Prison Life: Daniel's Blog
Ten years ago today, I was finishing up stuffing holiday cards for my employer when 2 beefy men asked me if i was indeed, Daniel McGowan. Once I was handcuffed and being frog-marched through the office, I knew what it was about.
At the same time, 6 of my codefendants were getting arrested at the same time. Others were receiving grand jury subpoenas as well. Sadly, all the people arrested that day became cooperating witnesses save for William Rodgers, who I knew as’Avalon’, who took his life in a county jail on the Winter Solstice, two weeks after we were arrested.
Of course, other arrests followed in the months after that, with a handful of codefendants refusing to play the game. We came together in solidarity to fight the charges and reduce the potential sentence as much as possible. For that, I will always have gratitude to Jonathan Paul, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher (though it would be disingenuous for me to not point out the latter two peoples’ identification with esoteric fascist movements currently).
I was bonded out of jail, fought my case on house arrest for a year and months after that, worked out a plea that did not involve naming names or becoming a witness against anyone. It had repercussions for me including more time and no protection from grand juries (and surely, two years later, i was called before one as a witness and put on civil contempt of court). That said, I cannot have seen it going any other way. My regrets with the case is that more of my co-defendants did not stick with us and move forward together-something that had been the idea when worst case scenarios had been discussed years prior.
10 years later, its obvious to me every time i go to any activist event that many younger activists do not know this history. I suppose it is the struggle we all face-how to remember and memorialize, but not live in the past and nostalgia. I can tell people to watch If a Tree Falls or read Green is the New Red (thanks, Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman & Will Potter) but that is an incomplete picture. How then, do we, move forward in our fight for justice and pass on to others what we learned? Its a longer question.
I use the word “I” often in this post and perhaps others as I am talking about the past but at no point have I ever felt alone and not connected to others. Without these stalwart, loyal and amazing people in my life, I know with certainty that things would have gone a totally different way:
Jenny Malone- my former partner and best friend. The rock. The Wizard of Oz behind every aspect of the support campaign and the ‘trying to keep me sane’ campaign. G.O.A.T. EXES 4EVAH!
My family especially my sister Lisa who funded my legal defense, let me live with her while on house arrest and did not waver or flinch one time. These people taught me loyalty.
Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan better known as FAF.
This small group worked their asses off, put on so many shows, sold a zillon t-shirts, made my court dates, wrote articles, supported me mentally, emotionally and financially, put their lives on hold for some time to make sure I would have a life to come home too. So much gratitude to all of them. I am not even in touch with all of them, which to be honest, saddens me but I have nothing but lifelong gratitude for all of them. Shoutouts to Andrew, Ainsley, Eliza, Kitty, Corey, Sideshow, Cindy, Marianne and Ryan.
This article may be the best article I have seen on the topic though its quite dated. Check it out.
Write my codees:
Rebecca Rubin #98290-011
5701 8th Street – Camp Parks
Dublin, California 94568
Birthday: April 18
Rebecca Rubin is serving a 5 year sentence for her role in a series of Earth Liberation Front (ELF) actions including the arson of the Vail Ski Resort Expansion and US Forest Industries. She also participated in the liberation of horses and the arson of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse Facilities in Litchfield, California and Burns, Oregon. Rebecca is expected to be released in September, 2017.
You can buy Rebecca a book (or 5!) at http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2EEY8SICPOC9D
Justin Solondz #98291-011
FCI Oakdale I
Post Office Box 5000
Oakdale, Louisiana 71463
Birthday: October 3
Justin Solondz pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson for his
involvement in the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson of the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001 and the Romania Chevrolet dealership in Eugene, Oregon. Justin was imprisoned in China for three years prior to extradition. His anticipated release date is 9/23/2017.
Daniel will be speaking publicly about the Communication Management Unit this Sunday, June 1 at 12pm at the Left Forum.
The panel will discuss the erosion of basic rights resulting from post-9/11 War On Terror (WOT) policies and practices – in our communities, courtrooms and prisons across the US. It will feature stories of impacted family members, former prisoners, and advocates, who have been resisting alarming trends in human rights violations since 9/11.
Panelists to include:
1. Daniel McGowan is an environmental and social justice activist from NYC, and a former political prisoner. As a former defendant and political prisoner, Daniel will reflect on how terrorism laws have been used to prosecute certain targeted groups and moreover how the WOT rationale is invoked again post-conviction to penalize protected activity and identity, e.g., through the use of Communication Management Units in federal prisons and other harsh conditions of confinement which further suppress political expression.
2. Ms. Shahina Parveen Siraj is a leader in DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center, and the mother of Shahawar Matin Siraj, who was entrapped by the NYPD;
3. Fahd Ahmed is the Legal and Policy Director at DRUM;
4. Chair: Abigail Downs is a Legal Worker at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
By exploring the linkages between repression of environmental activists, Muslims, and immigrants in the US under the WOT paradigm, the panel will encourage activists of the Left to think through how we can build bridges and mobilize together to achieve a more just society — by challenging both the rights violations that have increasingly become the norm in terrorism prosecutions post-9/11 and also broader injustices in the criminal justice system. In the spirit of the Forum’s 2014 theme, the panel will explore strategies to effect change and debate the pitfalls of reform tactics that permit categories of people to remain vulnerable to grave abuses.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
524 W. 59th St (Between 10th and 11th)
New York, New York
Background reading material by Daniel and about the CMU:
Tales from Inside the U.S. Gitmo
Urgent Appeal from a Secret Prison
Live From Little Guantanamo
Court Documents Prove I was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for my Political Speech
Daniel McGowan, Put in an Extreme Prison Isolation Unit for Writing Things, Loses Lawsuit Against Bureau of Prisons
Bureau of Prisons Backtracks, Again, On Daniel McGowan
Daniel McGowan Released After Lawyers Confirm He Was Jailed For HuffPost Blog
Daniel McGowan Jailed, Allegedly For Writing Huffington Post Blog (UPDATE)
UPDATE: BOP Invents Special Restriction for Environmental Activist Daniel McGowan: No Publishing Articles
Environmentalist Back in Jail Days After Writing About His Secretive Prison Unit for HuffPost- by Will Potter
Daniel McGowan Forbidden From Publishing Articles Without Permission
We are reaching out to you today because you have expressed interest and shown support to Daniel these past eight years. Daniel came out of prison December 2012, and thanks to an old friend, started work two days later at a progressive law firm in New York City. He is now at the point where he wants to move on and further his career goals. We are writing to see if you can assist us with leads or ideas. Like 2 years ago, Daniel’s primary job goal is one in communications, one in which he can utilize his verbal and writing skills to communicate to a greater audience. Daniel is primarily interested in working for a non profit organization but is not opposed to working for a business that is not engaged in harmful behavior.
Daniel has been working as a receptionist for a law firm for the past few years. In addition to having a college degree, Daniel completed a paralegal course as well as many continuing education and vocational course available while in prison despite limited opportunities for education. He is driven and has a broad skill-set that he is looking to utilize. If you would like a copy of his resume, please email us.
Some of the areas Daniel is interested in are:
*Civil liberties/Free speech
*Recycling or Waste reduction
*Harm reduction/Drug policy
If you work for a NYC-based non-profit, have a close friend, partner or contact at one, or have a specific organization or business in mind that might be open to hiring Daniel, we’d love to hear from you! Specific job ads or contacts are welcome. Thank you so much for your help.
All emails can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Friends of Daniel,
There are just two more days left to submit public comments on the Communication Management Units (CMU) that Daniel was held in for much of his prison sentence and which continue to operate illegally at both FCI Terre Haute and USP Marion. There are roughly 90 men still housed in these isolation units that are suffering from a lack of contact with their families and extreme restrictions on their contact with society. As you know, the units have been a source of litigation practically since they have opened with the Center for the Constitutional Rights and prisoners from the CMU filing Aref v Holder in April of 2010. The case is ongoing and nearing its conclusion this year hopefully.
In order to help with your public comments, we recommend checking out CCR’s letter writing ideas here.
Also, VICE magazine recently published an in-depth article on the CMUs by Annie P. Waldman that focuses on Daniel’s former CMU neighbor, Yassin Aref who not only was a resident of both CMUs but was indicted in a fake terrorism scheme concocted by the FBI in Albany, NY. The article, ‘Inside the Kafkaesque world of the US’s Little Guantanamos‘ sheds lights on the struggles of CMU prisoners in maintaining family ties and their sanity as well as the lingering effects of isolation felt by released prisoners like Daniel.
Below is the original action alert for the CMU public comments.
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has reopened the public comment period for the Communication Management Units (CMU). You may remember that the original comment period of 2010 netted 700+ letters and emails against the restrictions outlined in the proposal. The Department of Justice ended the comment period and have sat on their hands since then in terms of getting actual legal approval to operate and maintain the CMUs. As a prisoner at Marion CMU during that time, our comrade Daniel McGowan tells us, “knowing that people outside of prison cared enough to put their concerns in writing on our behalf was heartening and re-energized my effort to close the CMUs.”
The BOP has opened public comment for just two weeks. Please check out the links below and send a clear message to them about these units and how they should be immediately closed.
What:Punk Rock Karaoke benefiting NYC ABC!
When: February 7, 2014, 8pm
Where: Pine Box Rock Shop 12 Grattan St, Brooklyn, New York 11206
Cost: $8 donation at the door
Join us as we once again storm Brooklyn for a night of punk rock singalongs at
the Pine Box. As with all our events, in addition to being a great time, this
is also a benefit! This time all money raised at the event will benefit NYC
Anarchist Black Cross and their ongoing efforts supporting political prisoners
and opposing the prison industrial complex.
Tell your friends and come ready to have an awesome time. See you there.
Punk Rock Karaoke is a DIY, fund-raising event that benefits a different
community group each time.
Featuring songs from:
Against Me!, Bikini Kill, Black Flag, Bratmobile, Buzzcocks, Choking Victim,
The Clash, Circle Jerks, Crass, Dead Kennedys, Descendents, Devo, Flogging
Molly, Fugazi, Gogol Bordello, Gorilla Biscuits, Jawbreaker, Joy Division,
Minor Threat, The Misfits, NOFX, Operation Ivy, Pixies, The Pogues, Ramones,
Rancid, Screeching Weasel, Sex Pistols, Sleater-Kinney, The Smiths, The
Specials, Stiff Little Fingers, Wire, X, X-Ray Spex + More!!!
P.S. Like us on Facebook to stay up to date on future events:
For more info on NYC ABC: http://nycabc.wordpress.com
NYC Anarchist Black Cross is a collective focused on supporting US-held
political prisoners and prisoners of war and opposing state repression against
revolutionary social justice movements. They are a support group of the continental Anarchist Black
Posted on behalf of NYC ABC
John Tucker of the Tinley Park 5 is due to be released from prison at the end of this month or by early February. So , Bloomington ABC , NYC ABC, and Sacramento Prisoner Support have launched a campaign to start a release fund for John.
“John Tucker, the second of the Tinley Park 5 to be released, will be free in JANUARY! The Tinley Park 5 are 5 men from Indiana charged with multiple felonies for an altercation with active white supremacists at a restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois. (more info here)
John’s health has been neglected while imprisoned, so he is facing medical expenses, including dentistry and dermatology, when he gets out. John will also be responsible for court costs and court-mandated “anger management” classes.
John has enjoyed many letters, book & commissary donations, and correspondences from his supporters during his time in captivity (y’all have helped to make his time much more tolerable!), but prisoner support doesn’t end when they’re released; transitioning out of prison can be a difficult time for former prisoners. Having felonies on their records creates barriers to housing and employment. Many things about their lives and communities may have changed during their time inside, so extra effort is required to provide support and build solidarity to avoid isolation and undue financial hardship. Please help us create a gracious homecoming and a smooth re-entry for John.
If you cannot provide financial support at this time, we recommend writing the 3 still inside and writing, visiting, and building relationships with other incarcerated folks to continue struggles like those for which the TP5 are imprisoned. Support your local prison rebels!”
Please remember that prisoner support doesn’t end when a comrade is released. Through halfway houses, supervised release, parole, or probation, there is usually state supervision beyond the initial sentence. Also, prison is traumatic. And of course there is the stigma of being a former prisoner that effects nearly every aspect of one’s life. All of this adds up to the less obvious, but equally necessary, support needed when our loved ones come home. Donate to your ability and show an anti-fascist comrade how we welcome folks home.
If for whatever reason you’d rather donate to John offline, please make the check payable to John Tucker and mail it to:
Sacramento Prisoner Support
Post Office Box 163126
Sacramento, California 95816
If you’d like to write to John to let him know you’re thinking of him and that you’re glad he’s getting out soon, he’d love to hear from you. His current address is:
John Tucker M34024
Lincoln Correctional Center
Post Office Box 549
Lincoln, Illinois 62656
More information is available at tinleyparkfive.wordpress.com and j.mp/JohnTucker
We’ve finished the latest version of the NYC ABC “Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War” and it’s available for viewing (and download) by clicking on the tab at the top of this page. This update includes address changes for a few prisoners as well as removing Guillaume Constantineau (TIME SERVED!), Youri Couture (TIME SERVED!), Chris French (TIME SERVED!),Steve Murphy (TIME SERVED!), Mark Neiweem (TIME SERVED!), and Lynne Stewart(COMPASSIONATE RELEASE!).
My friend, fellow activist and codefendant William C. Rodgers, known to those who loved him, as Avalon took his life on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2005. Avalon was arrested and charged with one count of arson for his alleged role in an ELF arson at the National Wildlife Research Facility in Olympia, Washington. It is likely that those prosecuting our case would have attempted to portray Avalon as the mastermind of the conspiracy based on his age (5-7 years older than most of us) and his long term activism. Sadly, many of my codefendants who cooperated fully with the government were all too happy to indulge the feds with this fallacy, even submitting information only the Judge was able to view.
When I read the words used to describe Avalon, I am perplexed because the man I knew, though far from perfect was a kind, gentle soul who treated me and everyone he met with curiosity and generosity. I remember Avalon as a lover of nature; someone who dedicated much of his adult life to protecting and defending wild places. My memories of him are personal and I hesitate to share them but I just wanted to be clear that the ‘criminal mastermind’ & ‘leader of the ELF’ caricature suggested by cooperating codefendants and prosecution does not match who I knew. I am reminded of the fact that in all likelihood, Avalon would be either out of prison or leaving prison shortly had he not left us prematurely. I think it is pretty clear that part of the reason he chose to kill himself had to do with the betrayal he felt at the hands of many of my codefendants.
I for one, miss Avalon and i think the Earth and our communities are worse off without him.
Rest in peace, friend.
There are many links about Avalon online. Here are a few:
Statement written by the Catalyst Infoshop, which Avalon founded
Memorial page on Earth First! Journal: [TRIGGER ALERT: CONTAINS SUICIDE NOTE TEXT]
PS-I have no doubt that Avalon would be disinterested in any focus on himself as a person and would want want to focus on the issues and our fellow codefendants, who are still inside. Please check out http://earthfirstjournal.org/eco-prisoner-list/ for information on them.
The next event will be December 19, 2013 at Fontana’s Bar at 105 Eldridge Street, Lower East Side, NYC.
We’ll be in the back, in the two-story Chandelier Room (don’t worry, despite the name it’s not too fancy).
We’ll have vegan Ethiopian food from Bunna Café, serving up their new Holiday Menu!
The December 19th Vegan Drinks benefits NYC Anarchist Black Cross and the tremendous work they do supporting all U.S.-held political prisoners. In particular, you’ll have an opportunity to support Animal and Earth Liberation political prisoners by signing holiday greeting cards and writing letters to let our comrades know they are not forgotten, especially during the holiday season. NYC Anarchist Black Cross is a “collective focused on supporting U.S.-held political prisoners and prisoners of war and opposing state repression against revolutionary social justice movements.”
RSVP on Facebook if you like.
Vegan Drinks is a monthly social networking* event for people interested in promoting veganism and advocating for animal rights. Vegan Drinks’ mission is to bring together a diverse group of people—from cupcake aficionados to animal lawyers to veg*ns of all stripes in between—to build new coalitions and promote the sharing of resources. Vegan Drinks is for newbies and oldies. All we expect is an interest in animal rights, veganism and the pursuit of after-work fun. Show up and introduce yourself, pass around business cards (if you’ve got ‘em) and embarrass yourself at least once an hour.
*Although we think love is grand, Vegan Drinks is not a singles’ event. But, if you happen to meet the love of your life at Vegan Drinks, don’t forget to invite us to the wedding!
December 8, 2013
263 Eastern Parkway, Apartment 5D
(between Franklin and Classon, #2,3,4,5 to Franklin Ave./Eastern Pkwy)
Every year, political prisoners and prisoners of war around the US look forward to receiving one of the handmade holiday cards coming from the heart of Brooklyn. This year will be no different. Join Resistance in Brooklyn, NYC Anarchist Black Cross, and Scientific Soul Sessions for an afternoon of crafts, camaraderie, and good food. We’ll have updates and other ways to support the prisoners as well.