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Jeremy Has Completed His Transfer

After a week of anxious waiting  and worrying, we now know where Jeremy’s final destination will be – FCI Memphis.

FCI Memphis is medium security prison in Memphis, Tennessee. I received an email from Jeremy this morning and he reports that his commissary privileges have been restored.

His new address is as follows:

Jeremy Hammond, #18729-424
FCI Memphis
P.O. Box 34550
Memphis, TN 38184

Please remember that his birthday is coming up on January 8. Send him a letter to let him know that he is is not forgotten! Also please note that with this transfer comes important changes with the rules about books and mail. While at FCI Milan, books were allowed to be sent to Jeremy from  private individuals. This is no longer the case. All books sent to Jeremy must now come directly from a publisher or distributor (such as Amazon, AK Press, PM Press, etc.). Used books from Amazon are fine. In regards to mail, new rules are being rolled out across all federal prisons that outline what is and is not acceptable when writing to federal prisoners. Please see this post for a list of the new rules, and please follow them carefully, or your letter will be rejected and returned to you.

While we are relieved that he has gotten to his final destination and that it happened quickly and that Jeremy arrived safely, this is not the outcome that either we or Jeremy wanted. We had hoped that FCI Milan would have allowed him to stay so that he could have completed his education, as he was only one semester away from graduation, and he was very much enjoying his studies. It is absolutely ludicrous that Jeremy was forced to suffer over one month in SHU, loss of privileges, and removal from an environment where he was not only learning and actively attempting to better himself, but where he had no other major disciplinary infractions, all over the ridiculous charge of accidentally bumping a guard with a door he could not see through as he was exiting his unit.

Prisons can, at even the best of times, seem Kafkaesque, but this situation went above and beyond the normal levels of absurdity and cruelty. According to the disciplinary hearing officer’s (DHO) report, it was the guard who made this situation something it didn’t need to be. When he was accidentally hit with the door, it was the guard who escalated the situation by confronting Jeremy, asking, “Do you really want to be pushing on me like that?” instead of just accepting that maybe it was an accident caused by the fact that a windowless door was opened and he was standing too close. No injuries were sustained, no harm was caused, but because there was was “unwanted touching”, Jeremy was charged with assault. All because of a door.

This situation is an example of something no bill, no law can ever reform. From the incident itself to the aftermath of being denied a chance to see the video that could have cleared his name and placed in SHU where his mail was delayed and books were denied on the whim of one man, the system worked as it has always worked, as it was designed to work. Prisoners are afforded no rights. In the DHO report, the reasoning the prison gave as to why they were upholding the finding of assault was, “The DHO has no reason to believe that the reporting officer is not being truthful in their written report, as the staff member was merely acting in routine performance of their duties and has nothing to gain from fabrication of the charge. [Inmate Hammond], on the other hand [does], in order to avoid the consequences of your actions.” In other words, prisons and their representatives never lie, but prisoners do. Prison guards are given the presumption of innocence, prisoners are given the presumption of guilt. We see this over and over not just within the prison system, but in the wider system of policing and law enforcement – the presumption of innocence is given to those in power. How many times have we heard that cops “feared for their lives”? And over and over, this presumption results in people suffering and dying and no one ever being held accountable.

Several years ago, while Jeremy was still at FCI Manchester, there was another incident where Jeremy was placed in SHU. There was another threat of a transfer. While he was waiting to find out his fate, the warden came to visit and spoke with him. The warden told him, “You’re no longer our problem.” While that situation didn’t end in a transfer, I tell this story because it epitomizes not only the way Jeremy is viewed by the BOP, but how all prisoners are viewed. They are not viewed as human beings worthy of dignity, respect, and basic human rights. They are “problems”. They are subhuman. They are objects to be dehumanized, abused, mistreated, and controlled. It is for this reason, and many others, that we fight not for milquetoast reform, but for complete and total prison abolition. Nothing less will restore the rights and dignity of the millions locked in cages in the US prison system.

Love and Rage,
Grace North

Jeremy In Solitary Confinement and Facing a Transfer: Update, 17 December 2018

It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update on Jeremy and his current situation (previous updates can be found here and here), and a lot of little things have happened in that time, so I decided to write another update to keep everyone informed of what has been going on. Some of it is positive, but, unfortunately, the overwhelming amount is negative, as it often is in these situations. So, without further ado…

Jeremy’s Release Date

Last week, upon checking the BOP’s website, I noticed that Jeremy’s release date had been pushed back a significant amount – over a year, in fact. His new release date is now  17 March 2021. Previously, it had been February 22, 2020. I did not announce this when it first happened because I had been expecting his release date to be pushed back when he was kicked out of RDAP. One of the reasons Jeremy chose to participate in RDAP was because it gave him a year off his sentence. Before his enrollment in RDAP, his release date was 22 February 2021, and with the time given to him for his participation in RDAP, it was pushed forward to 22 February 2020. When he was kicked out of RDAP, I expected his release date to change, but it was quite the shock to see it change in the midst of this situation with extra time added on. While I cannot be certain, I assume the extra time is punishment for the disciplinary infraction he is currently facing.

People can always check for themselves Jeremy’s most current scheduled release date by visiting the BOP website and searching for Jeremy via his name or register number (18728424).

Legal Call to Jeremy

As I tweeted on December 7, a legal call was able to be placed to Jeremy. While this was encouraging, and it was wonderful to be able to hear his voice, it was discouraging the process that had to be gone through to get the call placed. The lawyer who placed the call, Nancy Norelli of Free Anons, who has acted on Jeremy’s behalf numerous times in the past, had to escalate her request all the way up to Washington, DC to have it honored, being denied numerous times along the way. Also highly concerning was the fact that, while this was intended to be a legal call and was requested as such in all correspondence with the BOP, the BOP chose not to honor the confidentiality that is standard when clients converse with their lawyers, instead forcing Jeremy to call from standard prison phones, which are monitored by the BOP.

Jeremy’s Case Manager

Jeremy was recently assigned a new case manager. This, too, is highly discouraging, as it means all the letters that were sent to his old case manager pleading with her to let him stay at FCI Milan are now sitting with a person who has no power to make decisions on his behalf. Make no mistake – this was most likely done intentionally, and new letters will be going out to the new case manager.

Sending Books and Mail to Jeremy

While Jeremy originally thought he was going to be allowed to receive books while in SHU, it now looks like that may not be the case, and it may all be because of the whims of one person who got annoyed that too many prisoners had the audacity to want books. Jeremy had requested a specific book from a friend, and when other SHU prisoners heard that Jeremy was getting books, they also wanted books. This is a completely understandable response – prisoners in SHU are often locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day with very little to do. The prison official who manages the SHU became annoyed at the number of book requests and instituted a new rule – no books for SHU prisoners. This seems to be a rule that is being applied to all prisoners in SHU and not just Jeremy. This is incredibly cruel, not only for Jeremy, but for all prisoners isolated in SHU. Jeremy is lucky to have a broad support network and plenty of people to write him and help keep his mind occupied. For those that are not so lucky, books serve as not only a form of diversion, but as education, comfort, and freedom. Banning books for prisoners already suffering torturous levels of isolation is inhumane. There is no other word to describe it.

As for letters, while we know that at least some of the mail that is being sent to Jeremy is reaching him, we have no way of knowing if all of his mail is reaching him. Last time he was held in SHU at FCI Manchester, a large portion of his mail was withheld and given to him upon his release from SHU. We can only hope that all mail that is being sent to him us being delivered. If mail sent to Jeremy during his stay in SHU is ever returned to you, please contact me. It is helpful to know if mail is returned so we can watch out for mail being improperly rejected or rejected too frequently.

As far as outgoing mail, we strongly believe that mail that Jeremy is attempting to send out is being purposely held and delayed by FCI Milan. Jeremy has said that he is sending letters to people, and, so far, none of those letters have materialized. With the removal of Jeremy’s phone privileges, this is highly concerning, as snail mail is the only way for Jeremy to communicate with people on the outside. (Prisoners do not have access to e-mail while in SHU.) While FCI Milan did allow Jeremy to purchase some stamps, all the stamps in the world mean nothing if the prison refuses to send the letters he writes. Purposely delaying mail is common repression tactic used by prisons to isolate people (especially activists) and silence news of both their own activities and the treatment they are receiving during their incarceration. Because we know it is happening with Jeremy, it is a situation we will be monitoring closely.

Conditions in SHU

Overall, Jeremy says he is well. He was able to get soap, was given a new pair of pants when they let him shower, and they allowed him to purchase some socks and boxers. However, he is not being given a pillow and, while it may seem trivial to us on the outside, the lack of a pillow is causing him pain. With no clear indication on when he will be released from SHU, it is vital that his health remain good. Medical care in prison is substandard at best, with prisoners often waiting years to have the most trivial of problems cared for, if they are ever cared for at all. Back problems from poor sleeping conditions could follow Jeremy for the rest of his life. There is no reason why he cannot be given a pillow. The BOP’s own program statement on special housing units states, “You will receive a mattress, blankets, a pillow, and linens for sleeping.” As per the program statement, only mattresses may be removed “during non-sleeping daytime hours as ‘loss of privilege’ sanction imposed by the Unit Discipline Committee (UDC)/DHO. Removal
of an inmate’s mattress is otherwise prohibited, absent life or safety concerns as specifically documented and authorized by the Warden, or his/her designee.” The program statement says nothing about a pillow, and it seems nothing more than yet another deliberate act of cruelty to remove one of the small comforts SHU inmates have in an attempt to cause them pain and discomfort.

These are all the updates we have for now. While the circumstances remain uncertain and challenging, we are still remaining hopeful and Jeremy is remaining strong. Please, keep Jeremy in your thoughts and keep writing to him. His address is:

Jeremy Hammond, #18429-424
FCI Milan
P.O. Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160

Thank you all for your continued support.

Love and Rage,
Grace North

Jeremy In Solitary Confinement and Facing Possible Transfer: An Update

It is with a heavy heart that I write this update to Jeremy’s situation.

I wish I could write that the disciplinary hearing went well, that the prison dismissed the charges that Jeremy was facing, that he out of solitary and safely and happily attending classes again, but I cannot. The outcome that we feared the most happened: the charges against Jeremy were upheld, and he is still in solitary.

Jeremy’s disciplinary hearing was Wednesday. It was held over the phone, and he was not allowed to attend in person. The corrections officers that was hit with the door claimed that when Jeremy hit him with the door, Jeremy both “stood his ground” and pushed his shoulder into him when the guard asked if he “wanted to go”. The disciplinary charges against Jeremy were upheld and a transfer to a medium security facility was recommended. For now, Jeremy remains in solitary and will remain there until this case reaches its conclusion. This is devastating to all involved, but especially to Jeremy, as he was especially enjoying taking college classes at FCI Milan and was so close to graduating. He expressed that, among other things, one of the most distressing aspects of being in SHU was that he was missing his classes, and was not able to turn in assignments or take finals. Jeremy was to be in the inaugural graduating class for FCI Milan’s prison education program, and leaving prison with a college degree would have been a huge asset.

While this is the worst possible outcome, and the one that we feared the most, the fight is not over. Jeremy could still possibly avoid a transfer due to something called “management variable”. This means that he would have the “points” that would normally cause him to be housed at a medium security facility, but he would be able to stay a low security facility. This would ironically be made possible due to the college classes that Jeremy has been taking, that he is now missing due to his time in SHU. Letters to the warden have already gone out, and it is now a matter of more waiting and hoping that he decides to intervene and allow Jeremy to stay at FCI Milan. We ask that members of the general public not write their own letters to the warden at this time.

I want to say a special thank you to the person who made a trip to the prison and was the one who relayed all of this information to me. While I will not name them for privacy reasons, without them, we would all still be waiting and wondering and would not be able to take action as quickly. Jeremy’s support network is vast, and the love and solidarity of his supporters extends around the world. It has carried him through his sentence and continues to be a beacon of hope in dark times. From the bottom of my heart, I thank every one of you who has written, visited, sent books, or even just tweeted in support of Jeremy.

For now, the best way to continue to support Jeremy is to write. (Letters and cards only at this time, please – no books or magazines.)

Jeremy Hammond, #18729-424
FCI Milan
P.O. Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160

I will keep everyone updated as I know more.

Love and Rage,
Grace North

Jeremy In Solitary Confinement and Facing Possible Transfer: What We Know

After a week of anxious waiting and worrying, we now have and can share details about Jeremy’s current situation.

Jeremy is currently in solitary confinement and is at risk of being transferred to a higher security prison because of an incident that occurred sometime last week.

The incident occurred either Monday, November 19th, or Tuesday, November 20th. Jeremy was exiting his unit and either pushed or bumped a door. The door he was exiting through did not have a window or any way to see through to the other side. There was an officer on the other side of the door, and, when the door opened, it allegedly bumped the officer. In response to being bumped with the door, the officer grabbed Jeremy, threw him up against the wall, and took him to the SHU (segregated housing unit), without placing Jeremy in handcuffs or calling for backup, as is prison protocol. Once in SHU, he was written up for “assaulting a staff member” for the original act of bumping the officer with the door. Thankfully, Jeremy was not injured when he was thrown against the wall, but he has been in solitary for the past week while he awaits his disciplinary hearing. The hearing should be sometime this week.

This situation is extremely serious for several reasons. The first is that when he was brought to SHU, Jeremy was placed in true solitary confinement. Most times, when Jeremy is placed in SHU, his placement is two prisoners to a cell. While time in SHU is never pleasant, true solitary confinement has been denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez as “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” that may cause “severe mental pain or suffering”. A Human Rights Watch report has described it as “emotionally, physically, and psychologically destructive.” The UN Special Rapporteur on torture also strongly recommended a complete prohibition on solitary confinement in excess of 15 days. As far as we know, Jeremy has been in solitary for seven days.

The second reason the situation is so serious is that if this infraction is upheld during his disciplinary hearing, Jeremy possibly faces a transfer to a higher security prison. Assaulting a staff member is a very severe charge, and would place Jeremy at a higher “offender level”. This is extremely worrying, as it means he would be tranferred to a medium security prison, where he would enjoy less freedoms and, even more disheartening, would be unable to finish his college classes or earn the degree he has worked so hard to complete. A transfer with a record of “assaulting a staff member” at his previous prison would also make Jeremy a target for prison staff at any new prison he was sent to. Jeremy is also very close to family at his current prison and is able to enjoy frequent visits from friends. Being taken away from that would be a devastating blow to both Jeremy and the people close to him.

However, there is hope. If the disciplinary infraction is upheld during his hearing, Jeremy can request to stay at FCI Milan under something called “management variable”. This would mean he has the “points” that would normally place him in a medium security prison, but he would nevertheless be housed at a low security prison. This would, ironically enough, be made possible because of the college classes he has worked so hard on and is now in danger of being transferred away from. We will not know if this is an available option until we know the results of his disciplinary hearing.

These are all the details that we know as of the time of this posting. Calls are being made to Jeremy’s case manager and possibly to the warden to see what, if anything, can be done to help the situation. Please, at this time, we are asking that members of the general public do not call the prison. The situation is extremely delicate. However, you can write to Jeremy and we encourage everyone to do that! His address is:

Jeremy Hammond, #18729-424
FCI Milan
P.O.Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160

Thank you again for all your support. I will update this post with new details as they emerge.

Love and Rage,
Grace North

UPDATE, 28 November 2018: I tried to perform a quick welfare check on Jeremy by calling the prison today and speaking with his case manager. I wanted to know if he was still in solitary, if his disciplinary hearing had taken place yet, and, if so, what the results had been. As expected, they would not release any information to me, not even about his placement within the prison, saying, “This is not public information.” Again, I want to reiterate that this was the expected result of this phone call and is not cause for alarm. The bigger purpose of this phone call, other than to hopefully gain some information on Jeremy’s welfare, was to let prison officials know that Jeremy has people on the outside that are aware of his situation, and are monitoring it as closely we can. For now, please keep writing to him. It is the best thing we can do at this time.

UPDATE, 30 November 30 2018: Please see this post for full update on the outcome of Jeremy’s disciplinary hearing and next steps.

June 11 Day of Solidarity with Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners

This message from Jeremy commemorates the 2018 June 11 Day of Solidarity with long-term anarchist prisoners. To find out more, including how to write many anarchist prisoners, please visit

Revolutionary greetings on this day of solidarity with Marius Mason and long-term anarchist prisoners!

A raised fist to all those behind bars who maintain their dignity in the face of a system that dehumanizes and exploits us! Our steadfast commitment to our collective vision of a free society is more resilient than any prison they’ve ever built; even after all their iron bars and concrete walls crumble to dust, we will remain standing strong together.

A raised fist to all those in the world writing letters, sending books, marching in the streets or putting in all-nighters! Your words and actions have a ripple effect that reaches even those of us the system has attempted to bury. You remind us that we are all part of something bigger than any of us individually: that when one of us falls, others will pick up where you left off, and the struggle continues.

Reflecting on this year’s theme of sustainability and burnout, I consider how we can stay positively engaged despite the stresses and hardships of an oppressive society. Whether one is imprisoned, warehoused like cattle in the most minimal conditions allowed by law, or whether one lives in the so-called “free world” competing for survival in their financial rat race, we are all struggling under an authoritarian power structure and an economic system we had no role in creating and which offers us no future. I can understand how, in the face of a seemingly overwhelming military force, headed by the most blatantly corrupt corporate fascist to date, the odds may seem against us, and as a result, some can become jaded or burnt out.

Not a day goes by that I don’t say to myself that prison is fucking terrible and no one should have to live like this. Not for one second, however, do I regret my actions that have brought me here. Fully aware of the potential consequences of my illegal activities, I decided that it was better to risk everything to change an unjust society than to become comfortable within it’s cage. We can’t foresee every card that life deals, every betrayal or unfortunate circumstance; I’ve made mistakes and tactical blunders, and have taken some losses along the way, but I still believe in the power of direct action and hacktivism. The key to overcoming these challenges is staying focused and active, and constantly evolving oneself to confront new circumstances while staying true to our principles.

Possibly the greatest injustice as an imprisoned anarchist is the inability to participate in the movements that we were a part of. Often we would be completely unaware of how history is unfolding, if it weren’t for the diligent efforts of the comrades out there who have kept us connected to our communities and informed of current news and analysis. Your work in this regard is much appreciated; knowing that people have our backs, gives us continued strength and inspiration. It brings a smile to my face every time I read a reportback or critical analysis, knowing that it is still going down out there. And as I complete the final stretch of my bid, I am preparing myself physically and mentally for my release, and look forward to joining you all.

See you in the streets!

Jeremy has moved!

After a long and stressful week, we are very happy to report that Jeremy has arrived at his new prison – FCI Milan in Milan, Michigan!

As you may have heard, Jeremy requested this relocation so he could participate in “RDAP” – or, the Residential Drug Abuse Program. RDAP is an intensive, nine-month long program offered to federal inmates who have a documented history of drug use prior to their arrest. Since Jeremy was an admitted marijuana smoker, he applied and was accepted into the program.

While the program is intensive, and Jeremy has described it as “hard time”, this will, in the end, be a positive step for Jeremy, as he will be eligible to receive up to twelve months off his sentence upon successful completion of the program. This moves his release date up to 22 February 2020.

As always, Jeremy loves to receive mail, and you can write to him at his new address:

Jeremy Hammond, #18729-424
FCI Milan
P.O. Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160

Another exciting development with this move is that the rules for sending Jeremy books has changed! Paperback books (and zines) no longer have to come directly from a publisher or distributor – they can now come directly from private citizens. Please note this applies to paperback books only. Hardcover books must still come directly from a publisher or distributor, like Amazon or AK Press. (UPDATE, April 19, 2018: PLEASE DO NOT SEND JEREMY BOOKS DIRECTLY FROM PRIVATE CITIZENS. The rules around books have changed, and Jeremy may not be able to receive books not sent directly from a publisher or distributor.) This means that if you have old paperbacks on your shelves that you think Jeremy would like, you can mail them directly to him! Please, if you choose to send books directly to Jeremy, do not include anything other than books (no more than 3 per package) and a letter in your package. Jeremy still cannot receive any items other than paperback books, zines, letters, articles, or photos through the mail. Please see this page for complete information about writing or sending books to Jeremy.

Please also be aware that, with participation in RDAP, the amount of free time that Jeremy has to do things like write back to people may change. Please be patient if you do not hear back from him, and remember that even if he doesn’t write back, he reads and deeply appreciates every letter that is sent to him. Please also remember that donations are still needed to ensure that Jeremy has the necessary funds to email, call, and write to friends, supporters, and loved one.

Thank you for all the solidarity shown to Jeremy over the years. We are so excited that Jeremy is finally making progress towards release, and, without a doubt, this progress could not have been made without the support of those of you who have written, sent books, donated, or spread awareness about Jeremy and his case. Thank you so much!



Thoughts on the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March

The following is a message from Jeremy to commemorate the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March taking place today. For more information on the march, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

To find out how to write to a prisoner, check out the New York City Anarchist Black Cross Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War.

Revolutionary greetings! I am writing from behind bars to voice support for those taking to the streets in solidarity with prisoners lives. We may not be able to be there with you today, but we are marching with you in spirit!

Comrades, the struggle to end mass incarceration is up against a particularly harsh political climate. The system that has been subjugating millions of people in chains and cages is now fronted by a racist billionaire who casually encourages police brutality! No longer do they feel the need to disguise their repression in the rhetoric of democracy and justice. The crackdowns have already begun: maximum sentences, privatized prisons, asset forfeitures, deportations. What is it going to take to stop this? The political process has failed us. The democrats cannot provide any meaningful resistance. Nothing short of abolition, nothing short of revolution, will bring about our collective freedom.

To those who want to support our brothers and sisters currently jammed up in the struggle, there is much to do. Even seemingly minor contributions like sending books to prisoners to developing a penpal relationship can bring life to the people who are otherwise withering away like a flower without water or sunlight. Unfortunately, this alone will not bring about our freedom. The only form of solidarity that can stop the ongoing atrocity of mass incarceration is direct action: solidarity means attack!

New photos of Jeremy!

It’s been almost a year since we’ve had new pictures of Jeremy, but, as they say, good things come to those who wait!

As always, photos of Jeremy are a rare treat. As you can see, Jeremy is looking strong and healthy, posing with comrades from Manchester FCI. I’ve spoken with numerous people who have served time with Jeremy, both in New York and in Manchester, and they assure me that Jeremy is well-liked by his fellow inmates. Jeremy himself tells me that he is doing well, that there is no “news” to speak of, really, and that he appreciates the letters, books, and articles that people send him.

If you haven’t written to Jeremy in a while, now is a great time! Click here to see how you can write, and, always, remember that we still rely on donations for Jeremy’s commissary.

And don’t forget to heck out all the past photosets of Jeremy from June 2016, December 2015, Christmas 2014, and March 2014!

Jeremy Hammond: Reflections from the SHU, Part 2

This is part two of a two-part series from Jeremy Hammond, detailing his experience while housed in the segregated housing unit, or SHU, from August to September of 2016. Read part 1.

Back in the box again. Anyone doing time is going to end up in solitary confinement at some point; no self-respecting convict is obeying each and every petty rule, and I’ve been averaging at least a month or so each year since I’ve been down.

While it’s not surprising I found myself in SHU again, this time I had no idea what I supposedly did: no charge or explanation, no one says anything to me for a week. I’m back there pacing the tiny-ass cell thinking maybe this is about reporting on the various lockdowns and water issues, or encouraging mayhem at the DNC and RNC, or writing public statements against the proposed federal prison in nearby Letcher County, KY, or the FOIA requests, or maybe a few other things in the works I’m not sure whether they are aware of or not. None of this is really against the rules, but you never know if they’re going to hit you anyway. Either way it brings me pleasure to know I’ve caused them some headaches and annoyances over the years.

Eventually the bigwigs do their weekly clown parade and I find out I was locked up because I was “encouraging rebellion and criminal activities on the Internet” – i.e. the same thing I’ve been doing since I arrived at FCI Manchester two and a half years ago. But this time I crossed the line, they say, by inciting violence against police officers. I’m told I’m being transferred, and on three separate occasions I’m being told I’m going to a communications management unit (CMU) – a controversial control unit built during the Bush administration with heavy restrictions on communications primarily reserved for supposed “terrorists.”

Later I find out it was specifically over this tweet: “Cops getting away with murder for so long it’s about time someone started popping off on them pigs. It’s tit for tat, baby. Support the Dallas Shooter!”

Inflammatory, sure, and in retrospect I don’t want anyone to think I’m encouraging people to shoot at random cops, But I also didn’t say anything that’s not being said in every prison and in every neighborhood that experiences police violence on an everyday basis. This came in the immediate aftermath of the murders in St. Paul and in Baton Rouge, after the acquittal of the cops in Freddie Gray’s death: it just keeps happening over and over again. Imprisoned, we’ve watched all of this from afar, unable to attend the rallies and join the widespread public outrage against these killer cops who just keep getting away with it over and over again.

Groups like the Fraternal Order of Police and various police chief associations knew they had another mess on their hands and launched a coordinated PR campaign to turn the story away from all the people being murdered by cops and focus on some supposed Dallas shooter conspiracy to attack law enforcement. They condemned the shooter as a terrorist and a racist, saying he was visiting “hate” websites and tried connecting the attack to Black Lives Matter despite the fact BLM is overwhelmingly nonviolent. For days all you’d see on the news was “American heroes under attack” with various police representatives justifying increased militarization at rallies while somehow also claiming that “police protect the protesters,” a ridiculous assertion considering how they regularly beat up and mass arrest us.

You’d get the impression there was universal denunciations of the attack, but when they showed his picture with his fist in the air, most everyone here in prison was like “Hell yeah!” and “It’s about time!” – supportive sentiments contrasting so heavily from the seemingly universal condemnations from the TV networks and the pacifist reformists. I put the tweet out because the perspective of prisoners who have also experienced police brutality, whose voices are otherwise silenced and dismissed from the debate, must be heard.

Understandably, the BOP was pissed about it: after all, the flag at FCI Manchester was at half mast for a week, just as it was when Nancy Reagan died. But some friends also raised similar concerns whether I was wise to be so explicit and brazen, whether I really believe indiscriminate violence against police is the best strategy. What I said was really not all that different from what I’ve been putting out since before I was locked up. For example, the Anonymous “Chinga La Migra” hack of Arizona police included an ASCII graphic of an AK-47 with the words, “Yes we’re aware that putting the pigs on blast puts risks their safety, those poor defenseless police officers who lock people up for decades, who get away with brutality and torture, who discriminate against people of color, who make and break their own laws as they see fit. We are making sure they experience just a taste of the same kind of violence and terror they dish out on an every day basis.” Another comrade in Texas brought up a point: since they very well could have been at that protest, would it have changed my attitude if they were also hit? The shooter was specifically targeting cops, but two protesters were also hit.

To be clear, I don’t think we should be going around killing cops, and it is extremely reckless to shoot off guns at protests. With any tactic, you absolutely have to eliminate any possibility of inadvertently injuring innocent bystanders: consider that for all the actions of the ELF and the Weather Underground, they never killed anybody. When I did the “Shooting Sheriffs Saturday” hack of 70+ police departments, I redacted the personal information of people in jail, while posting the names, addresses, and email contents for thousands of police officers.

The state of free speech in imprisoned America and the growing rift between police and the people was swirling through my mind as I sat in the SHU. This is the third time I’ve been here at Manchester SHU, four if you want to count the two day “mistake” they made a month earlier. For all the talk of prison reform, there have been no observable changes in the cruel and unusual conditions that is everyday life in the Special Housing Unit. Manchester’s SHU is more restrictive than national BOP policy: no newspapers, books, magazines or photographs allowed from the mail. No coffee. Two junk fiction books off this janky-ass cart they pass around once a week. Only five hours of fresh air a week in the dog cages, if they don’t take it for frivolous reasons like our shirts not being tucked in or our bed not being made. Catch a shot while you’re back there, even for something as petty as saving bread or a packet of ketchup from one of the meals to eat during those late night hungry moments, they’ll come and take your blanket, put you in paper suits, and give you cold meals for five days.

The isolation and drudgery can’t be understated: even strong minds, no matter what, you’re going end up a little bugged out and have to find creative ways of passing time. I folded some origami dodecahedrons, played the movie “The Matrix” in my head with Neo being played by Will Smith as it was originally intended, and mastered the technique of peeling paint off the walls by simply staring at it long enough with enough concentration. But the stretches of boredom are sometimes punctuated with brief intense moments, like when my comrade two doors down was hit with the extraction squad. Refusing to cuff up to be put into the paper suits for refusing a cellie, a goon squad decked out in riot gear busted down the cell, roughed him up a bit while shouting “stop resisting,” cut off his orange rags, and forced him into the paper suits. It was horrific, but cell extractions like this are pretty common and supposedly backed by policy.

After a month of being told that I was going to be transferred, all of a sudden I’m kicked out the SHU and back on the compound. I’m given a write-up which reads like a federal indictment: “Hammond has the ability to influence the decisions and actions of others in public. Therefore, by directing his outside contact to post messages advocating violence towards a particular group of people, Hammond has effectively endangered the public, specifically police officers.” But it’s only a 397 series write-up for “phone abuse,” a low-severity shot you generally don’t even go to the box for (though they did take my phone privileges for two months).

I was given a stern warning by the prison’s intelligence officers who made it clear I got off light and that they are watching my every move and communication. I asserted my right to speak freely about politics, prison conditions or whatever I feel like, which they even acknowledged was allowed, but that I “can’t incite or advocate violence in any way.” Furthermore, “we know about the strike,” referring to the September 9th nationwide prisoner work strike on the anniversary of the Attica rebellion. “Hmm?” I mused. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.” Though there are a thousand complaints about our conditions, and that they’re working at UNICOR military sweatshops for nickels an hour, the climate here and at most medium-security prisons is pretty chill and it doesn’t look like people here are trying to buck. In any case, I don’t want to go to a CMU or spend months in the SHU awaiting transfer: they’ve won this round, I’m going to chill out, happy just to be drinking coffee, getting some sun, and reading good books.

Catching up on world events from the giant stack of newspapers and magazines they’ve held since I’ve been gone, it looks like the situation has been getting worse and worse. Another police murder of a black youth in Milwaukee while Donald Trump encouraged law enforcement to use increased militaristic tactics, specifically mentioning my hometown of Chicago where the cops have been basically waging a war on the people. Despite the “blue code of silence” cover-ups, the Homan Square black site, the failures of the Independence Police Review Authority, the police propaganda machine is pushing “Blue Lives Matter” laws to create a new class of hate crimes, something which I probably could have been prosecuted under simply for what I’ve spoken about in the past. The word is out, they’re monitoring everything, so watch what you say, even what you think, especially if you’re in prison. But in the back of the minds of all those who have experienced police oppression, the question remains: what is it going to take to put an end to this police state once and for all?

Jeremy Hammond: Reflections from the SHU, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series from Jeremy Hammond, detailing his experience while housed in the segregated housing unit, or SHU, from July to September of 2015. Read part 2.

“When are you going to start doing your time right?” one of the prison administrators tell me on their weekly rounds of the Special Housing Unit. I’m back in SHU again, this time for making hooch. I explain one or two disciplinary shots a year is really what you should expect out of a medium-security prisoner. Seems like all of my comrades behind bars are in solitary these days. I’m not complaining though: refusing to be a model inmate, I’ve been in and out nearly a dozen times since I been locked up, and the time is easier to “digest” if you know it’s because of something you actually did unlike some fabricated charge or “investigation.” I’ll be in and out in a month – or so I thought.

You can’t get straight sugar or yeast in prison, and there aren’t many hiding spots that aren’t regularly searched by the police: nevertheless, nothing could ever stop determined convicts from making prison wine. With a partner, I was microwaving the cream from generic Oreos to separate the grease from the sugar and mixing it with spoiled tomato paste stolen from the kitchen, stashed in a vent at my job in vocational training. Two weeks later, and this shit is like gasoline! I had just finished drinking a glass, brushed my teeth, and was feeling pretty good until they call me to the Lieutenant’s office for a breathalyzer test. What the fuck? Then I see them hauling out our stash: only me and dude knew the vent where our next batch was put up so I already knew what time it was. I find out later the full story when I’m in the SHU: he was trashed, talking shit to somebody in the chow hall and ended up getting slapped and humiliated, and when his homeboys tell him he’s got to step up and handle that, he “checks in” – he turns himself in to the cops and tells on everybody for wine, shanks, tobacco, even people who were stealing onions out of the kitchen. He was going home in a few months and didn’t want to lose his good time, so now there’s ten people back here in SHU cursing his name on the range. Unfortunately this sort of thing happens all the time in the feds.

A week later I see the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO): there’s really no defense for failing a breathalyzer so he finds me guilty and gives me 30 days Disciplinary Segregation (DS), 6 months loss of commissary, and 41 days loss of good time “mandatory pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act,” that tough-on-prisoner law passed in the Bill Clinton years. It’s the standard sentence landed down for a 100-series shot: drinking is in the same “greatest severity” class with rioting, stabbing, and taking hostages. I think it’s a bit harsh for wine – an extra month and some changed added to my sentence – but I knew this could happen before I started making it, and I’m not being singled out or anything, so I resign myself to kick back for a month in the box and I’ll be back on the compound soon enough.

I’ve been at a few different SHUs at different spots. Stuck for a week in MCC NYC during Hurricane Sandy when the lights and plumbing weren’t working. Spent a few days in SHU holdover at FCI Petersburg where they have triple-stacked bunks so cramped you can’t even sit up straight. The SHU at FCI Manchester has not changed much since I was back here last year. The only good thing I’ll say about this one is that they have a shower in each cell: hard to mess up a faucet and drain, though some cells flood and there’s standing dirty water everywhere. It’s downhill from there, though. Sticky plastic mattresses not washed between uses. The standard two-piece steel sink/toilet has broken buttons in every cell, so we affix torn up strips from their sheets to the insides to be able to drink or flush. Bunks so old, bent up, and warped they creak and clang every time you move around. Bright lights that stay on 18 hours a day reflect our orange clothes, rubber shoes and blanket no doubt further destabilizing our psyche. There’s a thin vertical window strip giving you a great view of a brick wall, but fortunately you’ve got enough gang graffiti, calendars, and “so-and-so’s a rat” scrawled on the walls to keep you entertained.

By international standards on the minimum conditions for prisoners held in SHU, we’re supposed to get a few hours of sunlight and fresh air per week, but the cops are constantly trying to find arbitrary reasons to take that away. At the crack of dawn they quietly sneak up to your cell window to see if you’re ready for rec. You have to be already up on your feet by the door all dressed up, shirt tucked in, your bed made, your room looking spotless. So much as a book on the table or your towel drying on the side of the bunk, and they’ll tell you, “Try again tomorrow,” even though BOP policy states they are not supposed to take away rec as a form of punishment. If you pass, your reward is an hour in the “dog run,” a cage twice the size of your cell where the concrete ground is covered in bird shit.

Theoretically, we are allowed access to the “law library” where they cuff you up and lead you to a cage smaller than your cell with a computer that has access to court rulings and case law. But it takes more than a month after you put in your written request, and by then you’ll have already seen the DHO thereby preventing you from adequately preparing any meaningful defense. I put in multiple requests and only got to use it once my entire SHU visit.

Every week they roll around a raggedy-ass book cart and we can pick out two books to exchange. The selection is the same set of junk fiction from the time I was here last year: Tom Clancy, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell – all BS “political spy thrillers” and murder mysteries portrayed from a law-and-order perspective of a cop protagonist. I read a book a day so after I devour mine and my bunky’s, it’s looking pretty rough. Fortunately plenty of comrades on the street were mailing me various anarchist zines, news articles, and internet printouts to keep me aware of events in the free world. But any incoming books, magazines and newspapers that come in through the mail go straight to property storage. They even take any incoming pictures you receive. I already had a hundred books in storage, but they aren’t trying to put them on the cart. FCI Manchester Institutional Supplement on the SHU and personal property is far more restrictive than the national BOP policy, and the problem is compounded by this lazy and malicious SHU property officer who happens to be the same guy who caught me trying to smuggle a bag of coffee in the SHU a year ago.

Everybody fiending for coffee, we are constantly trying to smuggle in that Keefe yellow bag well known to prisoners across the country. When available, I was able to sample some of that forbidden black gold by fishing from other cells down the range by means of a long string cut from sheets and piece of soap. The BOP national menu does guarantee coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so when they feel particularly ambitious, we do get four tiny packets a week altogether amounting to about half a spoon. It’s the leftover cheap stuff not fit for sale on the streets because it is too old and has hardened into a taffy-like wafer that tastes like ashes. Nevertheless, every weekend I’m at rec swapping mailing stamps with others who don’t drink coffee. The sink water isn’t hot enough to dissolve it so you have to build a fire by means of a battery and a tiny strip of aluminum from the coffee wrappers, warming water in those little milk cartons suspended over the fire with more sheet strings. In general population, I was mixing Keefe instant coffee, Kool-Aid, and Coca-Cola to make a coffee energy drink commonly known as a Foxy, Bombay, or La Bomba. The SHU one is the same minus the soda and using these generic “clear punch” Kool-Aids that have solidified like the coffee. Highlight of the week!

Of course, if they catch you making a fire, fishing down the range, saving an apple or a breakfast cake to eat later at night, or just rub one of the COs the wrong way, they got something special for you in this SHU. National policy allows them to deny you your mattress except during eight hours at night, but here at Manchester, they take all your clothes and give you these thin paper suits normally used for prisoners in transit. They even take your blanket and sheets and give you what is essentially a large paper towel.

Thirty days and a few different cellies later, my time is up and I’m stoked! I’m drinking the last of my coffees and making a to-do list when an officer walks up and slips a paper in the door and walks away. “Administrative Detention Order: Hammond is terminating confinement in Disciplinary Segregation and has been ordered into Administrative Detention by the Warden’s Designee Pending SIS Investigation” it reads. What the fuck?! I’m kicking the door, screaming curses at the police down the range, running back and forth in the cell. Later my counselor walks by and gives me more bad news: another visitor application rejected for “security reasons.” (I find out much later that twice my grandparents tried visiting me while I was in SHU and were denied visitation, and I only recently came off two-year visiting restrictions.) “What the fuck am I still doing in SHU?” I demand to know. “SIS investigation” is all I hear for weeks. One of the administrators tell me, “There are things you’ve been doing that we know about, that you don’t know that we know, but we know.” …Huh? It’s true I’m generally up to something, so without knowing what they’ve got, I can’t do anything until they show their hand. I was supposed to get out in time to do the Running Down the Walls 5K run, but that’s not happening, so instead I just ran in place for an hour.

Eventually a SIS guy walks around and nonchalantly tells me, “Someone mailed you some drugs in the mail. You’ll be back here for a while and then probably transferred.” He said it was greeting cards soaked in liquid K2, all the rage in prison these days because it is odorless and easily concealed. I’m relieved because even if it really happened, I obviously had absolutely nothing to do with it and I’ll be cleared. On one hand, I’m not trying to leave because I have unfinished business on the compound: half-finished tattoo work, books on loan everywhere, etc. But I’ve pissed off most of the staff here and I’m sure they’re just trying to make me somebody else’s problem. I’m tired of the land of Mitch McConnell and Kim Davis – get me out of Kentucky already!

The time drags by with no answers and now I’m stressing. I’ve finished my sentence for the wine and am now on “administrative detention” status, supposedly “non-punitive” because they allow you your radio and two personal books (which the property officer is refusing me). While “under investigation,” you aren’t charged with any crime, but they can hold you for 90 days then apply for another 90 days on top of that. If they end up giving you a shot, the time you spent waiting for the DHO doesn’t even count towards your DS sentence. After the DS time, you’re sent back to AD awaiting designation and the next transfer bus. All in all, it’ll be months. There are still people in SHU for a big fight back in May that shut everything down. Four months later, the weight pile was reopened, but some of these people haven’t even been charged yet. I’m really supposed to sit back here “for a while” and then be sent somewhere else? If transferred I can’t bring all my books with me, not even the ones people mailed me since I’ve been back here. I’m telling them, “You have to donate them to the book cart,” and some of the administrators seem understanding and promise to do something about it, but more weeks pass by and I still haven’t received a shot and it starts to sink in how badly I’m being screwed. I start the administrative grievance process and submit a few BP-8s and BP-9s, but I already know that endless gerbil wheel goes nowhere.

The time for talk is over: I’m ready to go to war. These showers and toilets will flood the entire range very easily like we were doing in NYC, but later on the way back from rec, I discover this SHU has drains on the floor preventing that possibility. You could always cover the door window with paper to disrupt their count, hold the food tray slot hostage, and refuse to cuff up. I start saving milk cartons in the morning so they start spoiling. Position it under the door and wait for one of the bigwigs to walk by and you can stomp on it to splatter nasty milk all over their fancy dress shoes. Fill up toothpaste tubes with piss, and it works the same way. Damaging the sprinklers will trigger a deafening alarm and spray black oil everywhere. And starting a fire is always an option. Almost everything burns. Any one of these will result in the goon squad forcibly extracting me with shields, Tasers, etc. and is definitely result in more write-ups and injury, but fuck it, I’m already feeling like I have nothing to lose. If I’m going to be in SHU, it may as well be about something, and if they’re going to transfer me, I’m going give them something to remember me by.

It’s burger-and-fries Wednesday. Everybody normally looks forward to it, but when they roll the cart around, I reflexively tell them to get that stinking-ass tray out my cell. Hunger strike, ya bastards! I rile up the rest of the range, getting everybody to kick on the doors and start chanting “Fuck the police!” They immediately shake me down, take everything, and put me in a cell by myself. It’s not long before the bigwigs show up trying to calm me down. They reassure me that they’re not messing with me, that they’re waiting on the drug test results from the lab, and that I will have a chance to mail my books home. They give me what I‘m entitled to in AD, my radio and two books out of my property. I pick Beyond Walls and Cages, and ¡Presente! in English and Spanish so at least I have something to study besides militaristic junk fiction. It was worth it just to show them I’m not going down without a fight, but I realize that the time was starting to warp into a sense of hopelessness and desperation. It’s a constant struggle to maintain discipline and sanity, to be able to pick your battles. I got nothing else coming, and no matter what I do I’m still going to be stuck back here until they transfer me.

More time passes, and then suddenly I’m being kicked out back to general population. Turns out whatever they received in the mail wasn’t drugs after all, and was most likely just perfume on a greeting card. No shot, no transfer, no nothing. Just an extra month for free. They bring me to the front of the SHU with my duffle bags of property and I dress out of the orange jumpsuits into the standard BOP khakis. Much of my stuff is damaged or missing, which is the norm, but I’m more concerned about my books, dozens of which I haven’t even seen yet because they were sent while I was in SHU. Weeks later I’m still fighting to get them pack from the confiscation room or at least be able to donate them to the library. [Note: Almost a year later, Jeremy still has not received all the books that were confiscated from him during this stint in the SHU.]

As I’m leaving the SHU, the property officer tries me one last time and makes me take off my shoes right on the walk just for the orange socks I was wearing, but the joke’s on him. I had already managed to throw a bag of Keefe coffee from my property to the SHU orderly to share with the other comrades still left behind. The door opens and I’m nearly blinded by the sun. Just like that, the journey is over. Even though I spent nearly the entire summer in the SHU, lost twenty pounds, and now have to breathalyze three times a day, I’m feeling free at last, happy to get some fresh air and sunlight.

While I was in SHU, the Director of the BOP Charles E. Samuels was blatantly lying in front of Congress, a federal offense in and of itself. “We do not practice solitary confinement…We do not, under any circumstances, nor have we ever, had the practice of putting an individual in a cell alone.” Besides the graveyard-like control unit ADX Florence, there are plenty of everyday situations where you’d end up in a cell by yourself: the dry cell (for those suspected of smuggling contraband), the drunk tank (if you fail a breathalyzer), hunger strikers, protective custody cases, or just lazy SHU cell placement. Open the book on any SHU in the BOP and you’ll find people in single cells. The dude across the hall from my cell in “max custody” all by himself was doing a 24-month DS sentence for assaulting the guards in another prison. Every day, he played solitaire and paced the cell endlessly.

The BOP tries to whitewash SHU by calling it “administrative detention,” or “disciplinary segregation,” among other things. Indeed, the word “solitary” does not appear anywhere in the entire BOP program statements. No matter how they rebrand it, it’s still a torturous disregard for human rights that has attracted the UN’s attention. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez says, “Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit…whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as punishment.” It’s true that in general they try to give you a cellmate, and many people prefer single cell placement for short-term SHU bids because it gets cramped and crowded in that tiny cell and you want to be able to stretch out comfortably. But after a month or so, even with a strong spirit you start losing your mind and you crave meaningful social interactions not possible in a box the size of your bathroom, with or without a cellmate. Hundreds of thousands have experienced solitary confinement. Anyone doing more than a few years is inevitably going to end up in seg at some point during their bid. Prison administrators and correctional officer unions defend this practice claiming that it deters people from breaking prison rules, but all it does is make you bitter, erratic, psychologically damaged and more willing to lash out – especially if you’re doing time for some petty rule infraction or fabricated “investigation.”

The cops especially love to harass political prisoners and other “troublemakers” who submit grievances, file lawsuits, interact with the media, or communicate about prison conditions with the outside world such as Barrett Brown or Chelsea Manning. Their weapons include solitary confinement, supermax, communication management units, denying visits, and monitoring and censoring your mail, but that’s only what is sanctioned by policy. The police violence of pepper spray and batons that you see at protests is an everyday occurrence in prison where the guards got each others’ backs and there is no accountability. Remember in the 1970s, prison guards repeatedly tried to arm racist white prisoners with shanks instructing them to kill George Jackson. His comrade, Hugo “Yogi” Pinell, who himself spent decades in solitary confinement and had participated in the recent hunger strikes in California to end this practice, was murdered under mysterious circumstances just a week after finally being released to general population.

With Black Lives Matter and widespread public opposition to mass incarceration, finally there is attention on solitary confinement, police brutality, capital punishment, three strikes laws, mandatory minimum sentences and other aspects of the police state. Public outrage has forced Obama and other politicians to make token reforms, but they would never willingly give up these profitable tools of social control without a fight. We cannot sell out our desire for a world without prisons and police by settling for their promise of a more benevolent human warehousing industry, as if there could ever be such a thing. We must continue to build pressure on their pipeline till it bursts. The extra harsh treatment and counter-intelligence operations ordinarily reserved for the rebels, such as SWAT teams created to fight the LA Panthers, will be used against the general population if we do not challenge it with fierce opposition. Behind enemy lines, our strategy is to unite various factions against our common enemy and successfully engage in system-wide hunger strikes, work refusals and sabotage. Coupled with militant street demonstrations and targeted direct action campaigns against prison officials, we can make this industry so toxic and unmanageable so that no one would ever want to have anything to do with it and it is swept into the dustbin of history.

Till we are all free, JEREMY (A)