WEEK THREE: Marc Emery Held in Solitary Confinement
CANNABIS CULTURE - Imprisoned marijuana activist Marc Emery has been held in solitary confinement in an American prison for unknowingly breaking an apparently unwritten rule by having his wife record a phone conversation for publication as an online podcast, which was never released.
[UPDATE: Marc is now in his THIRD WEEK of solitary confinement in a US prison! He has been denied telephone calls to his lawyer, even though that is supposed to be a prisoner right. He asks for the phone call every day, and has been denied every time. Luckily he is still getting mail - find out how to send it to him here.]
On Thursday, June 3, officials at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center in the Washington gave Emery an official citation for allowing his wife, BC Green Party Director-at-Large Jodie Emery, to record a message from him over the phone, claiming it broke the prison's rule forbidding third-party calls. Emery was locked in a Segregated Housing Unit (SHU) and denied access to books, television, the telephone or contact with his wife and family. He will remain in the SHU until the prison holds an internal "disciplinary hearing" at an undetermined future date.
Emery's attorney Rick Troberman was allowed a brief visit on Tuesday, June 8 and said Marc has been locked in a very small for cell for 24 hours a day since Thursday, and could be there for a lot longer.
"We don't know how long he will be in there," Troberman said. "It's frustrating because he certainly didn't intend to break any rules and he's been doing everything he can to comply with the rules. [Recording podcasts] was something that he did regularly while in custody in Canada and there was never a problem with it. No one told him he couldn't do it here and as soon as he was told it was a violation of the rules he immediately sent a message to Jodie and told her not to broadcast it and she didn't."
Emery's wife Jodie says she is devastated she hasn't been able to talk to Marc for almost a week.
"It's horrible not hearing from my beloved husband, not knowing what's going on, when I'll be in touch with him next," she wrote in a recent blog post at Cannabis Culture. "And the solitary confinement is just the period where he waits for the punishment to be determined, as if it's not punishment enough! They can take away phone, email, AND visits."
Libby Davies, New Democratic Party MP for Vancouver East, sent a letter to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon today (read letter below) asking him to intervene to ensure that the rights and safety of Emery, as a Canadian citizen, are being respected. Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal MP for Vancouver South and member of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, also expressed concern about Emery's treatment.
"Marc should have access to consular officials and they should be vigilant in protecting Marc's rights under law in the US," said Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal MP for Vancouver South. "Here you have a man who has pleaded guilty to charges that would never be laid against him in this country, our police forces have facilitated his arrest and extradition to the US for crimes we would never prosecute him for here, and now for essentially making a telephone call to his supporters he has been put in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is for serious disciplinary transgressions, not for something that you do when you don't even know it is against the rules. Our government should be speaking to US authorities to have Emery sentenced as early as possible and then bring him home to serve his sentence."
Troberman said he though the punishment was unfair considering the circumstances.
"It seems to me that this is a completely overblown reaction," he said. "There was nothing in the conversation that was derogatory about the Federal Detention Center or his current situation or anything else. Why they're choosing to make such a big deal of it is, frankly, a mystery to me."
Before he was put in solitary, Emery managed to send an 'email' through CorrLinks, a Bureau of Prisons messaging system, to his wife saying that he had read all the prison rules and that they didn't mention anything about recording phone calls.
"There's nothing in my rule book that says you can't record my calls, so I thought it was OK," Emery wrote in a message published in his wife's blog post.
Emery is to remain in solitary confinement until his disciplinary hearing, where he will be given further punishment, which could mean the revoking of privileges or more time in the SHU. Emery is not entitled to a lawyer during a disciplinary action.
Emery is currently awaiting sentencing after being extradited to the US by the Conservative government of Canada. Emery was raided and arrested by the US DEA and Vancouver police in 2005 for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet and using the money to fund activism. He agreed to a 5-year plea deal in exchange for his two co-accused receiving probation in Canada. After sentencing, Emery will apply for transfer to Canada for the remainder of his sentence. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews will decide if Emery will be allowed to come home.
Click here to listen to episodes of Marc Emery's Prison Podcast
Click here to read Marc Emery's Prison Blog
Letter From NDP MP Libby Davies to Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs
June 8, 2010
The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Foreign Affairs
418 N Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Cannon,
I write to ask for your immediate intervention into the seemingly harsh treatment of a Canadian citizen currently serving a sentence at the SeaTac Federal Detention Centre in Seattle, Washington.
Since Thursday, June 3, Marc Emery of British Columbia, has been in solitary confinement awaiting disciplinary action for having recorded a conversation he had with his wife, in what amounts to a phone interview for his own internet blog.
Mr. Emery took all reasonable steps to be informed of all the rules and regulations that apply to him in his current circumstances. He was never provided the information that having a conversation recorded is against the rules. It is unreasonable that Mr. Emery be denied access to phones, books, writing materials and contact with his family for an undetermined amount of time. It is unfair that further disciplinary measures are also being considered.
I have written your government on several occasions to express my opposition to sending any Canadian to a US prison for actions that don’t merit prosecution under Canadian laws. Having taken this rare step, Canada has a unique responsibility to Mr. Emery.
I ask that your office take all necessary steps to act immediately to ensure Mr. Emery’s rights are being respected and safety protected, including his release from solitary confinement.
Libby Davies MP Vancouver East