UPDATE: Tim DeChristopher was moved from the isolation wing late Wednesday night and returned to minimum security holding in Herlong Prison. The Peaceful Uprising organization credits public pressure for the move, but notes that many questions remain as to why he was moved to isolation at all.
Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher has been moved to an “isolation” wing of the prison where he is serving a two-year sentence, ostensibly because of an email he wrote. The reason for this harsh move seems to be that DeChristopher instructed a colleague to look into returning a $25,000 donation to DeChristopher’s legal defense fund because he discovered that the donating company was moving American jobs overseas.The Washington Post reports the activist’s lawyers say he has been put into isolation because of “an unidentified congressman’s complaint” about the email and note “The U.S. Bureau of Prisons won’t confirm or deny that DeChristopher is being punished.”
Last year the 30 year old was fined $10,000 and jailed for two years following an incident in 2008 when he disrupted an auction in an attempt to protect federal land from oil and gas extraction. He posed as a bidder in the auction to draw attention to the Bush Administration’s move to auction oil and gas exploitation rights in Utah.
Last week DeChristopher was moved from the minimum security area of Herlong (CA) Correctional Institution to the “Special Housing Unit.” His supporters at Peaceful Uprising describe the isolation unit’s conditions:
In the SHU, Tim’s movement and communications are severely restricted. In the past two weeks, he has been allowed out of his 8 X 10 cell (which he shares with one other inmate) four times, each time for less than an hour. The SHU could have been designed by Franz Kafka. Tim is allowed one book in his cell, and four in his property locker. His writing means are restricted to a thin ink cartridge which makes correspondence extremely difficult. He can still receive mail from the outside, but has no other form of communication other than 15 minutes of phone calls per month.
Rolling Stone published the text of the “offending” email that DeChristopher wrote, which reads in part: “Because of my influence with [company name redacted] I feel like I have some influence and hence some responsibility to do something. If they are saving money by screwing their workers, I can’t in good conscience accept some of that money.” He goes on to say his first step, after some research, will be to write a letter to the company’s owner: “This letter will include a threat to wage a campaign against them if they don’t reverse course and keep the plants open.” Apparently that “threatening” language was enough to raise alarms and get DeChristopher thrown into the isolation wing of the prison.
Peaceful Uprising, co-founded by DeChristopher, is asking for public pressure on members of the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security to ease the conditions of DeChristopher’s confinement. The Subcommittee chair is Jim Sensenbrenner (WI); he can be reached at (202) 225-5101; additional contact and talking points information are here.
As demonstrated in this video from the 2011 Power Shift conference for youth climate leaders, Tim DeChristopher is a powerful and passionate speaker. No wonder the powers that be fear him and are striving still to deny him freedom of speech, even behind bars.
Image: Tim DeChristopher in happier days. Photo: Dylan Rose via PeacefulUprising.org.