Prison Officials Isolate Enviro-Activist Tim DeChristopher


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.

Related Stories:

Utah Student Bids $1.2 Million to Prevent Big Oil from Plundering Public Land

Activist Tim DeChristopher Convicted of Two Felonies

Image: Tim DeChristopher in happier days. Photo: Dylan Rose via


Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago

wtf is wrong with the US

richa blue akasha
Raiin Blue5 years ago

Direct action means engaging in political action that directly interferes with the exploitation of the Earth, of animals, or of humans.

What a brave work Tim! We stand with you in support, May true justice prevail!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

They'd better isolate Enbridge owners, the Koch brothers, etc.

Lesley B.
Lesley Blissett5 years ago

It sounds like the powers that be are running scared, what from I wonder? The unidentified congressman should become identified and how on earth can a complaint from one congressman get Tim put into isolation, it all seems to be very iffy to me.

Susan V.
Susan V5 years ago

Please sign my petition asking for investigation into the circumstances leading to DeChristopher's isolation. Though reports say he is now back under minimum security, many unanswered questions remain.
And, many believe he should never have been incarcerated in the first place and should be pardoned now.

Karen H.
Karen H5 years ago

Who is the “unidentified congressman” who filed the complaint? Why was the company name redacted? Who’s hiding what?
Edward R. Murrow once said: "If none of us ever read a book that was 'dangerous,' had a friend who was 'different,' or joined an organization that advocated 'change,' we would all be the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants."
We’re going backwards!

Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths5 years ago

Since when did peaceful, creative protest become acceptable cause to remove a person from mainstream society, gag them and punish them as though they are a violent terroist? Undercover investigations and peaceful activism are essenstial to changing the world. The big corrporations who own government recognise this. Soon we will all be liable to be treated as violent terroists for speaking up against injustice.

Glenda L.
Glenda L5 years ago

Are we talking about China or the US? Sounds like something China would do.

J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

apparently the prison censors are unfamiliar with the language of nonviolent protest and find it grounds for punishment

Heather Marvin
Heather Marvin5 years ago

One can only go on what you read but this man doesn't sound dangerous to me,. Where is the freedom of speech? May justice prevail.