I always have to put my fingers in my ears to deal with it. It certainly constitutes as torture, as they refuse to fix the problem. Yet when an inmate is burning baby oil to make jailhouse ink for their illegal tattooing that goes on, the fire alarm never goes off, even though a fair bit of putrid smoke is produced (that’s how they make the black ink, from the soot of the burning baby oil!).
At least I am busy. I do lots of work I consider helpful and useful to other inmates. At this time, I can’t solicit magazines and books for donation, but I give my newspapers and magazines that I subscribe to away. Currently I have to mail out a book for every book the mailroom lets me have so I can’t very readily donate any books at this time. This whole prison has way too much razor wire, frisking, and high security behavior to call it a “low” security facility. A “low” has essentially one single fence and far more open movement than this place allows inmates. It is run like a strict medium-high security facility. I’ve had an atlas in the mail refused to me because they believe all maps will be used to plan escapes! I’ve had large books refused to me because the weight or size of them (“75 years of DC Comics” was 18” x 13” x 2” thick — large enough, the mailroom felt, to be used as a weapon). An 8” x 10” hand-made Christmas card was rejected because it was too large. Where do they get these rules? Newspaper clippings are seized. I’m limited to three magazines sent from the public every few weeks or so. Over 20 letters from correspondents were rejected without notification and returned to sender. And so on and so on.
Trevor is from Vancouver, just a few blocks from where I used to live. He’s here for cannabis in a vehicle while traveling through the USA. When his parents came to visit him from Smithers in BC, over 5,000 miles away, they arrived one day early in their rented vehicle, and decided to drive around the perimeter road that encircles the prison, so they could see what it looks like, because the road is unblocked nor is there an advisement prohibiting it. The next day, when the parents visited, prison staff noticed the vehicle the parents used as the one that drove around the perimeter road, and cut short the visit after an hour, handcuffed Trevor, accused him of plotting an escape with his parents, and put him in solitary confinement for 9 days! Of course, it took 9 days to realize their idiotic presumption was absurd on the face of it, releasing Trevor from SHU (Special Housing Unit — the “Hole”) and reinstating his parents’ visiting rights.
Shortly afterward, Trevor, like all Canadians here, lost his phone access to Canada when the prison telephone control computer “unintentionally” cancelled all Canadian phone numbers from the database. Whereas I lost 6 days over Christmas (sadistic timing you have to agree), Trevor lost his access to the 604 and 250 area codes (his family in BC) for 16 days, from December 22nd to January 7th! Trevor works for 12 cents an hour, 40 hours a week in the kitchen.
Bradley, resident of Pender Harbour, is here on a weird charge, “Theft of Honest Services”, the same charge Conrad Black had overturned in the US Supreme Court. Bradley is a fine fellow with many skills, a certified sailor, and a licensed pilot. He has been trying to take a correspondence course in advanced aviation from Ohio University’s Prisoner Correspondence course. For two months he has been refused on the basis that — you guessed it — he’ll try to escape, steal an airplane and fly back to Canada! The mailroom rejected a map of Croatia he received as part of his ingenious (non-existent) plot to escape. It’s why I had an atlas of the world seized as contraband last week when someone sent it to me in the mail. We Canadians are thought to be obsessed with escape! This is a “low” security facility whereas the maximum-security facility Sea-Tac FDC where I was at, allowed me to have detailed road maps for all fifty states (so I could advise & direct FREE MARC rallies across the USA and Canada on Sept. 18th 2010).
Randy, of New Westminster, is here on a three-year sentence for marijuana transport. When Randy arrived, DRJCI lost his paperwork so he was put in solitary confinement for 14 days until the paperwork arrived. I remember walking around the yard explaining to Randy how fucked up this place is and he said, “Oh, it doesn’t look so bad.” I said, “give it a few days, you’ll see how dysfunctional it really is.” Sure enough, each passing day, Randy became more and more annoyed at the absurdities that pass before our eyes each passing day, and then one day last week, Randy got put in the “Hole” for allegedly inciting a riot, which all witnesses say is nutty. A very disliked C.O. was pissing off all the inmates in his unit. Randy uttered to another inmate, “What a Bitch!” and so far, he’s spent 5 days in the “Hole” on that. In between his two visits to solitary confinement, Randy’s phone access to his daughters and family in Canada was “accidentally” suspended from December 22nd to January 7th, sixteen days, pretty well the only time he was out of solitary since he’s gotten here in early December.
Peter is from Aylmer, Ontario, and he is a slave in the kitchen 40+ hours a week at 12 cents an hour. By the way, if an inmate refuses to work their slave-labor job assignment, they get put in solitary confinement until they “reconsider” and go back to work. It is reputed that there are about 15 inmates in solitary for refusing kitchen work. An inmate is allowed to pay another inmate to do his kitchen job; the going rate is a one-time payment of $35 - $50 dollars, which is a bargain price to permanently avoid kitchen detail.
Photo by Jodie EmeryWhen an inmate arrives here, each of us is issued a pair of work boots, decidedly uncomfortable ones, but in Peter’s case he was issued two left feet as his pair of boots. When he complained that they were two left feet, that his right foot was hurting as he worked on his feet 8 hours a day, the management refused to issue him a proper right & left foot pair of boots. Eventually all his right socks developed holes in them, and his right foot was in considerable pain, but still the DRJCI refused to issue a proper set of boots. Only after eleven weeks of complaining, did the inmates in the clothing section replace the boots. Peter’s phone access to Canada, like all the Canadians here, was down during Christmas December 22nd — 27th. Peter has now worked in the kitchen three months, and after three months in one job, you are supposed to be permitted to change “assignments”, but so far they are refusing to let Peter change jobs, so desperate is this place for kitchen workers. Of course if they paid the workers properly (like American inmates get in their FCI’s), say 45 cents to $1.00 an hour, you’d have line-ups to work in the kitchen.
And so it goes. Me, I keep busy, writing five or six letters to correspondents daily, reading voraciously when I’m not writing or working in the library. I’m 80% through Keith Richard’s autobiography “Life”. I just finished reading all the material I received from Prison Legal News (online you can see their stuff at prisonlegalnews.org). Next up after the Richard’s autobiography is “On the Road to Freedom (A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Era)”, and then “Dumbing Us Down, the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling”, then the “Dark Tower” graphic novel, and then “The Flag: An American Biography”, which is a history of the development of the US flag from its earliest incarnations.
I read perhaps the best graphic novel not written by Alan Moore, originally from 1993, called Marvels (#0 - #4), a brilliant painterly reinterpretation of the Marvel Comics stories of their superhero universe from 1939 to 1975, seen through the eyes of an ordinary human observer. Another wonderful comic I enjoyed was a two-part “Enemy Ace” comic by Garth Ennis and Russ Heath. Strange and beautiful was this very exciting reinterpretation of Shakespeare in a graphic novel called “Kill Shakespeare”, very original and surprising and beautifully illustrated. I read “The Return of the Supreme”, another collection of terrific Alan Moore stories. This Alan Moore fellow wrote the greatest comic book stories ever, full of references throughout all his work (though especially in “Promethea” and “Supreme”) of the artists and styles of the comic books of the golden age (1939 — 1947), the EC Comics period (1950 — 1956), the Adventure and science-fiction pulps, the cartoon comic strips of newspapers, the late 50’s DC Comics universe (Supreme), and of course the 60’s Marvel Comics world. My favorite Alan Moore comics, highly recommended, are: Promethea Vol. 1-6 (#1 - #36 in comic book form), Tom Strong Vol. 1-4, #6, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 & 2, Supreme and Return of Supreme. If you are a comic book historian and scholar as I am (I collected comic books and sold vintage 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s Marvel, DC, EC, comics, science-fiction and adventure pulps, newspaper comic strips and Sunday Color pages from 1925 — 1955 and managed to meet Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Mike Kaluta, Len Wein, Jeff Jones, Vaughn Bode, and other great comic book creators in the 1970 to 1974 golden era of comic book collecting) — this is a wonderful tribute to that era. Watchmen — still terrific after three readings.
Best books I’ve read in prison so far would have to be the hero-smashing biography of John Lennon, “The Many Lives of John Lennon” by Albert Goldman, and “Hitch-22”, the memoir by Christopher Hitchens, timely in view of Hitchens’ current and potentially fatal battle with esophageal cancer that affected Hitchens immediately after its publication. Hitchens is simply one of the most erudite and entertaining writers of English prose in the world today. Vanity Fair columns of Sept/Oct/Nov 2010 addressing his cancer and the reactions to it are hilarious and poignant.
My magazine subscriptions have been slow to get transferred to the gulag here from Sea-Tac FDC. MacLean’s, National Geographic, The Hockey News, The Economist have all finally been rerouted here, but no sign yet of Rolling Stone, Atlantic, Harper's, Mother Jones, Reason, Discover and a few others that escape my memory.
It is my supporter base that got my library job back and it is my supporter base that protects me from retaliation by the forces of evil here. MLA Guy Gentner reiterating in two newspaper interviews that I was a political prisoner is extremely helpful.
This is my 300th day in prison on this sentence, as I write this: 66 days in Canada, and 234 days in the US. With a good time credit of 235 days, that is 535 days off 1,825 days (5 years), so if I get stuck in the US Concentration Camp system for foreigners, I have 1,290 days to go, a release date of July 7th, 2014 — 42 months away.
If I get transferred back to Canada, I qualify under current Canadian law for full parole November 16th, 2011 — this year, 10 months from today. In the Canadian federal system, a non-violent first-time offender gets parole at one-third sentence, in my case, 20 months. Of course, I’ll be on parole for 40 months after that date (Nov. 16th, 2011). So if I screw up, I would be put back in jail. But I’m retired from the seed business, and otherwise a law-abiding person, so I will be able to do my parole successfully as I was able to maintain my bail conditions (while awaiting extradition) for five years from 2005 to 2010.
But 10 months to go is far more appealing than 42 months to go. That is why I need a tremendous outpouring of support from citizens of the USA and Canada, and from elected officials in both countries, to assure that my transfer application to the US Dept. of Justice and Canadian Minister of Public Safety are approved. Instructions on the kind of letter to send are at FREEMARC.ca and CANNABISCULTURE.com.
It’s only fair to say some good things about this place. The inmates like me and I get along with them. The working people, the ordinary C.O.’s, are polite and try to do a good job with the often-chaotic instructions they get. The weather here, in winter, is pleasant (although it will be hot & humid and I think unbearable in summer). My Case Managers, Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Maynard, are very responsive to me and have kept all their promises so far, and have always tried to be helpful with any requests regarding visitors, and transfer paperwork. The warden is a good person too, but he’s given no budget to make changes, and I often think his subordinates try to undermine his innate sense of reasonableness.
Photo by Jodie EmeryMy greatest pleasure of my existence here is getting a visit from Jodie every 2nd weekend. Your donations to her are how she can afford to visit me. Otherwise, it’s simply too expensive for us to afford. The visits are 6 Â½ hours each day on Saturday and Sunday, and the upcoming weekend, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday January 17th) is a visitation day also, so I’ll get 3 days in a row of visits from Jodie!!! It requires Jodie to fly 4,000 miles from Vancouver to Jacksonville Florida, clear across the continent and back, which is grueling and exhausting for her. Sometimes, when bad weather strikes, flights get canceled and what would normally take 10 hours of flying and airport time can take 48 hours of waiting, flying, and airport processing time, as has happened twice already.
We are allowed a brief kiss at the beginning and end of each visit, and we can hold hands throughout the visit. After my visit with Jodie on December 18th, I was stopped by an officer on the walkway outside a few days later, and day before my phone access was cut off to Jodie for 6 days.
“Emery, you had a visit Saturday. Was that your wife?”
“Yes, sir.” I responded.
“I was watching you on the hidden camera, and I observed your kiss at the beginning was too long. It’s supposed to be a brief kiss, not a movie kiss. I don’t think your kiss was brief.”
I was stunned. I said “BOP regulations at Sea-Tac FDC in Seattle were a kiss under 30-seconds. What do you consider brief, 10 seconds?”
“10 seconds is more like what I had in mind. But if BOP rules are 30 seconds, I’ll take that under advisement.” He responded.
I wanted to say, “If you stare at any couple kissing after a long absence, their kiss is going to seem very long because you’re intruding on a couple’s intimacy, something normally a person might be a little self-conscious of. 10 seconds will seem like a minute if you just stare at a couple clearly in love, 30 seconds probably seems like 5 minutes. After traveling 4,000 miles and spending days in planes, airports and hotel rooms, that kiss is going to have a bit of urgency to it, you know?”
Jodie was in an extended malaise, a 6-week period that I would call depression from mid-November to January 1st. The death of my seed business partner, Michelle Rainey, at age 39 from cancer, hit her very hard at the end of October. By mid-November, with the dark, gloomy, rainy Vancouver weather, her first Christmas holiday period without me in 7 years, business pressures, and extraordinarily long travel to see me, it was all getting to her. She was exhausted, sad, having a hard time getting work done, her hair was falling out, her skin irritated, her sleep disturbed. Her visit of Saturday, January 1st was full of cynicism, doom and gloom. I spend the whole visit reassuring her we’d get through this ordeal, no matter how long it took. We have support from millions (I feel), her family, our close friends, and elected officials, and it was just rest and prioritizing her immediate tasks that she needed to do.
Finally, on Friday, January 7th, I heard over the phone, an invigorated, energetic, positive and powerful optimism. I said right away, “Hey, my Jodie is back!”
She said, “I feel like I’ve come out of a 6-week depression. I feel strong again, boo, I’m feeling improved. Guy Gentner the MLA, referred to you as a political prisoner in an interview today in a newspaper. I’ll be strong for you now, Marc; I’ll get you out of there. You were strong for me, you pulled me through. So now I’ll be strong for you again.”
Each day over the last 3 days, Jodie has rested, and gotten stronger so I am very relieved. I was worried about us, and with all these stresses, I was fearful of her health and her drive being compromised. So it goes for a couple like us, under all this turmoil and challenges!
Since her visit, MLA Guy Gentner has referred to me as a political prisoner in two media interviews. That reaffirmed to Jodie that even in the political establishment, there is widespread support and sympathy for the underlying activist nature of my life’s work.
My treaty transfer paperwork is due in Washington in eleven days from writing this page. After that, the US Dept. of Justice will consider my application to transfer to the Canadian Correctional system. I would dearly love to be home in Canada this year, so please do what you can to help to that end.
The most important goals this year are, for Americans: 1) Getting legislation on the ballot in Washington State, 2) Supporting and working to make RON PAUL the Republican presidential nominee for 2012.
Petitioning for signatures begins in April to make Washington state the first state in the USA to repeal all state laws restricting the personal use and cultivation of cannabis. Polls in Washington show 56% of voters support legalization of cannabis. Last year, only 195,000 signatures of the 247,000 necessary were successfully collected. In large part this shortfall was due to rainy, cold weather in April and May, and zero funding. This year Sensible Washington will be better prepared, better organized. I hope Cannabis Culture can assist the organizers in a few live-streamed moneybombs, with a target of $10,000.00 per moneybomb, in February and April. Activists from California and Colorado, two states that I’m sure will attempt ballot initiative drives for legalization in 2012, should go north to Washington state as soon as university and college is over in April. Let’s do it like they did in the 60’s, just move to Washington state for 3 months and live and breathe the life of signature-gatherer! Petition unrelentingly! Even Canadian activists should consider going to Washington from BC and Alberta to gather signatures, whether for a weekend, a week, a month, or the whole campaign!
If Washington repeals cannabis prohibition on Nov. 1st, 2011, it will have a huge impact on the success of initiatives in Colorado and California in 2012, ultimately causing a change in federal law, and the likelihood of other states passing their own repeal bills!
RON PAUL, the greatest congressman ever, a great and true libertarian, my personal hero for many, many years, a friend to all in the cannabis legalization movement, will likely announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President for 2012. Ron Paul is truly a wonderful man, a principled man, and I so enjoyed campaigning for him in 2007 and 2008 when he first sough the Republican presidential nomination. Oh, how much improved America would be today if he had been elected President November 2nd, 2008!
If you have never heard of Ron Paul, or researched his brilliant ideas and proposals and writings, you must! Then be ready to join his campaign when it is announced!
For Canadians, the 4 goals in the upcoming year are 1) to stop Bill S-10, the mandatory minimum jail-time-for-drugs bill from becoming law 2) defeat the Conservatives in an election that hopefully will come soon, 3) urge all your American friends to support the Presidential aspirations of Ron Paul once he announces his candidacy, expected in early spring, and 4) please bring me home, if I can immodestly suggest this as one of your political goals for the upcoming year!
Upon my return to Canada and release from custody, I plan to run for elected office in a fully funded campaign, traveling across Canada and British Columbia extensively. I believe that whenever I am able to do this, in 2012, 2013, or 2014, once I emerge from this ordeal, my political star will finally be ascendant. I feel I will be able to capture the zeitgeist of the times. “It’s broken, let me fix it.” Clearly, our democracy is dysfunctional, much like prohibition. For over 30 years, Canadians have heard me relentlessly prescribe the correct treatment for the ills of my country, and for 30 years the voters have chosen to swallow more of the poison election after election. I believe Jodie and I together will be able to win over enough of Canada to put me in government, to finally undo so much of the damage that has been wrought on our country from the miscreants who have exploited the people’s trust.
Jodie and I will be making a huge effort upon my return, in fundraising, touring Canada, speaking, meeting with Canadians, organizing, to finally once and for all bury this prohibition and restore liberty, principle, and greatness to the country that I love.
Until next newsletter,
Marc Emery #40252-086 Unit Q Pod 2
D. Ray James Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 2000
This article can be found at Cannabis Culture