Law

How to Leave Your Halfway House and Get to Work Riding DART

My first day at work involved public transportation and bad coffee.

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This morning I woke up at the halfway house to which I was released from a south Texas medium-security prison a month back and got into the back of the van that leaves every hour to take ex-convicts such as myself to the DART rail stop on Illinois Avenue. Upon arrival, I tried and failed to purchase a bus pass from the machine whose sole purpose is to sell bus passes to people who want bus passes. First I tried to put in a twenty dollar bill, which is clearly marked as being one of four denominations of U.S. currency that the machine likes to be fed in exchange for bus passes, but rather than accepting the offer, the machine buzzed at me. I tried to use my charge card, but this merely prompted the same mysterious and frankly hurtful buzzing sound.

Thinking that I myself must be at fault, I engaged a passerby to assist me; he tried the same things I had but with no success. This made me feel better but I still really wanted a bus pass. A woman who appeared to work for DART in some capacity was not able to explain why the machine was lying to us. Luckily another guy offered to sell me a day pass for five dollars, which I gather is against the rules because we had to walk off a bit to be out of view of the DART woman. The original passerby, who was now apparently in my service, accompanied us. After the guy who sold me the pass had left, my new vassal explained that the guy had overcharged me, that the going rate for illicit day passes was actually two for five dollars, and that “God don’t like nasty.”

Luckily, he went on, the guy had dropped another day pass when he’d opened his wallet and failed to notice and my vassal had placed his foot over it and then taken it for himself when the pass speculator was looking elsewhere, an occurrence which he attributed to God. I replied that I didn’t mind the fellow having made a profit out of selling me something I needed but that I understand that there are varying customs when it comes to black market transactions and that his own point of view was thus perfectly valid. He wished me luck.

Half an hour later, I arrived at D Magazine’s office, here in downtown Dallas, and began drinking coffee and eating bananas out of a basket of fruit that someone had just delivered. Tim Rogers, my supervisor, arrived soon thereafter, welcomed me to the magazine, and noted that I could have some free fruit out of the basket if I wanted. I replied that I’d already begun eating the fruit without asking and pointed out that the coffee was not very good and that we had better coffee in prison, even in solitary confinement. He explained that they’d just changed distributors. Then he told me to cover tomorrow’s City Council briefing and had someone print out for me the agenda of items that will be discussed and then voted on at another meeting the following Wednesday.

It had to be printed out for me because the Bureau of Prisons claims, rather implausibly, that the terms of my probation — which does not begin for another five months and which is to be administered by the Department of Justice probation department and not the Bureau of Prisons, which has jurisdiction over me until then — don’t allow me to use a computer or anything else that can connect to the internet. In fact, as plainly stated in the judge’s decision, I’m supposed to be able to bring a laptop to the probation office and have them install monitoring software so that I don’t engage in any anarchist insurrectionist activity, and thus am indeed allowed to use the internet just like anyone else, except that the DOJ can’t install that monitoring software yet because I’m not yet on probation (indeed, they’ve tried to make some arrangement for this unprecedented situation, but the BOP won’t agree to it).

The BOP’s regional representative, Luz Lujan — who won’t return my phone calls — claims that the BOP is allowed to apply my terms of probation as it sees fit; when I inquired through the case manager at my halfway house whether Lujan could put in writing exactly what I can and can’t do, Luhan responded that they were not required to do so. When Tim called her to ask, as my employer, for clarification, she responded that she couldn’t give out that information until I signed a waiver. Last week I signed that waiver, allowing the BOP and all of its employees to respond to any inquiries by the press or the public about the conditions of my release. In the meantime, I’m required to write posts such as this one with pen and paper, just as I did when I was writing from prison for D Magazine and then The Intercept about the BOP’s systematic efforts to deprive inmates of due process.

I’ll be back this afternoon with a preview of tomorrow’s City Council meeting. If you’re in need of some backstory in the meantime, read Tim’s National Magazine Award-winning piece on me and my wacky adventures from 2011, and then watch this short film by Alex Winter, which will explain what happened afterward. (SPOILER: I went to prison and drank high-quality coffee.)

[Ed: Barrett, too, has won a National Magazine Award. And it is fortunate that he has good penmanship.]

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Comments

  • Regular updates from Barrett, now this makes me happy. Welcome back Barrett, and thank you Tim!

  • Mavdog

    “coffee is grounds”. cute.

  • DubiousBrother

    For future reference, you can buy a day pass on a bus for $5 which will cover the train as well. Any bus at the train station will do. Even better, a monthly pass is $80 which you can get at a DART outlet http://www.dart.org/fares/passoutlets.asp. I’m surprised D doesn’t provide monthly commuter passes for their employees.

  • neincautusfuturi

    Can’t D Mag find an old typewriter for him?

  • Arlie Tater

    I can’t wait. This will be great!! Keep that snark coming!!!!

  • seylerius

    Please see this video pointing out three myths about Barrett Brown’s
    case (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11SN8YmVpLk). All three were
    espoused in Alex Winter’s “Relatively Free” in one form or another.
    We’ve tried to alert the appropriate people to the falsehoods, but no
    action has been taken to our knowledge. If you know anybody who’s
    connected to the generation of these myths, please ask that they stop
    generating myths and retract them. There’s no good reason to
    misrepresent the truth in a freedom of information movement.

    • Flahe

      While he wasn’t sentenced for linking and the charges associated with it were dropped (though they did exist!), the degree of penalty was still influenced by it. How it is possible in the US that a charge that you were not sentenced guilty for can influence your penalty is not something I understand (or knew before reading about his case) but it is definitly the case. This is what was being referenced.

      • seylerius

        We should come to expect that the state does not have our best interests at heart, and we should think about how we value things outside of the context of nationalist or statist language. That being said, understanding the nature and behavior of a system can only enhance one’s ability to change it. This is why it’s important not to overstate or falsify information pertaining to the state of our threatened rights. Further, if the behavior of an adversary is predictable, one can behave in such a way as to minimize the aggressive responses generated by the adversary. It is foolish to precipitate an attack from an adversary when one’s goals can be achieved without, and it is naive to see the US government as anything other than a powerful and predictable adversary.

        At 1:40 in “Relatively Free”, Trevor Timm says “What Barrett did was essentially what journalists do all the time, which was take information which may have been stolen or leaked and used it to do investigative journalism that is in the public interest”.

        Marlo Cadeddu does mention the linking being used as relevant conduct at 14:12, when she says “Barrett’s reposting of the link to that data was used to enhance his sentence, even though the charges that related to that conduct had been dismissed by the government earlier.” However, she immediately follows this by again summarizing Brown’s actions relevant to his arrest as journalism: “This case is problematic, I think, for journalists and researchers and academics because what Barrett was doing really was a journalistic endeavor.”

        The film also claims that Brown was in “solitary” when all available evidence indicates that he instead experienced a different segregation practice called “double ceiling”. Additionally, they argue that the FBI targeted Brown’s mother to inspire a freakout and acquire a pretext to arrest him. Truthfully Brown created the circumstances leading to her charge by bringing his laptops to her house to avoid the impending search and hiding them while the FBI went to get a search warrant.

        In short, although they briefly discuss the relevant conduct issue, the film primarily delivers a narrative that Brown was imprisoned for his journalistic acts, among other myths. The focus on myth instead of the nuanced lessons that can be drawn from Brown’s case — such as the necessity of strong OPSEC, and that investigative journalists don’t get immunity for criminal behavior tangential to their investigations — is a betrayal of the audience, as well as of the ongoing demands for accountability that have been so central to this movement.

        Besides, they have nothing to lose; retractions don’t end careers. Corrections show a commitment to honesty. It may have been a bad situation, and that may be some iffy coverage, but one could say they’re all in a position to gain here. Showing a little improvement never hurt anybody.

  • soniclife

    Single bullet to the base of the skull
    That’s the quickest way