Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jim Black and Diesel Therapy

As I discussed earlier, Jim Black had requested a delay in his sentencing to give BOP time to designate a facility. He had requested Butner, north of Raleigh, and about 3 hours from his home town of Matthews, near Charlotte. As it turns out, BOP was able to designate a facility in time (last Thursday to be precise) -- he was assigned to a camp in Lewisburg, PA, 500 miles away. While they stated that it is common to move "celebrity" inmates further away so they will be treated more anonymously (this is supposedly for their own good), I suspect that the limited amount of time the judge gave them factored into their decision. They simply may not have been able to find space at Butner given the time constraints.

However, a bigger problem was that Black was scheduled to be in a state sentencing hearing today, the day after he was scheduled to report to federal prison! He asked for a 1 week delay, but the judge never replied.

So.... yesterday (Monday), he turned himself into the US Marshal Service in Raleigh and served one night in the county jail before attending his state sentencing hearing today. At least they let him put on a suit, rather than show up in his orange jumpsuit. At that hearing, he was fined $1,000,000 due by December. If he doesn't pay by then, he could face more prison time in NC -- 19-23 months, although it would likely run concurrently with his federal time, which makes it rather moot. Interestingly the state judge said he "agreed with the federal judge's sentence on related charges, though he felt it was severe." He implied he felt this was really a state not federal matter since the citizens of NC were the real victims. I couldn't agree more.

Now what. Well, he is probably spending tonight back in the county jail and sometime in the next couple weeks (!), he will get in a prison van and start the long ride to Lewisburg, PA, which is totally absurd for a 72 year old man. There is absolutely no reason for the federal judge to have not given him a one week delay to self-surrender in Pennsylvania other than the pure sadistic pleasure of torturing the guy. Absolutely none!

You think I exaggerate when I call it "torture?" There is a reason they call prison transportation "diesel therapy:"
Imagine being handcuffed with a chain around your waist securing the handcuffs to your stomach area. You can't move your arms up and down or side to side. Your feet are shackled, limiting you to baby steps. Now get on a bus. And then be stuck on the bus with similarly shackled convicts forever. (It starts at three or four in the morning, and 12-­16 hour days are the norm.) You can try and guess where you're going, but you never will.

Given how far he has to go and the fact that he will probably be the only inmate in the van that is going there, I doubt they will be in a hurry to get him there. It could literally take weeks, with stops at various county jails and federal holdover facilities along the way. If he is really unlucky, it will include a few nights in the Atlanta Penitentiary holdover where he might find himself sleeping on the floor under a toilet in a room with 4 other men, but designed for 2.

If you don't believe me, read the following account on Michael Santos' website (he was sentenced to 45 years for distributing cocaine... a first offense at age 22 -- nice, huh -- he would have gotten a lighter sentence had he murdered his customers rather than sold them coke), which includes references to both Lewisburg and Atlanta in the same transfer.

Prison transportation is not segregated by security level so all inmates are treated as maximum security (thus, the handcuffs and chains). Jim Black could find himself seated next to a mass murderer.

Have we lost our minds? Is this really what we do to public officials who take $29K in illegal contributions? Why don't we just pull out some of these old punishments. I'm not making excuses for what he did... it was clearly wrong... but, my God, a little perspective is in order.

On a slightly different note, the Charlotte Observer today published a list of items Jim Black can bring to "camp" according to camp director Scott Finley. By the way, what the heck is a camp director? I knew of the warden and captain and lieutenant and COs, but "director?" In any case the items are:

Eyeglasses (no gemstones in them)
Plain wedding band
Watch (value at less than $100; can't be capable of photos or Internet).
Softbound religious book (such as the Bible or Quran).
Small address/phone book.
Up to $150 to put into an account.
Receipt showing paid court-ordered fine.
Tennis shoes (white, black or combination; valued at less than $100).
Medicine has to be approved by medical staff.

This was basically the same as FPC Pensacola, except for the watch and tennis shoes. I was not allowed to bring those; I had to buy them in the commissary at a cost of $28 and $54, respectively, and which counted toward my $290 monthly limit. Also, there was no stated limit on the amount of cash I could bring. I brought $1060 to deposit, which they readily accepted.

[UPDATE: According to this Charlotte Observer Editorial, the state judge may have been more supportive of his federal sentence than I first realized, calling it "severe, but appropriate." He felt that the federal government had taken away Black's power and freedom, so it was his job to take away his money. Whatever. Seems like everyone is trying to outdo the other in showing how much they can torture the guy. While there is no doubt he did some really stupid things that certainly created a conflict of interest, there is not one scintilla of evidence that I have seen that anything of substance was done to harm the people of North Carolina. No one has identified a single piece of legislation that was altered or a single person that was harmed. He should have been impeached and perhaps fined but to send the guy to prison for 5+ years, and possibly another 23 months if he doesn't come up with $1 million dollars by December 10 is just luncacy.]

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am in complete shock, that they will do this to a 72+ year old man. I can't even begin to imagine what this man is going through mentally and emotionally. I mean how will he survive at such an old age...

Why would he not be able to self surrender? I mean this was a white collar case. Bill-How did you manage to avoid diesel therapy and self surrender?

Life ticks on said...

Wow! I honestly dont understand all that. They wonder where our money goes... what a waste when gas is so expensive for him to be driven on OUR money when he could have used some of the money he took! Some people have no common sense.

Not to mention that diesel therapy will probably kill him! Give me a break he is 72 yrs old!

Bill Bailey said...

First of all, you can follow his placement in BOP with the following link:

http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/InmateFinderServlet?Transaction=NameSearch&needingMoreList=false&LastName=Black&Middle=Boyce&FirstName=James&Race=U&Sex=U&Age=&x=20&y=30

which currently lists him as "In Transit" which I think means he is not in a federal facility (he is currently in a county jail). Whenever he "checks in" to a federal facility, whether Lewisburg or a holdover location, this should be updated accordingly. I will be curious to see how long it takes for him to finally make it to Lewisburg. I will obviously post the final results :)

As to how I avoided diesel therapy, I was given a reporting date and was given a designation before that date by BOP so I was able to surrender at that location. Jim Black would have been able to do the same thing, except that he had a state sentencing hearing scheduled the day after the federal judge told him to report to federal prison. Therefore, even though BOP was able to give him an assignment rather quickly (less than 3 weeks), he was still screwed because he could not possibly surrender in Lewisburg and be back in Raleigh the next day. Obviously, most defendants don't have this unusual scheduling conflict.

Jim Black was assigned to report only 3 weeks after his sentencing hearing, which didn't give BOP much time and I suspect this affected their ability to give him the assigment he requested. While the judge did recommend he be assigned to Butner (near Raleigh), he made this more difficult for BOP to accomplish by only giving them 3 weeks to come up with a designation. In effect, the judge's 3 week time reporting deadline hurt Black more than the Butner recommendation helped him. It makes the judge look to the unsuspecting public like he was being kind when he really totally screwed him.

My judge gave me 6 weeks to report, which is more the norm, although some judges let BOP determine the reporting date as well as the designation. It took BOP about 4 weeks to assign me to Pensacola. I know they originally were going to assign me to Morgantown, WV before switching it. Had I not had the extra couple weeks the judge gave me to report, BOP might not have had the flexibility to give me the assignment I wanted.

My attorney made a special effort to make sure I was given a designation before my surrender date as well as the prison the judge recommended. In particular, she made a personal phone call and sent follow-up letter including the judge's recommendation to the appropriate person to influence the process as much as possible. The BOP designation process seems to be sort of top secret so no one knows why they make the decisions they make.

It would have been so easy for the judge to avoid this by simply giving Black a more reasonable surrender date. Even BOP would have preferred this. The judge makes the decision but BOP, as well as the inmate, have to live with the consequences.

Bill Bailey said...

The BOP link didn't work the way I expected. Try this:

Where is Jim Black?

Jackson said...

Super insight on how crucial it is to get ample time so BOP can assign without scrambling. Ofcourse as long as the judge is not out to get you...

Heidi said...

Started reading your blog tonight. My father will enter his plea in federal court next Friday on traveling with intent to commit an illicit act with a minor. He's presently out on bond on house arrest/lockdown. Your blog will be a great source of information as we navigate through the next few months of the sentencing, self-surrender and prison time phase of the situation. Thank you for such an incredibly thoughtful and thorough account of your experience. I'll be back frequently : )

PaulsHealthBlog.com said...

Looks like the term "cruel and unusual punishment" is at the discretion of the authorities.

Paul

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