Well, here it is again, ol' "Lex-Mod" as Lin joked last night in a balmy, glorious reunion in "Central Park," with a 3/4 moon hanging yards away and the breeze as soft and sweet and new as a baby's laugh.
Must we be buried alive 31 days to know through every cell how glorious is God's natural world? Can we retain that sense of wonder children and freed prisoners know? (Are "child" and "freed prisoner" synonymous?)
Last night was wonderful. Added to its joy was a letter from Jim Jimerson, Washington City Church of the Brethren, 4th St North Carolina Ave SE, DC 20003 (dated February 28, 1988):
Dear Ellen and Thomas, the Peace Lectureship Committee of the Washington City Church of the Brethren has nominated you to a joint award of the Peacemaker of the Year. A very strange custom is that the recipients of the award must be present at the awards ceremony which is a part of the Annual Peace Lectureship. This will be on Saturday, April 30, 1988 at the church. The lecture will be by The Rev. William Sloane Coffin, President of Sane/Freeze. We extend to you our heartiest congratulations and in this award we express our deepest appreciation for your deep commitment to peace, your sacrifice of your lives for this witness. Our country does not treat peacemakers very well but your witness shines brighter in each adversity.
In Peace, with Love,
for the Peace Lectureship Committee,
/S/ Jim J.
Norman C. Jimerson, Reverend
4/3/88 - Easter Day
Last night I spontaneously awoke from a wonderful dream. By morning the details had disappeared, but I recall (1) the message, "It's not who you are, it's what you do"; (2) a clear image of the resurrected Christ, and (3) my own voice, which is what awakened me, saying, "Thank you, God!" (Why don't we usually remember our dreams? And what does this all mean?)
Lin is ecstatic. Her co-defendant, Greg Bjorkje, who's been in hiding, is (with Phil Berrigan and Sister Margaret) now in federal custody in Norfolk VA, having damaged a Navy missile launcher today. Lin had been interrogated by the FBI last week re Greg's whereabouts (he'd announced he would "soon repeat" his offense) -- they offered her a reduced sentence if she'd tell 'em where he was. She didn't know, but said she wouldn't tell them even if she did. Two days later....!
We're in different buildings, can only find each other occasionally. We walked round the "Big Yard" this morning (wide sports area with tennis courts, putt-putt golf, weight-lifting, baseball diamond, handball courts, volley ball, surrounded by a track) in a quite discernible spring rain -- how GOOD that soft thumping on my head and shoulders felt!
Lin gave me the "Nuclear Resister" which carried an article about our imprisonment; it also quoted fellow Plowshare Helen Woodson (who's serving TWELVE years!): "Helen told me," Lin said, "when I was getting ready to come turn myself in, that whatever I do, I should have fun!" Lin clearly took this advice to heart. She's beloved of all who know her in Lex. Her cheerful optimism helped heal me of much loneliness and frustration. However, I can't help retaining a sense of outrage for the many around me I see caged by the multitudes of unjust laws and brutal enforcement policies.
Aside from minor irritations born of bureaucratic bunglings, though, life here runs smooth and easy. I wish you had been treated as well as I. As officialdom throughout the system seems to universally say, "You expect the feds to make SENSE?"
I had to end my brief stint in the kitchen yesterday, Easter, when I helped cook the chicken for the holiday meal. For some reason there was only enough chicken for 750 people. There are 1500 inmates. Hard to believe the purchasing agent didn't know there were 1500 inmates, I said yesterday to anyone who'd listen. Everyone did. Today I got notice I'm no longer medically cleared to cook. What a farce, of course I'm medically cleared, they never would have let me in the kitchen in the first place if I hadn't been. I was sent to my bunk while the rest of the inmates went to their daily jobs. I must say, I'm grateful for the quiet time to read and meditate.
Back to reading a book a day. Probably haven't maximized impact here. But Lin's sure doing it. And I've had a few good discussions. I've shied away from offering to help people write legal stuff since Gloria got maximum sentence -- sort of like mythic time travelers, I hate to corrupt what I touch through inept bungling. So much lying about -- these folks're just training us all to loll all the more!
Francine offered to give me a "Bo Derek" hairdo. Sounded like fun. Maybe a miracle would happen, and I'd look like Bo Derek.
Maybe I could help Georgina, they said.
Georgina had flounced when told to return to her unit for more clothes. Now she was headed to "Seq" (sequester), battered, the subject of whispered asides all through the prison. "That bastard -- he gets pleasure out of hurting people." "Yah, somebody oughta report him." "Ha! Who to? The Lieutenant's right there with him!"
Kathy grinned voraciously. "He strip searched me one day just 'cause I was walkin' with a smile on my face. 'You look too happy,' he said."
Bernadette added, "I had to take a breathalyzer one day. One of the other guards was reeking of booze, so ol' Shakedown Brown, catching a whiff, decided it must be me."
"This place is corrupt as a rotting corpse," Francine said intensely. "I can smell it. I been workin' construction a long time - skimmin's a way of life in that business. You get a feel for when people are rippin' you off. And this place has the feel. Never enough supplies, and always lowest quality -- not even enough toilet paper! And the food! You never get what the menu says you're gonna!" She yanked on my hair.
"Easter Sunday they only had 750 pieces of chicken for 1,500 inmates," I said, holding the roots. "Aren't there 1,500 inmates?"
"There's no excuse for that! 'Specially on Easter! And why are we gettin' so many new wardens? I'd bet it's 'cause the A.W.s (Assistant Wardens, honey), have this scam wrapped up so tight, they gotta make sure nobody stays around long enough to snoop 'em out.
"Didja ever hear of such idiotic rules? I been talkin' to people who come here from all over the country and there's no other federal pen with the rules we got. They're dehumanizing. You can't cross your eyes without gettin' a shot - and a shot means more time, you lose your good time, or more work - sh!t, some of us're workin' 60, 80 hours weeks already, mandatory! For a lousy 11 cents or 38 cents or 66 cents an hour, busin' our tails for The Man. Slave labor. An' if you're not willin' to be their slave, it's isolation for you. This place SUCKS, I tell ya. I just wish I could dig down to the bottom of the manure pile and expose the rear ends producin' it.... There you go, honey, how you like that?" There was no mirror. I headed for the bathroom. It was awful -- the braids were beautiful, but Bo Derek I'm not, nor do I have a warm brown scalp and sturdy black hair. I looked like a corpse. I unravelled all but the two braids over my ears before leaving the unit in the morning, went to the library typewriter, and drafted a declaration from witness testimonies and will turn it over to the ACLU when I get out. Maybe that will make up for not looking like Bo Derek.
On Monday, April 4, 1988, I/we witnessed the beating of Georgina Lawson, 94832-042, by Lt. Morales, accompanied by Officer ? Brown. (Names of witnesses attached.)
At approximately 11:30 a.m., Georgina was in the chow line for lunch, whch stretched well out into the hall. She was wearing a short-sleeve blouse which she had trimmed (sleeves apprximately 2 inches down the shoulder). Lt Morales approached Georgina and told her she couldn't go into lunch in short sleeves, she would have to go change her blouse. Georgina began to leave, muttering under her breath. (One witness states she said, "I'm tired of this sh!t," referring to a series of petty harassments.)
Lt. Morales grabbed her arm, painfully. She said, "You're hurting me. Get your hands off me, man." Morales, who was acoompanied by Officer "Shadedown" Brown, held his grip and was taking her down the hall in the direction of his office. Then, after other complaints that he was hurting her, Morales grabbed the back of her shirt with both hands and slammed her, head first, against the concrete wall. The loud noise of her head and face hitting the wall was heard by people 70 or 100 feet away. Blood splattered on the wall.
Then the Lieutenant threw her on the floor, face down, with the right side of her face on the floor. He stepped on her face. She moaned, "Oh, please!" Officer Brown put hs knee in her back and handcuffed her hands behind her. They picked her up by hte handcuffs and hurriedly dragged her down the hall, surrounded by about 20 staff and officers who had quickly appeared.
Georgina has been in segretgation since then, and witnesses say she she's being charged with assaulting an officer. There are many witnesses who will deny that allegation.
Two of Georgina's friends who witnesses the incident wrote a petition and circulated it. For this they too are in segregation. They were planning a demonstration. They want to testify.
Georgina Lawson is serving a ten year sentence, with five years to go. She ws due to meet the parole board on April 13, 1988.
She's had a very painful life: married to an abusive man who beat and sliced her; her second son was damaged before birth from a beating. During thi marriage she became a heroin addict. Unclear as to her charges.
For at least three years she was in prison in Chicago. She was in segretgation there with Isabel Suarez, who had epilepsy, which was not being treated by the prison. Georgina repeatedly tried to tell the authorities her friend was sick, to no avail. Isabel died of neglect in an epileptic fit.
Georgina called Liz Sly, a reporter in the Editorial Department, Chicago Tribune (312) 222-4440, who ran a series of articles/exposes, naming Georgina. Soon after that Georgina was transferred to FCI-Lexington. Witnesses say they believe she was being removed from media access.
During the three weeks preceding the April 4, 1988 incident, Georgina was called to the Lieutenant's office three or four times because Liz Sly of the Tribune was trying to get in touch with her, following up on the Chicago story. Georgina naively boasted that she was going to tell all she knew about the prisons in Chicago and here in Lexington. She never did see the reporter.
Two weeks before April 4, Georgina told friends that Officer "Shakedown" Brown had given her ten hours of extra duty for wearing a headband. Civilian clothing is allowed at FCI-Lexington. She claimed there were multiple incidents of harassment, from both Brown and Morales.
Georgina has bone cancer, many personal problems, and has been agitated lately. Nevertheless, she has been a hard and good worker, "the best worker in the sheet metal shop." Witnesses don't know if she's been paid for her work.
Witnesses ask that you keep their names absolutely confidential until AFTER their release. They are afraid of repercussions.
Signed by (last names withheld for the sake of the women): Zunilda R; Kathy E; Jannette S; Andrea L; Rusty S; Karen V; Teresa G; Celia; Tudi M; Sheila S (not willing to testify).
This morning I was called out of my bunk into the TV center by a delighted clamor. "C'mon gal, this is for YOU!" Bessie danced with her mop at the entrance to my cubicle. "Would you BELIEVE, ol' Michael Jackson singin' such words and not a single shot of his U.T. face in the whole VIDEO!" I slid in socks down the polished dormitory floors, past the bathroom, to the flickering TV screen: starving children and nuclear explosions, civil rights marches, Gandhi, Kennedy, and King flicking by almost too fast to register, and she was right, no sign of the singer but his voice:
"I'm talkin' to the man in the mirror. I'm askin' him to change his ways. The message couldn't'a' been any clearer. If you want to make the world A better place, take a look at yourself ... and CHANGE!"
Bessie swung her shoulders in time, wielding the mop through the 30 double bunkbeds like a scythe through wheat. As the song ended, she straightened. "We oughta give a copy of that to ol' Hardnose Hank, maybe he'll stop knockin' inmates around."
"But then life might be too tolerable," I suggested, smiling. But I'd hit a nerve.
"Humph. You're a fine one to talk, leavin' in a blink -- you wanta trade sentences, lady? I'll give you my six years, YOU sit it out with the guards, I'll take yo' time and fly with it, girl!" She banged the mop into the bucket and rattled into the bathroom. "And look at you, lollin' around all day, short-timer and some reason they don't make you work...."
"I tried, Bessie!" I protested. "Yeah, I remember," Bessie said forgivingly. As floor orderly, she was the first to know when I was told I could no longer work in the kitchen for "medical" reasons.. "Best get to your station," she added, cocking her head toward the jingling sound of an approaching prison official. "Time for count." We both slipped to the foot of our beds.
The morning guard stepped through the door. Ah, Officer Dawkins. We could live with him.
He called out my name, reading from his clipboard. Oh, oh, I thought nervously. What now?
"The captain says you can't just sit here, he wants you to mop and buff the front hall till it gleams..."
"Man, that's like a diamond already!" I joked. There were three shifts of women who performed the same unnecessary ritual 12 out of every 24 hours. The prison floors at Lexington, Kentucky federal penitentiary are embarrassingly clean. It shows the warden's lack of imagination. "Surely you can come up with a more constructive way for me to waste my time."
I can get away with arguing with Dawkins. He has a sense of humor. Most of the guards come from the military. If you fail to snap your back straight at attention when they talk, you're sure to get toilet scrubbing or window scraping time.
It all seems less than real, now ... I'm a short-timer, and can feel it. Even if I have to polish floors till my release day, I don't care. Spring is here, and soon we're going to be free. Talked to my son last night, and he wants to see me. Got a better perspective on what's important and what's real. No complaints. Time to say my goodbyes.
4/14/88, Lex Big Yard
as the grass growing,
s(u)n polishing the so(u)l...
listen ... listen
to the soothing murmur
of minds winding down to silence....
"Did you hear what she said..."
"...what he did..."
"...what they were...."
"And it cost..."
"...but I lost..."
"And that motherfckin' fool thinks he can...."
There's a message in the silence.
the earth's budding,