One Little Square

This is an essay for an ADX program

Eric is in a step-down unit of the ADX. It was determined it would be unconstitutional to release someone from ADX-level-deprivation to the streets, so the ADX created a special unit for people within a year of their release. They are supposed to be able to earn privileges to help them adjust to the outside world. They have specialized caseworkers that help them know what kind of programming they’re eligible for, they can get phone calls, they can get snacks, they can earn a lot of things.

Eric has not been OFFERED and programming. Through other prisoners, Eric found out about a program (all by himself) in which he could write essays for treats and submit them to psych.

Eric asked for a “nutella” for the reward for this essay

(Eric has just made his third phone call since August when he arrived. And his third phone call since 12-2018 as a part of another program for prisoners that are on sanctions. Being on sanctions at adx is a double whammy you are subject to the almost absolute communication restrictions as well as disciplinary sanctions from whatever incidents land them there. Predominantly these sanctions are removed when they hit the ADX although the lucky thing like Eric get to keep theirs)

One Little Square

A few months ago while I was in C-unit, all of the power went out, including all the outside flood/alarm lights.. although the lights were only down for about 30 or so minutes they opened up a whole universe for me.

There’s a very skinny window in all of our cells, most of them face a brick wall and nothing else … This is true of c-unit.. where are windows face what I assume is the back of another unit.. however, at the very top of the unit window is about 2 in by 3 in of “sky”.

During normal times these few inches of sky are mostly useless.. you can see a little of the sky, but the big ass flood lights kill any joy. Reminding you your freedom daydreams are a waste of time. During the evening that sliver of sky becomes a terror, burying you with light… if you don’t cover up your window at night you’re basically having eight flashlights blasting you in the face.

Things all changed during the-night-without-light (NWL) … During the NWL, I looked out the window and nearly fainted. The entire 2×3 was painted with stars, seemingly more than I could count… It was like having a bowl of freedom ice cream, double scoop. All the wonders of the universe inviting my gaze, they’ve been hiding there all along!

looking up at the stars is a passion of mine. My Da was a partial astronomer with an amazing telescope who would take photos of the planets and other galaxies. He and my Ma would sit/stand on the balcony, enjoying life with the celestial wonders … Just taught me to love all those sparkling stars. We can take so much joy from the wonders around us… It’s free and delightful!

One of the worst parts about prison has been losing the Stars. The last time I got to stargaze was at night at Florence medium, 5 years ago. Me and the amazingly wonderful (and now free)Jerry Burkholder Big J would walk back from evening wreck at the library… My neck cleaned up engaging and thoughtful convo… It was as good as non-visiting day prison could be… Big Jay would let me ramble and point out Stars, he’d share interesting things about Lilith or similar topics. And I would feel semi-complete. God I miss that guy, our walks, the Stars, the visits….

Staring out my windows sliver I felt all of the above. I could feel my wife beside me, looking at the same stars, feeling the same awe our oldest ancestors felt. 30 minutes of sorrowless, thoughtful introspection… Me, my family and the universe.

“Thompson is Everywhere”

This is an essay for an ADX program

Eric is in a step-down unit of the ADX. It was determined it would be unconstitutional to release someone from ADX-level-deprivation to the streets, so the ADX created a special unit for people within a year of their release. They are supposed to be able to earn privileges to help them adjust to the outside world. They have specialized caseworkers that help them know what kind of programming they’re eligible for, they can get phone calls, they can get snacks, they can earn a lot of things.

Eric has not been OFFERED and programming. Through other prisoners, Eric found out about a program (all by himself) in which he could write essays for treats and submit them to psych.

Eric asked for a “food grab bag” for the reward for this essay

(Eric has just made his third phone call since August when he arrived. And his third phone call since 12-2018 as a part of another program for prisoners that are on sanctions. Being on sanctions at adx is a double whammy you are subject to the almost absolute communication restrictions as well as disciplinary sanctions from whatever incidents land them there. Predominantly these sanctions are removed when they hit the ADX although the lucky thing like Eric get to keep theirs)

Thompson is Everywhere

Recently the bop said it was shutting down the SMU. Liberals lauded this as lovely progressive move.. they saw it as the Bureau recognizing a serious flaw and taking care of it. They brought up an audacious amount of 205 gunning shots (over a thousand in four years 😯) the violence between prisoners and the overall shite living conditions.

While naturally I was happy to see (despite its best intentions perhaps) who on Earth thought locking up the supposedly most violent convicts in a cell with one another for 23 hours a day, all in the same prison, for 9 to 18 months was a good idea? This must be the most harebrained idea.. ever? I assume they created the SMU much like the CMU to trick Congress into allocating more $ to the Bureau… It’s generally accepted among prisoners that the SMU was a project to get prisoners to hurt each other and empower gangs.

Second thought is; what took so long? The SMU isn’t more vile now than in the past, in every iteration it is a blood bath. Oakdale, Tallahassee, Florence and Lewisburg all had the same issues as Thompson, violence in the absence of any other stimulation is Colette stomping her foot down? *Staff* is responsible for a larger amount of that violence… Placing incompatible people as cellmates, not searching people on their way to rec, placing people in opposition rec cages, not observing wreck either in person or on camera, snitch and cho-jacketing people in front of their rivals. This is all basically easily solvable except that officers buy into their surroundings-the gang and convict culture, and the most basic human need to be liked…but it costs people their health and lives.

Lastly, what about the rest? Everything I listed happens at every custody level in the USPs it leads to severe violence, humiliation and death.. in the mediums it’s fights and ostracizing, and at low’s it’s stolen trays, occasional fights and mental stress. Everywhere prisoners are pitted against each other and set up to punish one another and it seems just business as usual. I’ve only been in the bureau since 2016 and it’s happened personally six different times and it’s a powerless terrifying feeling.

-EK

Eric’s release fundraiser

https://www.gofundme.com/f/release-funds-for-political-prisoner-eric-king

Eric King 27090045
USP Florence ADMAX
PO BOX 8500
Florence, CO 81226

5/28 Update

Eric wanted to communicate what this week feels like for him. This week would have been his out-date. Halfway house would have been behind him, he would be home and starting his new life. The targeting, monitoring, inciting, and just constant attacks has cost him immensely. Yesterday he spoke about what it was like being a human stuck in a cage. Unable to hug his family, unable to do anything besides live in his mind, play out worries, losses…. over and over. No power, or knowledge about how this is going to all play out. The unsurety is huge regarding even the most basic things… if he is going to be able to come home to his family. If he will be accepted into the federal district that we have built our home.

He was eligible for a halfway house in February, and if he would only just claim to be homeless… He could be free within 1-2 months. He has lost over 8 months because of Bureau of Prisons psyops. Over physical attacks, Union cards and poems. Each lost day is connected to a horrible moment that he’s lived through. Each day is connected to phone sanctions and visit sanctions and deprivation and loss. Every. Single. Day… Is felt. And it hits in a very brutal way when he’s actively fighting so so hard to get medical care for a terrifying situation.

We’ve been trying for three and a half years… We’ve had biopsies canceled… Scans ordered on the wrong side. Electrocution belts worn to medical appointments and doctors that just don’t give a s***. At USP Robert E Lee…. Medical staff claimed to a inquiring Senator that there simply was no mass at all, contrary to all the recent scans as well as the scans in Englewood prior to his trip to Lee. They recommended that he wait years to go to a doctor to follow up.

Last week Eric was given the doctor’s interpretation of an ultrasound that the prison received a month ago. They have been telling prisoners lately over and over that they have access to their medical records …yet someone at the ADX is sitting with his ultrasound report and it’s not him. All he gets is some mumbling about “abnormal”, “ENTs” and “comparisons to past scans”. From the date the prison received his results to the date that he was given it is about how long it takes for him to get a letter there. So apparently his medical information is subject to the same scrutiny And delay that every other piece of mail is.

The FEEL in this is heavy when we know we could have him in a specialists office getting a biopsy within a month if he were out… Yet he gets to start over next week… attempting to call over any staff that walks past his cell… beg for appropriate care. Beg for those ultrasound results. Beg for that biopsy.

The reality is he doesn’t know how any of this is going to turn out. There are a million ways it could go but it isn’t looking good. And as a human being… Sitting in that prison. Without phone calls, emails and a plethora of other things five visits a month (which is a heaven we haven’t felt in years). He wanted to talk about what all of those days feel like in between… The agony of loss.

ALSO wanted to let folks know how beautiful it was to tell him about the fundraiser being at 15k 😍 he definitely cried. He’s been so worried about the future, a world that has grown far past him. But today feels a bit more secure.

Two Essays About One Week in January

Two essays about things that happened one week in January 2021 following Denver’s global noise demo on New Year’s Eve at FCI Englewood. Eric’s ADX referral was extensively about a protest outside the facility that neither he nor his support team had anything to do with organizing.

These are essays that Eric is writing in his programming. He is not able to participate in any other pre-release programming but he is able to write essays for snacks and rewards.

These are two of them.

Overreaction and no communication 

Before being moved to this unit, I was told it was to get me better prepared for freedom by increasing my contact with family and friends and contact with other prisoners. Yet while I watch my TWO groupmates email and make phone calls, I am stuck with no phone or email privileges.. despite everyone bullshiting me on how important communication is. 

In January 2021, 3 years of zero phone calls, emails or visits W/ZERO SHOTS people came out and protested conditions at Englewood while I was pretrial. I wrote my lawyer a sealed legal letter asking who they were and celebrating the protest. In July of 2022 I was given two shots for that legal letter. A 106 “Inciting a Riot” and 196 “using mail to commit a crime” these two shots behooved me, blew my mind (this letter was recently used by the US attorney to justify use of an electrocution belt during a medical visit).. I’d in the time between and since had zero shots.. the DHO at USP Lee was not impressed, said he’d lose his job if he didn’t crack me. 

These were my only shots in 2 years, for which I was rewarded w/one phone call in the past 8 months.. when I spoke to S.I.S. they said “yeah sure, not a big deal at all” yet I still sit here with no email or phone. This is stressful for multiple reasons 1) I have a wife with chronic health issues and I can’t be there for her.. we get visits twice a month but these bring stresses of their own, such as gas money and the pain in her body and the wildly uncomfortable position/chair during visit… but further 2) I have release coming up and planning things are difficult as fuck over mail, where letters take 3 weeks to leave and two to three to return.  

I don’t like putting out the “woe is me” shit, but one call zero emails and zero contact visits in 4 years and 8 months is crazy…. That I still HAVE a wife is a testament to the bond we’ve fought to keep and strengthen through the vulnerable and difficult letters. People on SAMS have family contact, people at the CMU have family contact, why am I so bad that talking to my wife must be prohibited? Communication is a threat but they’re jumping to release me in 2 months? 

I’ve spoken to the warden, to ________,  to __________, to SIS lt _______________no one cares- so they say, but nothing is being done to change anything? I miss my family and it eats at me.. we are told to be good and things can be improved, but I’ve never seen that, at 10 different institutions… Extreme bucking ALWAYS gets short-term pain and long-term resolution.. being “good” ALWAYS makes you feel stupid, like waiting for your partner to call you back- Cause they promised-even though social media shows them out partying. 

I feel like I’m waiting on a text 

Staff note in response to essay: “do I have permission to look into this?” 

Mail as a weapon 

One of the most vicious tools of repression the BOP uses is withholding and manipulation of mail. This is especially true when mail is the ONLY form of communication you are able to use. At FCI Englewood while pretrial, I got to experience this in its most brutal form 

For a period of about 2 months (March 2020-May 2020) every letter my wife wrote me was rejected and each one had the same reason “sexually explicit material” this was the most stressful. Of our lives. We we’re facing decades of additional time and Englewood was preventing all contact, all while my wife was dealing with chronic illness and raising two girls. We were scared, desperate and felt like our lives were being decimated. After the 12th rejection I began cutting my arm and writing messages in blood and asking for mail help, then hanging those messages on my wall. Psych and other admins would walk through and say things like “that looks like blood”… but never check on me.. I’d ask for help, be ignored, lash out and then get shots for lashing out which were used to justify for their harsh restrictions… eventually after 6 more rejections I couldn’t take it anymore and sliced my face and arms 10 times and asked for suicide watch. 

My wife’s letters didn’t contain sexual material, they contained her most devastated feelings.. depression over her illness, my  restrictions, the fear that we’d never have our family united. Vulnerable letters fueled by heart and heartbreak.. we literally had zero other contact so all her feelings were funneled through letters to me that I’d never see. While SIS and mailroom Gilley were telling me they were sexual to see, but in reality they were sending them to child protective services claiming that her mental state and politics proved my wife wasn’t fit to be a mother. We found this all out recently after several court filings… FCI ENG created a horrible desperate situation, then used my family’s desperation to try to take our children away. 

This is the cruelest thing I’ve ever experienced but makes me wonder what is happening now? Still can’t call or email, still have mail that is 3 to 5 weeks delayed, still have legal mail that goes totally missing. Is there no end to the cruelty? 

Staff note in response to essay: “It does take a while here, even without restrictions. 🙁” 

Eric’s Regards on the 30th Anniversary of the Lucasville Uprising

“Next week is the 30th anniversary of the Lucasville Uprising. To me, this is very important because Lucasville’s lessons are as valuable today as they were then.

One of the interesting things about Lucasville is that it even happened. Every day in almost every prison in America, there exist, to a certain extent, the conditions that lead to the uprising: cold, rotten, vile food; communication either over-priced, delayed, or prevented altogether; families being disrespected or denied access when they try to visit; subhuman and totally negligent medical care; old decrepit facilities that are falling apart, moldy and dangerous; a complete lack of jobs or meaningful activities and the existing jobs paying peanuts; and administrations who totally disregard prisoners’ physical and mental well-being while enacting policies that make life much worse and much more violent…those conditions haven’t vanished.    (See Thomson SMU and every USP)

What the Lucasville uprisers had was bravery, dignity, and a collective mindset that what would come was worth it to stand up for themselves. Organizing any level of resistance inside prison is incredibly difficult.  At USP Lee, we couldn’t get 10 people to join a peaceful ‘Grievance Process Protest’…the reasons it is so hard can be summed up as 1) Apathy 2) Extreme Repression. For even discussing the ‘Grievance Protest’ I was forcibly stripped by 5 USP Lee guards and forced to wear ONLY paper underwear in a completely empty cell for a week. Imagine the bravery of the Lucasville revolters. They knew with 100% certainty that whatever comforts, family contact, and safety they felt was absolutely finished. They knew death was a possibility, either at the hands of self-serving prisoners looking to settle scores or at the more likely hands of the cops who would be acting with rage-fueled impunity. They had the foresightedness to know and accept that there would be extreme brutality now and the chance for dignified treatment in the future. They played the long game with the hopes of feeling human and being treated as such.

I’ve been very blessed to be friends with people who still support some of the Lucasville uprisers. This is amazing and priceless work… The abolition movement cannot succeed without inside action, and knowing the fierce repression that they will face, inside people need to know support is there. Two hands to climb the rope out of the pit of oppression.

Horrible, tragic things happen during revolts, and they happened during Lucasville… this is not a celebration of or glorification of violence, absolutely not. It is a reminder of bravery, that some were willing to face their oppressor head-on… knowing they were living in their oppressors’ dwellings, knowing there was no retreat and no way out… we need to remember them and support them and everyone who put their dignity first and play the long game.

                Free Joe-Joe, free Kojo… free all our elders

EK    @ always

/// everywhere” 

(Featured art in solidarity by Taller Ahuehuete)

The book Eric co-edited has a release date!

In December, a book Eric co-edited will be published by AK Press. Historian Dan Berger calls it “Rattling the Cages: Oral Histories of North American Political Prisoners”, an intimate intergenerational dialogue with movement activists representing sixty years of struggle and too many years of incarceration.”

Check it out here:

https://bookshop.org/p/books/rattling-the-cages-a-collection-of-oral-histories-of-north-american-political-prisoners/19648041?ean=9781849355216

Dispatches from behind bars. Political prisoners speak out. The official story is that the United States has no political prisoners. The reality is that there are hundreds of people rounded up, placed behind bars, and kept there for inordinately long sentences because of their political beliefs and activities. A project of popular educator Josh Davidson and political prisoner Eric King, this book is filled with the experience and wisdom of over thirty current and former North American political prisoners. It provides first-hand details of prison life and the political commitments that continue to lead prisoners into direct confrontation with state authorities and institutions. The people Josh Davidson has interviewed include former radicals and Black liberation militants from the sixties and seventies, current antifascists, nonviolent Catholic peace activists, Animal and Earth Liberation Front activists, and more. Their stories are moving, often tragic, yet deeply inspiring. Collectively, these people have spent hundreds of years behind bars, and their experiences speak directly to the cruelty and immorality of our prison and so-called criminal justice systems. Although their sentences and the conditions they have endured vary dramatically, this wide range of voices come together to embody what bell hooks called “a legacy of defiance.” It is this legacy–of tirelessly struggling to right today’s wrongs and create a better tomorrow–that the prison system tries, yet fails, to extinguish.

“Scars” a poem by Eric King

I’ve got scars, courtesy of guards 

That’ll mark me my whole life 

Some of them, they like to hunt 

They prowl inside my mind 

Others, they like to taunt 

And lurking plain sight 

Every time I see my face and head 

They’re so quick to remind 

The consequences that are in store 

If I speak out a line 

All the gifts prison left me with 

I wish I could return 

All the lessons that they’ve taught 

I wish I could unlearn 

The bureau left its marks on me 

In ways that I can’t hide 

The bureau attacks with savagery 

That’s why we must fight 

Essay #1 “My Brother”

Eric is in a step-down unit of the ADX. It was determined it would be unconstitutional to release someone from ADX-level-deprivation to the streets, so the ADX created a special unit for people within a year of their release. They are supposed to be able to earn privileges to help them adjust to the outside world. They have specialized caseworkers that help them know what kind of programming they’re eligible for, they can get phone calls, they can get snacks, they can earn a lot of things.

Eric has not been OFFERED ANY programming. Through other prisoners, Eric found out about a program in which he could write essays for treats.

He would like to share some of them with you.

A reminder though: Eric is the only one in this program not getting phone calls and emails. He’s not being offered programs to help him get ready to enter the world after being in segregation for 5 years. He proves again and again to just be amazing and resourceful and is working hard to prepare himself by finding these programs for himself, finding these opportunities, and PERSISTENTLY pestering staff to let him try them.

Multiple components of this particular programming include reward that he is requesting as well as the response from psychology. While it may seem short to you, disingenuous? To him the compassion and acknowledgment that he’s received at ADX Florence is definitely not one of his complaints. It has been healing to be able to participate in this particular program for him.

My Brother: by Eric King 

My brother Mike died on December 17th 2017… I was at Florence medium in OA. We were locked down due to some serraño nonsense, when the guard came to direct me to the chapel I knew something bad had happened. My wife had chronic health issues and my family is cancer-prone, so my first fears were one of them were seriously sick or had passed…The chaplain didn’t tell me anything, he just handed me the phone. 

 The first thing I heard was my mom crying, which didn’t rule out anything… she told me, through choking breaths, that Mike had died. I was stunned. Mike was young and relatively healthy, his dying hadn’t even crossed my mind as a possibility. His lifestyle was on the reckless side, as for many living in poverty, but not anything over the top. The details were beyond belief. Mike had been shot the week before in a robbery…He was on anti anxiety and strong pain meds, so his head wasn’t clear at all… Then late at night someone lit his home on fire. He died in the kitchen closet, right next to the outside door… a few feet to the right he would have survived. 

Mike and I had a very complicated relationship… growing up we were very poor and understanding mental health wasn’t a priority… My mom was working 70 hours a week to keep us fed with shelter. She didn’t have the time or energy to understand why he was behaving so irrationally; she could only react to the behaviour…, he would have two or three months of great behavior, bright ideas, hopeful future. Mom would poor support in during those times then a switch would flip and it’d be back to the nightmare, back to being cruel and abusive…looking back he clearly had some sort of personality disorder, maybe sort of bipolar? He wasn’t cruel during his “up” days, he’d be full of love and empathy, guilt for his “down” behavior…this was the saddest when his “down” behavior led to consequences that he paid for during his “up” time. Juvie, relationship breakups, short jail sentences…he was soft and sweet when he was “up” but not built to emotionally deal with the unlimited cruelty of jail/prison life.  

After the call I went back to my cell and wept…my poor cellie must have been so uncomfortable. I didn’t get to call my wife for another 3 days…I’m not sure I fully worked through this. We weren’t close when he died and I feel it took me too long to develop empathy for his internal struggles. I think of him often. 

“Abusive Smiles” a poem by Eric King

Abusive smiles 
Years of waiting to be seen, bucking, grievances, lawsuits 
All in the hope that a doctor 
Will hear you, take you serious 
Finally you get cleared to go! 
W/50,000 volts strapped to your arm 
You step into a doctor’s office 
His smile instantly tells you, 
This will not be your day 
your pain is ignore, down played 
previous ultrasounds disputed 
 of ever having been done 
 the lump isn’t concerning 
three years of discomfort and pain 
 reduced to nothing 
 have I been grinding my teeth? 
 Have I been hydrated? 
 Have I tried yoga? 
 No, he can’t do a biopsy, no, 
 he can’t do an MRI or ultrasound 
 bureaucratic brutality 
 all with a smile 
 Oh, here’s the first ultrasound results  
Found it i guess 
I guess we’ll recommend another one,  
it’s up to the prison to set it up though 
3 years of pain and waiting, all to be ignored 
Over a 7 minute meeting 
Then return to the arms of my enemy 
7 minutes of smiling and my pain in fear 
Would have rather took the volts