Did Prison Officials Single Out Political Prisoner Barrett Brown For Solitary Confinement?
MINNEAPOLIS — According to reports from supporters on social media, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials moved imprisoned journalist Barrett Brown into solitary confinement last week.
In the U.S. being a radical journalist and online activist can get you serious prison time and thrown in solitary.
— Free Barrett Brown (@FreeBarrett_) June 19, 2015
Brown is an outspoken and controversial journalist who worked closely with Anonymous during the peak of that movement in the early years of this decade. The government noticed this collaboration and targeted Brown for prosecution during their campaign against the hacktivist group Lulzsec, a high-profile subgroup of Anonymous, which also resulted in the imprisonment of political prisoner Jeremy Hammond.
Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison in January. In addition, he must pay about $800,000 in restitution to Strategic Forecasting, the corporate intelligence agency based in Austin, Texas, that was a target of Lulzsec hacking.
According to a Sunday post by “Free Barrett Brown,” his support campaign, to the social website TwitLonger, Brown was removed from his cell last Wednesday and placed instead in a “segregated housing unit” (SHU), a solitary confinement wing of FCI Fort Worth, the federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where Brown is imprisoned. His supporters reported that he was punished after guards found a cup of “hooch,” prison-brewed alcohol that violates prison policy, in Brown’s locker. Brown feels he is being targeted for harsher punishment than the other prisoners involved because of his political beliefs and ongoing journalism.
Although the United Nations claims the use of solitary confinement for longer than 15 days constitutes torture, thousands of prisoners nationwide are held in long-term solitary confinement. During his confinement, which will be of an unknown duration, Brown will have limited access to phone calls and exercise, but he can still receive mail and books. Based on the latest information available, his belongings and a prescription medication are also being withheld. Although he has a cellmate, he cannot gain access to the general prison population and facilities, and is kept in his cell for at least 22 hours a day.
Barrett exposes the prison-industrial complex from his cell
Imprisoned since 2012, Brown’s journalism continues behind bars, but he’s turned his focus to prison life and the corruption of the prison-industrial complex. As a regular correspondent for D Magazine, he wrote about a previous confinement in “segregated housing” last year before his sentencing:
“Currently I live in one of the two dozen tiny cells that are situated on either side of the corridor. The cell door sports a vertical grill through which we can see into the hall and communicate with other SHU inmates via the ancient medium of yelling. … On weekday mornings … we’re taken outside for an hour of recreation during which we get to walk around in a large cage. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we’re brought down the hall in pairs for a quick shower. On weekends we don’t leave our cells at all except for each Sunday around noon, when we’re brought out to the patio for our Mimosa Brunch, unless I’m making that part up, which I suppose is possible.”
Brown has been repeatedly targeted for retribution for his jailhouse reportage, including a transfer just before his sentencing. More recently, he lost prison privileges such as access to an inmate email system after reporting on corruption at FCI Fort Worth.
In or out of solitary confinement, his supporters promised, Brown “intends to continue his writing.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article suggested Brown was moved into solitary confinement because guards found an empty cup in his locker, but what guards actually found was a cup containing an alcoholic beverage. The error was caused by an unclear social media report from the Free Barrett Brown organizers, who were not available to clarify until after publication.
We incorrectly reported that Brown is being held at FCI Manchester in Kentucky. Brown is imprisoned at FCI Forth Worth in Texas. We regret the error.
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