I currently reside at a halfway house in Brooklyn, serving out the last few months of a seven-year sentence for my role in arsons credited to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) at two lumber companies in Oregon in 2001. My case, and the federal government’s rush to prosecute environmental activism as a form of terrorism, were recently explored in the Oscar-nominated documentary, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.
What has received less attention, though, is what happened to me while in federal prison. I was a low security prisoner with a spotless disciplinary record, and my sentencing judge recommended that I be held at a prison close to home. But one year into my sentence, I was abruptly transferred to an experimental segregation unit, opened under the Bush Administration, that is euphemistically called a “Communication Management Unit” (CMU). Since August 2008, when I first arrived at the CMU, I have been trying to get answers as to why I was singled out to be sent there. Only now — three years after I filed a federal lawsuit to get to the truth — have I learned why the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) sent me to the CMU: they simply did not like what I had to say in my published writing and personal letters. In short, based on its disagreement with my political views, the government sent me to a prison unit from which it would be harder for me to be heard, serving as a punishment for my beliefs.