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Journalist Barrett Brown Receives 30 More Days of Solitary Confinement in Prison

Jailed journalist and activist Barrett Brown has received 30 more days of solitary confinement in the prison, where he is serving a five-year and three-month sentence issued against him in January.

Brown, who had been put in “the hole” at the Fort Worth Correctional Institution previously, was put in solitary confinement in late June after staff “singled” him out “for a search” of his locker and “found a cup of homemade alcohol.”

As the Free Barrett Brown group indicated on July 20, Brown “had a hearing on his infraction and received an extra 30 days in the hole, plus 90 days of phone, visiting, commissary and email restriction.”

Brown was also informed that he was “placed on Central Inmate Monitoring,” which is a program that enables the Bureau of Prisons to apply more scrutiny to prisoners.

Central Inmate Monitoring (CIM) is for prisoners who “present special needs for management.” A copy of the 2007 policy indicates inmates are given this designation “so that critical decisions about their cases are carefully reviewed.” It is supposed to make the “institution environment” more “safe” by “case management decisions based on accurate information and sound correctional judgment.”

For example, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was sentenced to prison for 23 months for confirming the name of a covert agent to a reporter, was designated for CIM after he wrote his first “Letter from Loretto.”

The institution felt it had to apply this designation to Kiriakou because of his ability to have letters from prison published by Firedoglake and covered by various media organizations. Prison officials had mail he received opened. Officers would severely damage mail he received from supporters. His emails were also delayed multiple days.

Kiriakou was considered “dangerous,” according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. One document marked “FOIA Exempt: Do Not Release to Inmate,” warned, “PUBLICITY—Inmate has broad access to the press. Attached are articles in which inmate has been mentioned.”

Like Kiriakou, Brown has broad access to the press. He has been writing satirical columns from prison. This upsets BOP because it makes it harder to isolate and control Brown as a prisoner.

Brown had his email access abruptly suspended months ago after he had contact with journalist Glenn Greenwald and apparently tried to connect an inmate researcher with another journalist, who could investigate “potential BOP wrongdoing.” BOP told him he would lose email access until April 2016. [*Note: That other journalist is not with The Intercept.]

He wrote recently in a column published by The Intercept:

…[I used] the inmate email system to follow up with a journalist I’d provided with contact info for one of the inmate researchers and reiterating that the fellow had documented evidence of corruption within the Bureau of Prisons. Then, an hour later, my email was cut off. After a couple of days of inquiry I was pulled aside by the resident head of security, a D.C. liaison by the name of Terence Moore, who told me he’d been the one to cut off my email access, as I’d been “using it for the wrong thing,” which he clarified to mean talking to the press. When I sought to challenge this plainly illegal move by turning in the BP-9 form to begin the Administrative Remedy process that inmates are required to exhaust before suing the federal official who’s violated their right to due process under what’s known as a Bivens claim, the prison’s Administrative Remedy coordinator simply failed to log it into the system for over a month, finally doing so only after the matter had been brought to the attention of the press; finally on June 4 he deigned to register receipt of the BP-9, thereby belatedly starting the clock on the 20 days the prison is allotted in which to address one’s grievance — and then he failed to respond even by that illicitly extended deadline…

Kiriakou had a lot of experience with the “administrative remedy” process. He described it as “corrupt and inefficient” and acknowledged a July 2014 article from Prison Legal News on the “grievance system” and how it contributes to prison violence.

The US Marshal’s Service and the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland concluded, “The BOP’s grievance system is perceived by some prisoners as overly formal and more concerned with procedural practices and deadlines than the substance of a complaint. Accordingly, data suggest that a higher volume of late or rejected grievance responses will increase violence…Two features of the grievance process consistently predicted violence: the proportion of responses which were late, and the proportion of responses which were substantively rejected.”

Brown shared that he was moved from a federal facility 30 miles away because apparently guards were tired of dealing with him. He has also been placed in solitary confinement before he was sentenced.

Everything that BOP does is about control of the prisoner.

CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling is serving a sentence in a prison nearly 900 miles away from his wife, who lives in St. Louis, because that makes it easier to isolate and control him.

The same goes for Brown—Every transfer to another federal facility, every suspension of email access, every day of additional punishment in solitary confinement, and every restriction imposed is about controlling Inmate Barrett Brown.

Placing him under Central Inmate Monitoring is about making it easy to find more ways to control Inmate Barrett Brown. The only problem for BOP is Brown does not fear BOP and is willing to resist their retaliation against him, especially since he knows he can get the press and public to pay attention.

Brown has the support of the Courage Foundation, which can help him raise funds for commissary, restitution and legal costs.

It is the kind of privilege that BOP is glad more prisoners do not have because if they did, their power to control prisoners through gratuitous punishment—in addition to prison sentences—might actually be significantly challenged.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."