[Pnews] Eric King - Voices from Solitary: Flipping the Script

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Oct 3 20:52:30 EDT 2020



September 30, 2020


_Eric King describes himself as a 33-year-old vegan anarchist political 
prisoner and poet who was arrested and charged with an attempted 
firebombing of a Congressperson's office in Kansas City, Missouri, in 
September 2014. King was charged with throwing a hammer through a window 
of the building, followed by two lit Molotov cocktails. The criminal 
complaint states that both incendiary devices failed to ignite. King was 
identified as a suspect by local police because he had previously come 
under suspicion for anti-government and anti-police graffiti. After 
accepting a non-cooperating plea agreement, King was sentenced to ten 
years in June 2016. His release date is October 2023. He has served his 
time in various facilities of the federal Bureau of Prisons, or BOP._

_King is currently facing one count of assaulting a government official 
for an incident that occurred in August 2018 at the Federal Correctional 
Institution (FCI) Florence. According to King's account, he was taken 
into a mop closet, out of sight of prison cameras, and beaten up by a 
corrections officer. The officer then said that King had assaulted him. 
King has been housed in a segregation cell at FCI Englewood since August 
2019, fighting this charge. Overall, King has spent about three years in 
solitary confinement. He now faces a maximum of 20 additional years in 
prison. Read more about Eric King here: supportericking.org [1]. _

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

My toilet is right next to my cellmate's face, not hyperbolically, it is 
literally three inches from where he lays his head. I am in the FCI 
Englewood Secure Housing Unit (SHU)--the oddest SHU in the Bureau 
surely. In this segregation unit, you will get inmates from the Low 
[security prison], pre-trial people and folks like myself and my cellie 
who are on writ [having a court case] from other penitentiaries. This 
oddball combo makes no sense and causes a localized class system, all a 
part of the psych-ops of this odd rust bucket of a prison.

On August 17, 2017, I was taken into a mop closet by _Super Patriot_ 
Lieutenant. I have been in solitary ever since, 19 months and counting. 
I learned how bad it can get, discovering new ways they can torture you; 
mentally and physically. Whether being choked while being held in 
four-point restraints for seven hours, being held in a cell for four 
days without a functional toilet filled with someone else's feces, I 
have seen their brutality and am stronger for it. I hope.

The last SHU I was in before the indictment hit was the penitentiary in 
Virginia: USP Lee. There is no oversight at these joints. At USP Lee, 
you have nothing coming. NOTHING. You cannot receive or buy magazines, 
newspapers, books, radios, coffee, hygiene or pens. You can buy a rubber 
pencil which shows up horribly on all papers. You are completely 
isolated, which in my case included a phone ban from a previous SHU and 
visiting restrictions that were never explained to me. This is a SHU 
that holds 200 and only had 150 mattresses, many of which have no 
covering and are just urine-reeking slabs of foam. If you don't stand 
for count, they take your mattress as punishment. Skip standing a second 
time and they will take you out and replace your clothes with 'paper 
clothes': see-through orange shirt and see-through bikini bottoms. You 
will be marched up and down the tier while the guard calls you 'faggot' 
and spineless 'inmates' join in with cat calls and whistles. You will 
stand next time. If you refuse the new wardrobe, you will get beaten and 
charged with assaulting staff. This is the BOP's SHU. Resistance is not 
tolerated and no one will hear you scream. No one is listening.

I was told I would be returning to Colorado on August 10, after a short 
and glorious four-day holdover at Grady County Jail. The US Marshals 
returned me to the FCI Englewood SHU where I would learn I was now 
facing 20 more years for the Lieutenant mop closet incident from over a 
year ago. They are charging me for my own attack: classic BOP.

I have been in this SHU ever since, seven months as of March 2020. 
Facing and fighting BOP charges while being held at a BOP facility, in 
segregation, to ensure any defense will be interrupted and complicated. 
Let me tell you about my physical existence. It is not pretty. The cells 
here are the smallest I have ever experienced. I am not certain they 
could literally get any smaller. 6 x 8 feet--double bunked. These cells 
were built for troubled children in the 1930s. This is not supposed to 
be a long term segregation unit, and it only becomes such for people 
like myself. Then it gets really overwhelming and mentally exhausting. 
That's the Bureau's game plan; shatter spirit, disrupt, dissent, blame 
you for the horrors of this SHU, then expect lapdog loyalty when they 
give out small comforts.

At 6 am sharp, the four-foot-long fluorescent light comes on and will 
stay on until evening.  This light is about two feet from my face and 
could make even the most level headed person homicidal. Breakfast is 
brought around 6:15 am, hot oatmeal and a weird cramp-inducing cake, 
seven days a week. It is at breakfast where you can sign up for your 
government approved one hour of 'outside' recreation or 'rec'. Rec is 
basically the same everywhere: one hour of standing in a dog kennel. At 
Englewood, there is a chain-linked yard so you can at least see the sky 
and pretend you are hearing birds singing. Going out to rec can be a 
curse also; we only get showers on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on my 
range. If you slip up and work up a sweat, you will be annoying your 
cellie and birding bathing [cleaning yourself at your sink].

For some ungodly reason, we are not allowed to buy decent soap, 
toothpaste, body wash, shampoo or deodorant. We used to have that right 
and after they announced the cancellation of hygiene, coffee and radios 
from canteen, my current cellie organized a SHU-wide cell barricade, to 
force them to come and take our stuff. We were not handing away our only 
comforts. The fear of the administration and high level of boot-licking 
is incredibly real. People will stab their neighbor over a stamp but 
won't lift a pinky for their own dignity against the suits and ties. The 
barricades resulted in a lot of pepper spray balls and weeks in paper 
clothing. We stood up though, and they remember that, often acting more 

My SHU existence until recently has been overwhelmingly lonely. Starting 
in November 2018, the gang and terrorism people at USP Leavenworth 
permanently banned me from the phone after an anarchist website posted 
updates on my earlier beating. That ban and a visiting ban followed me 
here to FCI Englewood and stuck. Other SHU prisoners do not have it much 
better with only one phone call, 15 minute tops, a month. If your loved 
one accidentally disconnects, tough. After the barricade, I organized a 
three-person hunger strike to get visit privileges back. Eighteen missed 
meals later and a lot of pressure from my legal team, non-contact one 
hour per week visits were restored. On December 14, I got to see my wife 
for the first time in 16 months. Plexiglass or not, it was one of the 
best days of my life.

This is a very violent SHU but not in the typical ways. In most SHUs, 
the violence stems from staff placing known enemies together, then 
loving the show when hell breaks loose. I experienced that first hand at 
FCI Florence. They sure love a good battle. Here though, it is ALL 
psychological and a lot of people--myself included for a time--had a 
very hard time handling that. On every Tuesday, the admin (Warden, 
Assistant Warden, Captain, etc.) will do their walk throughs along with 
S.I.S. (investigation goons) and your unit team (counselor and such, 
staff that handle your legal visits and calls, normal visits, 
transfers). This is your ONLY chance to try and either learn about your 
situation, try to get out or get grievance forms. In the Bureau of 
Prisons, our only legal protection against overzealous admins, is the 
grievance process. You must file these forms to resolve an issue before 
you initiate litigation. The only person who can give or receive them 
from you is your counselor.

They have mastered this routine to ensure prisoners in the SHU stay 
confused, angry, on edge or just broken and give up. You will hear 
people begging S.I.S. or the Warden to get out, and they being experts, 
will spin you so delicately that you really believe they will help you. 
Next week, same thing. Next week, still more of the same. At this point, 
you are shouting and losing it and they will tell you: "_You can't act 
this way if you want me to help you,"_ flipping the script. Maybe you 
realize the games, so you ask your counselor for a BP-8 grievance form. 
Well, don't you know he is all out but he'll be back in a day or two…You 
will not see him for weeks! Finally, you see him and get a BP-8 but then 
the next week, he loses the reply. Start over…It is maddening beyond 
words until you check their game. When you trash the tier or scream, 
they love it because they are in control. They have got you in this sick 
web where you start seeking their approval, when all along you never got 
your issues close to being resolved. But you feel good because they 
"_will look into it_"…

Another way that plays out is with the mail. In the SHU, you are at 
their mercy for mail call. There is nothing you can do when you know you 
have letters. They shamelessly gaslight you with "_Sorry, nothing for 
you. Sure they sent it?_" I have been lucky to always get pretty solid 
mail days when they decide to deliver it. Last month, after weeks of 
complaining to the SHU Lieutenant about missing mail, trying to convince 
her S.I.S. is doing too much, the Lt. and Captain went and grabbed a big 
crate filled with letters and months old magazines from S.I.S. (who 
claimed they 'overlooked' it).

If you are any sort of activist, S.I.S. will read and inspect every 
letter. In theory, they still have to follow guidelines and get it to 
you within 48 hours. This has never happened during my entire sentence. 
Even with the Captain forcing S.I.S. to hand deliver my mail, my most 
current letter was eight days old. Mail from my wife and friends will 
take 10-15 days at least. Isolation as a tactic, cutting you off from 
the world, making you feel forgotten and unloved and then showing up 
with a stack of letters saying "_See, we aren't holding it_" result in 
some people thanking them and groveling. I mark the days and let my 
lawyers do the fighting for me but they will never get a '_thanks, 
boss_' from me!

I have been imprisoned 69 months--38 of those months have been in 
solitary (nearly three years of my life), with no let up in sight until 
after trial in August. I have seen all the horrors you pray never to 
see: suicides, homicides, brutal beatings, hunger and water strikes, 
flash grenades and bear mace foam. I have seen floods, fires and 
prisoners get dropped on their skulls without care or concern. I have 
seen happy relationships torn to shreds by the forced isolation; seen 
drugs turn people out of their heads. Yet there are also victories 
sprinkled in little pockets of life where convicts show true heart and 
self determination. People standing up even when their fellow prisoners 
back down. Once you have faced their worst and survived, you have won, 
they have to work with you now because they cannot step on you. We hold 
tier poetry readings, keep our family alive with stories, have firm 
conversations about our worth and power, reinstilling what the system 
tries to take.

New cats come and go weekly, my cellie and I try to prepare them, get 
their minds ready for the lies and the dull days and boring nights. I 
always share magazines and stamps to help people get on their feet and 
remove the desperation and panic. To let them know they are not alone 
and give space to express themselves, either with moaning, bravado, 
singing, whatever. The prison staff wants us bickering and fighting with 
each other--classic divide and conquer. We are not having it. I won't 
allow it.

[1] http://supportericking.org/
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