“Forget about your doctor back home; I’m your doctor now.”
(a guard to a 83 year old peacemaker in federal prison)
This came to us via email. It concerns a 83 year old Jesuit monk, Bill Bichsel, aka Bix to his friends, who is a peace maker and who witnessed with his blood the naval base where nuclear weapons are stored in Washington State, Nov. 2009.
He is currently serving a sentence for another witness and pro-peace action, and he was released on what seemed like parole, a few days ago, before his final release on Feb 9th.
On his release he had to travel to a halfway house alone for hours, was not allowed to have contact with anyone for 72 hours after “release.” The following day he was returned to SEATAC, the federal prison in Washington State, for incredibly minor “violations.” What the prison does to him, is in fact criminal.
From: Blake Kremer, per email
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.”
This is from an email from another supporter:
***Stay tuned today for information regarding a vigil in response to
prison abuse at SeaTac***
The final line of Bix’s call yesterday 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
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.
Contact your government representatives
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.
Willie Jusino, Warden
Federal Detention Center SeaTac
P.O. Box 13901
Seattle, WA 98198
Marion Feather, Warden,
SeaTac Federal Detention Center
The Catholic Northwest Progress
710 9th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
The News Tribune
P.O. Box 11000, Tacoma, WA 98411
David A. Zeeck
Publisher & President
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.