Prison Blog #30 (Newsletter #6)
Sunday, February 12: The cruelties just pile up here at D. Ray James. Jodie just visited me and there’s a new rule: NO Holding Hands! Wow! After being able to hold hands during the entire visits at Sea-Tac FDC in Seattle, and during Jodie’s first five visits to DRJ, we could hold hands the entire visit. This new rule is very distressing and disappointing.
But even worse, at 11:45am, with Jodie’s visit just under 3 hours of the 6 available hours, our visit and several others were terminated because the visitation room was over-crowded. There are 1,600 inmates here, with 1,000 more inmates to come, yet there are only tables for 27 inmates and their visitors! Other Federal prisons have visitation on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and Federal holidays, but here it is only Saturday and Sunday and Federal Holidays. [Note from Jodie Emery: As of March 3, visits are now allowed on Thursdays and Fridays. More news to come in future blogs.]
Most visitors of inmates here come several hundred to several thousand miles in order to see their loves one. Jodie has to come over 3,000 miles to get here. Now she can’t even hold my hands! This is also crushing for all the inmates who now have to sit up to 6 hours without any contact in these “contact visits”. The children will think there is something wrong or distant with their parents if they are unable to hold hands. This new rule of deprivation has no explanation because DRJ is one of the few prisons free of cell phones or illegal drugs, yet for the first 4 months, inmates have been holding their loved one’s hands on visitation day. [Note from Jodie: The explanation given later was that a couple was seen getting too close, so the warden instated the new rule to prevent any couples from touching at all. Inmates and family members are still requesting the rule be rescinded.]
Minimums and low security facilities for Americans have outdoor visitation areas, and even the warden’s instructions for visitation in the DRJ Policy & Procedure book indicate there is an outdoor visitation area expected here. Those inmates with just one visitor could double up with another at a shared table to alleviate overcrowding, certainly better than terminating their visit, you’d think.
Jodie also had to wait in the waiting area for 3 hours because her ride back to Jacksonville wasn’t returning to DRJ until 3:30pm, when visits end. Her cell phone, purse, and money couldn’t be brought into the building because DRJ doesn’t have any functioning lockers for visitors to put their property in. They are expected to leave it in the car they came in. This makes it impossible to come by taxi or be dropped off: where are you going to put your purse or cell phone? [Note from Jodie: The next visiting weekend, lockers were installed for visitors.]
Jodie left here very sad and distraught, crying for the 15 minutes prior to being taken away. I know right now, as I write this, she is fuming in the waiting area, no book or anything to read, and nothing to keep her occupied while killing three hours. It was a very sad Saturday on my birthday/Valentine’s Day weekend. No holding hands, just and omnipresent dread and repression during what is supposed to be the highlight of life here at D. Ray James.
Tomorrow is Sunday. Jodie will be visiting again, fortunately. I just hope she doesn’t say anything inflammatory and provocative to the staff for three hours. I’m unsure how to go about trying to rescind this new, inexplicable policy of no contact during a ‘contact’ visit, but I’ve thought of having affected families and spouses of inmates call the regional office of GEO Group, or even the warden here. I’ve put in a cop-out (complain form) to the warden regarding the no-contact policy, as well as one for the way too tiny visitation currently at one time; a federal prison of this size should have space to accommodate 3% to 10% of the total inmate population. That would mean 48 to 160 spaces for inmates and their guests/families.
I was reinstated officially to work in the law library. Dr. Davis’ first remarks to me were, “Did you have a subscription of National Geographic sent here under my name? Because one has started arriving and I just put it right in the garbage. Also, Mr. Emery, you can only work in the law library Monday to Friday, during the morning and afternoon. You cannot work in the law library in the evenings or weekends. And you can NOT do any legal work for inmates in your unit.”
I said I would come to the library in the evenings and work on my own projects. I said nothing about the remark about not helping inmates while in my unit, and you already know what I think of throwing out a magazine of impeccable quality like National Geographic.
Thursday, February 17th, 9:30pm:
Today I was eating the canned green beans at lunch when my left rear molar made a jarring ‘crunch’. I had chomped down on a rock, or stone – bigger than a pebble, anyway. The vibration of noise inside my mouth was a thunderclap and I thought I’d broken a tooth. I was eating carefully because inmates in the ‘chow hall’ had warned me that there was grit in the green beans, and 7 or 8 stones had been discovered, the hard way, while eating the green beans. The stone was the size of one of my molars. It’s not the first time either stones have been in the canned vegetables, although it’s a first for me. Yet another reason to be wary of the food here!
Despite my complaining, I am always looking for good news to report. I would love to have the problems at D. Ray James rectified. In fact, so would many of the C.O.’s that work here. They say it is more difficult a job when inmates are surly. It is 80+ degrees Fahrenheit (27+ degrees Celsius) in the hot blazing sun today, and air conditioning in “L” building broke down last night. It is going to be 9 months more of consistently hot and humid sun-burning days, and the staff and inmates are affected equally. So an aggravated inmate population does no one any good.
One of those frustrations for the law library staff was the difficulty in having an inmate named Thanongsack Phuangkeo get married to his fiancé Christine at the prison. He started his first request November 23rd, 2010 and after many delays, refusals, and confusions over responsibility for the procedure, Warden Booker put his approval in writing to Nang (as he is called) today! (See attachment A.) So once the Justice of the Peace is arranged, the first wedding at D. Ray James should happen in March sometime in the visitation room, so possibly Jodie and I will be witnesses.
By the way, if anyone is wondering, this marriage cannot save Nang from his ‘deportable alien’ status, but Laos does not have a repatriation agreement with the US, so it’s not immediately clear to me what happens to Nang after his sentence is up. Cuban, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and some other nationals do not get deported to those countries because of a lack of diplomatic protocols relating to deportation and repatriation.
Perhaps the best news I’ve received so far in jail was a YouGov poll in the February 12th edition of The Economist showing a MAJORITY of Americans in every age group and both Democratic and Republican voters want LEGALIZATION, taxation, and regulation of marijuana. So it is now a matter of WHEN, not IF – sooner rather than later. We have reached the point of obvious inevitability. So 2012 must be the year every US state with an initiative and referendum process gets a legalization/repeal of cannabis prohibition question on their state’s ballot.
Here’s what I said in my interview in High Times, due on newsstands in the coming months, to the question: “What is the most important thing for the cannabis community to concentrate on at this point?”
My answer is: “Legalization initiatives must be implemented in every US state where it can be done for the November 2012 vote. Not just California and Colorado and Washington, but Alaska, South Dakota, Oregon, Washington D.C., and ALL of the other states with an initiative and referendum process (check your US State here: http://www.iandrinstitute.org/statewide_i%26r.htm ). Eight or ten or 12 states with cannabis legalization on the ballot will create the synergy required to begin the last phase of our liberation: the repeal of cannabis prohibition in the House of Representatives, in the Senate and with the President.
“To begin your state initiative process to repeal your state laws on prohibiting personal possession and cultivation, you can join an existing campaign to gather signatures to put the legalization of cannabis on your state ballot, or organize the campaign yourself with others you recruit on Facebook, Twitter, and at rallies and community meetings. Don’t wait for the big donors or MPP or NORML to organize these initiatives. Individuals, right now, in mid-2011, should investigate the initiative process in their state, start a Facebook group, recruit and begin collecting email addresses of signature gathering volunteers. Take the language used by the Washington State activists at Sensible Washington that was used in their failed 2010 try, or their 2011 attempt, and then adapt it to your state.
“Contact me for advice! Just because I’m in prison is no reason not to pick my brain and experience. I have over 50,000 friends on our Facebook pages, the vast majority being Americans. I will direct those from your state to join you. I am available all day, every day, even behind bars to help, guide, inspire, mentor, assist, and advise on your initiative campaign. YOU CAN MAKE MARIJUANA HISTORY STARTING TODAY! You can make marijuana legal in your state by November 2012. Where your state has no initiative process, you CAN donate to, and go to, a state that does have it, and gather signatures with them. Every American must do their duty and their part in this historical final push. We have the numbers, we have the righteous cause, and we are – I speak of my fellow Americans – able to do this. You CAN make history! Never underestimate your power as an individual to change the world! I never did, and I did change the world in many ways that carry on today!
“The other important goal for Americans is to help Congressman Ron Paul get the Republican nomination for President 2012. Ron Paul is the cannabis culture’s greatest friend and ally in Congress and he has consistently spoken out against the drug war and cannabis prohibition. He has voted against the budget for the Drug Czar’s office, the budget for the DEA, every single time. Ron Paul has co-sponsored bills to legalize possession of marijuana, industrial hemp, truth in trials (so med users can testify about it in Federal Court), and many other repeal or reform bills regarding prisons, drug prohibition, policing and the unconstitutionality of federal drug control. He is a brilliant and wise man who, to me, is America’s greatest hero. Former New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, is a great man who is also seeking the Republican nomination. My ideal ticket for the 2012 election is Ron Paul for President with Gary Johnson as his Vice-President nominee.”
I submitted 16 typewritten pages of answers to 16 questions High Times editor Malcolm put to me. The most HT can print in their magazine is 4 or 5 pages, so I am hoping they put the entire interview online at HighTimes.com, which will be seen by many in addition to High Times’ substantial print circulation. I’d like to be on the cover of High Times; knowing that a great bud is always required on a cover that sells the magazine, a photo of Jodie and I in a massive cannabis hemp field, taken in the Prince Albert area of Saskatchewan in 2009 on the Farewell Tour, would be ideal, I think. Tell High Times you think so too.
Jodie was able to have a phone conversation with the regional director of GEO Group, a supervisor of this D. Ray James facility, in fact, on Friday, February 18th. This is hopeful in itself, that GEO Group is willing to listen. Jodie had left a message at the GEO regional headquarters, and got a call back the next day. She spoke to him about the recent decision to ban hand-holding during visitation and the overcrowding issue at the visitation area, and the GEO Group Regional Representative listened and took notes, so that is encouraging. He is apparently coming to D. Ray James in the next week ahead, Tuesday, February 22nd – Friday, February 25th. He will be discussing the matter of visitation protocols with the warden.
Jodie encouraged viewers on her popular “The Jodie Emery Show” on www.YouTube.com/PotTVNetwork and www.YouTube.com/JodieEmery to call the D. Ray James Correctional Facility at 912-496-6242 to POLITELY voice your concerns about the new policy of no hand-holding during inmate visits. I too have encouraged inmates here to have their family call GEO Group or the warden at DRJCF to express, POLITELY, the rehabilitative effect of contact visits WITH CONTACT that are obviously acceptable at all other GEO Group Federal facilities. You can see that particular segment of the “The Jodie Emery Show: February 17”, as well as the follow-up show where she discusses her conversation with the GEO Group Regional representative. Jodie always knows the right approach to take. She is so wonderful a spokesperson. I learn a great deal from her patient style of communication. We make a great team together, and I can’t wait to be home!
Marc Scott Emery #40252-086 - Unit Q Pod 2
D. Ray James Correctional Facility
PO Box 2000
HELP GET MARC HOME! Write a letter to the US and Canadian government telling them to approve his transfer application, which they both have - addresses and an example letter are posted under "How You Can Help" at www.FreeMarc.ca