Original Message -----
From: Taoss - Sherry Swiney
To: PATRICK Crusade
Cc: Birmingham Human Rights Project
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 5:28 AM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] Easterling Prison still being out of control
...and yet the Alabama DOC says everything is just fine and dandy. This is the way in Alabama prisons. They figure people will get tired and just go away and many of them do give up because they continue to be ignored. But it looks like we have one more person who has decided not to give up on her loved one. We need more like her to keep putting the truth about Alabama DOC in front of the public.
----- Original Message -----
ELIOT, Maine - Faye Harris is heading for Alabama to fight for her son's life. Harris' son Brian is being held at Easterling Correction Facility, a maximum-security, level 4 prison in Clio, Ala. She says he does not belong there and the prison system is so corrupt she fears he will be there forever, or he will be murdered.
Arrested in Alabama, Brian Harris is currently serving two concurrent 10-year jail sentences for auto theft.
Harris is a soft-spoken tiny woman who hardly seems up to the fight she is taking on. She admits 28-year old Brian is no angel. A carpenter by trade, he got into some trouble both here in New Hampshire and in Alabama. Even so, she said his crimes do not merit time alongside rapists, murderers and other lifers who do not care what they do to Brian because they are not getting out.
Harris says the area is poor and relies on income from the prison. She said the administrators, particularly the warden are corrupt, writing up prisoners for the smallest infraction, and adding to their time there.
Harris said her family has never been racist, but 70 percent of the prison population and almost virtually all of the administration is black causing a reverse racial system that Brian is bearing the brunt of.
"I am afraid I will never see him alive again," Harris said. "I have called and written to everyone, including Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, the Alabama Department of Correction and even our legislators. You know what I got back? I got a form letter from the governor of Alabama inviting me to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony."
Harris has joined forces with Carolyn Reynolds, a woman in Alabama also fighting the prison system to protect her son, Rodney. She hopes to get Brian released, or transferred to New Hampshire or Maine to serve out the remainder of his time.
"At least here he will be alive and he will be able to see his two sons, Matthew, 5 and Andrew, 3. He has not seen them or his girlfriend, Rebecca, in two years.
Those kids want their daddy back," Harris said. "I will do everything in my power to get him back. He made mistakes. We have all done things in our life that we regret. I will not abandon my son to what is happening to him down there."
Not a woman of means, Harris had to borrow money for her trip. She said it's worth it.
"They are not giving him his mail, or letting him use the phone," Harris said. "I sent him books and he never got them. He is in a cell with one other man and is only allowed to leave the cell every other day for five minutes in order to take a shower."
Brian wrote the same information to the Portsmouth Herald about his current living conditions.
"He says he doesn't know when they will put a gang member in with him to have him killed," Harris said.
In 2001, Brian, a Hampton resident, was scheduled to be sentenced to time for a felony conviction as a habitual offender. He had substance abuse problems, panicked and ran.
Ending up in Alabama, Brian was picked up after stealing a $250 truck. Harris said he was offered a deal by a public offender that would have put him on a work release program but when he got to court, no deal was offered and he was sentenced to two concurrent 10 year sentences. With time added for every move he makes, Harris said he will never get out.
"The lawyer, who only saw Brian once, said he needed to pay restitution, but I think he just kept the money and sold Brian out," Harris said. "You cannot believe what a different world it is there. He gets set up by the guards, by inmates and there is no end in sight."
When she goes to Alabama on Jan. 12, Harris will visit the court and try to secure Brian's release from Judge George Harper, the man who sentenced him. If that doesn't work, she said she will find another way.
"I don't even know if I will be able to see him," Harris said. "I have seen him once, for 20 minutes in the past two and half years. His friend Rodney was caught with a cigarette and they stopped his visits for six months. The guards are the ones who bring in the cigarettes and sell them, then write up the prisoners for smoking."
The events Harris relayed about Brian's situation could easily be a bad movie of the week. He faces daily assaults, sexual propositions and guards who Harris said do nothing to protect him.
In letters to the Portsmouth Herald, Brian describes himself as a man on the edge. He said he's afraid, but at the point where he is challenging the system, trying legal maneuvers from inside. He is challenging a decision made by guards that resulted in the beating of his friend, Rodney Reynolds. Brian said gang members would have beaten him too, but he refused to return to his cell.
Instead, Brian went to the infirmary after warning guards of the impending beating and was ridiculed for his efforts. While there he heard the report of his friend's attack over the loudspeaker. Both he and Reynolds are filing court motions alleging negligence on the part of the guards.
"He doesn't care anymore," Harris said. He knows he has to try or he will be dead. Everything he does puts him in more danger. Every step I take is a risk for him, but what are our choices?"
A call made by the Herald to Janet Findley, head of the Alabama Department of Corrections produced a simple answer to Brian's plight.
Findley denied there were any problems with the treatment of prisoners and praised the warden as one of the best in the state. She added that if Brian wanted to transfer to another prison he needed to make the official request. The transfer could be made if both prisons agreed. Findley was polite and said prisons do transfers all the time.
Harris relayed the information to her son, but, for two months now, prison officials have refused to provide him with the paperwork he needs to get the process started.
"I'm not waiting anymore," Harris said. "I want him out of there. The guards are telling him to forget it, that he is not getting out of there."
In all her conversations, Harris has never tried to diminish the fact Brian did wrong and needs to serve his time.
"I know he has to pay for his crimes, but this is too much," Harris said. "He does not deserve what is happening to him and I will not give up. My son is a very intelligent man who got out of control for a time. He wants to come home, to make it up to his sons and to start over. He can build a house from the bottom up, can be a good, productive member of society."