After my arrival in prison in June of 2010, I engaged in a 21 day juice fast, which also qualifies as a “hunger strike” under official Department of Justice-Bureau of Prisons (DOJ-BOP) Program Statements. The prison’s response was mostly studied ignorance or hostility. They declared that my conduct wasn’t a bona fide hunger strike, because I drank fruit or vegetable juice when I could get it.

I intend to engage in another hunger strike that meets their definition of the term, for the usual purposes of a hunger strike. Fairness concerns suggest a statement of reasons along with the specific demands…

STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR HUNGER STRIKE

The 1st Amendment provides that Congress may not abridge the right to petition for the redress of grievances. This right is the fundamental constitutional basis for case law prohibiting prison officials from interfering with the right of access to the courts.

Despite more than 6 months of polite entreaty, the DOJ-BOP continues to grossly interfere with the right of inmates to effectively access the courts. The 10th Circuit has essentially carried the ball for the government, swatting down motions before the DOJ even has to respond. The 10th Circuit is openly hostile to the idea that inmates should actually be protected from invidious, arbitrary interference with their right to use their own resources to access the courts.

Why should I believe that the 10th Circuit will follow the law because of their oaths, or a moral or ethical duty, or for conscience sake? Why should I believe that they will follow the law unless it is made clear that the consequences of disregarding the law is less palatable than the consequences of following the law? Should I believe that a Court that has abdicated its solemn duty to consider the strength of the arguments on appeal, for purposes of considering a motion for release pending appeal, will nevertheless in the end fairly and honestly consider those arguments, and thus admit that the incarceration of Springer and Stilley was unlawful?

The DOJ-BOP is riddled with corruption and incompetence, top to bottom, stem to stern. The administrative process that inmates must use for their grievances is a farce. Virtually no one gets substantial relief if prison administration opposes it. A favorite tactic is for the warden to refuse to rule on an administrative request, whereupon the next level up will refuse the appeal, for lack of a decision below.

Quite recently, there was regime change in Tunisia. The chain of events that set this great change in motion are tragic but nevertheless helpful to an understanding of the reasons that impel me to a hunger strike. A young man, college educated but lacking suitable employment, sought to sustain himself by the sale of fruits and vegetables on the street. Government agents pounced upon his business and destroyed it.

Perceiving no reasonable chance for redress of grievances through the official channels of justice, he burned himself to death with gasoline. An outpouring of anger arose against the government. Military personnel refused orders to fire upon an outraged, protesting citizenry. The regime fell.

Desperate people do desperate things.

Let’s take a quick look at “corrections” in the United States.

1) We incarcerate at a rate 5 times the world average, on a per capita basis. The federal prison population has increased 7 fold since 1970.
2) We spend about $40,000 per inmate per year. Productivity losses and other collateral damage probably come close to doubling the true cost to society.
3) Recidivism in this country averages perhaps 65%, a percentage that can hardly be achieved without affirmative interference with the corrective efforts of the inmates themselves. Norway cuts this rate to 20% despite having a far smaller and thus relatively more dangerous prison population. In this country, the average falls to a small fraction of the national rate when inmates perceive that they are being treated fairly, and where they have something to lose from a subsequent conviction. A small amount of accumulated wealth is a huge deterrent to re-offending.
4) The vast majority of federal inmates are people society is mad at, not people that society is afraid of.

Corrections may not be a huge percentage of the federal budget but medical care is, and it’s climbing far faster than the growth of the economy. This prison treats the health of inmates as its lowest priority. This prison offers a class called “Healthy Choices,” at great cost to the taxpayers, but will not allow inmates to actually consume a healthy diet. They kill inmates from diet related illnesses with scarcely a twinge of remorse.

My food is my medicine, but I am denied the medicine I need to stay healthy. I was sentenced to the loss of liberty for a term of years, not to a slow death by an unhealthy diet.

OPTION ONE: I PREFER NOT TO EAT AT THE TABLE OF THIEVES; THEREFORE PLEASE LET ME GROW MY OWN FOOD.

The first alternative requested is the right to engage in gardening and subsistence agriculture. I don’t want a penny of the DOJ-BOP’s money, and I will pay fair market value for the rent of land, and whatever else I consume. I am happy to start with shovels and rakes, seeds and planting stock. But I intend to have a firm commitment that this prison will not interfere with the use of rototillers, tractors, and other equipment, new or used, to the extent that inmates are able to afford them.

The DOJ has demonstrated itself to be a band of unrepentant thieves. I didn’t knowingly receive stolen property on the street, and I object to any requirement to do so in prison. So long as the DOJ continues its crime spree, I don’t want their food. I’d like to borrow food until my own food production is sufficient to sustain me. I’ll pay back the borrowed food when a sufficient surplus of food becomes available to repay the loan.

If the DOJ-BOP has legitimate concerns, I am happy to hear them, and to propose means of ameliorating same. I’ve asked for the opportunity to garden, months ago. That request was neither granted nor denied. It was ignored, despite the fact that the prison destroyed the inmate gardens only fairly recently. Nevertheless, I remain willing to assist in improving correctional outcomes and guarding against any adverse outcomes.

OPTION TWO: QUIT BEING A BAND OF THIEVES.

The DOJ-BOP has asked me to make payments toward the $776,280 order of restitution fraudulently imposed against me by a judicial imposter. I readily agreed, and further demanded the opportunity, with one proviso. I asked for an official signature on a document ensuring that my money would be returned if I prevailed on appeal. This document also required reasonable assurances that the government would not steal my money instead of applying it to the judgment amount.

Rather than accepting these benign terms, the DOJ-BOP denounced me as having “refused” to accept financial responsibility and imposed sanctions upon me as a result. The DOJ-BOP employee who delivered the bad news to me, who will not be identified, kindly commented to me that the deciding party had been informed that I had in fact offered to pay, notwithstanding the official ruling to the contrary.

I am accusing the DOJ of being a band of thieves and extortionists, because they are. Some examples of their thefts include:

1) Shamelessly stealing $2,000 from Lindsey Springer, in an illegal raid on his home, and refusing to give the money back on demand, or to discipline the thief.
2) Extorting some $129,000 from a client of mine, promising the prompt return of the money, then reneging on the promise.
3) Seizing a sum of money from another gentleman’s prison earnings, refusing to apply the money to the alleged judgment debt, and refusing to make amends in spite of undeniable proof of the theft.
4) Forcing a major, well known corporation to create another “sacrificial lamb” corporation under a similar name, whereby they could steal over $60 million from them in what amounted to nothing less than extortion. The use of a “sacrificial lamb” was necessary so the parent corporation actually supplying the money would not lose its ability to contract with the federal government. This sort of corruption has reached epidemic levels. Businesses are “shaken down” on a routine basis.
5) By reasonably reliable hearsay, one of the employees at this prison was recently caught stealing prison funds to buy parts for his race car. He was fired but not prosecuted, and will be able to get a job at another federal prison as soon as he gets tired of his vacation. I’ve asked for records under the federal Freedom of Information Act, but have been denied any records, even the health and safety records advertised as available to prisoners. As usual the prison just ignores the request. I contend that this sort of conduct is commonplace and results in huge losses to the taxpayers. If I am wrong the prison should provide the records and clear its name.

This hunger strike is in fact a confrontation with an out of control governmental agency. Victory is by no means assured. The battle cannot be won without a fight from the citizens who proclaim themselves fed up with fraud and waste in government. Federal legislators will cut spending – if the citizens make it clear that such cuts are a condition of continued occupation of their office. If they oppose your request, ask them to please explain how the budget can be balanced while the government “sells” taxpayers 5 times the world average of “corrections” while perversely and intentionally interfering with the self-correction of bad behavior, by the inmates themselves.

The DOJ-BOP has no fear of an individual inmate privately protesting their orgy of graft and corruption, even to the point of death. They are very afraid of the light of day, and of the wrath of the taxpayers from whom they steal.

If you agree with me, make sure that you let your legislators know that 1) you know their name, 2) your political support is contingent on their support of allowing federal prisoners to grow their own food, and to teach other prisoners to do the same, and 3) you won’t forget who helped and who didn’t, on election day.

Petition for Gardening

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