The following article was written back on January 29, 2020. I’d just like to begin with a brief commentary, having been one of the inmates involved at the time. A Hunger Strike at a Camp is almost unheard of. After all, most of us have relatively short sentences, and are just looking to stay out of trouble while we do our time. So, you have top understand that conditions had be pretty bad in order for 99% of the inmates to avoid the Chow Hall to make a statement. Well, there was a huge contraband problem – mostly driven by a CO who was trafficking in contraband (arrested by the Feds in October 2019). The Warden, however, decided to implement extended group punishment on us inmates for months until we’d finally had enough. And, that’s exactly what it took. The thing is, non-reporting to Chow Hall needs to be reported to Region and looks awful for a Warden. So, we got back our privileges and began a dialogue with the Warden.
Reprint from Forbes.com – Written by: Walter Pavlo
It is expensive to house inmates and the Federal Bureau of Prisons has complained about the stress that budget conditions have put on its ability to carry out its mission of caring for over 180,000 federal inmates. One would think that those conditions would not be bad at federal prison camps that house 28,332 minimum security inmates. Many have called these facilities “Club Fed” or “Camp Cupcake.” Well, things are not quite like that anymore.
Director of the BOP Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, testified before the Committee on the Judiciary of the US Senate in November 2019. There she admitted that the organization is in need for reform, “While those who have taken the helm in the capacity of Acting Director have taken on an incredible challenge and done excellent work, the long-term lack of permanent leadership – along with these temporary tenures – have caused instability for the agency. These factors have contributed to the Bureau’s less than stellar performance in some recent instances, and I am committed to addressing these issues.”
One of those instances was Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide last year while in custody at MCC Manhattan awaiting trial for federal crimes involving child sex trafficking and sexual assaults on minors. While Hawk presented various challenges that the BOP faces, she also pointed to the aging infrastructure of the prisons.
“About 30 percent of the BOP’s 122 institutions are over 50 years old and 45 percent are over 30 years old. The older an institution becomes, the greater the need for repairs/replacements of systems. Due to years of inmate crowding and aging infrastructures, Bureau facilities and systems continue to sustain extensive wear and tear as well as premature deterioration. As with all deferred maintenance, the longer necessary repairs and maintenance are postponed, the greater the risk of problems becoming worse over time and the repairs becoming more costly. We carefully monitor and maintain the facilities and systems to minimize the risk of catastrophic failure. However, delaying work on critical infrastructure and preventive maintenance puts even greater pressure on future fiscal years and on our employees to keep deteriorating systems running for much longer than best practices dictate.”
The Miami camp was opened in 1994, so only 16 years ago, making it one of the newer facilities in the BOP. A source tells me that the place is in need of repair from past storm damage. However, tensions at the facility were already on the rise in Miami when lockdowns resulted from a number of incidents involving contraband among the inmates.
Two inmates at the FCI low were found soliciting orders from their fellow inmates for cigarettes, cell phones, SIM cards. Cell phones were listed as a major concern by BOP Director Hawk during her testimony to the Senate. The two inmates in Miami turned over the orders for contraband to a corrections officer in Miami who would fulfill the order in exchange for a bribe. In October, the conspiracy was discovered and the corrections officer arrested. The result was the the adjacent minimum security camp was also placed on lockdown as well. There was no visitation, no phone calls home, no email and no access to recreational facilities. Families of inmates only find out about lockdowns like this when they fail to hear from their loved ones in prison. With a shortage of staff, something of an epidemic inside of federal prisons, the best way to handle inmates is to keep conflict to a minimum.
A source within the Miami camp told me that they have been frustrated for months because of the low quality of food, staff keeping mail from inmates and guards shining lights into the faces of slumbering inmates for midnight bed checks.
Things came to a head last week and a hunger strike of sorts ensued. Inmates in Miami camp are refusing to eat in the chow hall, raising tensions with staff. They are getting some sustenance from commissary purchases. The warden called for a detente of sorts and requested that a group of inmates come forward to talk about the reasons for the strike and ways to restore normal order of the prison camp. My source told me that approximately six (6) former attorneys, who are currently inmates, volunteered to go forward and speak with the warden but the outcome of those discussions has still not brought about a solution. A notice on the BOP site as of Jan 29, 2019 indicated that “Visiting at the prison camp has been suspended until further notice.”