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!
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.
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
This message from Jeremy commemorates the 2018 June 11 Day of Solidarity with long-term anarchist prisoners. To find out more, including how to write many anarchist prisoners, please visit June11.org
Revolutionary greetings on this day of solidarity with Marius Mason and long-term anarchist prisoners!
A raised fist to all those behind bars who maintain their dignity in the face of a system that dehumanizes and exploits us! Our steadfast commitment to our collective vision of a free society is more resilient than any prison they’ve ever built; even after all their iron bars and concrete walls crumble to dust, we will remain standing strong together.
A raised fist to all those in the world writing letters, sending books, marching in the streets or putting in all-nighters! Your words and actions have a ripple effect that reaches even those of us the system has attempted to bury. You remind us that we are all part of something bigger than any of us individually: that when one of us falls, others will pick up where you left off, and the struggle continues.
Reflecting on this year’s theme of sustainability and burnout, I consider how we can stay positively engaged despite the stresses and hardships of an oppressive society. Whether one is imprisoned, warehoused like cattle in the most minimal conditions allowed by law, or whether one lives in the so-called “free world” competing for survival in their financial rat race, we are all struggling under an authoritarian power structure and an economic system we had no role in creating and which offers us no future. I can understand how, in the face of a seemingly overwhelming military force, headed by the most blatantly corrupt corporate fascist to date, the odds may seem against us, and as a result, some can become jaded or burnt out.
Not a day goes by that I don’t say to myself that prison is fucking terrible and no one should have to live like this. Not for one second, however, do I regret my actions that have brought me here. Fully aware of the potential consequences of my illegal activities, I decided that it was better to risk everything to change an unjust society than to become comfortable within it’s cage. We can’t foresee every card that life deals, every betrayal or unfortunate circumstance; I’ve made mistakes and tactical blunders, and have taken some losses along the way, but I still believe in the power of direct action and hacktivism. The key to overcoming these challenges is staying focused and active, and constantly evolving oneself to confront new circumstances while staying true to our principles.
Possibly the greatest injustice as an imprisoned anarchist is the inability to participate in the movements that we were a part of. Often we would be completely unaware of how history is unfolding, if it weren’t for the diligent efforts of the comrades out there who have kept us connected to our communities and informed of current news and analysis. Your work in this regard is much appreciated; knowing that people have our backs, gives us continued strength and inspiration. It brings a smile to my face every time I read a reportback or critical analysis, knowing that it is still going down out there. And as I complete the final stretch of my bid, I am preparing myself physically and mentally for my release, and look forward to joining you all.
The following is a message from Jeremy to commemorate the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March taking place today. For more information on the march, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.
Revolutionary greetings! I am writing from behind bars to voice support for those taking to the streets in solidarity with prisoners lives. We may not be able to be there with you today, but we are marching with you in spirit!
Comrades, the struggle to end mass incarceration is up against a particularly harsh political climate. The system that has been subjugating millions of people in chains and cages is now fronted by a racist billionaire who casually encourages police brutality! No longer do they feel the need to disguise their repression in the rhetoric of democracy and justice. The crackdowns have already begun: maximum sentences, privatized prisons, asset forfeitures, deportations. What is it going to take to stop this? The political process has failed us. The democrats cannot provide any meaningful resistance. Nothing short of abolition, nothing short of revolution, will bring about our collective freedom.
To those who want to support our brothers and sisters currently jammed up in the struggle, there is much to do. Even seemingly minor contributions like sending books to prisoners to developing a penpal relationship can bring life to the people who are otherwise withering away like a flower without water or sunlight. Unfortunately, this alone will not bring about our freedom. The only form of solidarity that can stop the ongoing atrocity of mass incarceration is direct action: solidarity means attack!
This is part two of a two-part series from Jeremy Hammond, detailing his experience while housed in the segregated housing unit, or SHU, from August to September of 2016. Read part 1.
Back in the box again. Anyone doing time is going to end up in solitary confinement at some point; no self-respecting convict is obeying each and every petty rule, and I’ve been averaging at least a month or so each year since I’ve been down.
While it’s not surprising I found myself in SHU again, this time I had no idea what I supposedly did: no charge or explanation, no one says anything to me for a week. I’m back there pacing the tiny-ass cell thinking maybe this is about reporting on the various lockdowns and water issues, or encouraging mayhem at the DNC and RNC, or writing public statements against the proposed federal prison in nearby Letcher County, KY, or the FOIA requests, or maybe a few other things in the works I’m not sure whether they are aware of or not. None of this is really against the rules, but you never know if they’re going to hit you anyway. Either way it brings me pleasure to know I’ve caused them some headaches and annoyances over the years.
Eventually the bigwigs do their weekly clown parade and I find out I was locked up because I was “encouraging rebellion and criminal activities on the Internet” – i.e. the same thing I’ve been doing since I arrived at FCI Manchester two and a half years ago. But this time I crossed the line, they say, by inciting violence against police officers. I’m told I’m being transferred, and on three separate occasions I’m being told I’m going to a communications management unit (CMU) – a controversial control unit built during the Bush administration with heavy restrictions on communications primarily reserved for supposed “terrorists.”
Later I find out it was specifically over this tweet: “Cops getting away with murder for so long it’s about time someone started popping off on them pigs. It’s tit for tat, baby. Support the Dallas Shooter!”
Inflammatory, sure, and in retrospect I don’t want anyone to think I’m encouraging people to shoot at random cops, But I also didn’t say anything that’s not being said in every prison and in every neighborhood that experiences police violence on an everyday basis. This came in the immediate aftermath of the murders in St. Paul and in Baton Rouge, after the acquittal of the cops in Freddie Gray’s death: it just keeps happening over and over again. Imprisoned, we’ve watched all of this from afar, unable to attend the rallies and join the widespread public outrage against these killer cops who just keep getting away with it over and over again.
Groups like the Fraternal Order of Police and various police chief associations knew they had another mess on their hands and launched a coordinated PR campaign to turn the story away from all the people being murdered by cops and focus on some supposed Dallas shooter conspiracy to attack law enforcement. They condemned the shooter as a terrorist and a racist, saying he was visiting “hate” websites and tried connecting the attack to Black Lives Matter despite the fact BLM is overwhelmingly nonviolent. For days all you’d see on the news was “American heroes under attack” with various police representatives justifying increased militarization at rallies while somehow also claiming that “police protect the protesters,” a ridiculous assertion considering how they regularly beat up and mass arrest us.
You’d get the impression there was universal denunciations of the attack, but when they showed his picture with his fist in the air, most everyone here in prison was like “Hell yeah!” and “It’s about time!” – supportive sentiments contrasting so heavily from the seemingly universal condemnations from the TV networks and the pacifist reformists. I put the tweet out because the perspective of prisoners who have also experienced police brutality, whose voices are otherwise silenced and dismissed from the debate, must be heard.
Understandably, the BOP was pissed about it: after all, the flag at FCI Manchester was at half mast for a week, just as it was when Nancy Reagan died. But some friends also raised similar concerns whether I was wise to be so explicit and brazen, whether I really believe indiscriminate violence against police is the best strategy. What I said was really not all that different from what I’ve been putting out since before I was locked up. For example, the Anonymous “Chinga La Migra” hack of Arizona police included an ASCII graphic of an AK-47 with the words, “Yes we’re aware that putting the pigs on blast puts risks their safety, those poor defenseless police officers who lock people up for decades, who get away with brutality and torture, who discriminate against people of color, who make and break their own laws as they see fit. We are making sure they experience just a taste of the same kind of violence and terror they dish out on an every day basis.” Another comrade in Texas brought up a point: since they very well could have been at that protest, would it have changed my attitude if they were also hit? The shooter was specifically targeting cops, but two protesters were also hit.
To be clear, I don’t think we should be going around killing cops, and it is extremely reckless to shoot off guns at protests. With any tactic, you absolutely have to eliminate any possibility of inadvertently injuring innocent bystanders: consider that for all the actions of the ELF and the Weather Underground, they never killed anybody. When I did the “Shooting Sheriffs Saturday” hack of 70+ police departments, I redacted the personal information of people in jail, while posting the names, addresses, and email contents for thousands of police officers.
The state of free speech in imprisoned America and the growing rift between police and the people was swirling through my mind as I sat in the SHU. This is the third time I’ve been here at Manchester SHU, four if you want to count the two day “mistake” they made a month earlier. For all the talk of prison reform, there have been no observable changes in the cruel and unusual conditions that is everyday life in the Special Housing Unit. Manchester’s SHU is more restrictive than national BOP policy: no newspapers, books, magazines or photographs allowed from the mail. No coffee. Two junk fiction books off this janky-ass cart they pass around once a week. Only five hours of fresh air a week in the dog cages, if they don’t take it for frivolous reasons like our shirts not being tucked in or our bed not being made. Catch a shot while you’re back there, even for something as petty as saving bread or a packet of ketchup from one of the meals to eat during those late night hungry moments, they’ll come and take your blanket, put you in paper suits, and give you cold meals for five days.
The isolation and drudgery can’t be understated: even strong minds, no matter what, you’re going end up a little bugged out and have to find creative ways of passing time. I folded some origami dodecahedrons, played the movie “The Matrix” in my head with Neo being played by Will Smith as it was originally intended, and mastered the technique of peeling paint off the walls by simply staring at it long enough with enough concentration. But the stretches of boredom are sometimes punctuated with brief intense moments, like when my comrade two doors down was hit with the extraction squad. Refusing to cuff up to be put into the paper suits for refusing a cellie, a goon squad decked out in riot gear busted down the cell, roughed him up a bit while shouting “stop resisting,” cut off his orange rags, and forced him into the paper suits. It was horrific, but cell extractions like this are pretty common and supposedly backed by policy.
After a month of being told that I was going to be transferred, all of a sudden I’m kicked out the SHU and back on the compound. I’m given a write-up which reads like a federal indictment: “Hammond has the ability to influence the decisions and actions of others in public. Therefore, by directing his outside contact to post messages advocating violence towards a particular group of people, Hammond has effectively endangered the public, specifically police officers.” But it’s only a 397 series write-up for “phone abuse,” a low-severity shot you generally don’t even go to the box for (though they did take my phone privileges for two months).
I was given a stern warning by the prison’s intelligence officers who made it clear I got off light and that they are watching my every move and communication. I asserted my right to speak freely about politics, prison conditions or whatever I feel like, which they even acknowledged was allowed, but that I “can’t incite or advocate violence in any way.” Furthermore, “we know about the strike,” referring to the September 9th nationwide prisoner work strike on the anniversary of the Attica rebellion. “Hmm?” I mused. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.” Though there are a thousand complaints about our conditions, and that they’re working at UNICOR military sweatshops for nickels an hour, the climate here and at most medium-security prisons is pretty chill and it doesn’t look like people here are trying to buck. In any case, I don’t want to go to a CMU or spend months in the SHU awaiting transfer: they’ve won this round, I’m going to chill out, happy just to be drinking coffee, getting some sun, and reading good books.
Catching up on world events from the giant stack of newspapers and magazines they’ve held since I’ve been gone, it looks like the situation has been getting worse and worse. Another police murder of a black youth in Milwaukee while Donald Trump encouraged law enforcement to use increased militaristic tactics, specifically mentioning my hometown of Chicago where the cops have been basically waging a war on the people. Despite the “blue code of silence” cover-ups, the Homan Square black site, the failures of the Independence Police Review Authority, the police propaganda machine is pushing “Blue Lives Matter” laws to create a new class of hate crimes, something which I probably could have been prosecuted under simply for what I’ve spoken about in the past. The word is out, they’re monitoring everything, so watch what you say, even what you think, especially if you’re in prison. But in the back of the minds of all those who have experienced police oppression, the question remains: what is it going to take to put an end to this police state once and for all?
This is part one of a two-part series from Jeremy Hammond, detailing his experience while housed in the segregated housing unit, or SHU, from July to September of 2015. Read part 2.
“When are you going to start doing your time right?” one of the prison administrators tell me on their weekly rounds of the Special Housing Unit. I’m back in SHU again, this time for making hooch. I explain one or two disciplinary shots a year is really what you should expect out of a medium-security prisoner. Seems like all of my comrades behind bars are in solitary these days. I’m not complaining though: refusing to be a model inmate, I’ve been in and out nearly a dozen times since I been locked up, and the time is easier to “digest” if you know it’s because of something you actually did unlike some fabricated charge or “investigation.” I’ll be in and out in a month – or so I thought.
You can’t get straight sugar or yeast in prison, and there aren’t many hiding spots that aren’t regularly searched by the police: nevertheless, nothing could ever stop determined convicts from making prison wine. With a partner, I was microwaving the cream from generic Oreos to separate the grease from the sugar and mixing it with spoiled tomato paste stolen from the kitchen, stashed in a vent at my job in vocational training. Two weeks later, and this shit is like gasoline! I had just finished drinking a glass, brushed my teeth, and was feeling pretty good until they call me to the Lieutenant’s office for a breathalyzer test. What the fuck? Then I see them hauling out our stash: only me and dude knew the vent where our next batch was put up so I already knew what time it was. I find out later the full story when I’m in the SHU: he was trashed, talking shit to somebody in the chow hall and ended up getting slapped and humiliated, and when his homeboys tell him he’s got to step up and handle that, he “checks in” – he turns himself in to the cops and tells on everybody for wine, shanks, tobacco, even people who were stealing onions out of the kitchen. He was going home in a few months and didn’t want to lose his good time, so now there’s ten people back here in SHU cursing his name on the range. Unfortunately this sort of thing happens all the time in the feds.
A week later I see the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO): there’s really no defense for failing a breathalyzer so he finds me guilty and gives me 30 days Disciplinary Segregation (DS), 6 months loss of commissary, and 41 days loss of good time “mandatory pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act,” that tough-on-prisoner law passed in the Bill Clinton years. It’s the standard sentence landed down for a 100-series shot: drinking is in the same “greatest severity” class with rioting, stabbing, and taking hostages. I think it’s a bit harsh for wine – an extra month and some changed added to my sentence – but I knew this could happen before I started making it, and I’m not being singled out or anything, so I resign myself to kick back for a month in the box and I’ll be back on the compound soon enough.
I’ve been at a few different SHUs at different spots. Stuck for a week in MCC NYC during Hurricane Sandy when the lights and plumbing weren’t working. Spent a few days in SHU holdover at FCI Petersburg where they have triple-stacked bunks so cramped you can’t even sit up straight. The SHU at FCI Manchester has not changed much since I was back here last year. The only good thing I’ll say about this one is that they have a shower in each cell: hard to mess up a faucet and drain, though some cells flood and there’s standing dirty water everywhere. It’s downhill from there, though. Sticky plastic mattresses not washed between uses. The standard two-piece steel sink/toilet has broken buttons in every cell, so we affix torn up strips from their sheets to the insides to be able to drink or flush. Bunks so old, bent up, and warped they creak and clang every time you move around. Bright lights that stay on 18 hours a day reflect our orange clothes, rubber shoes and blanket no doubt further destabilizing our psyche. There’s a thin vertical window strip giving you a great view of a brick wall, but fortunately you’ve got enough gang graffiti, calendars, and “so-and-so’s a rat” scrawled on the walls to keep you entertained.
By international standards on the minimum conditions for prisoners held in SHU, we’re supposed to get a few hours of sunlight and fresh air per week, but the cops are constantly trying to find arbitrary reasons to take that away. At the crack of dawn they quietly sneak up to your cell window to see if you’re ready for rec. You have to be already up on your feet by the door all dressed up, shirt tucked in, your bed made, your room looking spotless. So much as a book on the table or your towel drying on the side of the bunk, and they’ll tell you, “Try again tomorrow,” even though BOP policy states they are not supposed to take away rec as a form of punishment. If you pass, your reward is an hour in the “dog run,” a cage twice the size of your cell where the concrete ground is covered in bird shit.
Theoretically, we are allowed access to the “law library” where they cuff you up and lead you to a cage smaller than your cell with a computer that has access to court rulings and case law. But it takes more than a month after you put in your written request, and by then you’ll have already seen the DHO thereby preventing you from adequately preparing any meaningful defense. I put in multiple requests and only got to use it once my entire SHU visit.
Every week they roll around a raggedy-ass book cart and we can pick out two books to exchange. The selection is the same set of junk fiction from the time I was here last year: Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell – all BS “political spy thrillers” and murder mysteries portrayed from a law-and-order perspective of a cop protagonist. I read a book a day so after I devour mine and my bunky’s, it’s looking pretty rough. Fortunately plenty of comrades on the street were mailing me various anarchist zines, news articles, and internet printouts to keep me aware of events in the free world. But any incoming books, magazines and newspapers that come in through the mail go straight to property storage. They even take any incoming pictures you receive. I already had a hundred books in storage, but they aren’t trying to put them on the cart. FCI Manchester Institutional Supplement on the SHU and personal property is far more restrictive than the national BOP policy, and the problem is compounded by this lazy and malicious SHU property officer who happens to be the same guy who caught me trying to smuggle a bag of coffee in the SHU a year ago.
Everybody fiending for coffee, we are constantly trying to smuggle in that Keefe yellow bag well known to prisoners across the country. When available, I was able to sample some of that forbidden black gold by fishing from other cells down the range by means of a long string cut from sheets and piece of soap. The BOP national menu does guarantee coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so when they feel particularly ambitious, we do get four tiny packets a week altogether amounting to about half a spoon. It’s the leftover cheap stuff not fit for sale on the streets because it is too old and has hardened into a taffy-like wafer that tastes like ashes. Nevertheless, every weekend I’m at rec swapping mailing stamps with others who don’t drink coffee. The sink water isn’t hot enough to dissolve it so you have to build a fire by means of a battery and a tiny strip of aluminum from the coffee wrappers, warming water in those little milk cartons suspended over the fire with more sheet strings. In general population, I was mixing Keefe instant coffee, Kool-Aid, and Coca-Cola to make a coffee energy drink commonly known as a Foxy, Bombay, or La Bomba. The SHU one is the same minus the soda and using these generic “clear punch” Kool-Aids that have solidified like the coffee. Highlight of the week!
Of course, if they catch you making a fire, fishing down the range, saving an apple or a breakfast cake to eat later at night, or just rub one of the COs the wrong way, they got something special for you in this SHU. National policy allows them to deny you your mattress except during eight hours at night, but here at Manchester, they take all your clothes and give you these thin paper suits normally used for prisoners in transit. They even take your blanket and sheets and give you what is essentially a large paper towel.
Thirty days and a few different cellies later, my time is up and I’m stoked! I’m drinking the last of my coffees and making a to-do list when an officer walks up and slips a paper in the door and walks away. “Administrative Detention Order: Hammond is terminating confinement in Disciplinary Segregation and has been ordered into Administrative Detention by the Warden’s Designee Pending SIS Investigation” it reads. What the fuck?! I’m kicking the door, screaming curses at the police down the range, running back and forth in the cell. Later my counselor walks by and gives me more bad news: another visitor application rejected for “security reasons.” (I find out much later that twice my grandparents tried visiting me while I was in SHU and were denied visitation, and I only recently came off two-year visiting restrictions.) “What the fuck am I still doing in SHU?” I demand to know. “SIS investigation” is all I hear for weeks. One of the administrators tell me, “There are things you’ve been doing that we know about, that you don’t know that we know, but we know.” …Huh? It’s true I’m generally up to something, so without knowing what they’ve got, I can’t do anything until they show their hand. I was supposed to get out in time to do the Running Down the Walls 5K run, but that’s not happening, so instead I just ran in place for an hour.
Eventually a SIS guy walks around and nonchalantly tells me, “Someone mailed you some drugs in the mail. You’ll be back here for a while and then probably transferred.” He said it was greeting cards soaked in liquid K2, all the rage in prison these days because it is odorless and easily concealed. I’m relieved because even if it really happened, I obviously had absolutely nothing to do with it and I’ll be cleared. On one hand, I’m not trying to leave because I have unfinished business on the compound: half-finished tattoo work, books on loan everywhere, etc. But I’ve pissed off most of the staff here and I’m sure they’re just trying to make me somebody else’s problem. I’m tired of the land of Mitch McConnell and Kim Davis – get me out of Kentucky already!
The time drags by with no answers and now I’m stressing. I’ve finished my sentence for the wine and am now on “administrative detention” status, supposedly “non-punitive” because they allow you your radio and two personal books (which the property officer is refusing me). While “under investigation,” you aren’t charged with any crime, but they can hold you for 90 days then apply for another 90 days on top of that. If they end up giving you a shot, the time you spent waiting for the DHO doesn’t even count towards your DS sentence. After the DS time, you’re sent back to AD awaiting designation and the next transfer bus. All in all, it’ll be months. There are still people in SHU for a big fight back in May that shut everything down. Four months later, the weight pile was reopened, but some of these people haven’t even been charged yet. I’m really supposed to sit back here “for a while” and then be sent somewhere else? If transferred I can’t bring all my books with me, not even the ones people mailed me since I’ve been back here. I’m telling them, “You have to donate them to the book cart,” and some of the administrators seem understanding and promise to do something about it, but more weeks pass by and I still haven’t received a shot and it starts to sink in how badly I’m being screwed. I start the administrative grievance process and submit a few BP-8s and BP-9s, but I already know that endless gerbil wheel goes nowhere.
The time for talk is over: I’m ready to go to war. These showers and toilets will flood the entire range very easily like we were doing in NYC, but later on the way back from rec, I discover this SHU has drains on the floor preventing that possibility. You could always cover the door window with paper to disrupt their count, hold the food tray slot hostage, and refuse to cuff up. I start saving milk cartons in the morning so they start spoiling. Position it under the door and wait for one of the bigwigs to walk by and you can stomp on it to splatter nasty milk all over their fancy dress shoes. Fill up toothpaste tubes with piss, and it works the same way. Damaging the sprinklers will trigger a deafening alarm and spray black oil everywhere. And starting a fire is always an option. Almost everything burns. Any one of these will result in the goon squad forcibly extracting me with shields, Tasers, etc. and is definitely result in more write-ups and injury, but fuck it, I’m already feeling like I have nothing to lose. If I’m going to be in SHU, it may as well be about something, and if they’re going to transfer me, I’m going give them something to remember me by.
It’s burger-and-fries Wednesday. Everybody normally looks forward to it, but when they roll the cart around, I reflexively tell them to get that stinking-ass tray out my cell. Hunger strike, ya bastards! I rile up the rest of the range, getting everybody to kick on the doors and start chanting “Fuck the police!” They immediately shake me down, take everything, and put me in a cell by myself. It’s not long before the bigwigs show up trying to calm me down. They reassure me that they’re not messing with me, that they’re waiting on the drug test results from the lab, and that I will have a chance to mail my books home. They give me what I‘m entitled to in AD, my radio and two books out of my property. I pick Beyond Walls and Cages, and ¡Presente! in English and Spanish so at least I have something to study besides militaristic junk fiction. It was worth it just to show them I’m not going down without a fight, but I realize that the time was starting to warp into a sense of hopelessness and desperation. It’s a constant struggle to maintain discipline and sanity, to be able to pick your battles. I got nothing else coming, and no matter what I do I’m still going to be stuck back here until they transfer me.
More time passes, and then suddenly I’m being kicked out back to general population. Turns out whatever they received in the mail wasn’t drugs after all, and was most likely just perfume on a greeting card. No shot, no transfer, no nothing. Just an extra month for free. They bring me to the front of the SHU with my duffle bags of property and I dress out of the orange jumpsuits into the standard BOP khakis. Much of my stuff is damaged or missing, which is the norm, but I’m more concerned about my books, dozens of which I haven’t even seen yet because they were sent while I was in SHU. Weeks later I’m still fighting to get them pack from the confiscation room or at least be able to donate them to the library. [Note: Almost a year later, Jeremy still has not received all the books that were confiscated from him during this stint in the SHU.]
As I’m leaving the SHU, the property officer tries me one last time and makes me take off my shoes right on the walk just for the orange socks I was wearing, but the joke’s on him. I had already managed to throw a bag of Keefe coffee from my property to the SHU orderly to share with the other comrades still left behind. The door opens and I’m nearly blinded by the sun. Just like that, the journey is over. Even though I spent nearly the entire summer in the SHU, lost twenty pounds, and now have to breathalyze three times a day, I’m feeling free at last, happy to get some fresh air and sunlight.
While I was in SHU, the Director of the BOP Charles E. Samuels was blatantly lying in front of Congress, a federal offense in and of itself. “We do not practice solitary confinement…We do not, under any circumstances, nor have we ever, had the practice of putting an individual in a cell alone.” Besides the graveyard-like control unit ADX Florence, there are plenty of everyday situations where you’d end up in a cell by yourself: the dry cell (for those suspected of smuggling contraband), the drunk tank (if you fail a breathalyzer), hunger strikers, protective custody cases, or just lazy SHU cell placement. Open the book on any SHU in the BOP and you’ll find people in single cells. The dude across the hall from my cell in “max custody” all by himself was doing a 24-month DS sentence for assaulting the guards in another prison. Every day, he played solitaire and paced the cell endlessly.
The BOP tries to whitewash SHU by calling it “administrative detention,” or “disciplinary segregation,” among other things. Indeed, the word “solitary” does not appear anywhere in the entire BOP program statements. No matter how they rebrand it, it’s still a torturous disregard for human rights that has attracted the UN’s attention. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez says, “Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit…whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as punishment.” It’s true that in general they try to give you a cellmate, and many people prefer single cell placement for short-term SHU bids because it gets cramped and crowded in that tiny cell and you want to be able to stretch out comfortably. But after a month or so, even with a strong spirit you start losing your mind and you crave meaningful social interactions not possible in a box the size of your bathroom, with or without a cellmate. Hundreds of thousands have experienced solitary confinement. Anyone doing more than a few years is inevitably going to end up in seg at some point during their bid. Prison administrators and correctional officer unions defend this practice claiming that it deters people from breaking prison rules, but all it does is make you bitter, erratic, psychologically damaged and more willing to lash out – especially if you’re doing time for some petty rule infraction or fabricated “investigation.”
The cops especially love to harass political prisoners and other “troublemakers” who submit grievances, file lawsuits, interact with the media, or communicate about prison conditions with the outside world such as Barrett Brown or Chelsea Manning. Their weapons include solitary confinement, supermax, communication management units, denying visits, and monitoring and censoring your mail, but that’s only what is sanctioned by policy. The police violence of pepper spray and batons that you see at protests is an everyday occurrence in prison where the guards got each others’ backs and there is no accountability. Remember in the 1970s, prison guards repeatedly tried to arm racist white prisoners with shanks instructing them to kill George Jackson. His comrade, Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, who himself spent decades in solitary confinement and had participated in the recent hunger strikes in California to end this practice, was murdered under mysterious circumstances just a week after finally being released to general population.
With Black Lives Matter and widespread public opposition to mass incarceration, finally there is attention on solitary confinement, police brutality, capital punishment, three strikes laws, mandatory minimum sentences and other aspects of the police state. Public outrage has forced Obama and other politicians to make token reforms, but they would never willingly give up these profitable tools of social control without a fight. We cannot sell out our desire for a world without prisons and police by settling for their promise of a more benevolent human warehousing industry, as if there could ever be such a thing. We must continue to build pressure on their pipeline till it bursts. The extra harsh treatment and counter-intelligence operations ordinarily reserved for the rebels, such as SWAT teams created to fight the LA Panthers, will be used against the general population if we do not challenge it with fierce opposition. Behind enemy lines, our strategy is to unite various factions against our common enemy and successfully engage in system-wide hunger strikes, work refusals and sabotage. Coupled with militant street demonstrations and targeted direct action campaigns against prison officials, we can make this industry so toxic and unmanageable so that no one would ever want to have anything to do with it and it is swept into the dustbin of history.
In this new writing, Jeremy shares his views on Anonymous, #OpISIS, and the recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that has been sweeping the nation.
The attacks in France were a terrible but unfortunately predictable response by desperate people who, after a decade of war and occupation, want the west to taste what we have been regularly dishing out. But we cannot allow them to be used to justify more war.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, the Western governments are provoking Islamophobic hatred in order to escalate military operations in the Middle East and push police state powers. It’s a familiar script, and from prison, I’ve been following these developments, disturbed about the attacks on immigrant and Muslim communities and the resurgence of the fascist right.
I remember in the wake of 9/11, the waves of blind patriotism and xenophobia that the war-mongering politicians used to push police-state laws, mass surveillance, and rampant militarization. It was never about fighting terrorism or weapons of mass destruction, but about US empire: control over land, oil, and drug production, like all wars. Hundreds of thousands of innocents were murdered by the US military over the longest war in our history while we escalated drone warfare elsewhere in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, creating the conditions which gave rise to ISIS in the first place.
That same post-9/11 hysteria is back and all the war-mongers are again frothing at the mouth with hate for immigrants and refugees, pushing for national Muslim registration databases, and for regime change in Syria.
But I never thought Anonymous would join in on their frenzied call for war. Apparently, GhostSec and others purportedly associated with Anonymous have been DDoSing forums, taking down Twitter accounts, and reporting IP addresses to law enforcement in collaboration with shady military contractors like Kronos Advisory. The naïve fools behind the operation are being manipulated by intelligence agents taking advantage of the emotional reaction to the Paris attacks to harness our skills to fight their hypocritical “war on terrorism.”
As someone who hacked with Anonymous and marched against the war in Iraq, I completely oppose #OpISIS and any attempts to co-opt our movement into supporting the government’s militaristic agenda. Escalated US military involvement is certainly going to result in more civilian deaths, as it already has. All deaths of innocent civilians are a tragedy, and we cannot value one life over another. (And you are still more likely to be shot down by police than in a terrorist attack.)
The same intelligence industry that runs their own NSA hacker operations against ISIS uses the same counter-terrorism justification to spy on everyday civilians with no regards for rights to privacy, encryption, or anonymity. They have always targeted Anonymous and other dissident groups as terrorists, and when they aren’t trying to discredit or imprison us, they are attempting to co-opt us – sometimes openly by attending conference like DEFCON, seducing us with promises of money or calls for patriotic duty, other times covertly lurking around IRC channels attempting to steer us unwittingly into supporting their agenda. Remember, Sabu asked me to hack government websites of Syria and Turkey, among others, which I did, unaware he was an FBI informant. They didn’t want to talk about it at my sentencing hearing, but they did condemn my attacks against police and military contractors at length. The agents out there encouraging you to “hack the terrorists” will have no problem turning around and locking you up for years if you are not useful to their agenda.
We won’t let Anonymous be unwittingly used to further the military industrial complex’s imperialistic operations around the world. We don’t work for the government – we are against all governments. We are on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressors. We support the victims of war, not the war-makers. If you want to report membership lists and IP addresses of suspected terrorists, go join the CIA or hang out with wannabes like Stratfor or the th3j35t3r. Call it state-sponsored hacking, patriotic hacktivism, whatever – just don’t you dare call yourselves Anonymous.
I urge my comrades still out there in the trenches, sitting on some hot 0day, ready to loot databases and trash systems. If you want to stop war and terrorism, target who Martin Luther King Jr. called the “largest purveyor of violence in the word today” – the US government. So Anonymous, get to it – drone manufacturers, white hat infosec contractors, CIA directors, Donald Trump, and your local police department – they all have blood on their hands, they are all fair game.
On June 20, 2015, a tech conference aptly entitled “Suits and Spooks” had infamous federal informant and notoriously mediocre hacker Hector “Sabu” Monsegur speak about “the rise and fall of Anonymous,” an organization Sabu has done his best to distance himself from, while still duping those gullible enough to pony up the cash into paying him to prattle on endlessly about.
Needless to say, this did not sit well with not only Jeremy, but anyone with a conscience. After a public campaign was launched against Suits and Spooks, its founder, Jeffrey Carr, offered space to “an Anonymous leader” who wanted to talk about “running ops.” Two Twitter users, VizFoSho and Flanvel, took him up on his offer. They did this with both the knowledge of us at FreeJeremy.Net, and with the intention of not only exposing Hector Monsegur for the fraud he is, but to also bring a little lulz into a wholly intolerable situation.
In the interest of full transparancy, we are releasing the slides they used in their talk, along with a statement from Jeremy. While everyone may not agree with everything they say on their slides, they make some valid points that we feel should be taken into consideration to anyone operating under the banner of Anonymous, especially when it comes to those who would use Anonymous for personal gain.
Statement from Jeremy Hammond
The latest twist of the knife – Sabu returns to the internet in full PR spin mode to try to clear his name. He’s done his time – one year probation – and now he’s back with a vengeance, running his mouth on twitter, writing lame movie reviews for Daily Dot, and speaking at conferences; will he be able to re-establish credibility in the community?
Remember how he snitched out all his comrades to the FBI? Apparently it was all just Fox News propaganda: maybe these steel bars and razor wire fences that imprison me are also illusions of my mind. But this shit is real like a bad taste you just can’t spit out: I’m not even halfway through my federal prison bid while Sabu is chilling in hot tubs and getting paid speaking gigs. There’s no way the FBI could have caught me if it weren’t for Sabu’s cooperation because I didn’t make the same type of amateur mistakes he made: he hacked PBS from his home IP address, didn’t delete log files, was busted, and immediately began working with the FBI to identify all of his hacker friends so that he could receive a 5K1 reduced sentence. His cooperation was so extraordinary that he received a hug from the federal prosecutor and a personal thanks from Judge Preska, the same judge who gave me the maximum ten year prison sentence.
You’d think this disgraced fool would have kept his head down and disappeared in shame, or at least show some kind of remorse for the lives he’s damaged. Not Sabu, ever the pompous megalomaniac. He’s on Twitter, issuing various denials and rationalizations for his actions, encouraging people to write folks behind bars, even contacting my support team attempting to donate money to my commissary account because “he knows how hard it is”.
He’s also taking bold new steps and speaking at the upcoming Spooks and Suits NYC conference. Until now, he’s laid low and hasn’t made any planned public appearances: now, for $300, you can hang out with Sabu and other government agent types like the CIA, NSA, NYPD, etc. Some big names in national security, so he probably feels safe amongst his fellow feds and whitehat sellouts to discuss computer crime fighting strategies. But despite all their credentials and clearances, the mightiest of US corporations and bureaucracies keep getting hacked over and over again (and it always brings me great joy hearing about it). They know that they need, as Jeffrey Carr described, a “bad actor willing to share first hand info”, and Sabu was more than willing to open his big mouth once again. If they’re looking for technique, they are sure to be disappointed: he’s just a pompous liar and fraud with no skill and a Death Before Dishonor tattoo. Got no clue, got no soul: guess he really fits in with the rest of the conference organizers. Remember, even with his extensive cooperation with the FBI and having trusted access to our internal channels, they were still unable to prevent attack after attack.
Though he had already been dropped from speaking at the RSA conference, and Spooks and Suits had to relocate due to the planned protests, Sabu is still probably intending on speaking at other events such as DEFCON and Hackers On Planet Earth(HOPE). He once said to me, “I’ll be damned if I’m ever compared to that faggot Adrian Lamo”. Lamo, the former hacker who snitched out Chelsea Manning (currently doing a 35 year bid for the WikiLeaks revelations), spoke at HOPE rationalizing his actions by the need for “national security”. Brandon Darby, who entrapped several activists to prison during the 2008 RNC, underwent a militant-lefty to right-wing-extremist switch, now speaking proudly about his decision to cooperate. Sabu, now calling himself an “ex black hat”, who really has never been about any cause but himself, is similarly furthering the false standard that it is OK for a hacker to bend to law enforcement and the US cyber-imperialist agenda.
Some say since this megalomaniac craves attention we should just ignore him, and for the most part this is the probably best course of action. But it’s not that easy to forgive or forget when you’re still doing the time. When he is given a platform to spread lies and defend his cooperation while the folks he sent to prison cannot attend conferences or communicate without being monitored and censored, he must be exposed challenged and confronted. We cannot allow future conferences to think it is safe to invite Sabu to speak, nor can we allow future hackers who may be busted to think they could pull a Sabu, snitch out their friends, and expect no repercussions. Reject the Sabu NSA white hat ideology!