Over the recent months of his sentence, our favorite inmate has had to deal with a frustrating level of obfuscation, arbitrary punishment, and outright non-compliance with the Bureau of Prisons’ own stated policies on the part of prison officials at FCI Three Rivers and elsewhere. The documentary filmmaker Alex Winter has had his persistent requests to interview Brown ignored, and Brown has repeatedly been thrown into solitary confinement, often with no legitimate explanation, as has been documented at length in his column for The Intercept. Here, Barrett Brown provides a helpful timeline and documentation of what’s been happening to him:
2015, FCI Fort Worth
March 31st: An hour after I use the CORRLINCS e-mail messaging system to put a journalist in touch with another inmate who’s witnessed criminal conduct by BOP officials, my e-mail privileges are removed contrary to policy by D.C. liason Terrance Moore. The administrative remedy forms I submit regarding the issue are filed late, responded to well after the institutional deadlines; eventually, I get a response back claiming I’d used the e-mails for “illegal activity” and claiming that on April 1st, a memo had been filed with the warden noting that I’d previously used e-mail and messaging to “solicit threats,” which isn’t technically true, and also the word ‘solicit’ does not mean what they think it means and this angers me, and that this memo will not be made available to me due to security concerns. A later BOP FOIA response includes the memo in question, which turns out to say no such thing.
April 3rd: I’m woken up at 6:00 am and subjected to an unexplained drug test, this being the first business day after I’d turned in the BP-8 complaint about the loss of my e-mail.
June 17: Counselor Towchik brings a rookie officer into the alcove where I’m housed and subjects each of us to a “random” breathalyzer test, which we all pass. Then he orders us out into the hallway. They search my locker and find a cup of hooch, and I’m taken to the SHU. The next day I receive the infraction sheet linked to from my columns, which, as noted in “Santa Muerte, Full of Grace,” contains several discrepancies, even aside from the grammar and spelling errors. A few days later, SIS Lt. McClendon comes by my cell in the SHU and tells me, among other things, that it was in fact an informant who’d told them about the hooch, which means that the infraction write-up was entirely false. Later, the BOP FOIA documents mentioned above confirm this, as one of several documents pertaining to my hearing on this incident is entirely redacted – that would be the informant’s report.
Late August: (Exact date listed on the confiscation report, also linked to from the columns) While proceeding into the law library, I’m stopped by an officer who searches me and seizes my notebook as contraband, and then begins reading through it at her desk. I complain to a Lt. who tells me he’s busy. The next day, I receive the papers from the notebook back.
September 3rd: After failing another drug test, I’m taken to the SHU. Meanwhile, the institution asks region to transfer me; the BOP FOIA yield includes that request, which contradicts other, positive information that had been written about me in my inmate progress report by the very same two people who, less than two weeks later, wrote and signed this other, conveniently negative report (both are linked to and summarized from column “The Fact of Sisyphus“). While in the SHU, I ask repeatedly for a BP-8 form but don’t receive one.
October – December: The region violates policy on several points regarding my BP-10 administrative remedy forms, as linked to and summarized in “The Fact of Sisyphus” and “The BOP Explains Why It Took My E-mail,” even requiring that I send back additional materials by a date that’s ten days previous to my receipt of their letter, thereby making it impossible for me to exhaust the administrative remedy process and file suit in court over the violations of due process inherent to the retaliatory seizure of my e-mail.
2016, FCI Three Rivers
October – January: Alex Winter sends two letters, one of them certified, to the warden’s executive assistant, Thomas, applying for a media interview with me for a proposed documentary. He receives no reply. I send several staff messages to Thomas and forward them to Yates, the assistant warden for operations. I receive no reply.
January 26: Another inmate asks me if I can get him in touch with the media regarding a problem he’s having; his brother, a veteran, has a voice box issued by the VA which the prison won’t allow in during regular visiting hours despite the security people having no problem with it. I call Kevin Gallagher and ask him to see if a regional newspaper might be interested in the story.
January 27: Assistant Warden Yates calls the inmate to his office, explains that he’d listened in on his call to his mother regarding the attempt to contact the media, and tells him he’s “disappointed” in him for approaching the press about the issue. That evening I do a recorded interview with syndicated radio talk show host Kenny Webster, radio interviews being something I’ve done from prison several times before and which are not against the rules. Half an hour later, I’m taken to the SHU for “investigation.” I don’t receive my medication until three days later (I noted this in a statement I released afterwards; it’s since been confirmed by the last couple of pages of the BOP documents The Intercept ran a few months back, one of which is an intake sheet indicating my request for my prescribed medication, and the following one being an admission sheet in which the acting lieutenant writes that I don’t take medication). Six days later, I’m released. Over the next few days I’m told by staff close to the situation that this had been ordered by Thomas.
February 25: I’m called to the mail room to accept a legal letter. Yates’ secretary comes in and tells the mail room staff that Yates wants to see me. We explain to her that I’m in the middle of accepting legal mail, a process which isn’t supposed to be interrupted since I have to be there for its unsealing, and will be there in a moment. She leaves and returns a minute later saying I need to come now. I go over there and Yates asks me, “Did you not see the yellow line on the sidewalk over there?” (I had walked along the second sidewalk, which we’re not supposed to do during hourly moves but which we’re actually supposed to do between moves or whenever we’re going to administration buildings for drug tests, visits, etc). I explain to him that inmates do indeed cross that magical yellow line during non-movement periods. He replies, “No, never.” I explain to him that his own staff can explain to him otherwise and that if he has a problem with that he needs to address it to them, since in fact the last time I walked all away around on the way to meet with staff the staff member asked me why I’d done that and told me to just cross the yellow line next time. Then I asked him if he’d not received the four e-mails I’d sent him about Alex Winter. He told me to talk to Thomas about that at mainline (lunch period during which administration stand around cafeteria to answer questions). I did so, and Thomas said, “Oh, did you want to do the interview?” I explained that, yes, I clearly did. He told me he’d need to get the warden’s approval and that then he’d send me a consent form which I’d get from my unit staff. I walked over to the warden and explained to him the problem. He replied, “I’m not going to approve it orally.” I told him he didn’t need to, that he simply needed to get his executive assistant, Thomas, to follow procedure. Thomas told him he was on it. Later I sent a follow-up staff message to the executive assistant and Yates thanking them for their assistance and otherwise documenting that this conversation had occurred.
June 30: Another four months having passed without progress on the Alex Winter front, I confront Yates with a stack of print-outs of messages I’d sent him without having received replies; he tells me he’d forwarded them to Thomas and told him to “get on it” but that he doesn’t reply to messages that don’t involve him, and that media isn’t his area (actually, he tends not to reply to messages that are directly under his area of responsibility, as I can show via other inmates). I ask him why he’d summoned that inmate to his office to berate him about getting in touch with the media about his brother if media wasn’t his area; he replies that that wasn’t a media issue. That afternoon I file a BP-8 Administrative Remedy complaint on Thomas and Yates for their ongoing failure to respond in writing to several months of my messages regarding Winter’s interview requests.
July 11: At 12:00, as I’m walking to the phone to do my weekly recorded call with Winter, the officer on duty, Gonzalez, tells me that I’m wanted at Yate’s office. I tell him I’ll go after my scheduled phone interview. He goes to relay that to Yates via his own office phone. I call Winter and begin the interview. A few minutes later Gonzalez comes up to me and tells me that they want me to go now. I respond that the request is inappropriate since I have an ongoing administrative remedy case with Yates. Gonzalez says, “Actually, it’s Thomas that’s over there.” I respond that I also have an ongoing case with Thomas, that neither of them are in a position to make any demands since they’ve both violated policy repeatedly and that the proposed meeting thus pertains to their wrongdoing, not mine, and that I’m actually on the phone right now with the person whom they’ve both wronged by ignoring his media applications and that I’m thus disinclined to interrupt the interview at their whim. Gonzalez goes back to the phone to report this. A few minutes later, I’m approached by two officers, one of whom tells me, “Hang up the phone.” This happens to be the same officer who falsely recorded that I don’t need medication on my last visit to the SHU, as shown by the admission sheet. I tell Alex that I’ve got to go as I apparently can no longer talk to the press, and then hang up. I’m taken to the hole.
July 12: My counselor, Musquiz, brings me the infraction sheet for “Refusing an Order.” As he and my case manager know the charge to be without merit, they’ve given me a suspended sentence of 15 days loss of commissary and visitation. Musquiz tells me they should let me out but that Yates is apparently trying to keep me there. Later another officer tells me I should be getting out later that day. At around 2:00, he returns to tell me that Yates has told the SHU lieutenant to hold me until next week. I write a cop-out to the SHU Lt. asking for a BP-8 form and a written explanation as to why I’m being held in the SHU, but receive no reply. SHU staffers express their concerns about the situation as they know this to be illegal.
July 14: Several administration members do their weekly SHU rounds; I catch Thomas and tell him that I know that it was him who ordered my “investigation” last time and that I’m going to pursue legal action against him. He mumbles some sort of response and quickly walks away.
July 18: I catch the SHU Lt., who’d been avoiding our corridor for some reason, and ask him if I’m getting out today. He says I’m being held for another week. I ask him on what grounds he’s holding me. He tells me that “the powers that be” are ordering it. I ask him to cite the program statement upon which he’s relying to hold me. He says I’m under investigation. I tell him I know that I’m not, as, for one thing, inmates under investigation are given a form signed by a security officer telling them they’re under investigation, and for another, he himself just told me that I’m being held by “the powers that be.” He leaves. I write a letter to my mom telling her to have the lawyers contact the Office of the Inspector General and to additionally file a Bevins Civil Rights/retaliation claim in the courts if she doesn’t get a call from me by the 26th.
July 21: Administration members do their weekly SHU rounds again. I tell Yates, “If you can get me out of here by the 26th, I think we can put this behind us.” He responds, “I don’t think so.” I tell him, “The 26th is Tuesday.” He responds, “Then no.” I tell him, “Well, nevermind then,” and he walks off. I catch the warden and explain to him what’s going on and note that I’ve yet to receive a lawyer call. He explains that Molina, the unit manager, is too busy to give me a lawyer call. I explain to him that lawyer calls aren’t some optional favor he’s allowed to grant inmates but an actual legal right provided for in the program statements under which the prison operates. I also note that I’m being held in the SHU contrary to the law. He says, “You know what the key to this is? You failed to follow an order.” I reply that I did no such thing and that there’s a recording backing up my account, and that at any rate the request was inappropriate since I’d written up both of the individuals involved, and that finally my sentence for the refusing an order shot was suspended and didn’t call for me to be held indefinitely in the SHU, and that thus my continued confinement was illegal. He says, “Well, that’s where we disagree. You’ll get your lawyer call.” (I don’t get a lawyer call until I get out of the SHU)
July 25: I’m released from the SHU without explanation. Back in the unit, I learn that Yates and possibly other members of the administration were actually pushing for me to be held in the SHU until my release, which is to say somewhere between four and ten months from now, and that this was common knowledge among ranking staff; for instance, one of the counselors came out into the housing unit on July 21st and told several inmates about this, and on another occasion, a member of SIS spoke to an inmate about it. I have both staff and inmates willing to testify to this and other matters if necessary; details will be provided in a legal letter, which will also include other related incidents that I can’t go into over the e-mail yet.
July 26: I send a staff message to the warden asking that he direct Yates to refrain from requesting that I meet with him and instead have him and Thomas reply to the complaint in writing. I file a BP-9, following up on the original BP-8 regarding Alex Winter’s interview request.
August 1st: The BP-9 regarding the institution’s failure to follow policy on media interview requests remains unlogged five days after having been received by the warden’s office, whereas policy requires that it be entered into the BOP’s SENTRY system and receipt given to the inmate upon receipt.