Federal prisoners transferring through the Oklahoma City “con air” route usually spend a short time at the Oklahoma City Federal Transit Center, but because it is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, everybody coming in on the planes is being leased out to the local Grady County jail. Because the federal Bureau of Prisons instituted a nationwide lockdown, they are now telling us no planes are going out, leaving several hundred of us stranded at this raggedy jail where conditions are abysmal and woefully inadequate to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Conditions at county jails are often scandalous, and it is particularly egregious here at Grady County. They treat us like zoo animals, packing us into these dirty dorms with no air or sunlight. We are stacked in triple bunks thirty people deep to a 1736 square-foot dorm, allowing us only 27.8 square feet per person, not including the two toilets and shower. The food is of a terrible quality and low quantity, often served cold: baloney sandwiches every day, no fruits, no vegetarian options. There are no books to read, no radio to listen to, no educational or religious programming, leaving us with nothing to do.
They justify these harsh conditions by saying we do not normally spend more than a week or two here until our flight out. But considering that we are stuck here because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a desperate need for changes. I’ve asked about the six-foot social distancing rule and sent requests saying that we need masks, latex gloves, and sanitizers. Despite both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control recommending hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol to kill the virus for when hand washing isn’t a viable alternative, and the CDC now recommending face masks to help slow the spread of the virus, the staff won’t give us any hand sanitizers because we would “abuse it” and, as for the rest of the items, they only say, “We don’t have these items. The six-foot rule doesn’t apply to jail.”
Grady County has publicly stated that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19, however when asked, they admitted that they have only administered one test. They say they “screen everybody”, but, in actuality, all they have done is take our temperature one time upon arrival. They constantly rotate people into different units, never leaving a unit not filled to capacity, increasing the possibility of cross contamination.
When I was moved to another unit, there were several people noticeably sick, coughing and sneezing. Within two days, nearly all of the thirty people in our unit – including myself – got sick. Numerous people go to sick call every day, at a cost of $8 per visit, and are given only Mucinex and antihistamines. We’re being told that it is either allergies or the common cold, and that they don’t do COVID-19 tests unless there are strong symptoms of dry cough and fever. Even then, we would have to pay for the test ourselves. They have joked that the entire fourth floor (eight units of thirty people) have the cold, and although it does seem likely that what our unit has is just a common cold, it is alarming how fast and completely it spread because of our close quarters and lack of sanitation. If the virus does get in here, we wouldn’t stand a chance.
The general griminess of the jail only exacerbates the potential for disaster. We get two sets of clothes upon entry and they only wash one set of clothes once a week. The clothes are all used and filthy, coming back from laundry smelling terrible. The blankets and towels are covered with fuzzies and little hairs. We wash our clothes in the shower and sink and hang them to dry on our bunks and clothes lines we hang everywhere. Every single morning, the cops yell at us to take them down, as if they have nothing more important to do, and refuse to turn on the power to the television until we take them down. The jail does not wash the mattresses before reissuing them to new prisoners; the kitchen workers do not wear hair nets and beard guards when serving our trays, and have repeatedly been observed sneezing and wiping their noses. The plumbing often clogs; only one shower works, and it blasts scalding hot water, and the drain is messed up so there is standing water. The roof leaks when it rains outside, dripping water onto the day room tables and chairs. They blast the air conditioning (even when it was 32 degrees outside) perhaps thinking that it would slow the spread of disease. They do not sell multivitamins on commissary, leaving us without proper nutrition to strengthen our immune systems.
The situation is worsened by the uncertainty as to how long we will be languishing here in transit limbo. We do not have access to counselors, case managers, wardens, or anyone from the Bureau of Prisons to answer any questions or deal with people’s upcoming releases or eligibility for early home confinement due to the CARES Act.
We know that this is a trying time for everybody, but prisoners’ lives should not be any less of a priority than the lives of those outside. Some have ignorantly speculated that we are somehow safer from the pandemic because we are locked down, but considering the closed quarters and unsanitary conditions, we are actually at an increased risk, and have no direct control over our fate. All of us would prefer to take our chances in the free world than be sitting ducks in these gulags. Despite our criminal convictions, we deserve to be treated like human beings, and should not be subjected to criminal negligence and cruel and unusual punishment.
We know that many countries around the world, such as Iran, France, and the UK, have begun releasing prisoners en masse. Considering the outbreak of COVID-19 in several US federal prisons, with the infection and death rate climbing daily, the US needs to start doing something to address these heinous conditions, and start releasing us immediately!
The Jeremy Hammond Support Committee is pleased to announce that Jeremy has been released from his contempt for resisting a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia as of yesterday, 12 March 2020.
In a statement once again reaffirming his commitment to stay strong and silent against the grand jury, Jeremy said,
“Because I see the United States government as fundamentally illegitimate and unjust, I reject the notion that I have any sort of ‘obligation to testify’ before a grand jury. The additional jail time I have endured – and may continue to endure – as a penalty for refusing to testify will never cause me to betray the ideas which have given my life meaning and purpose.”
In his order releasing Jeremy from his contempt, Judge Anthony Trenga stated that “the business of Grand Jury 19-3 had concluded,” and “[upon] consideration of the Court’s March 12, 2020 Order discharging Grand Jury 19-3, the Court finds that Mr. Hammond’s appearance before the Grand Jury is no longer needed, in light of which his detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.” (Torrent and other formats available here.) Judge Trenga ordered Jeremy returned to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, where he will now finish serving the remainder of his sentence.
While this will not mean total freedom for Jeremy, and it is bittersweet in that had Jeremy not been called in front of a grand jury the government knew he would not testify in front of he would have been released to a halfway house three months ago, it is a major step towards his freedom, and we are thrilled that this nightmare is over and Jeremy can once again focus on finishing his sentence and returning to his friends and family.
We know that many of you want to know when Jeremy will ultimately be freed and, sadly, we do not have an answer for you. When he was pulled from FCI Memphis, he was removed from the Residential Drug Treatment Program that, had he been allowed to complete, would have secured his release to a halfway house on 12 December 2019. By not allowing him to complete the program, the “good time” he would have been credited with for completing the program was taken away. It is yet another injustice of this grand jury – the government knew that Jeremy would never be willing to cooperate with the state. His incarceration has only deepened his commitment to his anarchist ideals and his belief in total prison abolition. Despite this, they brought him to Virginia anyway, incarcerating him there for three months past his projected release date and adding a minimum of eight additional months to his sentence. Once he returns to the Bureau of Prisons, they will recalculate his release date.
And, finally, we want to send our solidarity to Chelsea Manning, who was also released. Chelsea had been called in front of the same grand jury as Jeremy and also chose to resist. It came at great personal cost, and we applaud her bravery and steadfastness. Her courage is nothing short of amazing, and we send our love to her and her support team for the moral fortitude they have shown over and over again in the face of overwhelming odds. Unfortunately, upon her release, Judge Trenga declined to cancel the outrageous legal fines Chelsea has been saddled with for her refusal to testify. A fundraiser has been set up to help her pay these fines – please share and donate as much as you can.
We deeply thank everyone who has supported Jeremy over these trying months. The fight is not over. Jeremy needs our support now more than ever as he enters the last months of his sentence and begins preparations for his ultimate release. We will keep everyone apprised of when and where Jeremy is moved to, and when his ultimate release date may be as more information becomes available. Again, thank you all for your solidarity.
Alexandria, VA — Imprisoned information activist Jeremy Hammond was found in contempt yesterday for refusing to answer 7 questions in front of a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA). Chelsea Manning was similarly remanded into custody for failure to provide testimony before the same Grand Jury. Hammond, who was already serving his 7th year of a 10 year Federal Prison sentence after pleading guilty for releasing information about the Private Intelligence Firm Strategic Forcasting (Stratfor), has issued the following statement detailing his reasons for resisting the EDVA’s grand jury:
“As many of you know, I was just a few months from my scheduled release from federal prison when I was unexpectedly dragged in chains and planes to this raggedy detention center in Alexandria, Virginia. I am outraged that the government is threatening additional jail time if I do not cooperate with their grand jury investigation. Their draconian intimidation tactics could never coerce me into betraying my comrades or my principles. In the spirit of resistance and with great contempt for their system, I am choosing silence over freedom.
“I am fully prepared for the consequences of my decision just as I had been each and every time I was faced with similar choices before. Long ago when I realized that government and capitalism were too hopelessly corrupt and unjust to be reformed through legal or electoral means, I chose to engage in civil disobedience and direct action. I knew then that my actions could land me behind bars, yet I fought on anyway; after a dozen arrests and even a prior federal prison sentence for hacking, I chose once again to use my computer skills to attack the systems of the rich and powerful as part of the Anonymous federal case I am doing time for today.
“When I pled guilty, I took responsibility for my actions and my actions alone. I never agreed to be debriefed or testify in any way, unlike the government’s informant Hector Monsegur, aka Sabu, whose reward was one year of probation while I received the maximum sentence allowable by law. It was a painful choice, but ten years in their dungeons was the price I was willing to pay so I could maintain my integrity. I have never regretted my choices the entire time I have been incarcerated, and having seen and experienced first-hand the abuses and inherent injustice of the prison industrial complex, my commitment to revolution and abolition has only become more deeply entrenched.
“Now, after seven and a half years of ‘paying my debt to society,’ the government seeks to punish me further with this vindictive, politically-motivated legal maneuver to delay my release, knowing full well that I would never cooperate with their witch hunt. I am opposed to all grand juries, but I am opposed to this one in particular because it is part of the government’s ongoing war on free speech, journalists, and whistleblowers. I am insulted that those in power claim that I have an ‘obligation that every citizen owes his government’ to testify. As an anarchist, I am not part of their social contract, and do not recognize the legitimacy of their laws and courts. Instead, I believe in a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote I had taped to the wall of my prison cell for years: ‘One has an obligation to disobey unjust laws.’
“It is difficult to view any of this government’s laws as just when they are so selectively enforced, and when the government turns a blind eye to its own misconduct, misconduct that is on display every day that Trump is in the White House. In my case, the government, through its informant, Sabu, instigated numerous hacks, asking me to break into governments and companies all over the world. Nearly a decade later, this misconduct remains ignored. The NSA continues to surveil everyone and launch cyber attacks. Trump and his corrupt cronies continue to hold the world hostage to their megalomaniacal imperialist pig whims while simultaneously refusing to comply with subpoenas and inquiries into their vicious abuses of power. Meanwhile, Chelsea Manning and I are doing hard time in this dump for the ‘crime’ of refusing to allow our spirits to break, after ‘serving’ our sentences for exposing government and corporate corruption.
“This absurd hypocrisy and desperate ruthlessness reveals a crumbling legal system, a system that has robbed me of the majority of my adult life but could never take my humanity. I will continue to do the right thing, no matter how long it takes. I know how to do time, and I will never be intimidated by their threats. Ever!! I refuse!!”
“‘Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free.” – Alan Moore, V for Vendetta”
Jeremy is being represented by attorneys Susan Kellman, Sarah Kunstler, and local counsel Jeffrey D. Zimmerman. His legal team also includes Elisa Y. Lee and Beena Ahmad. For information on how you can support Jeremy, and for updates on his case please visit freejeremy.net or follow the Jeremy Hammond Defense Committee on twitter @freejeremynet
Note: This press release originally appeared on Sparrow Media and is reprinted here with permission.
Same Virginia Grand Jury Probe Holding Chelsea Manning on Contempt also finds Hammond in Contempt
Alexandria, VA — Imprisoned information activist Jeremy Hammond has been found in contempt today for refusing to answer 7 questions in front of a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA). Earlier this year Chelsea Manning was remanded into custody for failure to provide testimony before the same Grand Jury.
The following is a statement from the Jeremy Hammond Support Committee regarding these developments:
“Today, in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, Jeremy Hammond was found in contempt for refusing to answer questions posed to him by a grand jury. This grand jury is the same grand jury currently holding Chelsea Manning in contempt for bravely refusing to answer their questions.
“We do not know what questions the grand jury is investigating. Moreover, it is unclear whether or not the federal prison sentence he was serving for which he was due to be released from just two short months from now, will be suspended as the result of being found in civil contempt.
“By removing him from FCI Memphis before his time in RDAP was completed, the government has added a minimum of six months onto Jeremy’s sentence. Judge Trenga has the option of jailing him indefinitely for contempt. The decision to compel Jeremy to testify despite his outspoken, long-standing anarchist beliefs and support for myriad brave grand jury resistors, only to place him under contempt when he adheres to those same core beliefs should be seen as little more than cruel and punitive.
“Jeremy has held strong to his beliefs over the past seven years. In fact, being subjected to the horrors of the legal system over and over again has been one of the defining factors that has strengthened Jeremy’s beliefs. There is nothing a grand jury could do or say that could compel Jeremy to testify. Jeremy made it clear from the beginning of his case that he had no intention of cooperating with the government, and that hasn’t, and will never change. Any attempts to try to force him to testify through prolonged incarceration serves to do nothing but further punish Jeremy for his political beliefs. This highlights one of the many problems with grand juries, and one of the many reasons why they should not exist, and why it is the correct and moral stance to resist them.”
Recent Events In late August Jeremy Hammond was removed from the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee where he was serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges he hacked the private intelligence contractor Stratfor Global Intelligence. At the time of his transfer Hammond was enrolled in the Federal Bureau of Prison’s intensive Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) which upon completion qualifies participating inmates for early release. Hammond’s prison release date was projected to come around mid December of 2019 but because of his removal from the RDAP program and the summons to this grand jury his time incarcerated could be extended by over two years. Hammond is currently confined at William G. Truesdale Correctional Center in Alexandria, VA and will likely remain there for the duration of these proceedings.
Additional Information Jeremy is being represented by attorneys Susan Kellman, Sarah Kunstler, and local counsel Jeffrey D. Zimmerman. His legal team also includes Elisa Y. Lee and Beena Ahmad. For information on how you can support Jeremy, and for updates on his case please visit freejeremy.net or follow the Jeremy Hammond Defense Committee on twitter @freejeremynet.
Note: This press release originally appeared on Sparrow Media and is reprinted here with permission.
Virginia Grand Jury Believed to be the Same Probe that Previously Called on Chelsea Manning, David House —
Alexandria, VA — Imprisoned information activist Jeremy Hammond has been called against his will to testify before a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA). Last week Hammond was removed from the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee where he was serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges he hacked the private intelligence contractor Stratfor Global Intelligence. At the time of his transfer Hammond was enrolled in the Federal Bureau of Prison’s intensive Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) which upon completion qualifies participating inmates for early release. Hammond’s prison release date was projected to come around mid December of 2019 but because of his removal from the RDAP program and the summons to this grand jury his time incarcerated could be extended by over two years. Although Hammond is still in transit it is believed he will be detained in or near Alexandria, VA for the duration of his proceedings.
The following is a statement from the Jeremy Hammond Support Committee regarding these developments:
“It’s with great sadness and anger we announce that Jeremy Hammond is being brought to the Eastern District of Virginia in an effort to compel him to testify before a grand jury. Given the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, we don’t know the nature or scope of the grand jury’s investigation. However, our assumption is that this is the same grand jury that Chelsea Manning is currently being incarcerated for refusing to testify before.
“Jeremy pled guilty in 2013 in the Southern District of New York to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He agreed to plead guilty pursuant to a non-cooperating plea agreement that granted him immunity from further prosecution in all 94 federal judicial districts. At the time of his guilty plea, Jeremy made a statement that made it clear that he was pleading guilty so that he could speak freely about his actions and move on with his life without putting anyone else in jeopardy:
‘Today I pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This was a very difficult decision. I hope this statement will explain my reasoning. I believe in the power of the truth. In keeping with that, I do not want to hide what I did or to shy away from my actions. This non-cooperating plea agreement frees me to tell the world what I did and why, without exposing any tactics or information to the government and without jeopardizing the lives and well-being of other activists on and offline.’
“Jeremy pled guilty to put an end to the case against him. He pled guilty because he had no interest in cooperating with the government. He was sentenced to 10 years —the maximum allowed under his plea agreement— and has been serving his time, counting down to the day that he will finally be free. That day was supposed to come in mid-December of 2019.
“The government’s effort to try to compel Jeremy to testify is punitive and mean-spirited. Jeremy has spent nearly 10 years in prison because of his commitment to his firmly held beliefs. There is no way that he would ever testify before a grand jury. The government knew this when they gave him immunity in every federal jurisdiction in exchange for his guilty plea. In bringing him against his will to the Eastern District of Virginia, the government has put an end to his participation in the RDAP drug program, effectively adding a year to his sentence. (If Jeremy had been permitted to complete the 9-month program, he would have earned a 12-month sentence reduction.) When he refuses to testify, his sentence will be prolonged indefinitely when he is punished with further incarceration for contempt of a court order to testify.
“Like brave grand jury resisters before him, including Chelsea Manning, Jeremy firmly believes that grand juries are repressive tools of the government, used to investigate and intimidate activist communities and are abused by prosecutors to gain access to intelligence to which they are not entitled.
“The U.S. government’s blatant abuse of the grand jury process in this case continues a clear pattern of targeting, isolating, and punishing outspoken truth-tellers and activists. We must stand up and say that enough is enough. We cannot allow the government to use fascist intimidation tactics to target, imprison, silence, and torture, those who threaten their power. We must not let the government fracture us or our support for those who need us most, no matter how they may try to pit us against one another, and we must not allow them to sow fear and distrust in our communities. We must come together as one, united in our support for truth and transparency, and for those who have paid the ultimate price to bring it to us.”
Note to Editors
Jeremy Hammond is being represented by attorneys Sarah Kunstler and Susan Kellman. You can learn more about the Jeremy Hammond Support Committee by visiting freejeremy.net or following them on Twitter at twitter.com/freejeremynet
Note: This press release originally appeared on Sparrow Media and is reprinted here with permission.
A raised fist to you all this June 11th! May this letter find you in revolutionary health and spirits. Although I am unable to be with you physically on this occasion due to being held in captivity by the BOP, I still feel connected with you on this day of solidarity. It was nice to run the 5K with you a few days ago for Running Down The Walls. I also sent out a few dozen origami models decorated with June 11th anarchist tattoos; you should be receiving those shortly.
Big ups to the other anarchist comrades behind bars. We have been through a lot of trials and tribulations over the years: harassment from abusive guards, solitary confinement, diesel therapy, the mind-numbing frustrations from battling the brutal bureaucracy for so many years. Never have we been alone, however. Despite every effort the system has made to cut us off from our friends and loved ones, from disconnecting us from the rotations of the Earth, we have still been able to stay connected to the movement. The letters, the books, the messages of encouragement – by undermining the punitive, isolating deterrent effect of the prison system, we are strengthened to keep struggling through the storm.
For all this, I want to express my appreciation for the Anarchist Black Cross chapters, the Books to Prisoners groups, the Friends of AK Press book club, those who sent in their personal zines: your work has an immeasurable positive effect on our lives behind bars. Know that every prison library we’ve passed through is saturated with radical literature, ready for the next curious soul looking for something interesting to check out. Also inspiring are the various solidarity actions, hearing that people are still out there taking direct action to destroy the old world and manifest new ones. Where we are, we often aren’t in the best position to be hacking and smashing things ourselves, but we can still rest easy knowing that things are still being hacked and smashed.
This June 11th also falls on the yearly “Officer Appreciation Week” (a separate event from the National Police Week last month). Across the federal prison system, we are locked down in our cells during the day while the pigs feast on fancy food from the free world, throw basketball tournaments, and give each other cheap awards manufactured by prisoners. They clap each other on the back when all the while their brethren continue to get away with murdering innocent people in the streets. It’s hard to imagine what sickeningly nationalistic sociopath could support such a week – but then again, this is the United States, headed by a fascist pig that pardons racist police and war criminals!
Watching the sky fucking fall from afar, it is sometimes frustrating not being able to do much about it. I’m often asked was all worth it, and how I have kept from being burnt out. Though I have regrets about not carrying out my actions with complete precision, I have never once regretted my involvement in the anarchist movement or committing the specific Anonymous activities that have led to my incarceration. My only regret is that I didn’t carry out my actions with complete precision, and that I was caught too early before I could complete many other half-finished plans!
Reflecting on this year’s theme of combating amnesia, drawing inspiration, and looking to previous generations, I thought about some things I recently read in Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. On multiple occasions, the authorities offered him release from prison if he would only renounce his actions and condemn the use of violence. Each and every time, he refused to turn his back against his comrades! There is no greater integrity than those who have been tested and stayed true, keeping their heads up high for so, so long. Having developed an appreciation for the immense gravity and preciousness of time, I want to express my deepest respects for you all serving long-term sentences, and commit myself to work towards your immediate and unconditional release.
Until the last prisoner is freed and the last prison burned to the ground! Jeremy (A)
This new piece of writing from Jeremy further details the horror of the of the situation that he endured at FCI Milan involving his alleged assault of a guard. Through it, we have learned that Jeremy (thankfully) at least had a cellmate at least part of the time, but that the situation was, sadly, even more convoluted than any of us on the outside ever could have imagined. Prison truly is cruel by its very nature, and that is something no amount of reform will ever fix. We must strive for abolition if we ever hope for true justice. – Grace North
One minute, I’m putting the finishing touches on some college homework, contemplating the irony of an anarchist hacker paying extortion prices using the BOP email computers to type a paper on Bartleby and Marx. Ten minutes later, I’m in orange rags, escorted to a cell in the segregated housing unit (SHU). There is a strong smell of pepper spray. My new celly tells me, “Yeah the last people were fighting and they sprayed them down. You’re lucky. I cleaned most of it up this morning.”
night in the hole is always the worst. Why am I here?! Pacing the cell in small
circles like a character out of Sean Swain’s “Last Act of the Circus Animals”,
I play the events back in my mind:
waiting for them to call recall, which is when students who have evening
classes can go to the chow hall to eat early. When they call the move, I push
the door to the housing unit open from the inside. Because there are no windows
on the door, I had no idea that immediately behind it was the most notorious
asshole cop on the compound, the one who literally embodies the stereotypical
pig with a shiteating grin, just waiting to write somebody up. The door
apparently bumped him softly, and he immediately gets aggressive, pushes me
with his shoulder, and says, “You wanna go?” It’s some macho display of power
and pride, trying to bait me in. Not going for it. I look at him tell him, “No,
I don’t want any smoke.” We stare each other down for a few seconds and he
says, “Let’s go,” and begins walking me up the compound.
places, Manchester, Greenville.” All mediums, this is my first low.
where you learned to assault officers?”
“No, I didn’t
mean to bump you back there.”
He calls the
compound on the radio and we meet with another officer. They talk out of
earshot for a minute, and I am passed off to the other corrections officer (CO)
and walked to the lieutenant’s office. He also has a reputation for being a
hard-ass, but I’ve never had any negative interactions with him. So I tell him,
“Look, this is a misunderstanding. I never intended to bump him with the door.”
his head and sighs. “Yeah, I know, believe me, if I thought it was an actual
assault, we’d be on the ground going at it.” This is his way of agreeing with
me. “But he is pushing the issue, and now you’re going to have to go through
the process.” After taking pictures and my blood pressure, I’m brought to the
A few hours
later, I’m given the shot: a 224 Assault (Minor). The written narrative is even
worse than the junk fiction on the SHU book cart. He wrote that after I
“struck” him in the “back and foot”, I proceeded to “stand my ground while
pressing my shoulder into his.” Reading the shot out loud, the sheer absurdity
of it all gives me confidence that the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) will
throw it out. Nevertheless, I know I’ll be waiting back here at least a few
weeks. I’ve been in the hole on a dozen occasions, so I know how to do time,
but it is always harder to digest when you don’t know why you’re locked up and
worse when you are accused of something you didn’t do.
I am most
preoccupied with the college classes I am missing. I am on track to get my
associate’s degree after next semester, and finals are just a few weeks away.
And if the worst case scenario happens and I am convicted, my security points
will shoot back up. Since I have no history of violence, I will certainly be
transferred back to a medium, and I won’t be able to finish my degree. It is
infuriating to think that a single cop can put a bogus case on someone and mess
up their entire future.
Knowing it’s going to be several weeks before I can plead my case to the DHO, I examine my surroundings. All SHUs are bad, but slight variations define the degree of dehumanization. Built in the 1930’s, FCI Milan’s SHU is old and decrepit. Layers of paint and pain are peeling off the walls. It’s a small 6’x 8’ cell with nothing but a bunk bed and the steel sink/toilet combo. There’s not even the standard issue table and swivel stool found in most cells in the system. The fluorescent light immediately above the top bunk is as orange as our clothes and encrusted with toothpaste. A former prisoner had affixed paper to block, or at least dim, the light. The water is messed up in almost every cell and blankets are on the floor to absorb the leaks. Water only dribbles out of the faucet, so plastic spoons are used to give it some pressure. In another cell, the water shoots like a geyser all the way to the door. One cell only has hot water and one day when the hot water was down, the occupants had nothing to drink. The faulty fire alarms go off randomly, often blasting loudly for hours in the middle of the night. The power flickers and goes off a few times. The upper range is so hot, people are sweating in their boxers, while the lower range is so cold people stay in bed under the covers all day. There is a constant argument with the CO’s to turn the fans and heaters either on or off, but no combination can please everybody. The only real solution is to bulldoze this old joint to the ground. The only indication of any modern renovations are the “green” toilets which lock for an hour after three flushes, which most prisoners despise. Ordinarily I support this for water conservation purposes, as prisoners are huge consumers of water, but in the SHU, this system prevents any possibility of flooding the range in protest.
these small variations, FCI Milan’s SHU is run like every other in accordance
with national policy. The same Bob Barker orange SHU clothes made in a
sweatshop in El Salvador, the same blue inflammable 1½” thick mattress made in
a UNICOR sweatshop at USP Atlanta. Life revolves around meals 3 times a day,
and showers 3 times a week. The food is standardized across the system: burger
Wednesdays, chicken Thursdays, and fish Fridays. The BOP must have some big
contracts with certain vendors to supply food that otherwise can’t be sold to
the general public, and I’m starting to recognize the brands. Everywhere I’ve
been, we get the same cartons of Borden’s skim milk, just a few days before the
expiration date, the same bags of Snyder’s potato chips, already expired. In
all my years of dumpster diving, I never even heard of expired potato chips,
yet I’ve seen these in three prisons so far. The same nasty packets of Nutro
Juice sugar-free Kool-Aid. The same brown packets of Deep Rich coffee, on
weekends only, but in SHU it’s the orange Deep Rich 97% decaf packets instead. Monday
through Friday they allow us an hour of recreation in the “dog run” cages. The
SHU rec area at FCI Milan is where they once famously hung a bank robber and
there are rumors that he haunts the building because there are strange, loud
sounds of metal clanking and scraping at all hours of the night.
ways, the SHU at Milan has its advantages over others in the system. Most
notably, we are not closed in by a steel door with the “choke hole”, but with
the old-school open bars that allow us to talk easily and even pass items from
cell to cell. One prisoner designated as an orderly comes by to help people
trade food, stamps, or books. Although the book cart is mostly composed of the
usual selection of pro-cop junk fiction like Patricia Cornwell and Vince Flynn,
it is freely passed around without limitations. We can’t receive magazines,
newspapers, or hardcover books. We can receive paperbacks. And, I must admit
that for the most part, the CO’s here are not the typical assholes working the
SHU that treat us like animals. Some attempt to accommodate us to the extent
that they can within the responsibilities of the job. The problem is that their
very job supports the system that confines us to these harsh conditions on frivolous
charges. They walk the SHU wearing shirts and hoodies with a black and white
U.S. flag divided by a blue line, a statement about the need for police to
maintain order against the chaos, or something. The end result is us ending up
in a jail within a jail in the minimum conditions allowed by low. And for what?
None of the people I talk to back here need to be in SHU. To the left of me was
an old cellmate. They gave him a 113 drug charge because he had his celly’s
Naproxen (Aleve) medication in his locker by mistake. This is medicine that can
be purchased over the counter at commissary. The guy to my right had a battery,
razor, and coffee pack foil which is used to start a fire. He too had a 113
drug charge. They even locked his celly up, standard protocol when contraband
is found in the cell. Some people are back here for more serious charges like
marijuana or a cellphone. To put things in perspective, marijuana is now legal
in Michigan, and there are more cellphones than people in the U.S.
been in here for months doing dead time with no charge, pending “investigation”
or transfer. My first celly got into it with his celly on the unit and gave him
a black eye. For days, the guy stayed in the room, not even going to chow, to
avoid a CO seeing the injury and locking him up, but he eventually turned
himself in. When the cops came around to ask questions they said, “We already
know what happened, so you may as well confess.” Thinking he would get
leniency, he admitted everything. But as it turns out, his celly never told,
and his confession was the only evidence used to lock him up and convict him.
One day, a
CO tells me to pack it up, I’m being moved to another cell. I’m like, WTF why?
He tells me, “You’re really doing us a favor. Just ride with it and we’ll
remember this.” I’m thinking okay, I’ll play ball, never know if it will come
in handy down the line. I’m escorted to the other side of the SHU and I
recognize my new celly from RDAP. “Thank God! I was praying for a celly.” He’s
a big Jesus freak, a “true believer” in the drug program, and not handling the
SHU very well. Under “SIS investigation,” he says he has no idea why he is back
here. He is stressing hard, red in the face, and pacing the cell panicked. So I
spend time talking to him, calming him down, encouraging him to get into a book
or work out. Though I tell him I’m not religious, he keeps quoting the Bible to
me, and I entertain him just to keep him in a good mood.
The SHU can
be hard, especially if you don’t know why you are back there or what is going
to happen. He said he told the psychologist he wanted to hurt himself. One guy
from the FDC tried to hang himself. Another has covered himself with his own
shit on at least three occasions while I was here. The head psychologist walks
around, more often when there is a crisis. She hands out Sudoku puzzles and
pamphlets on stress management and coping with time. Some of it is good, such
as developing patience and endurance to overcome difficult situations like
this. But, overall it tells you to simply accept your charges and conditions as
outside of your control. In the section entitled “Resentment”, they say most of
us “have met people like this, they seem angry at life,” that they are mad at
“an entire system – such as the courts, the justice system, or prison staff,”
and that it “doesn’t matter if the wrong is real or imagined.” This is the same
psychologist that told me that, in regards to RDAP, if you go to SHU for
whatever reason – even if you have charges dropped, even if your celly had
something in the room and both of you go to SHU but you are released because he
took the rap – you will still be “clinically teamed” and “set back” an RDAP phase,
because you likely did something wrong anyway. She was also the one who locked
up my old celly with the medication, knowing full well that if the shot sticks,
it would cause him to lose the year off he earned having completed RDAP. Even
if BOP psychologists are genuinely concerned about the welfare of those in SHU,
there is only so much they can do, because they work for the system that is
inflicting the damage, and have no power to stop the bleeding.
passes. Though I am on the docket to see the DHO, there are no hearings this week
because of “Thanksgiving” so we all are just sitting for now. I get into a nice
routine: eating, reading, sleeping, and working out. Whether I am in general
population or the SHU, I don’t skip a day; one day I do upper body pushups and
dips off the toilet, the next I do a lower body cardio routine of squats, sit-ups,
jumping jacks, planks, and a variety of stretches. I make a few origami models
and write letters. I find a few gems in the book cart. I read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevensen. I receive
the monthly Friends of AK Press books: Zooicide
and Feminism in Motion. When I’m
tired of reading and laying in bed all day, I pace in small circles, lost in
thoughts and memories.
One day, a
CO comes to bring me to the property room. All of my stuff is emptied on a
table. My inventory receipt says “Property Found Unsecured” and so much is
missing. My MP3 player, my chess set, clothes, and dozens of various borderline
contraband objects that took forever to collect. Any food item that was opened
was thrown away. I’m given a confiscation form. By policy we’re only allowed
five books, so they confiscated the rest. I went HAM last time they tried to do me like this, but I shelve this
issue for now, believing that I am likely to beat the shot and be released and
where I can track down my missing stuff.
In SHU we
are only allowed soap, toothpaste, shower shoes, and a radio/earbuds. I had
some earbuds in my “locker buddy” but it appears the CO who packed my property
didn’t bother to go through it. When the CO isn’t looking, I stuffed a bag of yellow
Keefe coffee in my pants, but when I am patted down on the way back to the
cell, it is discovered. “Hey, can’t blame me for trying.” He laughs and puts it
back on the shelf.
With a radio
and no earbuds, I wait until commissary comes around, which sells cheap
earbuds. But they are out, along with multivitamins and AAA batteries. A friend
passes down a set, along with the homemade antennae made from headphone wire
wrapped around a long stick made of paper with the end attached to the
headphone jack. Someone passes some other headphones for me to fix; there is a
short at the jack. Soon I am fixing up headphones and battery packs to allow
AAA radios to use AA, using nothing but rubber bands and staples. Michigan has
the best radio stations. I can listen to shows like the Progressive Underground
and get NPR news. George H.W. Bush holiday? Teargassing the Caravan? Terrible.
My celly did
not get his property yet, so I let him listen to his Christian shows and AM
talk radio which he enjoys. It seems to calm him down. The next day he’s like,
“Alex Jones says there are 50,000 illegals in Tijuana throwing rocks and George
Soros is behind it all.” I get up, “WTF? The cops killed someone with rubber
bullets, they’re gassing women and children, you support that shit? You some
kind of Trump supporter?” “Um no man I guess I don’t know what’s going on down
there…” I hand him a Crimethinc article a friend sent me called “Turning the
Army Against the People”. He reads it for a while, gives it back, and gets back
to the Bible.
night, the CO’s bring someone in. Everyone is like “On the new!” They’re eager
to see who got locked up, why, and to hear the latest gossip from the compound.
It’s my old celly. He’s going to the outside hospital to get his teeth pulled.
It is standard protocol to lock someone up the night before for “security
need something to read? To snack on?”
good. Hey is so-and-so back here?”
my celly back here. He right here.”
“Yo! He’s a rat!
He got up there in RDAP and told on a bunch of people, then they punched him
ears perk up. “Woooh!” “Oh hell no!” “Yo Big Germ, you need to investigate that
one!” I look at my celly, who heard it all. “No! I didn’t tell on anyone! No
one punched me up!” “Well, you gotta get up on the gate and defend yourself.” But
he wouldn’t do it. I’m thinking now. It’s awkward as hell. It’s not a good look
to be in the cell with a snitch. A convict is supposed to buck, to refuse, to
kick him out.
I flash back
to five years earlier when I was at MCC NYC in the SHU for a tattoo shot. I was
walked down the range, saying what’s up to all the people who were still back
there from the last time I was in the SHU. “Yo! Germ! What’s up!” The CO stops
at a cell and cuffs the guy inside. “Yo! You don’t want to go in that cell! He’s
a rat! He told on so-and-so!” Inside the cell, I’m looking at the guy. He’s
young, thin, and so scared he won’t make eye contact, won’t leave the corner of
the cell. “Hey man,” I tell him, “they say you’re a rat!”
don’t know, I’m not an anything, I just want to read my Bible.”
Beat his ass!” they’re shouting in the hall. The CO is just standing there, so
I tell him, “Hey, you gotta switch us up. I can’t be in here with him.”
“Can’t do it.”
gonna make him stand in the corner all night! Get him out of here! Why would
you set me up like this?”
The CO walks
off. Sighing. I get on the bunk and chill out for a minute. Suddenly, I hear
frantic scribbling sounds. He gets up, slides an envelope through the side of
the door, and says, “CO! CO!” The others on the range begin mocking his high pitched
man…Mail doesn’t go out until Sunday, so what are you doing?”
“CO!” The CO
comes by, picks up the envelope, reads the letter, and walks away.
He just did it again! He just told!”
what was that letter all about?”
No reply, no
later two CO’s come by “Hammond, cuff up.” They take him and put him in the
next cell over. Hours later, a lieutenant comes by and gives me a new shot:
“threatening”. The guy said he felt his life was in danger. The shot quoted me
saying I would make him stand in the corner all night.
Why’d you lie and say I threatened you?” I tell him through the paper-thin
A week later
I see the DHO, but he’s cool, and drops the tattoo shot because it was written
up incorrectly. I get hit for the threatening but it is reduced to a 399 Most
Like Refusing a Program Assignment. I’m out of the hole, but lose commissary
and phone privileges.
about this and consider my options. I don’t have solid proof about this guy,
but a close comrade put him out there on the range and he wouldn’t defend
himself. But if he told, and was punched up, wouldn’t the guy who punched him
also be in SHU? One way or another, I’m either going to be released, or get
moved to the disciplinary segregation (DS) range.
Milan, when the day finally arrives, we are cuffed and escorted into the
property room adjacent to the lieutenant’s office where the hearing takes
place. I spot the bag of coffee I tried to snag last week, but it was not an
opportune moment. They call my name and I’m brought into the room. The SHU
lieutenant and another CO are sitting around a speakerphone. The first time I
saw the DHO years ago, he showed up in person. Later on, it was video chat.
What’s next, a computer algorithm? He reads me my rights: “Your silence may be
used to draw an adverse inference against you”, “the right to be present
throughout the discipline hearing except during a period of deliberation or
when institutional safety would be jeopardized”, “the right to have a full-time
member of the staff who is reasonably available to represent you”, etc. We do
not, however, have the right to a lawyer.
I give my
well-rehearsed presentation: “I did not intend to bump him with the door. It
has no windows so I could not have known he was on the other side. I never
pressed my shoulder into his.” The whole situation was blown out of proportion.
The CO didn’t even “hit the deuces” and call for all available officers which
is protocol for handling assaults. I wasn’t even cuffed until I entered the
stops me and asks me to leave for a minute. Back in the property room, I’m
talking with other prisoners about their cases as a few more are called into
their hearing. The DHO appears to be in a good mood. A few have their shots
dropped or reduced to less severe charges. I’m still eyeing the coffee, but a
safe opening still has not presented itself yet. I’m called back into the room.
cheerful tone, the DHO tells me, “Ok, I understand the door pushing part was
unavoidable. I’m not concerned with that. I’m worried about what happened
afterwards. The officer wrote that you pressed your shoulder into his, and I
have no reason to believe he is lying.” I think to myself, this is one of the
disadvantages of having a DHO come from a different prison. Everybody at Milan
knows about the CO who wrote me up. While the DHO looks at all your previous
shots, he probably isn’t looking at all the grievances filed against the
officer. I tell him that I never pushed him, that as it is written, it is not
even possible to “stand my ground” while simultaneously “pressing my shoulder
into his”. But don’t take my word for it, check the cameras. Even if the tape
didn’t capture the alleged pushing because it occurred in the sheltered door
enclave, the camera would certainly prove that the officer did not “attempt to
create a distance” as he wrote in the shot. He peacefully walked me across the
compound. If he lied in one aspect of the shot, it is grounds to expunge the
if he is interested, the DHO kicks me out of the room to review the footage.
Back in the property room, I’m talking to other prisoners who had their cases
heard. Convicted, but no Disciplinary Segregation time. They’re going back to
general population. The bag of coffee is still sitting on the shelf within
reach, but a CO is nearby and in a talkative mood. “Kicked you out the room
again? Might be a good sign!”
back in again and the DHO begins. “The video evidence is inconclusive, and we
can’t get into specifics.” Not able to see the tape for myself, I am supposed
to accept the only objective evidence that might clear me is “inconclusive”. We’re
back to a “his-word-against mine” situation, and in prison, the cop’s word
his sympathies, I explain “Look, I understand the severity of an assault on
staff charge. I know I caught a number of shots in my first few years, but I
calmed down, made it to the low, and began programming. I’ve been shot free for
two years and I’m on track to getting my associate’s degree in the college
program here. If this shot sticks, I will certainly be shipped back to the
mediums. I have every reason to be following the rules, not getting into
conflicts with staff. I don’t know why the officer freaked out over what was
obviously an innocent misunderstanding. I know that in prison, if I had a
negative interaction with him in the past, he wouldn’t cut me slack if a
situation like this happened. But that’s not the case here, I never even talked
to him before. Maybe it was pride, that he felt disrespected that I pushed him
with the door, and he felt like he had to get in my face all aggressive. But I
did everything I was supposed to do. There was nothing I could have done to
prevent this from happening.”
interrupts, “Are you alleging staff misconduct?”
he wrote that I pushed him with my shoulder, when in fact the opposite
occurred, he pushed me, and said, ‘You wanna go?’”
alleging staff misconduct.”
And as soon
as I said yes, the DHO’s entire tone and demeanor changed, and I knew the
decision had been made.
“Ok, well I
will be forwarding your complaint of staff misconduct.”
“Well, I was
hoping that this could be resolved without having to come to that…”
too late now, I’ll be forwarding your complaint.”
the truth about what happened, that the officer had actually assaulted me, the
DHO felt like he was boxed into a conviction. A cop must always side with
another cop, especially when physical force is used. It is crucial that they
protect themselves by securing a conviction. They just rubber stamp the lie all
the way up and down the bureaucracy.
you guilty, that you did commit the prohibited act of 224 Assault (minor).” As
he’s reading me my sanctions and telling me my right to appeal through the
Administrative Grievance Process, I’m shaking my head and looking at the SHU
lieutenant, who, in his eyes seems to be communicating that he also recognizes
the injustice and absurdity of it all. I lose 60 days phone and commissary,
which I could care less about. But I also lose 27 “good time” days. That’s a
whole extra month in prison. Though we were supposed to be receiving 54 days
off a year, in practice the BOP only gives us 47. The watered-down First Step
Act does expand it to the full 54 days, but whatever benefit I would have
received is now gone.
Back in the
property room waiting for a CO to escort me back to my cell, I decide it’s now
or never. Even though I am cuffed behind my back I manage to grab the coffee
off the shelf and stuff it in my boxers. Back in my cell, I sip on a cold cup
of Keefe. At least there are small victories.
had their shot expunged or didn’t receive any DS time is being released back to
the compound. My celly, who never got a shot, was also released. I didn’t
receive any DS time as part of my sanctions, but I wasn’t kicked out with
everybody else. The next morning I am told I am being held “pending transfer”
and that it will be a few weeks. But I know that if they do decide to transfer
me, it will be months.
Parade comes through for their weekly dog and pony show, and I am prepared. I
give a nice presentation to the Warden, asking him to consider putting a
“Management Variable” on me to keep me at Milan so that I can finish my degree.
The Prison Education Initiative college program is only at six federal prisons.
It expires soon and is being considered for renewal. It is the best thing FCI
Milan has going for it, and they want to see some graduates. Programs like this
are the very purpose of Management Variables. They can keep me here if they
when they are bringing around everybody’s mail, the CO comes to me and says, “Hey
you received a bunch of books in the mail but we had to put them in your
property shelf.” WTF?! They had previously told me that I could receive books,
so I told people to send me something to read, but apparently now they are
implementing a new policy where SHU prisoners can’t get books in the mail. When
the bigwigs come around again for their weekly Clown Parade, I ask the Warden
about this. “What’s the institutional-security, orderly-operation whatever
justification for this one?” His new captain, some military beefhead who
in his first month at Milan had already began implementing other negative
changes around the compound, interrupted all aggressively, “It’s none of your business.
No books in the SHU except the book cart, period.” I would have snapped back at
him if the Warden wasn’t right there, but thinking that because they were still
deciding what to do with me, I chose to let it ride.
More than a
week goes by, and I’m still sitting on some dead time, singing the same old
song, washing socks in the sink. The fire alarm keeps blasting. That guy keeps
covering himself in shit. Next week is finals in college. If I’m not out there,
the whole semester will have been wasted. What is the point of my continued
incarceration? Or any of us back here in the SHU sitting on dead time?
is nothing unusual about this incident. It wasn’t in retaliation for the nature
of my case, or the tweets I put out, or the FOIA requests I filed, or my
involvement in the recent lawsuit to stop the new BOP prison in Letcher County,
Kentucky. A single power-tripping pig wrote a bogus shot and the system backed
the lie. This happens every day in hundreds of prisons across the US. They hope
that each incident is not brought to the public’s attention, that we just
accept it as inevitable. I am strengthened and inspired by people who wrote me,
and are advocating for me, pressuring FCI Milan to do the right thing. Reading
an ABC Zine someone sent me, I come across a poem written by Eric King, also in
solitary at another fed joint across the country. “Can I let loose my spirit/Let
it flourish, watch it destroy/Can I refuse to be submissive/To any state or
movement…Can I live one time?” I think about how I have gone out of my way to
behave myself over the past few years. I kissed so much ass in RDAP to get the
year off and they still expelled me. Even then, I layed low, so I can try to
get this college degree, and now they are trying to transfer me. It’s just
another reminder how their system of carrots and sticks of punishment in the
name of rehabilitation is all messed up. It’s one of the first rules I learned
going to jail: it doesn’t matter if you are guilty or innocent, when they can
slam you all the same, so you may as well go all the way with it. I make up my
mind: if they are shipping me back to the medium, if they take my degree, if
they take a month of good time for a lie, I will make them regret it; I’m going
HAM. It’s going down like Bartleby. I would prefer not to cuff up, not to stand
up count. Send the goons if you gotta. I refuse to accept that which they say
cannot be changed.
POSTSCRIPT: Thanks everybody for advocating on my behalf to pressure the BOP to keep me at FCI Milan. Many of the CO’s walking by told me they were well aware that there was a campaign underway. Unfortunately, the BOP did decide to boost my points and transfer me to a medium security prison. They got me out of there quick. While many others had been languishing in the SHU for months awaiting transfer, I was on the first flight out of there. When I got to the transfer center in Oklahoma City, they put me in the SHU for the holidays, which is apparently standard protocol for people who had a staff assault charge, foreshadowing the type of negative stigma that can come with a shot of that nature in your jacket. I’ve arrived here at my final destination at FCI Memphis. Having spent years at FCI Manchester in southeastern Kentucky, I was not excited to be returning to the south eastern confederate Trump region. Either way, my journey in the BOP is in the home stretch, and wherever they put me, I will continue to stay strong in high spirits. – Jeremy Hammond
Please remember that his birthday is coming up on January 8. Send him a letter to let him know that he is is not forgotten! Also please note that with this transfer comes important changes with the rules about books and mail. While at FCI Milan, books were allowed to be sent to Jeremy from private individuals. This is no longer the case. All books sent to Jeremy must now come directly from a publisher or distributor (such as Amazon, AK Press, PM Press, etc.). Used books from Amazon are fine. In regards to mail, new rules are being rolled out across all federal prisons that outline what is and is not acceptable when writing to federal prisoners. Please see this post for a list of the new rules, and please follow them carefully, or your letter will be rejected and returned to you.
While we are relieved that he has gotten to his final destination and that it happened quickly and that Jeremy arrived safely, this is not the outcome that either we or Jeremy wanted. We had hoped that FCI Milan would have allowed him to stay so that he could have completed his education, as he was only one semester away from graduation, and he was very much enjoying his studies. It is absolutely ludicrous that Jeremy was forced to suffer over one month in SHU, loss of privileges, and removal from an environment where he was not only learning and actively attempting to better himself, but where he had no other major disciplinary infractions, all over the ridiculous charge of accidentally bumping a guard with a door he could not see through as he was exiting his unit.
Prisons can, at even the best of times, seem Kafkaesque, but this situation went above and beyond the normal levels of absurdity and cruelty. According to the disciplinary hearing officer’s (DHO) report, it was the guard who made this situation something it didn’t need to be. When he was accidentally hit with the door, it was the guard who escalated the situation by confronting Jeremy, asking, “Do you really want to be pushing on me like that?” instead of just accepting that maybe it was an accident caused by the fact that a windowless door was opened and he was standing too close. No injuries were sustained, no harm was caused, but because there was was “unwanted touching”, Jeremy was charged with assault. All because of a door.
This situation is an example of something no bill, no law can ever reform. From the incident itself to the aftermath of being denied a chance to see the video that could have cleared his name and placed in SHU where his mail was delayed and books were denied on the whim of one man, the system worked as it has always worked, as it was designed to work. Prisoners are afforded no rights. In the DHO report, the reasoning the prison gave as to why they were upholding the finding of assault was, “The DHO has no reason to believe that the reporting officer is not being truthful in their written report, as the staff member was merely acting in routine performance of their duties and has nothing to gain from fabrication of the charge. [Inmate Hammond], on the other hand [does], in order to avoid the consequences of your actions.” In other words, prisons and their representatives never lie, but prisoners do. Prison guards are given the presumption of innocence, prisoners are given the presumption of guilt. We see this over and over not just within the prison system, but in the wider system of policing and law enforcement – the presumption of innocence is given to those in power. How many times have we heard that cops “feared for their lives”? And over and over, this presumption results in people suffering and dying and no one ever being held accountable.
Several years ago, while Jeremy was still at FCI Manchester, there was another incident where Jeremy was placed in SHU. There was another threat of a transfer. While he was waiting to find out his fate, the warden came to visit and spoke with him. The warden told him, “You’re no longer our problem.” While that situation didn’t end in a transfer, I tell this story because it epitomizes not only the way Jeremy is viewed by the BOP, but how all prisoners are viewed. They are not viewed as human beings worthy of dignity, respect, and basic human rights. They are “problems”. They are subhuman. They are objects to be dehumanized, abused, mistreated, and controlled. It is for this reason, and many others, that we fight not for milquetoast reform, but for complete and total prison abolition. Nothing less will restore the rights and dignity of the millions locked in cages in the US prison system.
It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update on Jeremy and his current situation (previous updates can be found here and here), and a lot of little things have happened in that time, so I decided to write another update to keep everyone informed of what has been going on. Some of it is positive, but, unfortunately, the overwhelming amount is negative, as it often is in these situations. So, without further ado…
Jeremy’s Release Date
Last week, upon checking the BOP’s website, I noticed that Jeremy’s release date had been pushed back a significant amount – over a year, in fact. His new release date is now 17 March 2021. Previously, it had been February 22, 2020. I did not announce this when it first happened because I had been expecting his release date to be pushed back when he was kicked out of RDAP. One of the reasons Jeremy chose to participate in RDAP was because it gave him a year off his sentence. Before his enrollment in RDAP, his release date was 22 February 2021, and with the time given to him for his participation in RDAP, it was pushed forward to 22 February 2020. When he was kicked out of RDAP, I expected his release date to change, but it was quite the shock to see it change in the midst of this situation with extra time added on. While I cannot be certain, I assume the extra time is punishment for the disciplinary infraction he is currently facing.
People can always check for themselves Jeremy’s most current scheduled release date by visiting the BOP website and searching for Jeremy via his name or register number (18728424).
Legal Call to Jeremy
As I tweeted on December 7, a legal call was able to be placed to Jeremy. While this was encouraging, and it was wonderful to be able to hear his voice, it was discouraging the process that had to be gone through to get the call placed. The lawyer who placed the call, Nancy Norelli of Free Anons, who has acted on Jeremy’s behalf numerous times in the past, had to escalate her request all the way up to Washington, DC to have it honored, being denied numerous times along the way. Also highly concerning was the fact that, while this was intended to be a legal call and was requested as such in all correspondence with the BOP, the BOP chose not to honor the confidentiality that is standard when clients converse with their lawyers, instead forcing Jeremy to call from standard prison phones, which are monitored by the BOP.
Jeremy’s Case Manager
Jeremy was recently assigned a new case manager. This, too, is highly discouraging, as it means all the letters that were sent to his old case manager pleading with her to let him stay at FCI Milan are now sitting with a person who has no power to make decisions on his behalf. Make no mistake – this was most likely done intentionally, and new letters will be going out to the new case manager.
Sending Books and Mail to Jeremy
While Jeremy originally thought he was going to be allowed to receive books while in SHU, it now looks like that may not be the case, and it may all be because of the whims of one person who got annoyed that too many prisoners had the audacity to want books. Jeremy had requested a specific book from a friend, and when other SHU prisoners heard that Jeremy was getting books, they also wanted books. This is a completely understandable response – prisoners in SHU are often locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day with very little to do. The prison official who manages the SHU became annoyed at the number of book requests and instituted a new rule – no books for SHU prisoners. This seems to be a rule that is being applied to all prisoners in SHU and not just Jeremy. This is incredibly cruel, not only for Jeremy, but for all prisoners isolated in SHU. Jeremy is lucky to have a broad support network and plenty of people to write him and help keep his mind occupied. For those that are not so lucky, books serve as not only a form of diversion, but as education, comfort, and freedom. Banning books for prisoners already suffering torturous levels of isolation is inhumane. There is no other word to describe it.
As for letters, while we know that at least some of the mail that is being sent to Jeremy is reaching him, we have no way of knowing if all of his mail is reaching him. Last time he was held in SHU at FCI Manchester, a large portion of his mail was withheld and given to him upon his release from SHU. We can only hope that all mail that is being sent to him us being delivered. If mail sent to Jeremy during his stay in SHU is ever returned to you, please contact me. It is helpful to know if mail is returned so we can watch out for mail being improperly rejected or rejected too frequently.
As far as outgoing mail, we strongly believe that mail that Jeremy is attempting to send out is being purposely held and delayed by FCI Milan. Jeremy has said that he is sending letters to people, and, so far, none of those letters have materialized. With the removal of Jeremy’s phone privileges, this is highly concerning, as snail mail is the only way for Jeremy to communicate with people on the outside. (Prisoners do not have access to e-mail while in SHU.) While FCI Milan did allow Jeremy to purchase some stamps, all the stamps in the world mean nothing if the prison refuses to send the letters he writes. Purposely delaying mail is common repression tactic used by prisons to isolate people (especially activists) and silence news of both their own activities and the treatment they are receiving during their incarceration. Because we know it is happening with Jeremy, it is a situation we will be monitoring closely.
Conditions in SHU
Overall, Jeremy says he is well. He was able to get soap, was given a new pair of pants when they let him shower, and they allowed him to purchase some socks and boxers. However, he is not being given a pillow and, while it may seem trivial to us on the outside, the lack of a pillow is causing him pain. With no clear indication on when he will be released from SHU, it is vital that his health remain good. Medical care in prison is substandard at best, with prisoners often waiting years to have the most trivial of problems cared for, if they are ever cared for at all. Back problems from poor sleeping conditions could follow Jeremy for the rest of his life. There is no reason why he cannot be given a pillow. The BOP’s own program statement on special housing units states, “You will receive a mattress, blankets, a pillow, and linens for sleeping.” As per the program statement, only mattresses may be removed “during non-sleeping daytime hours as ‘loss of privilege’ sanction imposed by the Unit Discipline Committee (UDC)/DHO. Removal
of an inmate’s mattress is otherwise prohibited, absent life or safety concerns as specifically documented and authorized by the Warden, or his/her designee.” The program statement says nothing about a pillow, and it seems nothing more than yet another deliberate act of cruelty to remove one of the small comforts SHU inmates have in an attempt to cause them pain and discomfort.
These are all the updates we have for now. While the circumstances remain uncertain and challenging, we are still remaining hopeful and Jeremy is remaining strong. Please, keep Jeremy in your thoughts and keep writing to him. His address is:
Jeremy Hammond, #18429-424 FCI Milan P.O. Box 1000 Milan, MI 48160
I wish I could write that the disciplinary hearing went well, that the prison dismissed the charges that Jeremy was facing, that he out of solitary and safely and happily attending classes again, but I cannot. The outcome that we feared the most happened: the charges against Jeremy were upheld, and he is still in solitary.
Jeremy’s disciplinary hearing was Wednesday. It was held over the phone, and he was not allowed to attend in person. The corrections officers that was hit with the door claimed that when Jeremy hit him with the door, Jeremy both “stood his ground” and pushed his shoulder into him when the guard asked if he “wanted to go”. The disciplinary charges against Jeremy were upheld and a transfer to a medium security facility was recommended. For now, Jeremy remains in solitary and will remain there until this case reaches its conclusion. This is devastating to all involved, but especially to Jeremy, as he was especially enjoying taking college classes at FCI Milan and was so close to graduating. He expressed that, among other things, one of the most distressing aspects of being in SHU was that he was missing his classes, and was not able to turn in assignments or take finals. Jeremy was to be in the inaugural graduating class for FCI Milan’s prison education program, and leaving prison with a college degree would have been a huge asset.
While this is the worst possible outcome, and the one that we feared the most, the fight is not over. Jeremy could still possibly avoid a transfer due to something called “management variable”. This means that he would have the “points” that would normally cause him to be housed at a medium security facility, but he would be able to stay a low security facility. This would ironically be made possible due to the college classes that Jeremy has been taking, that he is now missing due to his time in SHU. Letters to the warden have already gone out, and it is now a matter of more waiting and hoping that he decides to intervene and allow Jeremy to stay at FCI Milan. We ask that members of the general public not write their own letters to the warden at this time.
I want to say a special thank you to the person who made a trip to the prison and was the one who relayed all of this information to me. While I will not name them for privacy reasons, without them, we would all still be waiting and wondering and would not be able to take action as quickly. Jeremy’s support network is vast, and the love and solidarity of his supporters extends around the world. It has carried him through his sentence and continues to be a beacon of hope in dark times. From the bottom of my heart, I thank every one of you who has written, visited, sent books, or even just tweeted in support of Jeremy.
For now, the best way to continue to support Jeremy is to write. (Letters and cards only at this time, please – no books or magazines.)
Jeremy Hammond, #18729-424 FCI Milan P.O. Box 1000 Milan, MI 48160