Back in ’91 I was a prisoner at FCI Ray Brook, NY, up by Lake Placid. It was built by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as the Athelete’s Village for the 1980 US Winter Olympics. After the event, the Jacuzzi’s were pulled out, another razor-wire fence added and–Voilà!–instant prison.
Athelete's Village, FCI Ray Brook, NY
As a remote mountain location near the Canadian border, it was ideal for certain prisoners. Many were Native Americans, perceived by the criminal justice system as wards of the state, along with Washington, DC prisoners at the time, Canadians awaiting completion of their sentence, and a number of other prisoners from around the planet awaiting deportation.
There was also a large group of Cubans and other Hispanics. Actually, quite an ongoing Athelete’s Village representation of the world. Fully 27% of the federal prison population are aliens (mostly Hispanic). more…
In addition to the above article…sorry for the cliché, but George really is one of the nicest guys you’d want to know. A throw-back to the hippie generation with long blond locks and matching trim beard. Soft spoken, educated without a lot of formal schooling, and friendly to a fault…too trusting in fact. His “crime”? Cultivating and selling marijuana. But it didn’t start with George…
One of the first marijuana prohibition laws in the United States was enacted in 1903 in Brownsville, Texas. It pertained at the time exclusively to Mexicans. The troubles south of the border were apparently causing many Mexicans to escape the growing hostilities by crossing to the U.S. more…
The first time I crossed into Arizona in 1972 I was shocked. I guess I expected the Old West. Cowboys and ghost towns. Cactus and sagebrush growing along the Gadsden Purchase territory. Even Apache and Navaho, and a mix of Anglo-Mex families and culture.
What I didn’t expect was to relive part of my experiences in Alabama and Mississippi in the summer of ’63.
This weblog is devoted to the prison experience connection. It would be disingenuous to fail to address Arizona and its relationship to jails and prisons, along with the criminalization of its Hispanic citizens and culture (documented and otherwise), one of the prime causes for mass imprisonment today.
The current alien population in the federal Bureau of Prisons is at 27% (mostly Hispanic). Look for that number to rise. more…
One of the realities I was forced to confront upon entering prison, facing a 25-year sentence—knowing it was going to be a long journey—was the concept of goals.
Nairobi, Kenya '73
Perhaps it’s a human trait, but I’ve found in my international travels and experiences (civil rights, antiwar and veterans organizing, covering national armed struggles, human rights, etc.) that we’re a very goal-oriented people. I’m no exception.
While goals necessarily remain a significant portion of my reality, I’ve since discovered that what’s far more critical is the journey…and it was a discovery. more…
The New York Times reports that the US Veterans Administration (VA) has now been instructed to “ease the rules for users of medical marijuana.” The VA has basically been told to ignore the use by military veterans of prescribed marijuana in those states where it has been declared legal. (Vets who are found using illicit drugs often lose their VA medical benefits.)
This is the first time that the gov’t has given an inch since its participation in the creation of the drug laws.
While it’s only a small step, it will be interesting to witness how it plays out with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). more…
Recently, we’ve heard a lot about this Tea Party movement, variously called “Tea Baggers.”
Baggee or Bagger?
In prison, “tea-bagging” refers to something entirely different. Tea-bagging is when one prisoner squats over another prisoner who’s lying on his back, and dangles his scrotum in the mouth of the one on the bottom.
Perhaps the Tea Party has something similar–metaphorically speaking–in mind? Maybe tea-bagging with teeth?
I’ve heard the experience can be quite pleasureable–at least for the guy on top.
“Don’t let it be forgot / That once there was a spot / For one brief shining moment / That was known as Camelot!”
This is the second of several articles on FCI McKean, PA, and its warden, Dennis M. Luther, from 1989-to-1995. (The first, “Laverne & Shirley,” can be found by clicking here.)
In 1946, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, put the lie to the Nazi defense that they “had no choice” and were “only following orders,” by submitting other Nazi witnesses who had refused criminal orders without retaliation.
My initial request to be transferred to FCI McKean, PA, was denied with a terse, “We are only sending disciplinary subjects to McKean…” The denial made no sense to me—at the time. It would eventually take the interest and inquiry of a US Congressman to effect my transfer. more…
Medina is a Cuban who left his homeland during the Mariel exodus in 1980. Having been in jail in Cuba, while not convicted of any crime, he was put on a boat along with many other “criminals.” He was given an 18 month sentence here on a minor infraction.
When I met Medina working alongside me in UNICOR, he was in his 19th year in federal prison. Not having any family in the US, immigration simply kept him locked up. One of many such prisoners. Medina was long used to dictatorial authority…
He lost no time fending for himself and for his family in Cuba. At UNICOR, with overtime, he easily makes about $300/month. He sends almost all of his money home to Cuba. A Canadian company forwards it for a small fee; the Cuban gov’t takes 10%, which, overall, is a significant income for the state. Medina also maintains several hustles in prison: A “store,” laundry, and room cleaning. more…
Walking back from the prison chow hall to my housing unit, I was met by three lieutenants. Asked to accompany them to the central admin building “for a few brief questions,” I was soon handcuffed and placed in the SHU (Segregated Housing Unit; the “hole”). It wasn’t quite noon.
In the SHU, my cellmate was Alex, sharing the same incommunicado isolation for the next 50 days. No visits, no mail, no phone, no news, no communication outside our small cell. That’s how I’ll always remember 9/11.
We knew something had happened in NYC –a plane had crashed into a Twin Tower. But I assumed it was a private aircraft lost in fog or something… Information was slow and distorted, and for the most part hardly believeable.
Fully 27% of the federal prison population are aliens—mostly Hispanic. Some proponents of the recent Arizona round-up law make the claim that illegal aliens are engaged in rampant crime—especially sexual predation.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quoted as reporting that the undocumented population of Arizona has indeed grown since the year 2000 some 70%, and the national rate at 37%. However, contrary to the anti-immigrant pundits, the crime rate for both property and violent crimes has significantly gone down to its lowest rate since 1968! Especially in those Southwestern states! more…
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