Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The night before Christmas...

Dear Sis~

Christmas is within sight and, while this is commonly a depressing time in jails and prisons across the land (it reminds you of what you don't have and perhaps never will), I'm focusing on the many things I'm thankful for, from a sound mind and healthy body to all those who love and care for me. It may sound syrupy but I can truly say that, even on death row, I am blessed. All I have to do is consider the many around me who are so much worse off (many here have nothing and nobody), not to mention those in even more wretched places (how about an Iranian prison?!) It's easy (and human) to feel blue and despondent, but since we all have the power to choose how we feel, I choose to feel good!
Well, Old Roy, my neighbor, went to DR court on his charge of "refusing to provide a urine sample" and predictably, he was found guilty and sentenced to the maximum 60 days in disciplinary confinement. This was in spite of the fact that the medical department verified, in writing, his medical condition. Right after he got his charge, I wrote a request for him to the medical doctor, asking them to verify, in writing, his inability to urinate normally. The response came form a nurse, not a doctor, and it stated: "I referred to your request to P.A. Matthews. Your medical records reflect that you are on medication to help you urinate. However, there is no reason that you should not have been able to provide the required urine sample." Besides being inherently contradictory (it confirms that he has a medical condition making it difficult for him to urinate, then turns around and says that he should have been able to urinate), a doctor was not consulted; it was a doctor who prescribed the medication. The P.A. Matthews is a notorious quack here. He's a "Physician's Assistant" who has worked here for at least 30 years that I know of, and he should not be allowed to practice medicine at all. I know him well, and he's as inept incompetent as you imagine, not to mention being a dangerous megalomaniac. About 25 years ago I sat in his office while he regaled me with his outlandish stories. He spent considerable time trying to convince me that he spent years performing heart transplants, working side by side with Dr. Michael DeBakey in Houston (DeBakey was the world's most renowned heart surgeon back then). Matthews performed the lethal injection executions here until he badly botched the Diaz execution 2 years ago, causing an 18-month moratorium on executions in Florida. Anyway, the disciplinary committee had a copy of this reply, but in finding Roy guilty anyway, they told him (according to Roy) "There's one rule and it applies equally to everyone." This is incorrect, since the rule, and case law, acknowledges medical exceptions. I wrote up an appeal for Roy, but I'm not optimistic...
I hope you and the doggies enjoy the holidays. I know my gift will be our visit on Christmas Day! Tell old C.P. that I wish him a Merry Christmas (his 91st!) and an interesting New Year.
Here's a good maxim to reflect on for the new year:

The greatest Joy in life is Service
The greatest Power in life is Love
And the greatest battle in life is the battle against oneself.

Love & Peace,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December 6, 2008

Dear Sis~
Well, they got old Roy. You may recall that Roy is the elderly, sickly guy next door to me, suffering from diabetes, seizures and bad kidneys, half-dead and with a few teeth. Closing in on 70, Roy is as quiet as a church mouse and just as threatening. The other day, the "piss squad" threw down on him, appearing at his cell door and demanding a urine sample. Roy tried and tried, almost coming to tears at his inability to pee on demand, but, in the end, he was simply unable to urinate in the allotted one (1) hour and the guard informed Roy he would be receiving a disciplinary report (DR) for "refusing to provide a urine sample" (this is the standard charge, even if you are not outright "refusing" to urinate). Roy, in a quivering voice, explained that he suffers from prostate and kidney problems and that he is, in fact, on daily medication (hytrin, I believe it's called) which is designed to help him urinate. All that fell on deaf ears and 24 hours later, he got his DR. He's now waiting to go to DR (Kangaroo) court. The charge carries 60 days in disciplinary confinement (no canteen, no visits, restricted diet, no books, magazines or any recreation). I've helped him prepare a defense by getting the medical department to confirm that he's on the medication, but I don't think it will help. The DR court here (as in most prisons) is notoriously biased and unfair; they just rubber stamp the DR. Perhaps, with the medical documentation, Roy may be able to prevail on the DR appeal to Tallahassee. What a colossal waste of time, money and energy this is, to persecute this old man, throw him in the hole, simply because his feeble bladder was unable to produce urine on command. This whole random drug testing in prison is a colossal waste of money (noteworthy in the middle of an economic crisis, where school budgets and health care budgets are being slashed). The DOC conducts random urine tests on everyone, about 10,000 per month (against about 90,000 prisoners). At about $40 or $50 per test, you can do the math. All that just to determine that "some prisoners smoke reefer." Hell, I could tell them that for free! Think of all the college scholarships that could be awarded for that much money, or all the needy kids who could get medical insurance, or all the school teachers that could be hired. This is typical of America, aka Prison Nation, where citizens gladly spend more on jails and prisons than on education...
Speaking of drug policy, I just finished an excellent book, one which should be mandatory reading in all law schools and all college-level criminal justice courses: Smoke and Mirrors (The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure), by Dan Baum. It didn't tell me a lot that I didn't already know (although it provided great detail and insight) but for the average citizen, it should be eye-opening. It's a tour de force education on the real powers and motives behind our nation's foolishly shortsighted (not to mention racist and cruel) "War on Drugs", perpetuated by law enforcement prosecutors, right-wing politicians with their own power-hungry agendas, the media, and the huge prison-industrial complex which demands a constant flow of convicted felons to fill its ever-growing empire of prisons. It's a depressing read, too, as you realize how many of our citizens (not to mention our constitutional rights) have been destroyed fighting this self-inflicted "war", and how we have essentially criminalized poverty in America...
Alright, Sis, I'm getting off my soap box. Keep your chin up and your heart light.
Love & Peace, Bill