Marc Emery’s US Prison Blog #23 – Discrimination Against Jailed Foreigners

Dear Jodie,

The censorship of my mail here at D. Ray James is continuing to outrage me. So far I am aware of;

* 36 letters returned
* An 8 x 10 Christmas card (hand made)
* An electoral map of the Nov. 2 elections
* A US atlas seized
* 75 years of DC comics hardcover denied because its size constitutes a security risk. (it’s 12x24x2 and $125)
*Over 100 books denied that have been sent to me
* Numerous magazines returned to sender

For me to receive any books of any kind at all I have to mail out an equivalent number. To receive 5 books I have to send out 5 books to somewhere. Currently I am mailing them to Loretta in Alabama because postal rates to send them within the US are cheaper than to Canada.

US citizens in federal prisons do not have to experience this discrimination. Additionally, US citizens in US federal prisons all have email access to up to 30 correspondents for hours a day. But not for Canadians in a US fed prison. Even the paltry 300 minutes a month of phone access – and there is no reason why D Ray James limits us to 300 minutes – is erratic, as this facility can cancel phone access at any time as they did to me Dec. 22 – 27. Some Canadians here have not been able to make a call out for 13 days now, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 4, like Trevor Lubbers from Vancouver and the Canadians from Montreal, New Westminster, Vancouver, still have no phone access as the computer here which controls our phone access just mysteriously cancels our phone access. This happened exclusively to Canadians.

All newspaper clippings get taken out of my mail. Photocopies of newspaper articles get removed. Even a copy of an email sent to D Ray James protesting their tampering with my mail was removed from a letter from Catherine Leach to me! In none of these instances of refused letters, books returned (dozens) books denied me (about 100), Christmas cards rejected, newspaper clippings, was I given any notification as is required by D Ray James and BOP policy and procedure. Most importantly all this mail room behaviour violates Bureau of Prisons policy and procedure. But, the mail room, like everything else about this place, runs not on any established BOP policy but arbitrarily whims made up on the occasion. So, it’s MADDENING!

I will consult with lawyer Kirk Tousaw when he visits next week about taking legal action against this place. It routinely violates my civil rights whether it’s interference in every aspect of my mail, or in the blatant discrimination that goes on against Canadians in the US Federal prison system. The sign in the intake hall specifies that the US Federal prison system does not discriminate on the basis of national origin! My chart (published below) shows Canadians are to receive nothing here at D Ray James that an American inmate routinely receives at an American ‘low security’ federal prison – email, exercise equipment, courses and classes in skilled trades, word processors, proper reading library and law library, outdoor visitation areas…

When BC MLA Guy Gentner visited me for 4 hours on Sunday Jan. 2, I emphasized that these private prisons, this one run by GEO, which receives $2,400,000,000 from the US Federal govt. In 2010 for prison services; I emphasized that private prisons do not adhere to or operate under any fidelity to Bureau of Prisons policies and procedures. Secondly, the prisons are about warehousing humans using the least possible monetary expenditures. A huge percentage of money the taxpayer gives over to GEO goes right into the pockets of the shareholders and executives. Almost nothing is spent on services or rehabilitation for the inmates, unlike a government-run US Federal prison.

After being moved from SeaTac FDC on Oct. 27 or thereabouts a full 70 days ago, my property (books, photographs, food, notes, batteries, book light etc…) still has not been delivered to me here at D Ray James. I am satisfied at least that word about these concentration camps for foreigners and Canadians handed over to the US by our compliant Canadian government are getting some small amount of attention. No Canadian should ever be extradited to the US while Canadians get shockingly less opportunities, facilities and access to communications as compared to US citizens in a US Federal prison.

Conrad Black wrote articulately about the prison he was at, Coleman FCI. Yet Coleman is the Hilton of prisons compared to here. Coleman had email, exercise equipment, outdoor visitation areas, extensive courses (Mr. Black taught creative writing) yet Mr. Black is not an American in an American only federal correctional institution.

Americans in Canadian federal prison are treated identical to Canadians in Canadian federal prison. If Americans are going to be putting Canadians in the ghetto facilities based on our nationality, our government should insist on parity; Canadians should have the same access to services that any Americans would get in a low security federal prison.

Compare Lompac FCI or Terminal Island FCI with D Ray James. All are considered low security yet the differences are staggering. Terminal Island has numerous skill trade courses, email, exercise equipment. Lompac has the same 1-2 man cells (unlike my 64 man dorm) outdoor visitation areas. In fact, I qualify to be in a minimum security camp, but because I am Canadian I am denied any opportunity to serve my sentence in a minimum security camp, which are used exclusively for US citizens. D Ray James is run like a medium-high security prison, even though all inmates here are non-violent offenders.

If anyone has suggestions I’d welcome them. Of course, there’s little assurance I’ll get your letter responses if people do write with their suggestions. I will be meeting with my Canadian lawyer and a Georgia lawyer from NORML, Richard Mallory Barnes in the next few weeks to explore my legal options; But this censorship and frugal access to communication in this private prison is frustrating. My treaty transfer paperwork is due in DC by Friday. Jan 21. Only 16 days away.

I need all Americans and Canadians to send letters on my behalf to the DOJ urging my transfer into the Canadian Correctional System. Getting US elected officials to write the DOJ recommending my transfer is especially valuable in aiding my successful transfer.

Trying to keep positive in the US Gulag,


PS. I cannot understand why Mr. Black, a non-US citizen was not put in one of these, shoddy, cut-rate prisons for foreigners. Mr. BlacK is a citizen of the UK I believe, having given up his Canadian citizenship.

Comparison between the conditions for US citizens in a US federal prison and a Canadian housed in a US federal prison for foreign nationals.

The US Bureau of Prisons has a policy statement to the effect that there is no discrimination between US and foreigners in the custody of the US federal prison system. My comparison shows this is not true.

Low and Medium Security Facilities for US Inmates D. Ray James “Low” Security Facility for foreign inmates
• Single fence security for “Low” • Multiple fences, razor wire on every structure and fence
• Unlimited Corrlinks e-mail access ($3 an hour) • No Corrlinks, no e-mail
• Gymnasium, exercise equipment • No gym or exercise equipment
• Musical instruments available to play • No instruments available
• Money can be placed in an inmate’s account by Western Union, money orders, US based credit card • Canadians cannot use Western Union, money orders or Canadian based credit card

• US inmates are regularly in 2-man cells • Canadians are placed in 64-man dormitories
• US inmates have doors or curtains on showers and toilets • No doors or curtains on showers or toilets. Canadian inmates have no privacy at any time
• US inmates are placed within 800 miles of family • I am 4,000 miles from my spouse at the most remote facility available for Canadians US
• Inmates have up to four televisions in common areas and often in separate rooms • Inmates have two televisions – one sports, one Spanish language
• Comprehensive current library
Includes hundreds of magazines, current & back issues.
• Pathetic library with books all 10-40 years old in very bad condition. For 800+ hispanic inmates, there are less than 200 books in Spanish. 50 magazines, all outdated, several months old. No money has been spent on a single new book or magazine in 10 weeks since DRJCF opened October 4
• Comprehensive law library including Federal Prisoner Handbook, many other publications, Prison Legal News • Lexus/Nexus only, on disc
• Computers with word processing capability and printers • No access to computers or printers. Inmates must use one of 3 1980s typewriters
• Photocopiers • No photocopiers
• Photographs taken of inmate and family on federal holidays • No photos taken
• Commissary purchases straight-forward and easy, often delivered to the housing unit. • Must wait outside in the rain, cold, or heat for 30-90 minutes each week for commissary
• Inmates allowed “open” movement within federal correctional facility (Low security) • Inmates rigidly controlled in their movement at all times
• Inmates have up to 50 different technical, trade vocational opportunities including electrical, computer, dentistry, business, welding, landscaping, carpentry, etc. • Nothing in trades or skilles of any kind
• Inmates can get married with ease under clearly stated BOP procedural policy • Inmates who want to marry are stalled and obstructed
• Inmates receive fresh fruit with breakfast and lunch • Inmates receive one scrawny orange every two days
• Inmates receive a variety of foods in meal menu • Inmates receive virtually the same food everyday; ground chicken (that looks like ground beef), corn, shredded lettuce, rice, beans, and tortilla. This is every lunch and dinner, with almost no other variable!
• Inmate can make collect calls to family in the US • Canadians cannot make collect calls to family in Canada. (Prepaid collect calls to one number only cost $8.50 for 10 minutes)
• Inmates have metal upright lockers to house property • Inmates must store all belongings in two boxes under bunk
• Thanksgiving meal for inmates is the best meal of the year inside the prison • Thanksgiving meal consists of two baloney sandwiches on white bread, a bottle of Sprite and a scrawny orange
• Inmates have a superior selection of commissary items at lower prices • Inmates must select commissary items with fewer choices at higher prices, from a Bush family-owned company called Keefe Commissary Network. Inmate funds must be deposited exclusively through Keefe company
• Second Chance Act (approved by Congress on 2009) allows inmates 12 months of their sentence at a halfway house, followed by 6 months of home confinement • Program not available
• Inmates receive RDAP program; drug rehabilitation program that reduces sentence by 9 months when competed • No program available
• Correctional officers maintain a discreet presence • Correctional officers every 20 feet, searching and frisking hundreds of inmates daily
• Toilets are porcelain with a wooden or plastic seat • Toilets are metal with no seat
• Inmates can work for BOP’s Unicor company , earning 29 cents an hour to $1.40 an hour • Inmates must work 40 hours a week for 12 cents an hour (for kitchen labor) to a maximum of 40 cents an hour
• Most inmates speak English • 95% of Inmates speak Spanish, staff speaks exclusively English
• Staff are trained and knowledgeable • Staff are completely untrained

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.