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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: This Prison Is Kind of Corrupt

The Bureau of Prisons sounds like a fun operation.

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Last time I noted that the prison administration here at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Worth had cut off my access to the inmate email system shortly after I sent a message to another journalist about wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons staff, thus providing us with a fine opportunity by which to see how the BOP really operates as I take my case up through the agency ranks via a charmingly baroque complaint procedure known as the Administrative Remedy Process. There have been some telling new developments on that front that I’ll relate by and by, but it would be remiss of me not to first say a few words about the prison itself, and fuck if I’m going to leave myself open to accusations of being remiss.

FCI Fort Worth is unusual among U.S. prisons in that it wasn’t built within the Nixon-Obama era of frantic hyper-incarceration, but rather way back in the 1930s or thereabouts. As such, it’s not done up in that interchangeable, two-tier, stainless-steel-everything, Late Empire style common to most American penal institutions, but instead consists of a collection of fenced-in brick buildings that once served as a military hospital. This gives the place some character. What it doesn’t give it is adequate space or sanitation. I hereby present a June 2012 inspection report by the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections, a copy of which was recently obtained by another inmate via a Freedom of Information Act request, and which details several instances in which this prison has failed to comply with the agency’s minimum standards for humane housing of inmates. Although each occupant is officially entitled to 25 square feet of unencumbered space, residents of Building 2 are listed as having 23, while those in Building 4 have only 21. The report also notes that “[t]he ratio of washbasins to inmates is 1:18 and the standard requires it to be 1:8.” Likewise, “[t]he standard requires a shower to inmate ratio of 1:8. The facility has a ratio of 1:17.”

For each of these shortfalls, FCI Fort Worth had a boilerplate explanation as to why its failure to meet the basic standards was actually not a problem at all. Weirdly citing the institution’s “management philosophy,” an unnamed prison emissary sees fit to note, with relevance to the sanitation issue that may not be immediately obvious to the layman, that “religious activities are available seven days a week, including evenings” and that “[a]ll staff are trained for and practice effective communication skills” (those who recall the bellicose and marginally literate rules listings I relayed last time may be inclined to dispute this claim, as would presumably the group of black inmates who complained last summer after the notoriously deranged Lt. Christie suggested to them that their mothers may very well have been “crack hos”). For good measure, this mystery administrator — whose name was redacted by the FOIA folks — goes on to claim that “[a]ll medically able, sentenced inmates are required to work (except those who, for security or educational purposes, are unable to do so) and do so on average seven hours per day,” which, thank God, is not anything close to being true — and, again, it’s not terribly clear why any such slave labor program would necessarily relieve the need for adequate showering facilities even were it something other than a bizarre lie. Finally, we’re told, “the facility does not experience waiting lines” for showers; this, too, may be easily confirmed as outright fiction by, say, waiting in line for the showers, as I’ve been doing every day since arrival.

Still, misrepresentation is the precious lubricant that keeps the engine of state running smoothly. In each of these three instances, the institution requested a waiver for its failure to meet the minimum standards. All three waivers were happily granted. In a fourth instance — that of failure to comply with Standard 4-4129 by exceeding “the maximum allowable inmate population as based on the Standards Compliant Bed Capacity (SCBC) formula” — the commission simply notes, rather demurely, that “Standard 4-4129 was deleted from the standards by the Standards Committee in July 2012,” which certainly solves that problem! Recall that the inspection itself was conducted in June 2012. Recall it and smile.

But even amidst a regulatory environment marked by the liberal granting of waivers based on demonstrable falsehoods coupled with the hilariously timed revocation of basic requirements, FCI Fort Worth still can’t comply with the nation’s minimum institutional standards. Although the matter for some reason goes uncommemorated in the 2012 report, the prison is also very much short on toilets. For strategic reasons, I will leave the specifics and relevant documentation for another day (strategy is always a factor when one is dealing with corrupt and vindictive officials who are effectively above the law, so it’s good that I had several years of practice with the DOJ).

New inmates like me must undergo all manner of bureaucratic rigmarole. Shortly after arrival, I had to have blood drawn for an AIDS test. Two weeks later, I had to have blood drawn for another AIDS test because, I was told, they never quite got around to testing the first batch of blood for AIDS. Two weeks after that, the exact same thing happened. This is all in addition to the previous two BOP-administered AIDS tests I’ve had to undergo in as many years, and I never got the results for those either. So I’m getting very, uh, frequent medical care.

Last month, I had to take a high school placement test because the BOP has no record of my having a high school diploma. They have no record of this because the probation department staffer who prepared my pre-sentencing report for the court, Edith Foster, claims not to have been able to confirm that I have a high school diploma, even though she could indeed confirm that I briefly attended the University of Texas — admission to which, of course, requires a high school diploma. Foster also couldn’t confirm my employment with The Guardian, even though the prosecutor, Candina Heath, once famously complained about an article I’d just written for The Guardian that she denounced as “critical of the government” and thus necessitating a gag order, and thus one might assume my authorship of Guardian articles to be a matter of record. Foster also stated as fact that the money for my legal defense came from my parents, when in fact the vast majority of it came from public donations — another matter of public record, one would suppose, since the prosecution attempted to seize those funds for reasons she never quite managed to articulate. Elsewhere in the report — which the government has wisely kept sealed — Foster notes that I was charged with 11 counts of aggravated identity theft for copying and pasting a link but does not see fit to mention that those were dropped after we filed a motion to dismiss, pointing out the charges were based on an exquisitely surreal misreading of the law. Again, the fact that all three of these things made headlines at home and abroad and were furthermore a matter of court record did not seem to interest Foster, who on the other hand was more than willing to include as fact a series of long-discredited FBI claims and went on to recommend that I be sentenced to 16 years. In the federal justice system, one’s Fifth Amendment right to due process is treated with all the gravity of a BOP AIDS test. Anywho, my alleged failure to complete high school puts me at a higher prison security custody level than is supposed to be the case, but then if they’d refrained from screwing me over on something like that, I’d probably have had a shock-induced heart attack, in which case I’d no doubt be dragged back over to the prison’s medical unit for a series of emergency AIDS tests.

In all seriousness, I suspect that the government is using all of this blood they keep taking from me to construct a golem.

Just a month after I got here, I had to attend a sort of pre-release class. One might wonder why, seeing as how I have two more years left on my sentence. The answer is that over-sentencing is so endemic to the federal system that two years is actually regarded as being just around the corner, relatively speaking, a state of affairs that’s thanks in large part to people like Edith Foster.

By far the most strangely captivating of these prison initiation events, though, was the orientation seminar that a couple dozen of us had to attend not long ago. This consisted largely of short speeches by the heads of the prison’s various divisions, which were sort of like TED talks, except that useful information was occasionally imparted and no one seemed to be promoting any books. The event was capped off with a 10-minute film clip centered on BOP director Charles Samuels Jr., and which may very well have been one of the most poorly executed pieces of video to come out of a First World country in two generations. I’d describe some of the garish and archaic special effects to which the BOP saw fit to subject us, but I’m unfamiliar with the necessary terminology, never having attended any video production courses at some rural Midwestern community college circa 1986 (not that Edith Foster would have put it in my pre-sentencing report anyway). More jarring was Samuels himself, who gives off the disturbing impression of not being entirely cogent of what he himself is saying at any given moment; whether regaling us with tales of the prison system’s allegedly ubiquitous educational offerings or threatening swift and sure retribution to those who break the rules in imitation of his own criminal underlings, the fellow utters everything in the same stilted cadence and without ever changing facial expressions. As this awkward monologue proceeds, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the conclusion that some extraterrestrial has implanted a biomechanical cortex control pod into Samuels’ brain stem and is now using him as an organic puppet by which to advance the incomprehensible socio-theological agenda of the Alpha Centaurians and their Transcended God-Emperor, although I’ll admit it’s also possible that the head of the BOP is just half a retard. Either way, we could easily replace him with one of our own FCI Fort Worth staffers, whose “effective communication skills” are reputed to be so great as to actually reduce the need for showers and sinks, much as European kings of old could heal skin disease with a mere touch. I nominate Lt. “Cicero” Christie for his still-celebrated oration “On the Strong Possibility of Your Mothers Having Been Employed as Crack Whores.”

Let us conclude with an update on the ongoing retaliation by the administration for my efforts to bring public attention to the criminal conduct and poor grammar perpetuated by certain of its deranged and unattractive employees. Here you will find a copy of the BP-8 form I submitted in mid-April after my email was shut off by some toy fascist member of the SIA internal affairs division named Terence Moore after I’d contacted the journalist, and here is my attached account of the details in which I point out that this particular instance of illegal retaliation also happens to violate sacred BOP policy. And although I don’t address it in these filings, the fact that a BOP employee who is ostensibly on hand to investigate violations of procedure by prison staff is instead spending his time violating procedure in order to better cover up still other violations of procedure by prison staff is certainly interesting. I should also point out for the record that Moore wears a stupid fucking derby cap to work every day and clearly feels no shame in doing so.

And here is Moore’s response. Note that he doesn’t deny that he engaged in retaliation or that he failed to provide me with a written reason for my loss of email, but instead rather bizarrely decides to quote the very portion of the guidelines, detailing that very requirement, of which he is in most explicit violation. AND MAY ALL MANKIND BEAR WITNESS THAT THIS DEGENERATE HAT MONSTER FAILS TO PROPERLY CLOSE THE QUOTATION, WHICH IS TO SAY THAT HE CANNOT EVEN COPY-PASTE SOMETHING WITHOUT FUCKING UP THE GRAMMAR SOMEHOW.

Finally, here is the BP-9 form that I submitted on April 30 to the prison’s Administrative Remedy coordinator, Mr. McKinney, who is supposed to enter it into the system immediately up receiving it and then provide a receipt to the inmate, at which point the clock starts ticking on the 20 days the prison has in which to respond, as laid out in the BOP’s own Administrative Remedy Program Statement dated January 6, 2014. As of May 10 I have yet to receive any such receipt. But a few days after I turned in the BP-9, I just happened to be the only inmate on my 300-man unit to be given a “random” drug test, which, if not quite constituting a receipt in the traditional sense, at least serves as confirmation that the administration is aware of the problem and is now taking steps to “solve” it, after a fashion.

Also note the superhuman restraint and maturity I displayed while preparing this form by refraining from demanding weekend visitation rights with the blood golem.


Quote of the Day:

“The games of the young are as old as the sins of their fathers.” –Will Durant, The Life of Greece


Editor’s note: Barrett Brown has been incarcerated since September 2012. Go here to read earlier installments of “The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail.” If you’d like to send him a book, here’s his Amazon wish list.

Barrett Brown #45047-177
FCI Fort Worth
P.O. Box 15330
Fort Worth, TX 76119