Prison transfer thoughts and other updates

Today is June 3rd, and there are 766 days left to my release date of July 9th, 2014. I’ve served 823 days, and with my good time credit, I’ve got 1,058 days behind me on this 1,825-day (5-year) sentence.

I can, and will, put in my treaty transfer application to the US Department of Justice on April 6th, 2013, two years to the day from my rejection by the DOJ of my original transfer application back to Canada (see blog written about it here and the Canadian Press story here). You must wait two years to re-apply. It will take two months for the DOJ to approve or reject it, then, if approved, it will be forwarded to Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, for Canadian government approval.

Using the guidelines of both governments, I qualify under every criteria for transfer back to my home country, but that didn’t stop the DOJ from rejecting me last time. If approved by the DOJ in June 2013, then approved by the Canadian government over the summer of 2013, I should be returned to Canada by October-December 2013. If I arrive in Canada after August 2013, I qualify for immediate statutory release (2/3 of sentence completed, Canadian automatic parole rules).

I’m hoping my American supporters can and will appeal to their US Congressional Representatives in getting a letter-of-endorsement for my transfer back to Canada, that will be submitted to the Department of Justice by next April. I’m also hoping my former prosecutor/District Attorney John McKay, presumptive Washington Congressman Roger Goodman, and various state representatives and other Congressional Reps will also endorse my transfer back to Canada. At the Canadian end of things, I’m counting on no fewer than 20 Members of the Canadian Parliament and additional elected representatives from across Canada to support my Canadian application for transfer (we had 23 current and former political representatives from every level of government in Canada endorse my application last time – see the story and the official letter here).

If you are Canadian, please ask your Member of Parliament to write a letter of endorsement of my transfer. Ask for a reply in writing, then forward the reply to Jodie so she may contact them. Once I am released in Canada, I would be on parole until March 2015. If I serve my time in the US (that is, if I get refused transfer), I’m out of here and deported back to Canada in July 2014, without any Canadian parole conditions.

In the meantime, I am keeping busy in the blazing sunny weather that is virtually permanent here in Mississippi. All days are blue skies 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 38 Celsius) in May and June, and I stay in the shade each afternoon and practice my new material I have to learn by our next concert on July 7th.

My band, Yazoo, played its sixth concert outside on the evening of May 26th, a 100-minute set of the following 15 songs:

1) Don’s Jam in E Major
2) Back in Black (AC/DC)
3) Blue on Black (K.W. Shepherd)
4) White Room (Cream)
5) Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)
6) Red House (Jimi Hendrix)
7) Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen (Santana)
8) Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
9) Come Together (Beatles)
10) Sunshine of Your Love (Cream)
11) Pride and Joy (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
12) Jumping Jack Flash (Rolling Stones)
13) Crazy Train (Ozzy Osborne)
14) Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)
15) Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix)

It started off with challenges. Don broke his B string at the outset of his solo on Back in Black, but when you break a guitar string in the middle of a number you continue on as best as you can. He quickly replaced that string after that song. Then the vocal mic went dead at a key moment in White Room. Each of us made a few flubs, but nothing egregious, and the last ten songs went really well over-all. Flies kept landing on my nose and even walking around my lips while I played, but I did not lose my place while playing, maddening as it was on three or four occasions. I have been playing bass guitar for a bit over a year now, having never played any instrument in my life prior to May of last year, and my skills and learning curve continue to advance.

Our next concert, either on July 4th or July 6th, will feature the following set list:

1) Hey Joe (Jimi Hendrix)
2) Pride and Joy
3) Sweet Home Alabama
4) Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)
5) Back in Black
6) Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (Led Zeppelin)
7) Crazy Train
8) Star Spangled Banner (Jimi Hendrix, solo by Terry)
9) Little Wing (Stevie Ray Vaughan version)
10) Blue on Black
11) Sharp Dressed Man
12) Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
13) White Room
14) Come Together
15) Jumping Jack Flash
16) Enter Sandman (Metallica)
17) Whole Lotta Love

In the next five weeks I have to learn Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid, Enter Sandman, and Plush. This week I’ve been working on Heartbreaker, and should be ready for our first studio run-through on Monday. Our Yazoo band poster by Gary Wintle, the fantastic artist who created the FREE MARC logo and did many years of great work for Cannabis Culture magazine, should be ready soon and seen on my Facebook page.

The prison warden stopped me from receiving the April 27th and April 29th editions of the daily newspaper The Province that I was in (see coverage and the pages here), claiming that allowing them in would threaten the safety of the institution. These are the ones that had columnist Jon Ferry visiting me, the first with a full-page article and a section on the cover, and the second with a full-page photo of Jodie and I on the cover and a two-page article inside, with a photo of my band-mates. I wish I could have seen those newspapers!

After reading a book called “Food Rules”, by Michael Pollan (whose great book “Botany of Desire” is one of the best books I’ve read in prison; it deals with the strange and odd histories of apples, potatoes, tulips, and marijuana), I’ve decided to restrict my diet further, trying to eliminate all processed, sugary, starchy, foods. Since the commissary here doesn’t sell any fresh food, only processed foods, that leaves me with very little to buy that’s healthy. I do eat a sealed pack of pink salmon ($3) or albacore tuna ($3.40) every day, these two are brain foods high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids (like hemp seeds are), and I add to that some crushed garlic, jalapeno peppers, mayonnaise, onions, and sometimes chopped cheddar cheese. I eat whatever fruit they serve (apples, oranges, sometimes a banana), which I get because I never eat the sugary deserts that come with each meal, so they offer a fruit substitute. I don’t eat the pork or ground beef they serve here, and they never serve fresh vegetables (other than iceberg lettuce, and I’m not sure that counts as a vegetable, it’s really cellulose and water) so it’s lean pickings for me in the Chow Hall.

I receive two newspapers daily, and I do the crosswords in both the NY Times, and the Providence Journal (courtesy of my Rhode Island friend Catharine Leach). Without access to the help of the internet or any reference books, I can complete one in four crosswords, and nearly complete another one in four. I can only get 25-50% done on the others, but my brain is very sharp these days, so eating the fishes and exercising my brain on challenging endeavors like bass guitar and crosswords is keeping me mentally fit.

I’ve read all nine volumes of the graphic novel “Preacher” by Garth Ennis; all ten volumes of “Y: The Last Man”; three volumes of “New X-Men” by Grant Morrison; and lots of Carl Bark’s and Don Rosa’s cartoon books on Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck. I eagerly await new material by an artist/writer named Kyle Baker, too. I’ve read his “Plastic Man” #1 and #2, and his “You Are Here”, “Why I Hate Saturn”, and “Nat Turner”.

I also read a very interesting book on a very strange subject, “Love to Love You Bradys; The Bizarre Story of the Brady Bunch Family Hour”, by Sue Olsen. The Brady Family Variety Hour was a 10 episode 1977 show rated as the #4 worst show of all time by TV Guide. Sue Olsen had played the youngest Brady girl on the 70’s sitcom The Brady Bunch. That show went on for five seasons (1971-1975) and – to me, as I was around then – was one of those wholesome family sitcoms, along with A Family Affair (with Brian Keith), and the Partridge Family, which, even at age 14 in 1972, I found cloying and annoyingly reality-free (especially compared with M.A.S.H., All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, and The Jeffersons, all gritty ‘liberal’ shows that had a huge influence on my counter-cultural developing sensibilities – I was subscribing to the Village Voice from 1972 to 1975 when I was 14 to 17!).

I ordered the Brady Bunch book largely to share with my bandmate Terry, who was a fan of Sue Olsen because she had a radio show in 2008 and 2009 that he listened to. But it was a surprisingly good book, extraordinarily illustrated, with a bizarre story to tell, which was very entertaining, as I ended up reading the 300 or so pages of this oversized picture book.

Other books I have read in the recent two months include the latest installment of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series (I’ve read all fourteen in the series and eagerly await each new volume, although it’s very light reading), “Tug of War” (#6 in a series of historical mysteries by Barbara Cleverly), “History of the World in 100 Objects”, and “No One Gets Out of Here Alive” (a biography of Jim Morrison, a total jerk, alas). I’m also reading the Lonely Planet Guide to Jamaica. I realize the cost of airfare hasn’t gone up much in the past 20 years (thank you, de-regulation), but hotels, all-inclusives, and restaurant meals sure have. I’m hoping Jodie and I can go to Jamaica for two weeks in early December 2014, if I’m not on parole then, and three days in Paris, and 24 days in Italy in May 2015. I used to go to Jamaica every year from 1982 to 1990 when I lived in London, Ontario; I always went to Negril, which was so much fun. I have never been anywhere in Europe except Amsterdam in 1994 and 1996, and Greece in 1975 as a teenager on a school trip (read that story here). Jodie and I have never been abroad anywhere together, so I’m excited to travel to Europe and the Caribbean with her.

Jodie just renewed many of my expired magazine subscriptions, so I’m still getting about 25 different subscriptions, including five different guitar magazines (Guitar World, Guitar Player, Guitar Aficionado, Premiere Guitar, and Bass Player). My favorite magazines, all of which I read thoroughly, are, in order of value to me, are:

1) MacLean’s – I read this cover to cover, it’s all about Canadian current events, politics, arts, literature, a terrific magazine
2) Mental Floss – About cool facts and subjects, I also read every word printed in this magazine
3) Bloomberg Business Week – a great news and business magazine that has far more depth than any other magazine
4) WIRED – always a surprisingly interesting read from cover to cover

Other magazines I look forward to are TIME, NEWSWEEK, Atlantic, Reason, and Harper’s; I read almost every article in these. Others like Popular Science, National Geographic, Vanity Fair (I miss the late Christopher Hitchen’s column), Architectural Digest (everything is priced for rich people, who has $8,000 for plain “designer” coffee tables?) I skim, but find it hard to get into them. Rolling Stone Magazine reminds me that rock and roll isn’t what it used to be. I get travel magazines with compellingly beautiful photographs that set my imagination dreaming of the times ahead when Jodie and I can share some time in the sun: Islands magazine, Caribbean Life & Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, and National Geographic Traveler.

We still haven’t been able to buy our prison MP3 players yet, and now the so-called time they’ll be sold is late July. Meanwhile, the private federal prisons for immigrant prisoners (like I was in, in early 2011) have had MP3 players for as long as two years. It will be wonderful to be able to buy music and play it with perfect sound. The radio stations here are so hit and miss, and reception is often dodgy.

I still have my two jobs, being the roster clerk for the Recreation Department, and supervising the music room and the instruments five nights a week for two and a half hours each night. Between the two jobs, it’s 60 hours a month for $18. Well, it’s not about the money anyway; I like the jobs, and as we all say, it’s better than working in the kitchen of the Chow Hall.

I received word that the House of Representatives was considering a bill to end cable TV and recreational movies in federal prisons. Boy, that would that be a big mistake. Of the 1,750 inmates here, most serving 20+ years to life, TV is the great pacifier. TV keeps the staff of any prison safe. For most inmates, the biggest punishment of being put in solitary is no TV. I must be the only person here who does not watch TV (conversely, I am one of the few people who reads books). The Hispanic inmates watch Univision and another Spanish language station available only on cable. ESPN is watched around the clock in every unit. AMC, CMT, History channel, Discovery Channel, BET, are all hugely popular and on all the time. There are nine TV’s in each unit, all on different channels, mostly cable, and inmates listen through our radio receiver headphones/earphones. Mess with the TV, and I know some guys’ motivation to behave will greatly diminish.

I’m sure the riot last week at Adams County Federal Prison in Natchez, Mississippi, not far from here, where one guard was killed and five other staff were injured, was over television or some seemingly minor change in the rules or deprivation. That was an immigrant concentration camp like D. Ray James, where I was held before I was transferred here, and where the inmate population is 90% Hispanic. At D. Ray James, each unit had only two televisions, one Spanish, and one English, for 64 inmates. There were usually about 60 Hispanics and four English-speaking inmates in each dorm. You can imagine the tension. Eventually D. Ray James added a third television in each unit. Canadians in US federal prisons are most often sent to these privately run, vastly inferior prisons where there are few amenities, no Corrlinks prison email, and few televisions. That is among the many reasons the Canadian government should never extradite Canadians indicted abroad; most justice systems in the world are crooked, in the United States the sentences are draconian and medievally unjust, and the ‘criminal alien’ prisons Canadians generally get sent to are dangerous or inferior compared to those that Americans get sent to.

I confess I’m behind in my letter-mail correspondence. I write one long letter every day, taking about 90 minutes, but it doesn’t begin to keep up. However, I still read every letter and have them queued to write someone each day.

My incredible wife continues to amaze me and make me so proud of her. She’s looked after all our business and politics and activism for over two years now, and now she has been asked to speak at Idea City in Toronto on June 13th, on the first day of the three-day program. Tickets for 600 non-presenters, with swanky receptions after each day is done, are $3,500! This annual intellectual summit is billed as “Canada’s Premier Meeting of the Minds” and features 50 presenters from all around the world, including author Pico Iyer, cartoonist Chester Brown (whose work I love, I have three books of his right here in my collection!), musicians Liona Boyd and Jann Arden, Reform Party founder and Conservative icon Preston Manning, robotics engineer Hod Lipson, CEO of X-Prize Foundation Peter Diamandis, neuroscientist David Eagleman, Greenpeace Founder Rex Wyler, art historian Thomas de Wesselow, and many more. See Jodie’s profile on the website here.

I spoke at Idea City in 2001 and 2003 (see video of the 2003 speech here), and prior to Jodie’s presentation, host and media mogul Moses Znaimer will show a video retrospective drawn from my two speeches. Naturally, I am tremendously proud Jodie has been asked to present, and I do hope she has a great time meeting some of Canada’s most brilliant minds.

When Member of Parliament Libby Davies interviewed me for in 2009, she asked me what good I hoped would come out of my imminent prison experience. I said I hope people will see how Jodie will excel and exceed all expectations, and demonstrate a strength and accomplishment in my absence that will never allow anyone to regard her as a woman who lives in my shadow. I want the world to see my full and equal partner who, on her own for four or more years, will achieve greatness.

And so she is! I’m so proud of Mrs. Jodie Emery!

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.