Judy White is in a desperate struggle to get husband Gary medication critical to his well being. Gary White was convicted by Federal prosecutors for refusing to cooperate as a witness in one of the Don Siegelman trials in Alabama Federal Court. White, a Republican County Commissioner refused to testify in what he said was an unlawful prosecution. He was found guilty of “petty corruption” charges after refusing to cooperate despite the fact Siegelman’s conviction was recently vacated by the Supreme Court of the United States. Upon arrival at Federal prison in South Carolina on September 29, White’s prescription medication was confiscated. He has had no medication since.
Judy White says she doesn’t know the system but she’s gone public and written an open letter to President Barack Obama appealing for his help to save her husband’s health. The Bush era Alabama Federal prosecutors who convicted Wright in their relentless persecution of former governor Siegelman remain as Federal prosecutors to this day. Michael Collins
After the break…
Judy White Fights For Incarcerated Husband’s Access to His Prescriptions By Joan Brunwasser
Original Content at OpEdNews
October 13, 2010
My guest today is Judy White, wife of Gary White, former Jefferson County Commissioner (Alabama). Welcome to OpEdNews, Judy. This week, you made the front page of OpEdNews with your passionate appeal to President Obama. Your husband Gary reported to federal prison on September 29th to begin a ten-year sentence. Besides the “normal” stress that goes along with a situation like that, you’ve had additional concerns that led you to contact the president. For instance, you found out today that Gary’s currently in a Chronic Care Clinic. What is it, where is it, and why does he need it? Was he sick? I know that when he reported to prison on the 29th, he had enough of his medications to make sure that none of the prescriptions lapsed.
I don’t know what a “Chronic Care Clinic” is, or where it is or why he needs it. I know he was in good health, properly medicated when I left him at the prison shortly after noon on September 29th, along with his prescription medications that he was told by prison staff to bring with him when he self-surrendered. He was given no medication at all from Wednesday until just before he was allowed to call me Friday evening, and the medications he has been given since have been incorrect or completely withheld. He had been able to call me daily since Friday, October 1st. Today, the first workday after the federal holiday during which I begged our President for help, I have not heard from him at all, but I did hear from the prison officials. I suspect [his] being sent to wherever he is is retaliatory.
Gary’s in South Carolina. You’re in Alabama. How far is that from where you live? Wasn’t there anywhere closer?
That’s another retaliatory situation, I’m afraid, tied to a lawsuit I filed against Alice Martin and the U.S. Attorney’s office. Keep in mind: he is innocent. Gary is in a Federal Prison Camp (FPC) in Edgefield, South Carolina, more than 300 miles and a different time zone away from his home, clearly intended to punish his family and him by making visits very difficult. Gary has been recognized as indigent by the court, and at sentencing the judge ordered that he be assigned to the FPC nearest his home. That would be Maxwell in Montgomery, Alabama, just 90 miles south. We live in north central Alabama.
When I drove him to the prison, I drove completely across Georgia (which also has FPCs) and into South Carolina. In order to visit on “his” weekends (not every weekend, like at most FPCs), I will have to leave home at 1:30 a.m., and drive 5 1/2 hours, which, with the time zone change, will allow me to arrive at the prison at 8:00, which is when visiting time begins, then, after visiting, must make the long drive back home. Just the cost of gas was over $60.00, and I certainly can’t afford a hotel stay and meals.
Back up a second, Judy. You say that the judge at sentencing ordered that Gary be assigned to the FPC nearest his home. But he was not, which is pretty blatant disregard of his order. Is there no recourse?
Please, let me say that we are not familiar with “the system” as neither we nor anyone in our families have ever been charged or convicted of a crime. Additionally, the lawyer didn’t respond to questions, although she did tell us, after repeated calls, texts, faxes, and phone messages, that we had 30 days to object, and Gary told her to object however it could be objected to. We’ve never seen anything indicating she did so.
Additionally, we contacted our congressman and senators, who wrote letters asking that Gary’s assignment be changed, primarily for the benefit of his family; my surgeon and another doctor also wrote letters asking that Gary be assigned to Montgomery, as I am recovering from major back surgery and it is dangerous to me to drive or be a passenger for such a long distance. Finally, Gary personally objected directly to the assignment, reminding the Bureau of Prisons that the judge had ordered him to be close to home. The only response was sent to our congressman and stated that the decision was theirs alone. Did I mention retaliation?
The prison camp that Gary is in has other deficits besides for its distance from your home. It also lacks email or Internet access for its inmates. Is that typical?
We had researched on the Internet and had been told by others that there was Internet access available, including e-mail, for a fee, just like telephone usage, but it would allow families to keep in touch. Gary and I had discussed me trying to get a cell phone that would allow me to receive e-mail for that purpose. Only after he was there did we find that not to be true. On a positive note, I have been contacted by several wonderful women and welcomed into “the sisterhood” – wives of prisoners. One in particular said that being able to e-mail with her husband saved her life. I have been told that Gary is in the only FPC that does not allow e-mail contact with family and friends.
Gary, Judy and Annie
If the inmates can’t keep in touch via the web, how do they stay connected with their near and dear?
I have come to believe that prison officials want to completely disconnect the imprisoned and make them think they are worthless. Gary (meaning me) is allowed to purchase 300 minutes of telephone time per month, which averages 10 minutes a day, making it impossible for him to call family members other than me, especially right now, with me having to fight for his medications. We write letters, but marital communications are not privileged – all his mail is opened, read, and copied or scanned, before being given to him, but we don’t really know how that works either.
I sent him “Priority” mail on Monday, October 4th that he still has not received. And, certainly, we can apply for approval to visit. Gary, who is a numbered inmate rather than a person, may be allowed visitors on alternating weekends and federal holidays. (We have been told most other FPCs allow visitors on all weekends.) Again, the distance causes more heartbreak – as long as Gary is where he is, I will have to choose whether to see my husband or our family on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays. I can’t have him be alone during those times, but it is so hurtful to our entire family. If he were in Montgomery, we could all visit while still maintaining traditional family celebrations.
This week, you wrote President Obama. Why? What other avenues had you already tried?
Desperation. Knowing our telephone calls are monitored – they pay federal employees to listen to us talk – several times I spoke directly to “Big Brother” and asked them to please give Gary his medication. Each day, Gary has requested his medication, but was refused, including even yesterday evening and this morning. He told me the only hope he had was if I was able to do something, because prisoners are nothing to the officials running the prisons. (He and the “sisterhood” told me of various retaliatory and punitive actions taken by staff against prisoners who asked for what they needed, such as medicine.)
I asked his attorney to file something on an emergency basis; she responded, “ok” but then just didn’t. I contacted other attorneys and was told I would need to file suit against the warden and the BOP in federal court in South Carolina (extremely expensive also, but there is no price for Gary’s life and health; if Gary does not have his medicine today, I will have to file suit, regardless of the expense) asking for emergency relief, but not before contacting the warden. I wrote, e-mailed, and faxed the warden and the executive assistant at the prison to be sure they were aware of the situation and begged them to help my husband.
That was last Friday, Day 10 without his medication. I received no response, but later in the day, Gary notified me that I was not approved for Columbus Day visitation. We were terribly disappointed, but I decided to spend the time I would have been in the car trying to help Gary. On Friday, after I called the prison and asked to speak with the warden or executive assistant and was told they had left early for the holiday weekend, I sent copies of the ignored letter by mail and/or e-mail to our congressman and senators, every member of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees (they have BOP oversight), the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) Washington and regional offices, the Office of the Inspector General, the BOP’s medical director in Washington, several prisoner and family support groups, and anyone else I could think of or who was suggested as possibly being able to help. But this is not something I did lightly. First, I researched and found BOP “Program Statements” and other written policies that supported Gary’s absolute entitlement to his medication.
What are you hoping to accomplish? And are you fearful that your speaking out will result in worse treatment for Gary?
We are well aware of and concerned about retaliation and vindictiveness, but Gary’s life and health are at stake. My husband is innocent and we remain hopeful this wrong will be righted, and very soon. I want Gary to live and maintain the good health he enjoyed before he was imprisoned (wrongly), to return home to me and our family, including the “furry children” who still look for him and sleep on clothes he wore that I just can’t bring myself to wash or they will lose his scent. Our entire extended family has been harmed and we will never be the same – we know the “justice” system is irreparably broken and innocent people are in prison.
Americans were rightly outraged over the abuses at Abu Ghraib, but we have remained ignorant of political imprisonment and abuses of American citizens on our own soil. What I hope to accomplish – what must be accomplished – is to save Gary, and, in the process, to hope we all recognized the gift of humanity, that we are all humans, even prisoners, regardless of their guilt. Unless they have been given the death penalty, they shouldn’t be killed (or harmed) by medical abuse. Even those who are executed aren’t killed by withholding their prescription medications.
How right you are, Judy. What a nightmare. Good luck in getting this matter resolved. And thanks so much for talking with me.
Judy’s letter to President Obama