After receiving a tip I’d sent to them through a colleague, the Washington Post yesterday ran an online piece regarding an article about my case that appeared last year in Rolling Stone. As the Post noted, the author began and ended that piece with a scene in which my lawyer meets with me at the Mansfield Law Enforcement Center, where I was being held at the time — a scene in which I hand him a handwritten copy of my latest article with instructions to send it to the Guardian, where I’ve been a contributor for several years. The Post correctly notes that the author was not actually present at the scene, but instead had my lawyer describe it to him afterward. The Post also quotes the author to the effect that the scene nonetheless happened as he described it, that the quotes he uses are all real, and that the manner in which all of this was executed in print was done with my understanding and permission. Unfortunately, this is entirely false.Full Story
With the exception of the month and a half I spent in the hole over the summer, my cellmate for most of the last six months has been a white-haired old man with the regal looks and bearing of an Antonine emperor and the grizzled guile and criminal outlook of a Lyndon Johnson crony. Billy Bob Aurelius, as I’ll call him, is a Vietnam combat veteran, a private commercial pilot, and former salesman for International Harvester, among other things. Before arriving at our jail unit here in Seagoville, he’d spent 18 months in a Mexico City lock-up after police found a pistol during a search of his jet. Horrified, I asked him what those urban Mexican jails were really like.
“They’re great if you have money,” he said. “I had money.” Apparently he was given a nice private cell from which he could order out for groceries and brandy and marijuana and prostitutes. He even had a woman who came and cooked and cleaned for him, which is to say that he had a maid.Full Story
I was sitting in my jail cell the other day, plotting the next step in My Eternal and Sacred War Against All Things That Are Not Me, when the mail arrived. Aside from the usual newsletters from Anti-Racist Action and the Anarchist Black Cross, I also received an advance review copy of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, Gabriella Coleman’s long-anticipated volume on the Anonymous activist collective. I’ve known Professor Coleman for several years, during which we regularly encountered each other on the various chat servers from which much of Anonymous’ activity has been organized. She also spent several months as a sort of anthropologist-in-virtual-residence at the chat server used by my own group, Project PM, to coordinate investigations of state-corporate surveillance and propaganda operations. She and I were among a small handful of people who were regularly quoted in the press about Anonymous and related phenomena, and once even appeared on a network television panel together.
So I had reason to hope that her book’s representation of my work with Anonymous and Project PM would be more accurate than what one finds elsewhere.Full Story
Although I noted last time that I’d been released from the faux-oppressive confines of the hole/SHU and moved into the jail unit, I have one more story from segregation that I’d like to get off my chest. Speak, O Muse!Full Story
I was released back into the relative freedom of the jail unit the other day after spending a month and a half in the hole, or “SHU,” where I had been confined due to an accusation by a wacky guard that I had instigated a “semi-disturbance.” A lengthy investigation by the prison administration having eventually concluded that there was no evidence that I had instigated anything at all and thus ought not to be punished for such an offense, I was finally let out of the, er, punishment cell. But I did participate in the “semi-disturbance” in question, along with some 30 other inmates, and so I was charged with “Engaging in a Group Demonstration,” pleaded guilty, and had my family visits and phone call privileges taken away for three months. It’s probably worth mentioning that the semi-disturbance/group demonstration which it turns out I didn’t instigate was directed toward the same wacky guard mentioned above, whose wackiness we simply wanted to bring to wider attention. I’ll go into all the wacky details at some later date when I’m out of this wacky prison’s wacky clutches, but in the meantime I have another story from the SHU that I will be kind enough to relate to you now.Full Story
In the last edition of this column, I noted that the powers that be here at the Seagoville Correctional Institution had seen fit to place me in the SHU, also known as “the hole,” without actually accusing me of any particular infraction punishable by time in the hole. Three weeks later, I’m still sitting in what I like to think of as jail-jail, waiting for the internal prison security agency known as SIS to charge me with something or let me go or beat me with a stick or whatever it is that they do here. Incidentally, I’m unclear as to what “SIS” stands for, but I do feel obligated to point out, just for the record, that it’s just one letter shy of ISIS. I’m just saying, is all.Full Story
I’m afraid I’m now being kept in the Seagoville federal prison Special Housing Unit, or SHU, known more informally as “segregation” and even more informally as “the hole.” Several of my fellow jail unit inmates and I were brought here in the wake of a June 17 incident that the Department of Justice is billing as a “semi-disturbance” for which we are to be investigated and perhaps punished — though not necessarily in that order. One awaits one’s disciplinary hearing in the hole, and if one if found guilty, one is sentenced to … the hole. More than a week after being confined, I’ve yet to even be charged with an infraction.Full Story
The other day I was holding forth to one of my fellow inmates about the perfidy of the federal justice system and what have you, noting that the great majority of its “offenders” are guilty of nothing more than consensual crimes like selling drugs and crossing national borders.
“Yeah, they shouldn’t be going after the drug dealers, but they have to crack down on these illegals because they’re wreaking havoc on the economy,” said the inmate who robs armored cars for a living.Full Story
Two horrifying finds from the jail library: a volume by Glenn Beck entitled Being George Washington, plus Stories I Only Tell My Friends, which, I swear to God, appears to be the autobiography of Rob Lowe.Full Story
Shortly after I was transferred from the notoriously low-end Mansfield Law Enforcement Center jail unit over here to the posh Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution, which I’m now privileged to call home, I met my new fellow prisoner Sam Hurd, the Dallas Cowboy who had run afoul of the law, or at least the most recent Dallas Cowboy to run afoul of the law — unless yet another one has been arrested in the last few months, which, come to think of it, is more likely than not.Full Story
I’m in the odd but not unpleasant position of regularly receiving in the mail books ordered for me by strangers whose identities I often have no way of ascertaining. This has added a degree of intrigue to my life. I wish I knew, for instance, who keeps sending me black militant literature so that I could express my thanks, or figure out who’s trying to set me up, or whatever. I’m kidding, of course, but at least one of these books, Soledad Brother, turns out to be on the list of proscribed material that on some U.S. prison compounds constitutes procedural evidence of involvement in the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang, which in turn can lead to indefinite solitary confinement (I happen to know this only because I was recently contacted by Shane Bauer, the journalist who did his own stretch of solitary in an Iranian prison a couple of years back while awaiting trial on trumped-up espionage charges; upon his return, he did a fine piece for Mother Jones on the excessive manner in which solitary is used here in the United States, a copy of which he kindly sent me and which I believe can be read online as well).Full Story
Back in the late ’90s, the Secker & Warburg publishing house released an 11-volume edition of George Orwell’s correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, and literary notes, all of this being presumably intended for those among the book-buying public who just really, really love George Orwell and want to have all of his intellectually honest babies. Apparently I’m among these people, as after receiving one of the volumes a couple of months ago from a kind supporter and finding it rather fascinating, I’ve since obtained and compulsively re-read five more of them.Full Story
Not long ago I requested and received White House Years, Henry Kissinger’s 1,500-page account of his stint in the Nixon Administration, the Ford Administration being covered in a later and no doubt less edifying volume. I was so excited that I wanted to share a bit of my joy with my cellmate, Tom. Tom is a bank robber who has the words “Game Over” tattooed on his knuckles, which is to say by implication that at some point in his life he happened to glance at his knuckles, noticed that the words “Game Over” were not to be found on them, and said to himself, “I’d better get that rectified.” When I was first assigned to his cell, I noticed that he was in possession of something called The Anger Management Workbook, which is rather a cliche thing for one’s new cellmate to have lying around. I like to think that before he came upon this textual remedy, he spent a great deal of his time pummeling people to death while shouting, “Game Over!”
“Tom,” I asked him now, “Would you like me to read to you from Henry Kissinger’s memoirs in Henry Kissinger’s voice?”Full Story
Toward the end of my first week here at the Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution, I was approached by another inmate.
“You ready, Brown?”
“Ready for what?”
“Whites having a meeting.”
I hesitated. Of course, by this point in my incarceration, I was aware of the extent to which inmate affairs are usually organized along racial lines, but this was the first time my presence had been requested at a white-people meeting.Full Story
At the end of 1990, the U.S. federal prison system held about 65,000 inmates. At the end of 2010, it held 210,000. During the same period, the total number of state inmates increased by less than half that rate. One could conclude from this one of two things: either the Department of Justice has been doing something right, or it has been doing something wrong.Full Story