I went to visit Marc today for the first time at SeaTac FDC. Thankfully, I’m able to visit him even while he’s in SHU (“segregated housing unit”, solitary confinement). When I arrived at 1:30pm, it was very nerve-racking. I stepped up to the massive building’s entrance, got buzzed in, then found myself in a big lobby with a reflective glass booth and a little hole to pass ID and paperwork through.
There was a table with the paperwork to fill out for visiting, but no pen. Thankfully there were some visitors there who had been through it all before and helped me figure out the process (and loaned me a pen), because you don’t get any answers from the staff. Visiting officially begins at 2pm on Fridays, but by 2:15 they just started processing, which took a very long time itself.
Big families and many individuals filled the lobby. So many broken-hearted parents, girl friends, wives and troubled children crying “I want to see daddy” and behaving unruly, to the distress of the moms… so many Drug War Widows and Orphans. After all, the vast majority (almost all) of the inmates are there for non-violent drug law violations. The number of prison employees who came in and out was staggering – how can they possibly need so many staff? (Oh, right; it’s one of the biggest US industries, and locking people up continues to be a booming business!)
After an hour of waiting to be processed – as they really want to drag it out and make everyone involved suffer – I was told that my visit would be conducted through video, which means NOT in person! I was stunned, trembling and ready to burst into tears (almost) because the thought of not being able to touch him in person was utterly devastating, especially after flying here from Vancouver and staying until Monday to get two visits in (you can only visit every other day), expecting to kiss, hug and hold hands.
Thankfully, as I was being waved through the metal detector, the woman said “Actually, it’s Sunday that your visit will be done through video. Today you can visit in person.” I almost cried with gratitude when I heard that! I didn’t know why the rule changed, and I couldn’t ask her questions, but I was so grateful I almost cried again (this is all an emotional roller-coaster of an experience).
I waited with four other people, as you get brought in five at a time, and then we started down the hallway with a guard. It’s a very strange place, the inside of a federal US prison: long corridors with heavy metal doors slamming shut, camera everywhere, and colourful painted pictures of landscapes and such on the walls to try and make it less dehumanizing (it doesn’t work).
We got into the big visiting room, which consists of many rows of big plastic chairs facing other rows, and more cartoonish paintings of Seattle landmarks and scenes. There are enough seats for 125 inmates, but only 20 or so came in, staggered in time slots. As I sat there waiting for Marc to come out, I asked one of the guards why Marc’s next visit would be conducted through video; had he done something wrong? The guard explained that it’s a nation-wide policy being implemented on Sunday, June 20th in all Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities for SHU inmates, and today was the last day for in-person visits. That means my visit on Sunday the 20th will be through video. Thank goodness I booked my flight for today and got this final chance!
Marc came out from one of the many doors, wearing a bright orange jumpsuit (the other inmates wear beige; he’s part of the “bad” orange group of SHU inmates), looking around the room for me. I leapt to my feet crying out “Marc!” and ran towards him, he smiled and reached for me, and I jumped into his arms. He held onto me tightly, and I him, and he lifted me off the ground in a wonderful embrace – I kissed his neck over and over as he held me, clutching his head and feeling his hair, breathing him in… and then we had a long, intimate kiss as we stood there, holding each other – but the “hellos” have to end after 30 seconds, so we had to sit down. What a pleasure, though!
We sat in opposite chairs (as required) facing each other over a little plastic table, and held hands as we gazed into each others’ eyes. I cried a fair bit, I’ll admit – I let the tears fall down my face as I held his hands, and he wiped them away, staying strong to help me pull myself together. It was so good to see him, so nourishing to feel his hands on mine! It’s been a long time since I looked at his face up close in person, noticing all of the little spots and hairs and every tiny detail that I used to adoringly examine up close every day, all day long… it was so sad, but so wonderful – a strange twisted mix of feelings that no one in the real world would ever know.
He explained that it was very, very bad in SHU, “just like solitary confinement in the movies, truly that horrible”. He’s completely deprived of any human contact or fresh air or space. He has never been allowed out of his cell. Food is delivered through a slot in the door three times a day, take it or leave it (and Marc eats whatever they give; you have nothing else). Guards don’t even open the doors for check-up; they just look through a tiny window in the door. It’s 24-hour lockdown in a tiny little room with nothing but non-stop screaming and yelling from the other SHU inmates. “It’s like a mental institution,” he said. “It’s absolutely maddening.”
He has received some mail, but NOT ENOUGH, which is really disheartening for him (and for me – where are all of his fans?). He said that if his supporters are sincere and really care about him at all, they will SEND MAIL because that’s the ONLY non-depressing part of every day. Everything else is dehumanizing. He is longing for some human contact, communication of any kind.
So please write a letter, print some articles from online, send pictures – note that you can’t send a lot of photos at once, but apparently one or two at a time can come through to him in SHU. Send a photo of your protest sign, highway banner, or FREE MARC shirt, your family, your friends, anything positive (but nothing obviously illegal). He REALLY needs to hear from his supporters, so if you give a damn about Marc’s well-being, you’ll do the one thing possible to make him (and me) feel better: SEND HIM MAIL!
Throughout the visit, Marc and I lovingly stared into each others’ eyes as we talked non-stop, with a few pauses to just take in the precious moments in each others’ presence, to softly say, “Oh, I love you so much…” and “This is so wonderful”. He said this visit and seeing me so close would last him for weeks, months – and how desperately I needed to hold his hands and kiss him, too! They can’t take that away from us now! The last time we physically touched was the morning of May 10th, when he was ordered extradited by the Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and I said goodbye, thinking he would be out on bail later that day.
We talked about many other things, good and bad, the FREE MARC campaign, what he’s going through, and what he expects from me and others. He really wants people to be more active in the campaign to have him sent home to Canada, and to end prohibition and free drug war prisoners everywhere (especially getting rid of the EVIL Conservative Government in Canada).
The two hours flew by, and I was sad to see it end. I’m so grateful we got to bathe in each others’ admiration and incredible love, holding hands… He said he was so proud of me and he hopes he’s still my hero (of course he is!), and that he wants people to keep working harder than ever to end this drug war.
One of the guards called his name, and we had to stand up. I hardly remember saying goodbye; we hugged each other and kissed again, but my mind was racing with the panicked thought of this being our last in-person visit for a long time… I said, “I love you Marc! You’re my hero, my civil rights activist boo!” as I was led away, blowing kisses and wearing a brave smile. Seeing him sitting in the special SHU inmate chair, knowing he’s going to be strip-searched and then taken back to that dark, tiny hell of a cell… locked away from any human contact, unable to call me or write except for letters that come a week later (and perhaps not even any mail in two weeks!).
It was so terribly sad to say goodbye, but he told me not to cry. We must be strong, no matter what comes. No one can take away our love for each other.
It will really help me feel better if supporters make a fuss about his utterly unjust treatment by telling the media and spreading the news online. Here’s Marc’s current situation, how horrendous the conditions are, and how much worse it can possibly get:
Right now he’s been in SHU for 2 full weeks (June 3rd-June 18th). In that time he has been refused phone calls to his US lawyer every day except once. Phone calls to lawyers are supposed to be a prisoner right, as outlined in the “Prisoner Rights” guide. He has had two or three visits with his lawyer, which has been really appreciated because it’s a friendly human face, but that’s just a short legal visit and doesn’t have any real social elements to it.
It takes three hours for an inmate to be “prepped” for visits, including strip-searching and waiting in an empty processing room. Imagine not having anything at all to read or look at, for hours; just you and your thoughts. That’s what Marc goes through. He NEEDS to hear from people who know and care about him.
His disciplinary hearing will happen in 2 weeks or so, as inmates in SHU for violating rules must wait a month before they get their hearing (and remember, his rule violation that resulted in being sent to SHU wasn’t explicitly stated in the manual!). ***June 20th correction: disciplinary hearings can take 3 MONTHS to happen, not one month!*** The prison hearing is an internal Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) disciplinary process and has nothing to do with the legal system or inmates’ legal cases – which is why no lawyer is allowed to participate or intervene – and the ‘judge’ has already recommended that Marc lose his phone privileges for 6 MONTHS and be held in SHU for an additional 1 or 2 MONTHS!
The worst part is that if Marc is then ‘sentenced’ to another month or more in SHU, he will then have his radio taken away (that’s one blessing he’s had so far in SHU) and he will NOT be able to receive ANY commissary items – that means he won’t be able to get any stamps or envelopes or paper, so he won’t even be able to send me mail, which is the only way we are able to communicate.
This punishment is cruel, excessive and utterly unjust, but it happens every day to thousands of people all across America in this horrific drug war and imprisonment industry. Remember too that Marc is in prison not for violating drug laws, but for speaking his mind and leading a peaceful revolution of good, honest people. That is why he’s a political prisoner, just as the DEA admitted after his arrest. And that is why we must FREE MARC EMERY and free all peaceful prisoners of the drug war: it’s a violation of freedom of speech and freedom of choice.
I have to stress it again: sending Marc letters is so important. He can keep getting mail from us, even if we can’t get any from him. Just write about anything positive, your daily routine, your family and friends, your job, your hobbies, the news, activism – anything at all. The longer, the better, because he literally has NOTHING else to do!
For those of you who think, “I don’t know how to write a letter,” well, it’s like writing a long Facebook comment/message, or an email. He misses that regular contact he used to get all the time! Just sit down and start typing away as though you’re simply sending Marc a message on Facebook or through email. Express how you feel about things, what you’ve been doing, what you plan to do. Then print it off, get an envelope and stamp, and put it in a mailbox! It’s the LEAST you can do, if you say you support Marc Emery. Please, send him mail. I need to know that my man is not forgotten!
I love you, Marc. I promise to never give up in our quest for personal liberty and freedom from oppression. As you said, “One person can undo the evil of several thousand people. You must never underestimate your power.”