Monday, October 27, 2008


Dateline October 20, 2008


Imagine for a moment that you live in an area where the U.S. Constitution is no longer in effect. You speak or write words critical of the people ruling your life, and suddenly you find yourself handcuffed, blinded by a shot of pepper spray, and thrown into an isolation cell, unable to call a lawyer for help or bond out, left incommunicado, your loved ones having no idea where you are or what happened to you. Can't happen in America? Think again. Happens all the time. In America. To Americans.

Imagine you wake up one morning, and you are locked inside your living quarters. You sit on the toilet, try to flush it, and discover the water has been cut off without notice. You are thirsty, you go to the sink, try the tap - no water. Cut off. All your neighbors' toilets and taps are also cut off, everyone is locked in their bathrooms, and after a few hours, the stench of human waste becomes overpowering. Cruel and unusual?

Suddenly a hundred or so men in uniforms and jack boots rush into your building, open each door, one by one, order you to strip out of all your clothing, butt naked, bend over, spread your cheeks, squat and cough. You are allowed to put on your boxers, then you and your neighbors are paraded to a holding area for a couple of hours while the anonymous uniformed men ransack and trash your quarters. They arbitrarily confiscate items of property. They pocket packs of cigarettes, candy, and food. They rip open your mattresses. They bring in drug dogs to sniff everything. No drugs, but one dog does locate an onion. An onion! Good dog!

Did they have a warrant? No, of course not. Did they find any knives, weapons, or other contraband? No. Did they completely violate and trample on several points of the Bill of Rights and other amendments? Absolutely. Did they care? Absolutely not. If you complain, try to obtain your missing property, will you become a target for reprisal, retaliation, and retribution? Of course you will. How dare you question their actions? You must be an enemy of the people. And if by some miracle a higher authority intervenes and questions their actions, will they lie? With a straight face they will. And if they are put in a spot, they will say they were just following orders. We heard those same excuses at Nuremburg sixty years ago.

Don't say it can't happen to you. It can. It has happened to me over and over again. Of course, I am in a state prison, so I can't expect much sympathy from anyone on the "outside." But rest assured that if it happens "in here," it is only a small leap to happening "out there."

The highest courts have ruled that the Constitution's rights and protections do not stop at the prison walls, but you can't tell that sometimes. My favorite quote from a prison guard is, "The Constitution ain't in effect in Columbia County." And he was dead serious, he wasn't joking.

That scenario I described above happened to me and hundreds of others prisoners on Friday, October 10th, and I assure you it was not fun. We are allowed to go to the prison canteen when we can make it, usually once a week or less, where we can buy food to augment the prison meals, deodorant, shampoo, soap, etc. I had just gone a couple of days before, but when I was allowed back into my trashed and ransacked room, my canteen purchases were gone, along with books, magazines, my work boots, and worst of all, my legal work and papers had disappeared. Gone. No receipts. No recourse. Shut up or go to jail. I wasn't the only one.

Hours later they turned the water back on, and we could flush the overflowing toilets and drink tap water. It was scary. Later on the phones came back on, I called my loved ones, and they called a wonderful lawyer who made calls to "higher ups," complaining of the treatment, demanding a return of the stolen property. When their own rulers came down on them, the local prison authorities jump, or try to appear to jump, and comply with their orders. Have I gotten my legal documents back? Some of them. Hundreds of pages of research, transcripts, motions, and legal mail are gone. Carts of "trash" were hustled out the back gate and to the dump scant hours after the major shakedown and ransacking, and whatever personal property went out that way is long gone.

The following Monday and Tuesday, the remaining property was sifted and sorted out by a crew of prisoners who discarded several more bags of trash, put some items to the side, conducted their own ransacking, and pocketed various trinkets, art materials, books, magazines, and anything else that caught their eyes. Of course, there are strict rules that any confiscated property will be protected and preserved, and no inmate will ever be allowed any access to anothers belongings, but know how it is.

Besides my legal papers, I was especially disgusted that they stole the bestseller, The Steel Wave, by Jeff Shaara, that a generous friend sent me. I was halfway through the book - the American paratroopers had landed in Normandy, the horizon was filled with ships, and Operation Overlord caught the Nazis napping. I hope they enjoy it. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Among the legal papers I got back were the ones that I was working on, but the others are gone. Is that against the law, for prison guards to confiscate and trash your legal documents? Of course it is. Why would they do that? Good question. Perhaps someone suggested it, to hinder any access to the courts, to damage my freedom efforts. Will anyone suffer consequences? Besides myself, probably not.

At the very least, the punishment is cruel and unusual, the searched were not reasonable, as the law allows, and the third leg of the "...not be deprived of life, liberty, or property..." without due process of law, is definitely trashed and broken, like my meager belongings.

Treasure your Constitution, and the rights it guarantees to all Americans. It is too easy to lose them, and all that entails. I can attest to that.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's already happening out here. It's called safety and code enforcement and search for child porn and .... on and on.