October 8, 2010

Harley G. Lappin, Director-Federal Bureau of Prisons
National Headquarters
320 First Street NW
Washington, DC 20534
Email to: Info@usdoj.gov

Re: Help Request for Juice Fasting

Dear Mr. Lappin:

I announced a juice fast to commence October 7, 2010, which according to prison “Program Statements” is a de facto “hunger strike.” I asked Forrest City Low Security Prison to accommodate me to the extent of allowing me to make and consume juice, either from fruits that I might scavenge from my employment in the prison dish room, or by purchase from the prison food stores, or by such other means as would be satisfactory to the prison.

I asked the prison for reasonable accommodation of my religious and health rights and needs, which were the principal reasons for the juice fast. I did in the notice to the prison alternatively refer to the juice fast as a “hunger strike” simply because my behavior meets the official definition of a hunger strike.

My medical need for this juice fast is very great. The progression of causes is as follows:

1) The prison has for at least 5 years discharged humid dryer exhaust into the living quarters, creating ideal circumstances for the growth of black mold. This condition appears to spring from the confluence of negligence, incompetent administration, and such abject laziness that many employees aren’t even willing to watch inmates work. Other building maintenance needs are likewise neglected. The prison paints over and otherwise conceals the evidence at inspection time, but otherwise is altogether unconcerned about the devastation wrought on the health of inmates.

2) The prison has disregarded the sound advice of Carlos Reynolds, OSHA Area Office, Little Rock, Arkansas, to quit dumping the humid air into the living quarters, and then to clean up the black mold.

3) The black mold has caused Stilley’s sinuses to swell up, itch and hurt from an allergic reaction. Because of the swelling Stilly mostly breathes through his mouth at night.

4) Stilley now suffers from a procession of opportunistic upper respiratory infections, made all the worse by the fact that the prison population is 135-140% of capacity. Administration uses every device it can to use the overcrowding as a tool of abuse, rather than a mere unfortunate circumstance. For example, the compound is “open” only about 1/6th of the time. The dining hall is kept open as little as possible, with inmates routinely given as little as ten minutes to eat, some times less.

5) The prison denies Stilley the decongestant that he formerly used for allergies. In its place the prison offers methyprednisolone, a steroid with many pernicious effects on the body. Stilley refuses to trade temporary problems of the prison’s making for permanent bodily injury likewise of the prison’s making. The prison lets Stilley have a cheapo nuisance dust mask that is essentially worthless against allergens, but will not let his family send in a silk allergy mask that is in fact effective against allergens.

6) Stilley has in the past had serious, long term lung illness that has scarred his lungs. The damage is apparent on X-rays. Another pneumonia type illness could be fatal, given the prison’s penchant for “management by crisis.”

Prison personnel threatened to immediately put Stilley in the Special Housing Unit (SHU), aka “the hole” or “solitary confinement” upon the cessation of eating. Prison personnel say that Stilley will lose his job and access to the dish room, currently his only source of fruits to scavenge for juice. They say that juice will not be given upon request in the SHU. It is implied that cold temperatures and lack of adequate clothes and bedding will be used as a tool of coercion, much as it was used against dissidents by the Soviet Union.

In other words, Stilley’s last meaningful avenue for defense of his health will be blockaded by the administration of this prison, if they follow through on their threats. Forced feeding eliminates all the health benefits of fasting.

I agree not to commence juice fasting, except by agreement with the prison, prior to October 19, 2010. I will favorably consider any good faith request by the BOP for more time. During the extension, it is respectfully requested that the BOP:

1) Reflect upon the possible consequences of its threatened course of action;
2) Set forth a basis for its threatened actions, including specific authority for immediate detention in SHU. This should include a reasoned analysis of the 1st Amendment religious, speech, and petition rights of Stilley;
3) Explain how Stilley is expected to protect his health given the health threats explained above, in light of the denial of basic medicines and medical devices that would ameliorate the damage caused by BOP negligence; and
4) Consider a less confrontational approach.

Stilley is willing to conform to the protocols of the Program Statements, in order to allow the prison to verify that Stilley’s physical condition does not justify the use of punitive segregation, or forced feeding. If juice fasting provides real health benefits, as Stilley suggests, such should be objectively verifiable.

The Department of Justice-Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) accommodates the Ramadan fast practiced by Muslims. It does not simply turn its head and let Muslims fend for themselves the best that they can. How does the BOP propose to explain its harsh treatment of Stilley’s juice fast, which is done for religious as well as health reasons? The fasting sermon that changed Stilley’s life, preached to Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith, in midsummer of 2009, is publicly available on the church website. Pastor Jeff Crawford recommended juice fasting, and Stilley took his advice.

This is an unnecessary quarrel. The BOP might face down, or failing that wear down, Oscar Stilley in his quest to juice fast. Such might well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory. The BOP’s proposed course of conduct gains little under any circumstances, and entails a not insignificant risk that the BOP might be embarrassed.

The federal government has much to gain by accommodation and co-operation. Consider the following numbers:

1) The federal budget of $3.5 trillion is greater than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all but two other countries of the world, namely China and Japan.

2) The federal deficit of about $1.5 trillion exceeds the GDP of all but 10 other countries in the world.

3) Federal health care spending last year was about $850 billion, nearly a quarter of the entire budget. Health care expenditures are rising at 6% per annum, the economy at 3% per annum. The associated losses of productivity are equally staggering.

4) The ratio of debt to GDP increased, in round numbers, from 30% in 1980 to 50% in 1990 to 60% in 2000 to 90% today. No nation in the history of the world has ever been able continue along such a path without an economic collapse, often precipitated by a collapse of the currency.

The great majority of federal health care expenditures are necessitated by lifestyle choices. As an example, type 2 diabetes is prevalent in this country, and growing, most alarmingly among the young. The disease and its complications impose a vast economic burden on our society. Yet the disease is virtually unheard of in rural third world societies. There can be no doubt that type 2 diabetes mostly driven by diet and lifestyle choices.

The BOP puts me in a “Catch 22” situation. The BOP complains that individualized accommodation is too troublesome for their bureaucracy. Yet when I state a willingness to let anyone who asks use my equipment for their own juice fasting needs, it is implied that I am somehow stirring up trouble.

I’m technically asking only for myself. I ask that the BOP at the very minimum get out of the way and let me juice fast, without the threat of solitary confinement, loss of employment, force feeding, etc. Better yet, agree to grant full and reasonable accommodation of my juice fasting needs. If the objective results show that my health is bettered and not injured by my juice fasting, then the BOP should encourage rather than sabotage attempts to juice fast.

Please consider the following solution. I hereby offer to convey my two juicing machines, in trust nevertheless, to a “Health and Safety Committee” which is clearly contemplated by this prison’s placard concerning compliance with OSHA health and safety regulations, for the use and benefit of any interested inmate of this prison. This would solve the problem of individualized accommodation, since any inmate wishing to juice fast could access the equipment.

It has been suggested that my use of the term “hunger strike” is problematic. There is a solution to this matter as well. The BOP should first gather sufficient information to guide its decision making process. Then it should redefine the term “hunger strike” to exclude any juice fast for religious, health, or personal reasons. The Program Statements should ensure full accommodation of inmates who seek to juice fast. This will eliminate any appearance that the BOP is making special concessions for Stilley.

The BOP already provides fruit and vegetable juices, at no charge, to inmates of some but not all prisons. There is no good reason for denying Stilley the same access. The BOP should allow Stilley the access he seeks, and should not panic or object if other persons similarly situated likewise seek to juice fast.

Jesus told the world the reason that He came to earth in Luke 4:18-19. It’s one of the shortest sermons of all time. Jesus took the book, read from the book, and thereupon sat down. In poetic form the verses read:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

Healing and liberty are mentioned twice, a common method of emphasis in the Holy Writ. The third theme twice mentioned involves telling others of the good news. In Acts 4:19, when the religious authorities had severely threatened Peter and John against further preaching in the name of Jesus, they responded “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.”

Would you respect the faith of a “Christian” who allowed another human being to suffer and perhaps die, rather than telling them what they believe to be a safe, natural, inexpensive way to restore their good health?

Upon admission to the Arkansas bar of attorneys, Stilley affirmed that he would not “reject the cause of the oppressed for any reasons personal to myself” or words to that effect. Clearly, staying out of SHU, avoiding the trauma of strangers putting a feeding tube down tender, inflamed nasal passages, all amount to “reasons personal to me.” Although Stilley is suspended pending disbarment, no one has absolved him of his attorney’s oath, legally, morally, ethically, or otherwise.

What I am trying to do does not in any way threaten the good order or security of the prison. Therefore, I propose that you direct the administration of this prison to thoroughly accommodate the juice fasting needs of any inmate in this prison who asks for it. Tell them to eliminate any possible excuse for the failure of juice fasting to provide its highest and best health benefits. Tell them to allow their medical data to be collected, aggregated, and analyzed for statistical and other purposes.

Then ask for a statistical summary of the objective results of the juice fasts undertaken in this prison. I’m happy to provide this information to you and any other interested party. Then judge for yourself whether my request bears a reasonable relationship to my health.

If in fact juice fasting remediates serious and expensive illnesses, only one question remains. What is the best way to replace the perverse incentives that now actually encourage Americans to wreck their health, with wholesome incentives to maintain and improve their health?

As you evaluate this request, consider that a 6% reduction in federal health care expenditures, as opposed to the currently projected 6% annual increase, would translate into a savings of approximately $100 billion in a single year. If the associated productivity gains matched the medical costs saved, the total benefit to the country from this relatively small improvement would be $1 trillion in 5 years. Anyone who depends on the federal government for a salary, pension, or other benefit whatsoever, should be keenly interested in exploring such possibilities.

Thank you kindly for your consideration of this request.

Kindest personal regards,

Oscar Stilley, 10579-062
Forest City Low

CC: T.C. Outlaw-Warden; 870-494-4496 fax