Welcome to Future Felons of America
I wrote this as the introduction to Clive Sharp's book How to Survive Federal Prison Camp (Loompanics, 1997). This is its first appearance outside the book.
Welcome to FFA. No, not Future Farmers of America, that pleasant little relic of the days when America was the land of the free.
I'm talking about Future Felons of America, the club to which millions of us now belong. Our membership is growing by leaps, bounds and midnight kicks on our doors. You may not want to be part of this contemporary American FFA. (Who in their right mind would?) But it's best to face facts; in a country where would-be rulers, elected and unelected, are desperate to regulate every activity, we are all law breakers or soon to become so.
You and I, friends, are likely to end up in prison.
Worse, we're increasingly likely to end up in the custody of the federal prison system. Activities that were once the business of the states-or nobody's business but your own-are being taken over by control freaks in Washington, DC whose favorite masturbatory fantasy is that they can micro-manage every human activity 24 hours a day and punish everyone who deviates from their desires. That means your chances of going to federal prison-or a federal prison camp like the ones described in this book-are getting "better" every day.
Here are just a few of the "crimes" that can already land you in the federal system:
- Taking one prescription pill out of its drugstore bottle and carrying it around in a different container. (Just think of all those dangerous, blue-haired old lady felons lurking in your neighborhood with pills stashed in daily-dose containers from their local Wal-Mart!)
- Making a mistake on an Environmental Protection Agency reporting form-even if everyone agrees it was just a mistake and that no pollution was involved.
- Driving past a school with an otherwise perfectly legal gun in your car-even driving a block away from a school you didn't know was there!
- Manufacturing or selling a container that someone might use to store illegal drugs. (Kinda makes you wonder why Wal-Mart doesn't get busted for selling "drug paraphernalia" to those blue-haired ladies, doesn't it?)
- Digging dinosaur bones if you're not a university professor or government employee.
- Putting a picture of a naked lady on a wine bottle label (unless an ATF agent decides it's "art," which automatically makes it okay).
- Sitting in the car while an acquaintance goes into a house to do a drug deal.
This last one comes under the heading of "conspiracy." And conspiracy is one of a raft of ill-defined "crimes" the feds are using as a catch-all for anyone they want to bag. In addition to "conspiring" by doing nothing, you might be accused of "violating someone's civil rights" by punching him in the nose or "participating in organized criminal activity" just for talking about the wrong subject or being in the wrong place with the wrong people.
What organized criminal activity does this latter charge refer to? Don't ask. If the government had an actual crime-like murder or robbery-to charge you with, believe me, they would. "Participating in organized criminal activity" simply means you've gotten together with your buddies and done something a bureaucrat doesn't like.
The feds can always find you guilty of something. If they want to.
The Real Reason for All Those Laws
And that's the rub. If they want to. Because these laws, of course, aren't designed to stop evildoers at all. They're designed to allow selective control of people who make waves, deviate from convention, own independent businesses, criticize unjust authority, and otherwise insist on living their lives as they see fit. Or they're designed to let enforcers arrest a lot of people so they can brag about their successes in "fighting crime"-and so they can confiscate valuable private property under the hundreds of new and existing civil forfeiture laws.
No one really seems to know how many federal laws and regulations we're living under today, but five million pages is the most reliable number I've heard. (Eleven million pages of combined state and federal legis-regulation.) The silly federal "crimes" above don't even begin to scratch the surface of the pointless, harmless things you can be sent to prison for.
And the control freaks are cranking out new crimes out at the rate of 200 pages a day!
Two hundred pages a day. Now, obviously, all the violent, nasty, fraudulent stuff was made illegal a hundred or more years ago. Protections against murder, armed robbery, fraud, rape and such are basics and were taken care of by the people and the states long before any of us were born. Even new technology and changing times haven't really brought about the need for defining new crimes. Theft by computer is still theft and is covered by laws made long, long ago. Rape by battery-operated dildo is still rape. Homicide by genetically engineered toxin is still homicide.
Even when you consider truly new things some government might need to deal with (like, maybe, disposal of nuclear wastes), there simply can't be any legitimate reason for the volume of legis-regulation spewing out of Washington DC and the state capitols today.
Ayn Rand said it best in her novel, Atlas Shrugged: "There is no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws."
And that's the way it is in America today. And getting worse.
Don't Expect Justice
I know it's considered silly and na´ve these days to mention the U.S. Constitution. As Douglas Wilder, a recent governor of Virginia, said, "I don't care what those men wrote 200 years ago." And as Bill Clinton famously added, the founders of this country were too radical and the government now has to move to limit freedom. Maybe you don't care about the Constitution, either. You, as a private individual, don't have to. It wasn't written to tell you what you can or can't do.
However, that beleaguered old document is still the supreme law of the land, which every government agent has pledged to obey. And nowhere does the Constitution give the federal government any authority over crimes, other than counterfeiting, treason, and unspecified crimes that occur outside the territory of the states. Since it's quite clear from Amendments 9 and 10 that the federal government has only those powers specifically delegated to it by the Constitution, the hundreds of thousands of federal laws on the books and the thousands of new pages being passed by Congress and their regulatory co-conspirators every year are illegal as hell. Just about every one of them.
Isn't that interesting? Every time some marshal, DEA agent, ATF agent or other masked, black-clad fedgoon arrests you for a federal "crime," he really ought to be arrested himself!
But, of course, that isn't going to happen. Because all that matters today is power, not justice, not fundamental principles of law. The Congresscreature who makes tyrannical laws is never going to be forced to pay for its crimes. The judge who enforces bad laws and lies to juries about their rights is never going to pay for the destruction she wreaks upon people. The fedgoon is never, never, never going to be called to account for his rampages. (Remember that Deputy U.S. Marshal Larry Cooper got a reward for shooting Sammy Weaver in the back, Lon Horiuchi was slipped into the Witness Protection Program as a reward for murdering Sammy's mother, and not a single agent has paid for the mass murder of the Branch Davidians. Besides which, damnit all, no president of the United States has gone to prison yet.)
The president of Wal-Mart isn't going to get busted for selling plastic pill boxes to the blue hairs, either. And it's not because Wal-Mart, that quite likable store, is merely pursuing peaceful, legitimate business activity for which no one in a free society could ever be busted. Remember, that doesn't matter any more. What matters to the feds is that Wal-Mart is rich, powerful and politically connected. It knows how to play the government game. It pays its "regulatory fees," its "permits" and its other forms of tribute (legal bribery) to the powers-that-be. It goes along to get along. Its executives hobnob with politicians and no doubt "donate" $10,000 per plate for rubber chicken at political fundraisers in order to be allowed to survive in a burgeoning police state.
But a poor immigrant can-and did-go to federal prison for making bottles someone might have been able to use to store crack cocaine, even though he had no knowledge of, or connection with, such use. He didn't have connections. He didn't grease the palms of the right government bureaucrats. So he was fair game for goons and their pet judges.
Modern America is divided into those who are above the law, those who manage to squeak their way around the law-and those who can, at any moment, be crushed by the law. Like you and me.
Don't expect fairness. Don't expect justice. Just grit your teeth, strengthen your gut and get ready to survive when it happens to you. If you're lucky, if you're really lucky, you'll end up in a mere prison camp instead of a hard-core prison, and your mental and physical survival job will be a little easier.
Listen to Those Who've Been There
I haven't been in federal prison. Nor any prison. I've never even spent a night in the county jail. Heck, I haven't even had a speeding ticket in 10 years! (Though I did get that on the Interstate. Hmmm, I wonder why Congress hasn't thought of making speeding on the Interstate a federal felony-yet?)[Note 1] I am your stereotypical law-abiding citizen-or would be if such a thing were possible in America today.
So why should you listen to me when it comes to surviving federal prison camp? One answer is: you shouldn't. You shouldn't listen to anybody. Any-one-body, that is. To prepare yourself, you should find out as much as possible from as many different sources as possible. Listen to Clive Sharp, who wrote this book and offers his prison-survival advice in a cool, "just the facts, M'am," manner. Listen to Donald B. Parker, whose words appear after mine and again at the end of this book; he speaks from three-time voice of experience.
Listen to Dr. Reinhold Aman, in his book Hillary Clinton's Pen Pal, who turns his federal-prison bitterness into some of the sharpest-humored words ever written about incarceration. Listen to G. Gordon Liddy (Will). Listen to Jim Hogshire, whose book, You Are Going to Prison explains with gut & grit how to survive most any prison experience. Read Norma Jean Almodovar's harrowing, saucy and brave Cop to Callgirl, which details her experiences in the Los Angeles Jail and the California prison system. Read and learn to prepare for your own future, in whatever prison system you may end up.
Though I haven't been in prison myself, friends and acquaintances have. They got there mostly because they talked to the wrong people about the wrong subjects (political ones) at the wrong time.
Some got conned by federal informants, posing as friends, into violating rules and regulations.
Some of them got there as casualties in the War Against (Some) Drugs.
A few got there because they wouldn't yield on principles-a fatally unfashionable thing to do, these days.
As I admitted, I'm a Goody Two-Shoes at heart; I don't hang out with lowlifes. These are terrific people I'm talking about here. Smart, hard-working individuals with creative hearts, strong principles and independent streaks a mile wide. Exactly the kind of people a sensible government would respect and leave alone. Exactly the kind of people who build strong communities and strong nations. But because they've refused to bow to the obsessive wishes of control freaks, they've been ripped from their jobs, families and lives.
- I'm talking about a Ph.D microbiologist, yanked out of his research lab and pitched into a camp for years, where he gets to do nothing more productive than wash dirty laundry.
- I'm talking about a good mother, ripped away from her children because her religion forbids her to pay income taxes, forced to watch from a distance as those children grow up motherless, fatherless, and filled with bursting rage.
- I'm talking about a business man, branded a "racketeer" so that the government could seize his home, trucks and bank account. He once employed 11 people. Now he sits in a cell, just trying to employ his own time so that he doesn't go nuts. His wife has since left him-as most wives of convicts do.
- I'm talking about a father of four, thrown into jail, wife and son shot dead by federal officers, surviving children hustled into the custody of relatives.
These folks never hurt anybody. But they have been and are being hurt-as you will be. They relate experiences we'd probably rather not think about:
- They tell of being put under "suicide watch." Oh, yeah, that sounds humane. What it really means is that voyeurs with video cameras get to watch you piss, shit, play with yourself, or however else you manage to spend your days. It's all part of the process of breaking down your will, of reminding you that your entire life is now under their control.
- My friends tell of solitary confinement. Solitary always sounded like a relatively good thing to me, since I have the soul of a monk. But picture "solitary" not meaning one, but two-two prisoners lying on the concrete floor of a windowless, unfurnished 4 x 10 cell, with one prisoner screaming night and day, throwing himself against the walls. Maybe throwing himself at you in his fits of insane, irrational loathing. Picture being put in this coffin-space with this madman for days simply because you stood up for your own rights.
- They tell of having the clothes and spending money they brought to prison unaccountably "lost" by prison personnel.
- They tell of waiting days, weeks, months for medical treatment. (Never believe the idiots who are so jealous of convicts' "free medical care"!)
- They tell of earning 11 cents per hour working behind the walls for profit-making U.S. corporations.[Note 2] Hey, not many of us are against businesses making money. But isn't there something called slave labor? Don't we damn countries like China for producing goods that way? (Mark my words, this little-known, but growing, alliance between prisons and corporations is another important reason for the boom in prison building and law spewing. Convicts make a handy-dandy-literally captive-work force. And don't imagine your local congressbeast isn't discussing this happy possibility with the president of your local mega-corporation right now.)
- The political prisoners-those who have media and Internet contacts on the outside-tell the worst tales of all. They relate with shudders and fury their experience of Diesel Therapy. Both Clive Sharp and Donald B. Parker mention Diesel Therapy elsewhere in this book, so I won't dwell on it. But rest assured, those who've endured it say it's worse than anyone could describe. Picture spending up to six months on a bus, shackled hand, foot and waist, not even able to take down your own pants without struggle or wipe your own butt clean at a rest stop. You never know where you're going. You're not able to let your family or friends know where you are. You have no way of knowing when the endless trip will cease. You have no access to your own books, paper, pencils or stamps. Back and forth across the country you go, in all kinds of temperatures and conditions, on an endless journey to nowhere-all so that you won't be able to get word to those on the outside who might help publicize your case. And they say there's no cruel and unusual punishment allowed in America!
Even if you "behave," that doesn't mean you'll have it easy. Simple, everyday things can be almost unendurable. I remember phone conversations with one friend who served more than a year in county jail while awaiting his trial, sentencing and transfer to the federal system. He would call me collect from a common room. The level of noise behind him was such that we had to shout at each other to be heard. And in nearly every conversation, there was another prisoner, very near him, yipping and howling like a dog. For hours. Yipping and howling at full, dog-pound volume.
My friend endured this philosophically. I remember thinking at the time that I would scream, myself, if I had to listen to that much longer.
Someday, I may have to listen to that, or something like it. Maybe listen for years. As I sit here typing this in the beauty of a spring-green garden, with two gentle dogs at my feet and my true love nearby, it's nearly inconceivable. I lead a peaceful life, and I wish with all my heart to keep this joy until my last breath on earth.
But every day I-like you-harmlessly violate some unknown number of federal laws or regulations. And I-like a growing number of others-speak out loudly and often against the injustices of an out-of-control government. So I have to face the fact that, someday, the Sauron-Eye of Washington, DC will turn in my direction.
On that day, if the stormtroopers of some multi-agency task force are too lazy to find actual violations on which to grab me, it will be easy enough for them to twist free speech into "conspiracy" or to fake evidence of criminal activity. (Another useful by-product of the War on (Some) Drugs-just grab a little dope or "meth lab equipment" out of the evidence room and plant it on anybody you don't like.)
And on that day, my friend, when they've reached the point of rounding up little ladies guilty mainly of having fierce opinions, a lot of you fine readers will already be "inside." I hope we're all prepared.
- I later learned that, approximately six months before I wrote Welcome to Future Felons of America, Congress had indeed passed at least one law making speeding a federal crime--punishable by up to five years in prison. Public Law 104-208, Division C, Title I, Section 108 says: "Whoever flees or evades a checkpoint operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service,or any other Federal law enforcement agency, in a motor vehicle and flees Federal, State, or local law enforcement agents in excess of the legal speed limit shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than five years, or both." Courts have ruled that it is legal to turn away from a roadblock. But Congress wants you to serve five years in federal prison if you speed while doing so, even if you are speeding away from local police or sheriff's deputies, and whether you're on the interstate or a lonely dirt track in the desert.
- This requires some explanation. Most corporate jobs within prisons actually pay well, by prison standards. They pay at least minimum wage and sometimes as much as $6-8.00 per hour. Generally, they are considered plum jobs. The slave-wage accusation made by my friends refers to several different possibilities, two of which are facts, one of which is a persistant rumor. First, prisoners don't receive their entire wage. In addition to all the usual pay deductions, they may end up with only cents on the dollar after paying fines, contributing to victim-restitution funds and so on. Then, there are those prison workers who may provide some support service--such as janitorial service--that benefits a corporation with an on-site facility without actually being a corporate job. Third, there are rumors that some corrupt officials may actually take prisoners' pay. Even with the relatively "good" pay of most corporate jobs, the growing use of literally captive labor by U.S. corporations is ominous.