~ Prison reflection from Steve Kelly, SJ*

 *(Editor’s Note:  Many thanks to The Nuclear Resister for publishing this reflection from Steve Kelly)

From issue #166 of the Nuclear Resister, Posted on June 13th

Unrecognized political prisoner:

A Year’s Reflection

Or as Steve Baggarly of the Norfolk Catholic Worker wrote in a letter from jail: “If the SHU fits…” 

Many folks, mostly activists, write to us with this first thought: “Oh, I could never do what you are doing”, meaning either months or maybe years of prison or time in the hole (segregated housing unit – SHU). In one way of course it could be true of the infirm or very inexperienced. It’s not necessarily true of the elders though. Continue reading

Steve’s Pending Release: Rendering nothing unto Caesar

Friends,

In just a few days, sometime on June 21st, Steve kelly will – quite literally, for the first time in fifteen months – walk out of SeaTac Federal Detention Center into the light of day.  I visualize Steve closing his eyes and lifting his face toward Heaven and feeling the warmth of the Sun (should our Northwest weather oblige) on his skin.

Steve on the day of the Disarm Now Plowshares motions hearing, November 2010

This faithful servant of the nonviolent Jesus has done his time at Caesar’s decree.  That same decree continues to demand the proverbial pound of flesh, which Steve has steadfastly refused to give, and continues in faithful refusal.  Steve’s noncooperation with the edicts of the state while in SeaTac prison slowly but surely chipped away at the walls of the solitary cell (and the very system) in which he was held for so many months.

(this from Steve) Steve felt with care such as he received from you as individuals and groups that he could be sustainfully supported these 15 months.  His exit on Solstice/Summer is a singular, Discreet one.  He pleads to go incognito, not draw any attention or knowledge of his whereabouts.  He’s refusing, as Judge Settle was told, to comply with supervised release. 

Essentially, Steve wishes to walk out of SeaTac with no fanfare, and make his own way to where it is he wishes to go.

May we celebrate the spirit that moves people of such deep faith to follow the path of nonviolence with such unwavering devotion.  And may each of us find our path…

In Peace,

Leonard

Sunday at SeaTac – The Video

Rodney Herold captured the spirit of the day as we vigiled at SeaTac Federal Detention Center on Sunday, January 22nd. Here is his video:

Bix got blankets – his fast continues…

Dear Friends,

More than 40 people showed up yesterday.  The rain and wind were unable to dampen our spirit-filled spirits as we vigiled outside of the SeaTac Federal Detention Center in support of Bix, and of course all the prisoners incarcerated in all prisons.  We were simply reminding those in power of their moral and ethical responsibilities to their fellow human beings.  I hope that our collective Love, Compassion and Nonviolent spirit penetrated those thick, cold concrete walls and touched both prisoners and prison guards.  As Lynne Greenwald of Disarm Now Plowshares said,

It is important to note that while our circle of resisters have a wonderful network of supporters, we also remember all prisoners, everywhere, who daily suffer under this system of injustice. Most of the 700+ prisoners at SeaTac FDC are there for nonviolent crimes. Our friends in prison have witnessed cruel treatment under an inhumane structure. Jackie Hudson’s and Bix’s experiences remind us of how much work there is to do, to turn our lives around.

Vigiling outside SeaTac FDC on Sunday, January 22nd

Bix has received blankets, and both Joe and Blake will fill you in below.   Your collective good wishes, prayers and emails are a powerful force.  Thanks!!!  Rodney Herold videotaped yesterday’s vigil, and I expect to have that up here later today or tomorrow.  May the spirit of this community spread far and wide, and may everyone come to embrace its message of Mercy, Justice and Peace.

Leonard

****************

From Joe Power-Drutis

My apologies for not sending this report from Blake to you sooner; however, much was happening yesterday that prohibited me from jumping on this. Yesterday’s vigil at SeaTac was absolutely wonderful. We did sing Angels We Have Heard On High – twice; along with one of Bix’s favorites “This Little Light Of Mine”. Our line of well wishers stretched the front entrance of SeaTac Detention, as Senji and Gilberto led us for nearly an hour of meditation and drumming.

All of your efforts were well rewarded, as Bix has received extra blankets and he now reports he is much warmer. There remains a couple of other health related issues and we hope to resolve those soon through direct negotiation. Thank you so much for all of your efforts.

From:  Blake Kremer

I met with Bix yesterday, January 21st, and he asked me to pass along a message.

Bix is still in the SHU. Bix received a letter from Terry Morrison where he learned of the Tuesday vigil, and he is deeply appreciative of that.

Bix says that he has received extra blankets, and he is no longer cold.  He is able to stay warm enough in bed, and wears his blankets when he stands up to stay warm.  Bix says that he continues to not be able to sleep at all, but he no longer thinks that being cold is the cause of that. He thinks that it relates to “itchiness” that continues to trouble him.

Bix wants everyone to know that as he continues on his fast – yesterday was his eleventh day – that he feels stronger and more confirmed in his resolution.  Bix is appreciative of any who join him in his fast, the goal of which is to unite us as one and strengthen resolve against nuclear weapons.  Bix says that there are 10,000 issues that we can work on; this is one thing that we can all unite together on today. Bix says that Christians can unite in conscience where God speaks to all of us, to abolish nuclear weapons and to oppose those policies of the US that are without conscience. This was a point that Bix was reminded of when he was taken back to the BOP and told by his jailer that his re-arrest was a matter of policy, not of conscience.  Bix talked about how policy without conscience reminded him of the courage of the White Rose and their courage in protesting Nazi policies without conscience, even though they were beheaded for their resolve.

Bix talked about his re-arrest at the halfway house, and how just prior to that he was Gilberto and others drumming outside the house. Bix said that the monks looked like angels bringing songs of peace and joy to him. While Bix was re-arrested for this “unauthorized contact,” he continues to think of that and delights in the memory of what he considered wholly authorized contact. He blew kisses to them at the time, and continues to rejoice in the memory. Bix sings to himself in his solitary cell, and hopes that at the vigil today, those present will sing:  “angles we have heard on high.”

Bix is deeply appreciative of those who are thinking of him and sends his love.

Urgent: Vigil tomorrow (Sunday) at SeaTac FDC for Bix!!!

Editor’s Note:  Our dear Bix needs us NOW!!!  Please read the following important alerts from Joe Power-Drutis; they have critical time value.  I’m sorry not to have posted earlier, but I’ve just come back online after being stranded for 3 days without power or telephones.  The first part is about tomorrow’s [Sunday] vigil at SeaTac, the second is a statement from Bix provided by attorney Blake Kremer who has been in contact with Bix, and lastly an overview of the situation along with a list of government officials for us to contact to address this injustice now!  

Also, please include Bix’s Bureau of Prisons inmate number (William J. Bichsel, SJ, 86275-020) in your correspondence.

***********

[From Joe Power-Drutis]

The letters and calls made by many of you yesterday [January 19] to seek basic care for Bix from the Bureau of Prisons at SeaTac were heartening. Today we continue our efforts to inform the media and public officials of the fact that prison personnel are withholding the extra clothing and blankets prescribed by a physician for an octogenarian with severe circulatory and coronary insufficiency. Bix – held in solitary confinement – is at their mercy.

Bix’s home community at St. Leo Church and the Tacoma Catholic Worker invite you to a vigil at the SeaTac Detention Center to protest his treatment.

Date of Vigil:  Sunday, January 22, 2012 Time:  2PM – 3PM Place:  2425 S 200th St, SeaTac, WA  98498 Please bring a candle and a creative sign if you like.

Purpose:  Governments and prison authorities have a duty of care to all prisoners and detainees under their control. We demand independent verification that Bix has received the bedding and clothing he needs to assure his warmth and bring an end to the pain and suffering he has endured since returning to SeaTac on January 11th.

Parking: You may be asked to move your car if you park in the SeaTac lot or on the road leading in. I recommend that you park on or near 200th and Highway 99 and walk the short distance to the detention center.

Photography: We can take photos of the vigil, but have been informed – by prison staff – that photos of the prison building are not allowed. Pointless ruling as the entire campus is clearly visible on Google Maps, but there it is.

Car Pooling: Meet in front of the Tacoma Catholic Worker at 1417 South G Street at 1 PM; carpool departs at 1:15.

I leave you with the first in the list of prisoner rights as listed in the Inmate Handbook, (June 1, 2010, p. 52, Par. 1) and written by – and posted on the website of – the Federal Detention Center: SeaTac, Washington

“You have the right to expect as a human being, that you will be treated respectfully, impartially, and fairly by all personnel.”

Identical language is used in the Title 28 Chapter V. Part 540, Code of Federal Regulation, Federal Bureau of Prisons Policies. A good policy is in place; let’s get them to honor it!

***************

[From: Blake Kremer, January 19th]

Bix called around 2 PM today and said that he would like a visit from me. He related to me the following:

“Found out at a hearing on Tuesday the BOP’s reason for taking him in to custody.  Brought two people in from the halfway house to describe the incident when the monks came to greet me.  I did not know the monks were coming, but I threw them some kisses and that was it.  The next morning the marshal came and took me in to custody.

I am now on non-compliance and in the SHU.  I entered in to a fast – this is my ninth day.  I am amazed at how much strength I am getting. No food at all – just water.  Every morning they bring me breakfast; I just take two half pints of milk.  I feel with all of this my spirit feels great.  It is very cold for me all of the time.  I cannot sleep at all – 24 hours a day without sleep, fighting off the chill.  I have asked for a jacket or a pillow or a mattress; they do not comply.

I am very delighted in the way that this has happened.  Welcome angels singing joy and peace is the theme that comes to me.  Rejoice Rejoice Rejoice – I loved the visit from the monks that lead to his current imprisonment.  I am where I should be.  I am good.

I am cold all the time, I wear a blanket.   I am in bed all the time to stay warm.

I am deeply thankful for where I am and I feel a deep sense of god’s presence.  I would like to have others join in the fast if they want to.  There is a fast for Christian unity from 18th to the 25th.  I would like others to consider joining in or being more conscious of our call to eliminate nuclear weapons or oppose unconscionable actions and inhumane treatment.  I told BOP that  I would not comply, as a matter of conscious.  They said:  this is a matter of policy not conscience.  I said:  that is exactly my point.  And that is what I would like others to consider:  that what is policy for some is not acceptable for Christians.”

***************

[From Joe Power-Drutis]

The final line of Bix’s call yesterday [January 19th] to Blake is what I want to address. “What is policy for some (Bureau of Prisons) is not acceptable for Christians.”

It is policy for prisons to deny the cries of inmate’s for basic human needs. (See Plowshares News – May 11, 29 and 31, 2011). It is policy for prisons to keep the environment cool/cold as well.

Bix is an octogenarian. At 83, I guarantee, our physical needs are radically different than at 53, or even 73. In contrast, the age of most prison guards (from my observations) is closer to 33. Supplying additional warmth is not preferential treatment; it is simply a rational response to basic physiology.

When Bix went into SeaTac on November 11, he brought a list of his medications and a letter from his primary care physician. The bulk of the letter related to Bix’s overall medical condition and needs; but, it was prefaced by a cover letter specifically addressing Bix’s need for extra clothing and warmth due to coronary and circulatory deficits. His doctor explained, in detail, how painful it would be to Bix if his extremities are subjected to ongoing cold. This letter is in the medical file at SeaTac. It is being ignored.

Earlier this year, in response to a medical request from Bix, a guard cut off the conversation to say, “Forget about your doctor back home; I’m your doctor now.”

Yes, guards and administrators in jails and prisons can treat inmates inhumanely simply because they can; but, it also seems that the milieu of prison life is geared toward punishment. At the Knox County Sheriff’s Detention Facility, where Bix was imprisoned in Knoxville, a long document that listed the purposes of the facility was posted on the bulletin board. The first 2 items on the list were their statement of ownership and the mission statement of delivering “punishment.”

Whether or not jail and prison administrators are directly complicit in the day to day cruelty of those they supervise; they are answerable for maintaining an environment that caters to punishment, rather than rehabilitation. By dehumanizing inmates, whether at Abu Ghraib or the Podunk County jail, administrators at the top give tacit approval to soldiers/guards all the way down the line to be creative in their punishments.

It is important for us to voice disapproval of Bix’s cruel treatment. Please take a few minutes today to let people on the list below know that the community cannot tolerate this treatment of Bix or of any of the 824 prisoners held at SeaTac today. If you know of others who should hear from us, please contact them and then send me a note – I’ll add your suggestions to the list. The more letters we get out, the more likely someone with compassion will intervene.  ( I believe the issue will not be officially addressed until Monday, in the meantime we have time and incentive to speak to as many people as we can.)

Here is list of people to contact [Note: This is the most updated list with Joe’s corrections and additions]

Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW,
Washington, DC 20534
Office hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern time
Monday through Friday
For general information, call 202-307-3198.

Marion Feather, Warden
 Federal Detention Center SeaTac
P.O. Box 13901
Seattle, WA 98198
Phone: 206-870-5700
Fax: 206-870-5717
E-mail: mxfeather@bop.gov

Terry McGuire
The Catholic Northwest Progress
710 9th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Terry.McGuire@seattlearch.org
Phone: 206-382-4560
Fax: 206-382-4840

The News Tribune
P.O. Box 11000, Tacoma, WA 98411
Phone: 253-597-8742
Matt Misterek
(253) 597-8472
matt.misterek@thenewstribune.com

The Seattle Times
PO Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111
Newsroom: (206) 464-2200
Newsroom fax: (206) 464-2261
Newsroom and Seattletimes.com staff
Main: (206) 464-2111
Accepts letters of up to 200 words at opinion@seattletimes.com

Contact your government representatives
http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Patty Murraywww.murray.senate.gov/email/index.cfm
Tacoma Office
950 Pacific Avenue, Ste. 650
Tacoma, Washington 98402
Phone: (253) 572-3636
Fax: (253) 572-9488

Maria Cantwell www.cantwell.senate.gov/contact/

Gov. Christine Gregoire
www.governor.wa.gov/contact/

Norm Dicks
www.house.gov/dicks/email.shtml

Archbishop Sartain
Archdiocese of Seattle, 710 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-382-4560 | Fax: 206-382-4840

Candle light vigil: Of monks and the world

Plowshares News   January 18, 2012 [from Joe Power-Drutis]

We  have no idea how Bix’s meeting with his captors went at 10:30 yesterday morning; however, an energized group from Seattle to Tacoma and beyond gathered outside the SeaTac Detention Center in support of Bix and Steve.

We were a bit of a motley group with close ties to our beloved felons. We came to stand in the cold morning air and blowing snow to send forth messages of love and care to these two men from their community that spans the nation. Our gathering gave us the opportunity to connect with new friends and strengthen and broaden that community of peace makers.

If Susan Crane is right, and she usually is, then we weren’t there very long before Bix and Steve knew of our presence and felt our care for them.

For decades, Steve and Bix have spoken out about the dangers we face in putting our faith and resources into nuclear weapons and bloated military budgets.  Their appeals to humanity and common sense have gone largely ignored by the media, elected officials, church leadership, and many others. I believe that these two leaders have chosen the only path left that makes sense to them. By risking arrest, they expect and accept the same fate as the poor and marginalized who are incarcerated in prisons and jails across the country.

I leave you with a note I received recently from Fr. John Fuchs, Jesuit Superior in Tacoma:

“Both Bix and Steve are true monks now. The word “monk,” as you know, is from the Greek word “monos,” which means alone or solitary. And St. Ignatius intended for Jesuits to be monks, not in a monastery but in the world. And so Steve and Bix are!”

John Fuchs, S.J. “Spiritual Warden.”

Today’s SeaTac Vigil: Be not afraid!

Here is a brief report on today’s vigil at SeaTac FDC.  It was originally posted by Rebecca Dare on her Facebook page (Thanks Rebecca).

We vigiled this morning outside the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac in honor of Fr. Bill Bichsel and Fr. Steven Kelly.  Fr. Kelly has been in solitary confinement since May of last year and will be for several months to come.  Fr. Bichsel was released (a week ago?) and promptly picked back up for talking to people – not allowed.  He is also in solitary confinement for noncooperation.  Our little group stood there with a sign and candles, snow falling, while prison employees took photos of us, questioned why we were there, and made sure we stayed on Seatac sidewalks.  The power of the machine – not as intimidating when you’re not afraid, as Bix and Steve and many others demonstrate.

Candle light vigil at the SeaTac Detention Center January 17th!

I wish you could have received more notice; however, there will be a candle light vigil, regardless of rain or snow, at the SeaTac Detention center.

Date of Vigil:  January 17, 2012

Time:  10 – 11 AM

Place:  2425 S 200th St, SeaTac, WA  98498

Please bring a candle for your use.

Purpose:  To honor Bill Bichsel, S.J. and Steve Kelly, S.J., members of “Disarm Now Plowshares”, who remain in solitary confinement, at the SeaTac Detention Center, as prisoners of conscience.

Our vigil members will not be utilizing detention center parking or property.

If you wish to attend, and are coming from Tacoma,  we will be meeting at 1418 S G St in Tacoma between 8:45 and 9 AM.  Our carpool group will be leaving at 9AM

If you wish to drive independently of the car pool, remember to find parking on or near 200th and Hgh 99 and then walk to the detention center.

At 10:30 AM on Tuesday January 17th Bix is to go before someone there at SeaTac, some type of prescheduled fact finding group/hearing, so that his captors can justify to themselves their reasons for treating him so unjustly.

If you have any other questions please call me [Joe Power-Drutis] at 253-779-8362

Bix Called…

[an update from Joe Power-Drutis]

Bix called! I knew valuable information was to be transmitted, I found myself wishing I was Ralph Hutchinson over in Knoxville with the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA). Back in May we took notes at the court proceedings of the Y-12 defendants. His notes delivered stories of detail and gusto; when I surveyed my puny notes, I sometimes wondered if we were in the same courtroom.

First, Bix sounded very good, his voice light and filled with spirit. He was only permitted 2 calls, one personal, one legal. He related why he was returned to SeaTac, which was not a surprise to either of us. Remember the “stipulations” I spoke of the other day? The first and main one for the Klingons was that Bix was not to tell anyone that he was leaving SeaTac. He had told them outright and repeatedly that he would never abide by such an order; well, they obviously didn’t care one way or the other, but this was basically the reason he was returned to SeaTac.

On the evening of the 10th, after he arrived in Tacoma, our most dear friends Senji Kanaeda & Gilberto Perez, Buddhist monks with the Nipponzan Myohoji Order on Bainbridge Island, walking and drumming with a group of students, on their way to the Trident Sub Base and the celebrations of today’s Martin Luther King vigil and action, made a small detour and stopped by the house Bix was in, to drum and pray for him outside the building for a few minutes.

Gilberto once told me that drumming generally has one of two effects on people; it either produces peace in one’s heart and being or it disturbs the heart in an attempt to awaken us to become aware. Both effects were to be witnessed that evening.

Bix was very happy to see and hear all who came to visit and wanted either to invite everyone in or go out and be with them. He had a strong sense they were angles, which gave him intense joy. He went onto comment that “it was so right they should be there”.

His captors on the other hand had a slightly different experience. First reprimanding him for being out of compliance (whatever that meant), he was told he was going to be “written up” and what happened was to be “reported”. The rest is history – in early morning he was suddenly awakened, grabbed out of bed, shackled, and returned to SeaTac by the marshals.

Their actions and manner of treatment made it known to him how he would proceed. Upon his arrival at SeaTac he made it clear he intended to be in complete non compliance with their demands; their recourse, which was to be expected, would be to place him in “protective custody or the special housing unit (SHU)” my words – “the hole”!

My friends Bix is at peace with all that is happening to him; and frankly, he’s in pretty good company. Yes, Steve is indeed nearby; but so is his long time companion, Saul of Tarsus, who knew something of what it meant to be in “the hole”.

He welcomes this time of solitude to pray and fast and meditate.

One meditation he shared was of the White Rose movement that came into being through a young girl and her brother and other students who came to understand they could no longer be silent while the Nazis sent millions to the gas chambers during the Holocaust. They did not want the German people’s moral failure to be there’s. They had the courage to act, at all costs, and to speak out, calling for passive resistance against Hitler’s regime. Imprisonment and death was the price they paid for speaking their truth. Bix reminds us, as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, of Kings challenge to us “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”.

Now there’s a light meditation for you; while you are fasting and living in a 5’ x 10’ box!!

So many people have asked me to remember them to Bix. Please know that I did and am. A ten minute phone call comes and goes in a flash; but I shared with him how much he was loved by so many people and he very much knows and feels the love you send his way.

Then, without warning, the line goes dead!

At 10:30 AM on Tuesday January 17th Bix is to go before someone there at SeaTac, some type of prescheduled fact finding group/hearing, so that his captors can justify to themselves their reasons for treating him so unjustly. Susan Crane and I encourage as many of you that can, to come to the prison at SeaTac for an hour long vigil that will take place between 10 and 11 AM on the 17th. More on this later in the day as I talk with others and make plans. Susan assured me “you won’t be out there very long before Bix and Steve and all the inmates will know you are there and will be energized by your presence”.

Remember the Festival of Hope, St. Leo’s, tonight, at 6:30.

Happy Birthday Steve!

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