Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 25, 2012

Dear Sis~

Well, the execution has been cancelled, to the dismay of some around here.  Ferguson was scheduled to die on the 16th, but just before then he got a 48-hour stay.  Over the next week he got three such temporary stays from three different courts, with the sole issue being his sanity to be executed.  Finally, it was supposed to happen for sure 2 days ago, on the 23rd, and we woke up to the standard execution-day procedures, eating all three meals very early, the entire prison being on lockdown, and all guards wearing their dress uniforms.  As execution time (6:00 pm) neared the old white hearse pulled up outside the back sally port gate waiting to come in and pick up the body.  As 6:00 came and went I assumed the execution had occurred but around 7:30 a guy on the other side of my wing, which looks out on the back gate and the rear of Q-wing (the death house), called me through the vent and said the hearse never came in, but instead had finally driven off.  On the 11:00 news it was reported that the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, had given Ferguson a stay of execution and that the US Supreme Court then approved the stay.  (The accuracy of that precise chronology is debatable because reporters are notorious for mangling stories involving court decisions).  At any rate, he got some kind of stay; how long that stay is remains unknown to me.  I heard on one  news report that the Eleventh Circuit granted the stay in order to decide "whether it is unconstitutional to execute the insane," which is an issue firmly settled by the US Supreme Court long ago in Ford v Wainwright.  If that's an accurate statement (a big "IF") it indicates the Eleventh Circuit may be trying to find a way to undermine or circumvent Ford, a way to go ahead and execute insane prisoners.  Any such ruling would toss the issue back to the Supreme Court, giving them an opportunity to recede from Ford if they so choose.  Also on the 11:00 news was the results of their earlier poll question: "Should insane prisoners be executed?"  Not surprisingly, 59% of the good citizens of Jacksonville answered in the affirmative. ("Yeah, that's right, let's kill all those crazy bastards!")  Now we go back on lottery watch, waiting to see whose death warrant the governor signs next, which is a great mood elevator for the upcoming holidays...

Last night's mail brought me (and others) a notice that the mailroom had impounded and confiscated the latest issue of Newsweek because, the notice stated, it contained an article about "pot use in America."  Censorship like this, which implies serious First Amendment principles, used to be, and is supposed to be, rare.  Only when an article clearly and unequivocally creates a substantial threat to the security of a prison should it be censored.  But, over the years, the Florida DOC has gotten progressively petty (and ignorant) on this issue (since the law now practically forbids prisoners from filing law suits anymore) until we've reached our present state where these impoundments have become almost daily and for the most absurd reasons imaginable.  If I told you the reasons given for some of these censorships you would first laugh and then call me a liar.  The main problem in the Florida DOC is their ill-thought-out policy where if I any peon in any mailroom in any prison in Florida (and we have well over 100 prisons and institutions) decides that something they see in an incoming magazine or newspaper is objectionable to them, a notice immediately goes out to all the prisons and they must all, immediately, seize and confiscate all those incoming magazines or newspapers.  So, we are at the mercy of the dumbest, most ignorant or biased mailroom employee in the state; their opinion spreads through the DOC like rings in a pond when a pebble is thrown in.  As a result, you get things like their impoundment of this month's Esquire because it "shows sexual activity." (Any Esquire subscriber knows it does not contain "sexual activity") or the impoundment of my Field and Stream for a little story on how a person lost in the wilderness can "start a fire from tree bark." (the prison declared this a security threat for teaching us how to commit arson).  When the prisons go to seizing mainstream magazines like Newsweek for having articles about "pot use in America" you know the mental patients are in charge of the asylum. (Whoa! News Alert! People in America smoke pot! What a security threat!) No court in America would sanction this blatantly unconstitutional censorship but nowadays, with nothing to keep them in check (lawsuit-wise) the prisons do just whatever the hell they want to, knowing they are immune from challenge...

Well, Sis, that's all the news from here for now.  Hopefully, I'll enjoy a quiet holiday season, which is about the most, and best, I can hope for.
Love, Bill

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