Marc’s Prison Blog #27 (Newsletter #4) – Improvements!

February 1st to 8th, 2011: I’ve decided to write about some of the improvements here at D. Ray James Correctional Facility, because there are actually a few good things happening. However, readers are urged to remember that they are small signs of progress in an otherwise exasperating, punitive, irrational place. Hopefully, in time and with perseverance, the rest of the problems will be corrected too.

Marc and Jodie, January 29th 2011: (Jodie's shoulders aren't normally exposed, it's not allowed! She took off her cardigan for this photo.)Marc and Jodie, January 29th 2011: (Jodie’s shoulders aren’t normally exposed, it’s not allowed! She took off her cardigan for this photo.)To begin with, on Monday, January 31st, I received a treasure trove of new books, nine of them, including Marc Twain’s Autobiography Vol. 1, ‘Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great’, ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in our Free Country’, ‘The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare of the 1950s’, ‘Last Call: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition’, ‘Uncle John’s Giant Bathroom Reader’, two prisoner lawyering books, some Buddhist philosophy books, 10 excellent letters from my serious correspondents, some photos from Jodie, and a few magazines. I’m receiving Surfer and North American Hunter magazines, gift subscriptions that my fellow inmates find interesting. I was denied a musical greeting card, but I’m aware of that because I received the proper paperwork advising me of its rejection by the mailroom.

All this unimpeded flow of books, magazines, and letters to me without having to go through the bizarre rigmarole I was required to do up till a few weeks ago had me reflect on progress here at D. Ray James. I got all my ‘cop-outs’ (complaint/request forms in the prison argot), and surprised myself with how many of my cop-outs have been resolved. I am often frustrated by the apparent lack or slowness here of progress at this facility, and I make it clear I think treating Canadians and other foreign nationals in the US federal prison system in a discriminatory manner is unjust. I regard myself an eyewitness, a truth teller, a journalist. So, I got out my file of official complaints/requests to management for a review.

This next section would have to be titled:

“In Defense of The Management at D. Ray James Correctional Facility”

Friday, November 19th, 2010:

To the Case Manager: “I would like to begin the treaty transfer process to return to the Canadian Correction system.”

Result: Process completed 7 days ahead of schedule when all my transfer paperwork is FedEx’ed to the US Dept. of Justice in Washington, D.C. on January 16th, 2011. The deadline was January 21st, 2011.

December 12th, 2010:

To Business Services: www.accesscorrections.com does not take Canadian credit cards for inmate deposits into their commissary accounts. It is also not possible to send inmates at D. Ray James Correctional Facility money orders to deposit into their accounts, nor are Western Union deposits allowed either. This makes the situation for Canadian inmates extraordinarily problematic. Will we be able to receive money by Western Union ever?

Result: On January 31st, 2011, it became possible for families and friends of inmates to deposit money in inmate accounts via Western Union. Canadians or Mexicans or individuals outside the USA must use cash and take the money physically to a Western Union location (in Canada, these are at Money Mart). The cost is $15.00 (which goes to Keefe Commissary Network) plus the fee that Western Union normally charges, anywhere from $5.00 to $39.00, depending on the $5.00 up to $2,000.00 being sent to an inmate’s account. This is a huge convenience for those who can afford these service fees, but it’s noteworthy that in the B.O.P. system for American citizens, a money order for the same amount, costing only $1.50 to $5.00 at most, can be mailed to that US citizen inmate’s account. Because these ‘for profit’ foreigner prisons must exploit every situation for the profit of GEO Group, the money order option is not available to us here.

When sending money to an inmate at D. Ray James (like myself, for example), you take cash to a Western Union, use the BLUE QUICK COLLECT form, with the following information:

Pay to: D. Ray James CF
Code City: DRayJames
State: GA
Acct. #: 40252-086 Emery
Attention: Marc Emery

(For any American depositing into my account, using credit cards at www.accesscorrections.com is a lower service charge.)

December 15th, 2010:

To Business Services: “In the library, there is a new $11,000 photocopier for inmate use paid for by inmate trust funds. It has been unavailable for use by inmates because we are required to purchase copy cards. Could you please make these copy cards available for sale?”

Result: On January 7, 2011, photocopy cards went on sale. The cards are available to the inmate usually one business day after a request form is filled out and handed to the library supervisor.

December 15th, 2010:

To the Recreation Department: “As Christmas and New Year’s holidays approach, it is customary in all federal prisons to have an inmate photographer in the visitation room and units to take photographs of any inmate who purchases a photo ticket for $1.00 per photo. When will you have this service put into effect?”

Result: Beginning the weekend of January 22/23, inmates and family members on their visitation day (Saturday, Sunday and federal holidays) can have pictures. Jodie and I had our first photos taken on January 29th, 2011 (three photos). We’ll be taking three photos on each visitation day hereafter, and I’m sure after I mail them to Jodie they will appear on her and my Facebook pages (www.Facebook.com/JodieEmery and www.Facebook.com/MarcEmery and www.Facebook.com/PrinceOfPot). Inmates can have their photo taken in the yard on every 3rd Sunday of the month also.

January 6th, 2011:

To the Mailroom: “Since my arrival here on November 18, over 20 ordinary letters have been rejected by the mailroom, returned to sender, without my being notified, as per B.O.P. regulations. Additionally, numerous books and magazines mailed to me were inexplicably rejected without my being notified, also contrary to B.O.P. regulations. I would like to have in writing the official D. Ray James Policy and Procedure on mailroom protocol. I have also been required to mail out (at my expense) a corresponding book or magazine for each one I receive which seems to be applied only to myself and is unique in that such a procedure is nowhere stated in any B.O.P. or D. Ray James Policy and Procedure.

Result: The mailroom was given the B.O.P. mailroom manual on policy and procedure regarding inmates’ receipt of mail, books and magazines, by Dr. Davis, head of Library and Education Services. Warden Booker also clarified procedure with the mailroom. As of January 12, all mail to me, letters, books, and magazines have arrive unimpeded. A musical greeting card that was rejected had the proper paperwork forwarded to me explaining why it was rejected. Warden Booker signed it, as per B.O.P. protocol. Yesterday, I received notice that a letter was rejected because it contained no return address. But, as noted on the address page at www.FreeMarc.ca, all mail to me must have a return address indicated on the envelope.

December 14th, 2010:

To The Warden: “There is no exercise equipment here at D. Ray James. It is customary for all federal prisons to have stationary bicycles, steppers, treadmills, pull-up bars, etc. When will you be providing these essential items?”

Result: Twelve stationary bicycles were placed in the basketball courts outside in the recreation area. Additional exercise items are promised. Six foosball/soccer games were just unpacked in the rec yard today.

December 14th, 2010:

To the Warden: “One microwave is inadequate for 64 inmates in one Unit. Imagine a household where all cooking and heating of food, meals, coffee, tea, etc. was done by 64 people using one microwave. This non-stop use causes the microwaves to overheat and breakdown. Long line-ups are now customary to use it. Ultimately, the microwaves are breaking down quickly because of over-use. It would alleviate conflict, as well as extend the life of the microwaves considerably if there were two microwaves per unit. Will you be providing a second microwave in each unit?”

Result: Originally the Warden wrote back and said “No.” Microwave breakdown became widespread in January however, due to overuse and microwaves being mounted flush against the wall, which does not allow the heat to fan out effectively. The build-up of heat is causing chronic burnout of the microwaves within weeks. I spoke to Unit Manager Ms. Crews, and she has identified it as a key problem that she is committed to solving by putting two microwaves in each unit, mounted further away from the wall to prevent over-heating. She expects this to happen within a few weeks. Our microwave in Pod 2 went down Monday, January 31, and was replaced by a brand-new microwave within 24 hours.

December 14th, 2010:

To the Warden: “An additional TV is required in each unit. Currently two TVs for 64 inmates, one Spanish and one English, is inadequate. There is too much tension over just 2 choices at any one time. Other facilities in the federal system have four to seven TV’s per unit/pod/range.”

Result: According to the B.O.P. monitor on the premises (there are three B.O.P. representatives here to monitor the situation at D. Ray James whom inmates can talk to), a third TV per unit is already on the premises. The hold-up is that a coaxial and electrical connections need to be made and that may take up to three more months.

And finally, Nong, the Laotian man who has been trying to get D. Ray James to allow him to marry his fiancé here at the prison, has received approval by an Assistant Warden to get married. So DRJCF’s first nuptials ought to be happening sometime in March.

As you can see, there is progress, but much remains to be done and I take it upon myself to cajole this place into improvements. GEO Group is a penny-pinching corporation wanting to spend as little as possible. They received $2,450,000 in government contracts from the US taxpayer in 2010 alone, and they spend very little of that on the inmates. For example, the daily diet served to inmates is unacceptable and inadequate. According to B.O.P. Program Statement 4700.05, the Food Service Manual:

– 8(f) Nutritional information cards will be displayed for all prepared menu items listing calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium content of each item.
– 9(a) A nutritional analysis will be conducted annually by a registered dietician to ensure they meet the Daily Reference Intake (DRI) for nutrients published by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of the Sciences.
– 9(c) All nutritional analyses will be certified in writing by a Registered Dietician. This certification will cite compliance with the DRI’s.

I can assure you, my readers, that no nutritional information on the meals here has ever been posted, nor can the meals here possibly comply with the DRI by the Food & Nutrition Board of the NAS.

Today’s lunch is typical:
• White rice (all carbohydrates)
• So-called salad (90% shredded lettuce, 5% shredded carrot, 5% shredded cabbage) Negligible nutrients, mostly cellulose and water
• Pinto or baked beans, contains minor amounts of vegetable protein and roughage.
• Canned corn nibblets with green beans. As is true with virtually all canned vegetable, the vitamins and nutrients are negligible, about 2% of daily vitamin B per serving.
• Canned peach bits in light syrup. Contains no nutrients at all.
• A fish patty, which is really 50% filler (flour) and fish composite, between two slices of white bread. Contains negligible protein and lot of carbohydrates.

The above meal, very typical (monotonously so, as the ‘salad’, beans, corn nibblets, peach bits, white rice, and beans are served EVERY DAY for BOTH lunch AND dinner) contains no potassium, no B vitamins, less than 10% of daily Vitamin C, no calcium, few trace minerals, no essential fatty acids. It’s loaded with starch, carbohydrates, and little else. For breakfast, the milk provides 30% of the daily required calcium, and a scrawny orange we receive once every two days barely meets 20% of daily vitamin C. I haven’t had a banana in a meal since I arrived here 10 weeks ago. I had an apple of three occasions with a meal in December – never saw them again.

There aren’t any fresh vegetables of a nutritional value in our meals. I have never seen it, nor can you buy fresh vegetables here, unlike Taft CI (where I was supposed to go before I was gulagged here) where 8 vegetables are available on the commissary list for inmates; the Warden has refused my entreaties to put vegetables on the commissary list. Food items from the commissary are meats, fish, junk foods, starches, sugars, salts, but NO food items that are fresh and contain very essential B vitamins, Vitamin C, adequate trace minerals, calcium, and potassium. I supplement my calcium intake by buying Rolaids or Tums and eating 5 a day, as both these tablets are pure calcium.

Marc and Jodie, January 29th 2011Marc and Jodie, January 29th 2011I have not been able to find a single staff person here at D. Ray James who can confirm that the filter in the water tower holding all the drinking water has been replaced recently or regularly. I believe, since the surrounding area around Folkston is swampland and Jodie and I saw flecks of blue and black debris in the drinking water provided to us in the visitation room (bottled water has hardly been in the vending machines in visitation for 3 weeks), that the filter in the water tower – if in fact there is one – is not sterile or effective, and that the water here is unfit for human consumption. The water here should be tested; Jodie says it smells and tastes strange compared to the tap water at home in Vancouver. I believe a public safety official would order the water tower filters changed regularly. The water in the surrounding area smells of sulphur and other brackish elements; considering the huge area around Folkston is a famous swamp (the Okefenokee Swamp), the water should be plainly suspect here. GEO Group just spent thousands of dollars painting its blue GEO Group logo on two sides of the tower, a 10’ x 30’ job, to cover the “Cornell” logo from the private prison company that was bought out by GEO Group. Here’s hoping they’ll invest that much in clean water.

Today, February 2nd, it’s very warm and humid here. For 6, 7, 8 months, it will be muggy and hot and fetid, as befits a swampland. With 2,500 inmates by summer here, many young and members of gangs, tempers will flare. Men have sexual needs. When they are isolated from women, they normally masturbate. For 900 or so inmates, living in dorms as they are with 63 other men, there is no privacy here to do this. Masturbation alleviates tension, and there will be lots of tension here with month after month of muggy humid weather. If you Google D. Ray James Prison, the state prison that was here before it was a federal prison, there were examples of sexual desperation, almost always in the relentless hot weather here. And in the state prison system here, inmates received conjugal visits to alleviate that sexual tension. Conjugal visits do not exist in the federal system. At Sea-Tac FDC, I had a cell where it was easy to arrange privacy to masturbate. At Nevada Southern FDC, the dorms held 100 men, but we had privacy in the showers so I adapted to masturbating in the showers, as did all the men there (I asked them, as I am a very candid person). Here there are no curtains on our showers. There is no privacy, and no conjugal visits for married inmates. I predict a very tense summer with month after month of unrelenting heat and humidity here, and GEO Group’s cheapness and slowness to act in the face of potential crisis.

There is no progress in the area of available approved correspondence courses or a music program with available instruments, and the library is hopeless (and I have not been reinstated after 4 weeks following the Warden’s promise to put me back to my old job). B.O.P. regulations require a certified librarian. There is not a certified librarian at D. Ray James. There is not a single magazine arriving for the library by subscription four months after DRJ opened for business [Note from Jodie Emery: The next newsletter details what happened to the one subscription that did arrive – it’s shocking] nor is there a single relevant contemporary author like Stephen King, James Patterson, etc. This is contrary to the B.O.P. policy that states that a wide variety of magazines, books, and reading material be made available to inmates in the library. Interestingly, the official B.O.P. statement on law libraries and leisure libraries has been deleted from our Lexus/Nexus database, under Bureau of Prison Regulations. I believe that GEO Group has deleted the relevant B.O.P. program statement on libraries so it cannot be accessed to hold GEO Group accountable for the inadequate library services.

I’m going to be here at D. Ray James for at least a year, even if my application for transfer back to the Canadian Corrections system gets approved by the US Department of Justice around May/June, and then by Canada sometime in September to November. I’d be moved between January and March 2012 if approval comes on that timetable.

I believe a safe tattooing studio is required here in the prison. Giving tattoos to other inmates is forbidden, ostensibly because it poses a health risk. Yet few activities are considered more ubiquitous a rite of passage in a prison than prison-made tattoo. It’s curious because tattoos on the ‘outside’ are not illegal. So why not just have a tattoo studio inside the prison where it can be monitored for safety and health, giving tattoo artists and inmate recipients a safe place to do their craft? Currently, ersatz tattoo needles, made from the springs of pens and using “ink” made from the soot of burned baby oil, are administered surreptitiously in various units of DRJCF. The C.O.’s are often on the hunt for this illicit equipment. In a studio authorized by the prison, all health concerns could be addressed, needles issued would be collected by day’s end, always kept sterile, artists could share secrets of the craft, inmates could get tattoos done without risk of poisoning, and there would be no more reprimands and solitary confinement and loss of good time for clandestine tattooing. It’s a win-win situation. When I put this idea to a few C.O.’s they could only agree that sounded reasonable. (Full disclosure: I have no tattoos nor have I ever had any interest in getting one.)

I have just finished an excellent biography of Ayn Rand called ‘Goddess of the Market’, a gift from my friend Dana Larsen. Dana is currently seeking the leadership of the British Columbia New Democratic Party. I support Dana’s bid, and anyone anywhere can make a donation to his leadership campaign. The entry fee for Dana to run for the leadership is $15,000, plus all other costs will get to be considerable. Go to www.VoteDana.ca to make a contribution. I don’t believe Dana has read Ayn Rand, nor does he consider himself a libertarian (he’s really more socialist), but he does have some excellent ideas for the BC NDP, most prominent being legalizing marijuana and repealing prohibition.

‘Goddess of the Market’ fills in much of the background I was curious about when I devoured everything Ayn Rand ever wrote. Starting in September 1979, I read ‘Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal’ and it changed my life immediately. Right afterward I read ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’, ‘The Fountainhead’, and ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ Then I acquired and read the entire bound collections of The Objectivist, The Objectivist Forum, and finally The Ayn Rand Letter, devouring them all. On cultural and art matters, I didn’t always subscribe to Rand’s views, but in politics and economics, she was (and is still considered to be) a brilliant, insightful thinker. In that time I read all her work (1979-1985), I had heard rumors of her odd affair with Nathaniel Branden, her sometimes mercurial behavior, and her prickly relationships with other intellectuals. The book by Jennifer Burns is a straightforward chronologically structured account of Rand’s life that is very fair, thoroughly researched and presented without adulation. My admiration for Rand’s work is not diminished by the reporting of her foibles and weaknesses, unlike my feelings about John Lennon after reading Albert Goldman’s ‘Many Lives of John Lennon’, which portrayed Lennon as a truly despicable, unlikeable person, albeit a brilliant songwriter. After the 150th appalling incident of atrocious behavior by Lennon, as reported in Goldman’s account, it has since been hard to consider Lennon a ‘hero’ as I once did.

April 20th is a worldwide day of celebration in our culture, and Saturday, May 7th is the worldwide Global Marijuana March. I would like my supporters to join in the 420 celebrations and Global marches, and make it a bit of a ‘Free Marc’ Emery event too. Wear your Free Marc t-shirts, hoodies, and buttons, available at the CC online store. Hold up ‘Free Marc Emery’ signs and unfurl banners! At the Toronto Freedom Festival (Global Marijuana March), buy a bottle of ‘Free Marc’ water for 50¢ and meet my wonderful wife Jodie Emery at the Cannabis Culture and FREE MARC booth. Helping with the Toronto ‘Free Marc’ event is Catharine Leach, a Rhode Island medical activist and contributing writer in the Rhode Island Patient’s magazine ‘1000 Watts’, and her husband Keith. The April 20th celebration was started in Vancouver in 1995 as an idea from my staff at HEMP BC, and I was primary sponsor of the global marijuana marches from 1999-2005. It’s great to see the tradition carrying on and spreading all over the world. I hope that one day, with the hard work of people dedicated to liberating our culture, we will be celebrating our freedom across the globe on April 20th and every other day of the year.

Yours in liberty,

Marc Emery #40252-086 Unit Q Pod 2
D Ray James Correctional Facility
PO Box 2000
Folkston, GA
31537

Marc Emery
Marc Emery

Marc Emery is a Canadian cannabis activist, entrepreneur, and politician. Known to his fans as the Prince of Pot, Emery has been a notable advocate of international cannabis policy reform for decades. Marc is the founding publisher of Cannabis Culture and Pot TV.

Comments

7 Comments

  1. Ken on

    I like how you try to work with the prison officials.

    If you are genuine and the officials are reasonable, progress can be made.

    Best to you and Jodie.

    Hope for your return to Canada asap.

  2. bradleyson on

    We all know what Marc is saying in the bottom picture

    WEEEEEEEEEEEEEED

    haha I love you Marc.

  3. Catharine Leach on

    http://www.bop.gov/DataSource/execute/dsPolicyLoc

    B.O.P. Program Statement on Incoming Publications (5266.10)
    States on Page 9:

    “The following are examples of commercial publications which,
    based on current practices of the publisher, MAY be distributed
    to inmates even though they may contain nudity because the
    publication does not feature nudity as defined above:
    ? National Geographic
    ? Our Body, Our Selves
    ? Sports magazine swimsuit issues
    ? Lingerie catalogs”

    I don’t think National Geographic should be getting tossed in the garbage by DRJCF staff: their very own policy specifically exempts National Geographic from being considered sexually explicit, and they are supposed to allow inmates to read it!

  4. BallyHoo on

    Well, that sux. I sure hope they get some good food available for you. The food sounds like TOTAL shit. I do know they probably don’t give a shit about TV’s, exercise equipment etc….Whatever. Food on the other hand, is of utmost importance. Number 1 priority. Keep fighting!!!!!!!!

    Peace.

    Another year is not very niCe. Keep strong, dude.

  5. Anonymous on

    Marc, your spirit is truly indomitable.

    I sent you the book “Discipline and punish” by Foucault, never saw it mentioned in your blogs. Hope you get a chance to look at it.

    Keep up the good work! Hope to see you sometime (again) in Canada. I met you once, you probably don’t remember.

  6. Anonymous on

    Marc you doing such a good job down there making it easy for them they may want to keep you full time.
    And if Harper gets his way there may not be much of a Canada to come back to.
    Glad to see your not wasting your talent.
    Hope you get back soon.
    LOVE.