Dear Mr. Boozman,

This is a letter to you expressing the reasons that impel me to hunger strike since Friday, February 18, 2011. This is an open letter published on my blog at, with copies to Senator Pryor and Rep. Steve Womack.

You were selected as a named recipient because of a line out of your campaign commercial; “Don’t spend more than you take in”. You didn’t promise a balanced budget, but you certainly implied that was your goal.

In the broadest sense my hunger strike is waged in support of due process for inmates at the federal prison where I reside, Forrest City Low. Our legitimate complaints should be heard in a reasonable time and a reasonable manner.

More specifically the hunger strike focuses on assaults on the health of inmates at this prison. We were sentenced to a loss of liberty, not a loss of a healthy diet or proper sanitation. Please consider how these two issues relate to your campaign rhetoric and to your duties to the constituents who elected you.

1. We were promised soap; and soap saves tax dollars.

When I was assigned to food service at 12cents per hour, I discovered that only 1 out of 7 soap dispensers was stocked. When all my polite requests to prison authorities were rebuffed, I complained to OSHA. In response to OSHA’s letter, the prison said they were stocking soap, paper towels and toilet paper. Soon thereafter I was terminated from food service, then promptly reassigned to food service with no duties & no pay. When I tried to fulfill my duties, I succeeded one day but was warned not to do it again. For the last 3 months no one has had my job stocking soap, ect…

In response to an $800,000.00 plus medical negligence judgment recently entered, the prison held a “Medical open house” on Nov. 3, 2010. I attended & spoke to a gentleman who refused to identify himself, but whose identity can presumably be obtained from Ms. Hay, Assistant Medical Director, who was also there. I explained to him that we needed PLAIN soap not only in food service dispensers, but also at other bathrooms used by other inmate employees. Antibacterial soap just kills the weakest bacteria, leaving drug resistant bacteria to reproduce. He agreed on both counts and said he would effectuate those changes within a few days. The “safety” men at this prison, Messers Sandage and Smith, however were hostile and refused to follow either directive.

During this hunger strike, Warden T.C. Outlaw came to my cell. I told him about our needs and the promise from the regional representative. Outlaw’s response was “he doesn’t run this prison.” Outlaw made it very clear that 1 soap dispenser for the 400 or so inmates assigned to food service is plenty for him even though most inmate food service workers have little or no access to that soap dispenser most of the time. He was happy that the toilet serving the main dining room has no soap and paper towels even though all inmates share common serving utensils.

How does this relate to your laudable campaign rhetoric? Prison officials admit to an “epidemic” of drug resistant staph on this overcrowded compound which they are further overcrowding as we speak. Fellow food service worker Charles Vinson’s case is instructive. Vinson was denied treatment for drug resistant staph several days in a row. By then it had progressed to the point of requiring hospitalization. After many days in the hospital, he was released, only to be immediately required to do his job of cleaning in the serving line. He had an oozing sore of a very dangerous disease (the doctor said it could have cost him his leg) yet under Outlaw’s plan would not even have had soap to wash his hands with while working. The single soap dispenser is in the kitchen and those doors are usually locked.

While Vinson was in the hospital there were 4 inmates there for drug resistant staph alone. Each inmate patient had 2 guards round the clock. Assuming 4 cases in the hospital at any given time, that’s 32 full time equivalent positions for guards alone. The annual taxpayer cost, for the guards alone, for 1 of many diseases that flourish with oppr hygiene and sanitation could scarcely be less than a mission dollars alone.

Cleanliness might not eradicate the problem, but couldn’t the inmates have a nickel or even pennies, to save the taxpayers a dollar? The placard on the dining room wall said employees are entitled to health & safety statistics, but when I asked for them they just took the sign down.

When inmates have a way to save taxpayers money and protect their own health, life and limb as well, I think they should have enough information and resources to try. They should also be allowed enough information to prove the efficacy of their efforts.

2. Inmates should have at least some avenue for a healthy diet.

In the recent past but before my arrival, this prison had a salad bar with a good selection of raw fruits & vegetables. As I understand it was about that time the salad bar was eliminated that the prison eradicated the inmate gardens, cut down the trees, ect… Our drink machines have only artificial drinks, although other federal prisons still have real fruit & vegetable juices.

The net effect was to cut off all possibilities of a truly healthy diet. They won’t serve it nor let me try to grow it.

Health care spending is nearly a quarter of the federal budget and growing 6% annually, far faster than the overall economy. If you won’t intervene to let me demonstrate how healthy eating can actually save this prison money, please explain to your supporters how you plan to close a budget gap of $5 trillion dollars.

I just want a chance to try. I think I can prove that good healthy food saves more than the extra cost. I know plenty of inmates who will work really hard to prove that to you and your constituents. You may not as a legislator have the power to directly order the proper BOP officials to act, but you can request that they delegate a representative, with power to make binding agreements concerning these matters, to speak with me about a resolution of our differences. Laws and regulations already require employers to provide soap for employees but you can discourage their flouting of the laws through the “power of the purse”. If you cut their bloated budget sufficiently they will understand.

I think these issues are sufficient to justify the admittedly extreme tactic of a hunger strike. The US Supreme Court has ruled hunger striking protected 1st amendment speech & peaceful petition for the redress of grievances. Yet this prison has punished this protected conduct by 1) Denying me legal material, and seizing legal mail received during the hunger strike. 2) Denying salt & limiting my water intake. 3) Denying me an extra blanket, extra towel, etc…, thus making me suffer from cold. 4) Denying me a bible, book or newspaper, 5) Lying to my visiting relatives so that they left without seeing me, 6) Denying me a shower (as of now 1 full week with no end in sight), 7) Denying many other things routinely allowed to similarly situated inmates.

On behalf of myself, other inmates and the taxpayers I most respectfully request your assistance.

Oscar Amos Stilley