Spring Rain in Danbury Print

Letter from Nancy Smith, SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience

Dearly Beloveds:

Friends, family and SOAWatchers; fellow Quakers, Buddhist monks and nuns, R.C. priests and nuns and friars; resisters of all persuasions: war and nuclear, in particular; protectors of non-violent dissent; First Day School children who draw inspiring pictures; gardeners and photographers and women with purple hair; Episcopalians and journalists and newsletter producers and all others who pray for me and hold me in your hearts and in the Light:  Greetings from FCI Danbury!

Some of you have spent time in Danbury or other prisons, but for those of you who have not you shouldn't imagine me lolling about behind bars in a small cell all day, X-ing out each day as it passes.

The prison buildings (two stories high) are built around a large open compound and we move from one building to another to another throughout the day; to the dining hall, recreation building, education, the little library, medical, etc.  The moves are done in 10 minutes so you can't loiter on your way, and everyone moves at the same time throughout the week days.  If you didn't move when the MOVE! was called you're stuck for an hour until the next MOVE!  Saturday & Sunday are more relaxed.

During the week breakfast is a 6:15, then I have GED school 7:30 - 9:30 each morning and then lunch at about 11:00.  To the Rec for gardening work (if there's any to do ...) 12:30 - 3:30, dinner at 5:00.  Much of our time is spent waiting around for these moves to be called on the loud-speaker (which i can hear, but cannot understand).

nancy smithSo, with all the moves we make & more free time on weekends, there is lots of access to outside and a lot of sky.  In the early morning I try to be ready to go out when the guard shouts "DOOR!".  Then I walk a bit around the compound before I go in for breakfast.  In March the setting moon in a clear sky was stunning.  Was that Venus trailing just behind?

I have been working now for over a month and yesterday was payday!  I dial a number, then enter all my inmate numbers (of which there are three), and a voice says "Your account now has $5.25."  WOW!  My plan is to buy 11 stamps (remember, stamps cannot be sent to me in the mail; considered contraband; many of you have offered.)

You might be interested to know I have passed the pre-GED test.  It's a test you have to pass in order to take the actual GED tests ... two days of testing (!) which will happen on the 19th & 20th, this coming week.  Cross your fingers:  I last had algebra in 1948.  My friends say if you get your GED, the Bureau of Prisons puts $25 in your account.  I'll buy tea.

Many of you have offered to visit but the process of getting approval requires many forms to be sent back & forth between me & you & the prison authorities and there isn't time now to make it work.  I did have one visitor, however, from PVS / Prison Visitors and Support).  It was a nice surprise & we had a lovely talk.  The down side is that prisoners have to be strip-searched after the visit:  all clothes off & every part of you is examined, including squat, spread & cough.

The population of Danbury FCI is about 65% Latina, another 25% African-American.  My guess is Hispanic populations in all prisons have increased massively in the last several years.  I read recently that the nature of our criminal justice system is no longer primarily concerned with the prevention & punishment of crime but "rather with the management & control of the dispossessed."  I certainly agree with that & can see it here so clearly.  We must fix our immigration laws; they have caused terrible heartbreak for so many.

Drug laws and sentencing requirements also need immediate revision, and we need to go after the pharmaceutical companies.  How about a world in which pharma companies are not permitted to advertise their products?  That would be a good place to begin.  Danbury and Ocilla and Oklahoma are filled with women convicted as "conspirators" and often they have 7-10-18 year sentences, more than the drug dealer who has gotten a lighter sentence for turning in others.  Some of the stories I hear must be close to the reality; many are not.  That does not, however, justify the years of sentencing.

I was so sorry to get the news that David Omondi's wonderful parents have traveled all this way from Kenya and - so far - have been unable to see him.  Perhaps their US Visas are long enough for them to still be here to welcome David to freedom.  Wouldn't that be great?!!  David and I just touched hands for a few seconds, through the bars of a holding cell, on the day of his sentencing and my arraignment.  It makes me happy to have been able to do that.

This past week I have thought so much about all of you at SOAW and all of the supporters of and marchers in the nonviolent direct action at the White House on April 10.  You all have put endless hours of work into that effort and I would love to have been with you.  Washington again next year?  And thanks, also, for all your mailings to me, especially Presente!; the Latinas in my unit are shocked by the information in it, never realizing anyone outside of their countries knew what horrors were going on there.  Brava!

Around the corner & attached to our unit is PBB (check on internet) - Puppies Behind Bars.  Labs from 8 months old are raised & trained to become bomb-sniffing dogs.  Each dog has a trainer/handler who cares for it & is trained to handle it.  The handlers are out several times during the night, to house-break them.  We are all in love with them, as you can imagine.  The job is for inmates with 3-4 more years on their sentences since it involves specialized training.

It's Tuesday 12th and I got my stamps today!  Standing outside in a spring rain.  It was wonderful - felt like normal.  Now I'll go & print an approved label on the computer in the Rec building.  No mail goes out without that label from my approved list.  All incoming mail is opened, presumably to take out contraband (like stamps) or illicit pictures which might subvert my morals.

I am well in all ways:  I eat good food, sleep well at night, exercise as I can and suspect I must be surrounded by a band of angels who help me on my way.  I often hear the rustling of what must be their wings.

Peace & much love to you all,



More info on the SOAW "2010 4" - http://www.soaw.org/about-us/pocs/223-2010-soa-4