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New Writing From Jeremy: What Really Happened At FCI Milan

This new piece of writing from Jeremy further details the horror of the of the situation that he endured at FCI Milan involving his alleged assault of a guard. Through it, we have learned that Jeremy (thankfully) at least had a cellmate at least part of the time, but that the situation was, sadly, even more convoluted than any of us on the outside ever could have imagined. Prison truly is cruel by its very nature, and that is something no amount of reform will ever fix. We must strive for abolition if we ever hope for true justice.
– Grace North


One minute, I’m putting the finishing touches on some college homework, contemplating the irony of an anarchist hacker paying extortion prices using the BOP email computers to type a paper on Bartleby and Marx. Ten minutes later, I’m in orange rags, escorted to a cell in the segregated housing unit (SHU). There is a strong smell of pepper spray. My new celly tells me, “Yeah the last people were fighting and they sprayed them down. You’re lucky. I cleaned most of it up this morning.”

The first night in the hole is always the worst. Why am I here?! Pacing the cell in small circles like a character out of Sean Swain’s “Last Act of the Circus Animals”, I play the events back in my mind:

I was waiting for them to call recall, which is when students who have evening classes can go to the chow hall to eat early. When they call the move, I push the door to the housing unit open from the inside. Because there are no windows on the door, I had no idea that immediately behind it was the most notorious asshole cop on the compound, the one who literally embodies the stereotypical pig with a shiteating grin, just waiting to write somebody up. The door apparently bumped him softly, and he immediately gets aggressive, pushes me with his shoulder, and says, “You wanna go?” It’s some macho display of power and pride, trying to bait me in. Not going for it. I look at him tell him, “No, I don’t want any smoke.” We stare each other down for a few seconds and he says, “Let’s go,” and begins walking me up the compound.

“You been anywhere?”

“A few places, Manchester, Greenville.” All mediums, this is my first low.

“Is that where you learned to assault officers?”

“No, I didn’t mean to bump you back there.”

He calls the compound on the radio and we meet with another officer. They talk out of earshot for a minute, and I am passed off to the other corrections officer (CO) and walked to the lieutenant’s office. He also has a reputation for being a hard-ass, but I’ve never had any negative interactions with him. So I tell him, “Look, this is a misunderstanding. I never intended to bump him with the door.”

He shakes his head and sighs. “Yeah, I know, believe me, if I thought it was an actual assault, we’d be on the ground going at it.” This is his way of agreeing with me. “But he is pushing the issue, and now you’re going to have to go through the process.” After taking pictures and my blood pressure, I’m brought to the SHU.

A few hours later, I’m given the shot: a 224 Assault (Minor). The written narrative is even worse than the junk fiction on the SHU book cart. He wrote that after I “struck” him in the “back and foot”, I proceeded to “stand my ground while pressing my shoulder into his.” Reading the shot out loud, the sheer absurdity of it all gives me confidence that the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) will throw it out. Nevertheless, I know I’ll be waiting back here at least a few weeks. I’ve been in the hole on a dozen occasions, so I know how to do time, but it is always harder to digest when you don’t know why you’re locked up and worse when you are accused of something you didn’t do.

A copy of the shot Jeremy received detailing the alleged “assault” on the guard at FCI Milan

I am most preoccupied with the college classes I am missing. I am on track to get my associate’s degree after next semester, and finals are just a few weeks away. And if the worst case scenario happens and I am convicted, my security points will shoot back up. Since I have no history of violence, I will certainly be transferred back to a medium, and I won’t be able to finish my degree. It is infuriating to think that a single cop can put a bogus case on someone and mess up their entire future.

Knowing it’s going to be several weeks before I can plead my case to the DHO, I examine my surroundings. All SHUs are bad, but slight variations define the degree of dehumanization. Built in the 1930’s, FCI Milan’s SHU is old and decrepit. Layers of paint and pain are peeling off the walls. It’s a small 6’x 8’ cell with nothing but a bunk bed and the steel sink/toilet combo. There’s not even the standard issue table and swivel stool found in most cells in the system. The fluorescent light immediately above the top bunk is as orange as our clothes and encrusted with toothpaste. A former prisoner had affixed paper to block, or at least dim, the light. The water is messed up in almost every cell and blankets are on the floor to absorb the leaks. Water only dribbles out of the faucet, so plastic spoons are used to give it some pressure. In another cell, the water shoots like a geyser all the way to the door. One cell only has hot water and one day when the hot water was down, the occupants had nothing to drink. The faulty fire alarms go off randomly, often blasting loudly for hours in the middle of the night. The power flickers and goes off a few times. The upper range is so hot, people are sweating in their boxers, while the lower range is so cold people stay in bed under the covers all day. There is a constant argument with the CO’s to turn the fans and heaters either on or off, but no combination can please everybody. The only real solution is to bulldoze this old joint to the ground. The only indication of any modern renovations are the “green” toilets which lock for an hour after three flushes, which most prisoners despise. Ordinarily I support this for water conservation purposes, as prisoners are huge consumers of water, but in the SHU, this system prevents any possibility of flooding the range in protest.

Despite these small variations, FCI Milan’s SHU is run like every other in accordance with national policy. The same Bob Barker orange SHU clothes made in a sweatshop in El Salvador, the same blue inflammable 1½” thick mattress made in a UNICOR sweatshop at USP Atlanta. Life revolves around meals 3 times a day, and showers 3 times a week. The food is standardized across the system: burger Wednesdays, chicken Thursdays, and fish Fridays. The BOP must have some big contracts with certain vendors to supply food that otherwise can’t be sold to the general public, and I’m starting to recognize the brands. Everywhere I’ve been, we get the same cartons of Borden’s skim milk, just a few days before the expiration date, the same bags of Snyder’s potato chips, already expired. In all my years of dumpster diving, I never even heard of expired potato chips, yet I’ve seen these in three prisons so far. The same nasty packets of Nutro Juice sugar-free Kool-Aid. The same brown packets of Deep Rich coffee, on weekends only, but in SHU it’s the orange Deep Rich 97% decaf packets instead. Monday through Friday they allow us an hour of recreation in the “dog run” cages. The SHU rec area at FCI Milan is where they once famously hung a bank robber and there are rumors that he haunts the building because there are strange, loud sounds of metal clanking and scraping at all hours of the night.

In other ways, the SHU at Milan has its advantages over others in the system. Most notably, we are not closed in by a steel door with the “choke hole”, but with the old-school open bars that allow us to talk easily and even pass items from cell to cell. One prisoner designated as an orderly comes by to help people trade food, stamps, or books. Although the book cart is mostly composed of the usual selection of pro-cop junk fiction like Patricia Cornwell and Vince Flynn, it is freely passed around without limitations. We can’t receive magazines, newspapers, or hardcover books. We can receive paperbacks. And, I must admit that for the most part, the CO’s here are not the typical assholes working the SHU that treat us like animals. Some attempt to accommodate us to the extent that they can within the responsibilities of the job. The problem is that their very job supports the system that confines us to these harsh conditions on frivolous charges. They walk the SHU wearing shirts and hoodies with a black and white U.S. flag divided by a blue line, a statement about the need for police to maintain order against the chaos, or something. The end result is us ending up in a jail within a jail in the minimum conditions allowed by low. And for what? None of the people I talk to back here need to be in SHU. To the left of me was an old cellmate. They gave him a 113 drug charge because he had his celly’s Naproxen (Aleve) medication in his locker by mistake. This is medicine that can be purchased over the counter at commissary. The guy to my right had a battery, razor, and coffee pack foil which is used to start a fire. He too had a 113 drug charge. They even locked his celly up, standard protocol when contraband is found in the cell. Some people are back here for more serious charges like marijuana or a cellphone. To put things in perspective, marijuana is now legal in Michigan, and there are more cellphones than people in the U.S.

Others have been in here for months doing dead time with no charge, pending “investigation” or transfer. My first celly got into it with his celly on the unit and gave him a black eye. For days, the guy stayed in the room, not even going to chow, to avoid a CO seeing the injury and locking him up, but he eventually turned himself in. When the cops came around to ask questions they said, “We already know what happened, so you may as well confess.” Thinking he would get leniency, he admitted everything. But as it turns out, his celly never told, and his confession was the only evidence used to lock him up and convict him.

One day, a CO tells me to pack it up, I’m being moved to another cell. I’m like, WTF why? He tells me, “You’re really doing us a favor. Just ride with it and we’ll remember this.” I’m thinking okay, I’ll play ball, never know if it will come in handy down the line. I’m escorted to the other side of the SHU and I recognize my new celly from RDAP. “Thank God! I was praying for a celly.” He’s a big Jesus freak, a “true believer” in the drug program, and not handling the SHU very well. Under “SIS investigation,” he says he has no idea why he is back here. He is stressing hard, red in the face, and pacing the cell panicked. So I spend time talking to him, calming him down, encouraging him to get into a book or work out. Though I tell him I’m not religious, he keeps quoting the Bible to me, and I entertain him just to keep him in a good mood.

The SHU can be hard, especially if you don’t know why you are back there or what is going to happen. He said he told the psychologist he wanted to hurt himself. One guy from the FDC tried to hang himself. Another has covered himself with his own shit on at least three occasions while I was here. The head psychologist walks around, more often when there is a crisis. She hands out Sudoku puzzles and pamphlets on stress management and coping with time. Some of it is good, such as developing patience and endurance to overcome difficult situations like this. But, overall it tells you to simply accept your charges and conditions as outside of your control. In the section entitled “Resentment”, they say most of us “have met people like this, they seem angry at life,” that they are mad at “an entire system – such as the courts, the justice system, or prison staff,” and that it “doesn’t matter if the wrong is real or imagined.” This is the same psychologist that told me that, in regards to RDAP, if you go to SHU for whatever reason – even if you have charges dropped, even if your celly had something in the room and both of you go to SHU but you are released because he took the rap – you will still be “clinically teamed” and “set back” an RDAP phase, because you likely did something wrong anyway. She was also the one who locked up my old celly with the medication, knowing full well that if the shot sticks, it would cause him to lose the year off he earned having completed RDAP. Even if BOP psychologists are genuinely concerned about the welfare of those in SHU, there is only so much they can do, because they work for the system that is inflicting the damage, and have no power to stop the bleeding.

A week passes. Though I am on the docket to see the DHO, there are no hearings this week because of “Thanksgiving” so we all are just sitting for now. I get into a nice routine: eating, reading, sleeping, and working out. Whether I am in general population or the SHU, I don’t skip a day; one day I do upper body pushups and dips off the toilet, the next I do a lower body cardio routine of squats, sit-ups, jumping jacks, planks, and a variety of stretches. I make a few origami models and write letters. I find a few gems in the book cart. I read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevensen. I receive the monthly Friends of AK Press books: Zooicide and Feminism in Motion. When I’m tired of reading and laying in bed all day, I pace in small circles, lost in thoughts and memories.

One day, a CO comes to bring me to the property room. All of my stuff is emptied on a table. My inventory receipt says “Property Found Unsecured” and so much is missing. My MP3 player, my chess set, clothes, and dozens of various borderline contraband objects that took forever to collect. Any food item that was opened was thrown away. I’m given a confiscation form. By policy we’re only allowed five books, so they confiscated the rest. I went HAM last time they tried to do me like this, but I shelve this issue for now, believing that I am likely to beat the shot and be released and where I can track down my missing stuff.

In SHU we are only allowed soap, toothpaste, shower shoes, and a radio/earbuds. I had some earbuds in my “locker buddy” but it appears the CO who packed my property didn’t bother to go through it. When the CO isn’t looking, I stuffed a bag of yellow Keefe coffee in my pants, but when I am patted down on the way back to the cell, it is discovered. “Hey, can’t blame me for trying.” He laughs and puts it back on the shelf.

With a radio and no earbuds, I wait until commissary comes around, which sells cheap earbuds. But they are out, along with multivitamins and AAA batteries. A friend passes down a set, along with the homemade antennae made from headphone wire wrapped around a long stick made of paper with the end attached to the headphone jack. Someone passes some other headphones for me to fix; there is a short at the jack. Soon I am fixing up headphones and battery packs to allow AAA radios to use AA, using nothing but rubber bands and staples. Michigan has the best radio stations. I can listen to shows like the Progressive Underground and get NPR news. George H.W. Bush holiday? Teargassing the Caravan? Terrible.

My celly did not get his property yet, so I let him listen to his Christian shows and AM talk radio which he enjoys. It seems to calm him down. The next day he’s like, “Alex Jones says there are 50,000 illegals in Tijuana throwing rocks and George Soros is behind it all.” I get up, “WTF? The cops killed someone with rubber bullets, they’re gassing women and children, you support that shit? You some kind of Trump supporter?” “Um no man I guess I don’t know what’s going on down there…” I hand him a Crimethinc article a friend sent me called “Turning the Army Against the People”. He reads it for a while, gives it back, and gets back to the Bible.

Later that night, the CO’s bring someone in. Everyone is like “On the new!” They’re eager to see who got locked up, why, and to hear the latest gossip from the compound. It’s my old celly. He’s going to the outside hospital to get his teeth pulled. It is standard protocol to lock someone up the night before for “security reasons”.

“Hey! You need something to read? To snack on?”

“No, I’m good. Hey is so-and-so back here?”

“Yeah, that’s my celly back here. He right here.”

“Yo! He’s a rat! He got up there in RDAP and told on a bunch of people, then they punched him up!”

Everybody’s ears perk up. “Woooh!” “Oh hell no!” “Yo Big Germ, you need to investigate that one!” I look at my celly, who heard it all. “No! I didn’t tell on anyone! No one punched me up!” “Well, you gotta get up on the gate and defend yourself.” But he wouldn’t do it. I’m thinking now. It’s awkward as hell. It’s not a good look to be in the cell with a snitch. A convict is supposed to buck, to refuse, to kick him out.

I flash back to five years earlier when I was at MCC NYC in the SHU for a tattoo shot. I was walked down the range, saying what’s up to all the people who were still back there from the last time I was in the SHU. “Yo! Germ! What’s up!” The CO stops at a cell and cuffs the guy inside. “Yo! You don’t want to go in that cell! He’s a rat! He told on so-and-so!” Inside the cell, I’m looking at the guy. He’s young, thin, and so scared he won’t make eye contact, won’t leave the corner of the cell. “Hey man,” I tell him, “they say you’re a rat!”

“Um…No. I don’t know, I’m not an anything, I just want to read my Bible.”

“Yo! Germ! Beat his ass!” they’re shouting in the hall. The CO is just standing there, so I tell him, “Hey, you gotta switch us up. I can’t be in here with him.”

“Can’t do it.”

“Look! I’m gonna make him stand in the corner all night! Get him out of here! Why would you set me up like this?”

The CO walks off. Sighing. I get on the bunk and chill out for a minute. Suddenly, I hear frantic scribbling sounds. He gets up, slides an envelope through the side of the door, and says, “CO! CO!” The others on the range begin mocking his high pitched voice.

“Hey man…Mail doesn’t go out until Sunday, so what are you doing?”

“CO!” The CO comes by, picks up the envelope, reads the letter, and walks away.

“Yo, Germ! He just did it again! He just told!”

“Hey, man, what was that letter all about?”

No reply, no eye contact.

A minute later two CO’s come by “Hammond, cuff up.” They take him and put him in the next cell over. Hours later, a lieutenant comes by and gives me a new shot: “threatening”. The guy said he felt his life was in danger. The shot quoted me saying I would make him stand in the corner all night.

“Hey man! Why’d you lie and say I threatened you?” I tell him through the paper-thin walls.

No reply.

A week later I see the DHO, but he’s cool, and drops the tattoo shot because it was written up incorrectly. I get hit for the threatening but it is reduced to a 399 Most Like Refusing a Program Assignment. I’m out of the hole, but lose commissary and phone privileges.

I think about this and consider my options. I don’t have solid proof about this guy, but a close comrade put him out there on the range and he wouldn’t defend himself. But if he told, and was punched up, wouldn’t the guy who punched him also be in SHU? One way or another, I’m either going to be released, or get moved to the disciplinary segregation (DS) range.

Back at Milan, when the day finally arrives, we are cuffed and escorted into the property room adjacent to the lieutenant’s office where the hearing takes place. I spot the bag of coffee I tried to snag last week, but it was not an opportune moment. They call my name and I’m brought into the room. The SHU lieutenant and another CO are sitting around a speakerphone. The first time I saw the DHO years ago, he showed up in person. Later on, it was video chat. What’s next, a computer algorithm? He reads me my rights: “Your silence may be used to draw an adverse inference against you”, “the right to be present throughout the discipline hearing except during a period of deliberation or when institutional safety would be jeopardized”, “the right to have a full-time member of the staff who is reasonably available to represent you”, etc. We do not, however, have the right to a lawyer.

I give my well-rehearsed presentation: “I did not intend to bump him with the door. It has no windows so I could not have known he was on the other side. I never pressed my shoulder into his.” The whole situation was blown out of proportion. The CO didn’t even “hit the deuces” and call for all available officers which is protocol for handling assaults. I wasn’t even cuffed until I entered the SHU!

The DHO stops me and asks me to leave for a minute. Back in the property room, I’m talking with other prisoners about their cases as a few more are called into their hearing. The DHO appears to be in a good mood. A few have their shots dropped or reduced to less severe charges. I’m still eyeing the coffee, but a safe opening still has not presented itself yet. I’m called back into the room.

In a cheerful tone, the DHO tells me, “Ok, I understand the door pushing part was unavoidable. I’m not concerned with that. I’m worried about what happened afterwards. The officer wrote that you pressed your shoulder into his, and I have no reason to believe he is lying.” I think to myself, this is one of the disadvantages of having a DHO come from a different prison. Everybody at Milan knows about the CO who wrote me up. While the DHO looks at all your previous shots, he probably isn’t looking at all the grievances filed against the officer. I tell him that I never pushed him, that as it is written, it is not even possible to “stand my ground” while simultaneously “pressing my shoulder into his”. But don’t take my word for it, check the cameras. Even if the tape didn’t capture the alleged pushing because it occurred in the sheltered door enclave, the camera would certainly prove that the officer did not “attempt to create a distance” as he wrote in the shot. He peacefully walked me across the compound. If he lied in one aspect of the shot, it is grounds to expunge the entire case.

Sounding as if he is interested, the DHO kicks me out of the room to review the footage. Back in the property room, I’m talking to other prisoners who had their cases heard. Convicted, but no Disciplinary Segregation time. They’re going back to general population. The bag of coffee is still sitting on the shelf within reach, but a CO is nearby and in a talkative mood. “Kicked you out the room again? Might be a good sign!”

I’m brought back in again and the DHO begins. “The video evidence is inconclusive, and we can’t get into specifics.” Not able to see the tape for myself, I am supposed to accept the only objective evidence that might clear me is “inconclusive”. We’re back to a “his-word-against mine” situation, and in prison, the cop’s word always wins.

Appealing to his sympathies, I explain “Look, I understand the severity of an assault on staff charge. I know I caught a number of shots in my first few years, but I calmed down, made it to the low, and began programming. I’ve been shot free for two years and I’m on track to getting my associate’s degree in the college program here. If this shot sticks, I will certainly be shipped back to the mediums. I have every reason to be following the rules, not getting into conflicts with staff. I don’t know why the officer freaked out over what was obviously an innocent misunderstanding. I know that in prison, if I had a negative interaction with him in the past, he wouldn’t cut me slack if a situation like this happened. But that’s not the case here, I never even talked to him before. Maybe it was pride, that he felt disrespected that I pushed him with the door, and he felt like he had to get in my face all aggressive. But I did everything I was supposed to do. There was nothing I could have done to prevent this from happening.”

The DHO interrupts, “Are you alleging staff misconduct?”

“Umm…Well, he wrote that I pushed him with my shoulder, when in fact the opposite occurred, he pushed me, and said, ‘You wanna go?’”

“So you’re alleging staff misconduct.”

And as soon as I said yes, the DHO’s entire tone and demeanor changed, and I knew the decision had been made.

“Ok, well I will be forwarding your complaint of staff misconduct.”

“Well, I was hoping that this could be resolved without having to come to that…”

“No, it’s too late now, I’ll be forwarding your complaint.”

By telling the truth about what happened, that the officer had actually assaulted me, the DHO felt like he was boxed into a conviction. A cop must always side with another cop, especially when physical force is used. It is crucial that they protect themselves by securing a conviction. They just rubber stamp the lie all the way up and down the bureaucracy.

“I’m finding you guilty, that you did commit the prohibited act of 224 Assault (minor).” As he’s reading me my sanctions and telling me my right to appeal through the Administrative Grievance Process, I’m shaking my head and looking at the SHU lieutenant, who, in his eyes seems to be communicating that he also recognizes the injustice and absurdity of it all. I lose 60 days phone and commissary, which I could care less about. But I also lose 27 “good time” days. That’s a whole extra month in prison. Though we were supposed to be receiving 54 days off a year, in practice the BOP only gives us 47. The watered-down First Step Act does expand it to the full 54 days, but whatever benefit I would have received is now gone.

Back in the property room waiting for a CO to escort me back to my cell, I decide it’s now or never. Even though I am cuffed behind my back I manage to grab the coffee off the shelf and stuff it in my boxers. Back in my cell, I sip on a cold cup of Keefe. At least there are small victories.

Everyone who had their shot expunged or didn’t receive any DS time is being released back to the compound. My celly, who never got a shot, was also released. I didn’t receive any DS time as part of my sanctions, but I wasn’t kicked out with everybody else. The next morning I am told I am being held “pending transfer” and that it will be a few weeks. But I know that if they do decide to transfer me, it will be months.

The Clown Parade comes through for their weekly dog and pony show, and I am prepared. I give a nice presentation to the Warden, asking him to consider putting a “Management Variable” on me to keep me at Milan so that I can finish my degree. The Prison Education Initiative college program is only at six federal prisons. It expires soon and is being considered for renewal. It is the best thing FCI Milan has going for it, and they want to see some graduates. Programs like this are the very purpose of Management Variables. They can keep me here if they want.

One day, when they are bringing around everybody’s mail, the CO comes to me and says, “Hey you received a bunch of books in the mail but we had to put them in your property shelf.” WTF?! They had previously told me that I could receive books, so I told people to send me something to read, but apparently now they are implementing a new policy where SHU prisoners can’t get books in the mail. When the bigwigs come around again for their weekly Clown Parade, I ask the Warden about this. “What’s the institutional-security, orderly-operation whatever justification for this one?” His new captain, some military beefhead who in his first month at Milan had already began implementing other negative changes around the compound, interrupted all aggressively, “It’s none of your business. No books in the SHU except the book cart, period.” I would have snapped back at him if the Warden wasn’t right there, but thinking that because they were still deciding what to do with me, I chose to let it ride.

More than a week goes by, and I’m still sitting on some dead time, singing the same old song, washing socks in the sink. The fire alarm keeps blasting. That guy keeps covering himself in shit. Next week is finals in college. If I’m not out there, the whole semester will have been wasted. What is the point of my continued incarceration? Or any of us back here in the SHU sitting on dead time?

Sadly, there is nothing unusual about this incident. It wasn’t in retaliation for the nature of my case, or the tweets I put out, or the FOIA requests I filed, or my involvement in the recent lawsuit to stop the new BOP prison in Letcher County, Kentucky. A single power-tripping pig wrote a bogus shot and the system backed the lie. This happens every day in hundreds of prisons across the US. They hope that each incident is not brought to the public’s attention, that we just accept it as inevitable. I am strengthened and inspired by people who wrote me, and are advocating for me, pressuring FCI Milan to do the right thing. Reading an ABC Zine someone sent me, I come across a poem written by Eric King, also in solitary at another fed joint across the country. “Can I let loose my spirit/Let it flourish, watch it destroy/Can I refuse to be submissive/To any state or movement…Can I live one time?” I think about how I have gone out of my way to behave myself over the past few years. I kissed so much ass in RDAP to get the year off and they still expelled me. Even then, I layed low, so I can try to get this college degree, and now they are trying to transfer me. It’s just another reminder how their system of carrots and sticks of punishment in the name of rehabilitation is all messed up. It’s one of the first rules I learned going to jail: it doesn’t matter if you are guilty or innocent, when they can slam you all the same, so you may as well go all the way with it. I make up my mind: if they are shipping me back to the medium, if they take my degree, if they take a month of good time for a lie, I will make them regret it; I’m going HAM. It’s going down like Bartleby. I would prefer not to cuff up, not to stand up count. Send the goons if you gotta. I refuse to accept that which they say cannot be changed.

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks everybody for advocating on my behalf to pressure the BOP to keep me at FCI Milan. Many of the CO’s walking by told me they were well aware that there was a campaign underway. Unfortunately, the BOP did decide to boost my points and transfer me to a medium security prison. They got me out of there quick. While many others had been languishing in the SHU for months awaiting transfer, I was on the first flight out of there. When I got to the transfer center in Oklahoma City, they put me in the SHU for the holidays, which is apparently standard protocol for people who had a staff assault charge, foreshadowing the type of negative stigma that can come with a shot of that nature in your jacket. I’ve arrived here at my final destination at FCI Memphis. Having spent years at FCI Manchester in southeastern Kentucky, I was not excited to be returning to the south eastern confederate Trump region. Either way, my journey in the BOP is in the home stretch, and wherever they put me, I will continue to stay strong in high spirits. – Jeremy Hammond

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 June11.org

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?