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What Happened at FCI Fairton?

Since this post, I have received feedback suggesting that the announced policy indispute at FCI Fairton was/is a new rule that (a) if contraband is found in common areas and (b) if the “responsible” party fails to come forward, then all the prisoners on a particular block and/or unit may be subject to successively harsher sanctions, including loss of television, loss of telephone and loss of visitation. For anyone familiar with the dynamics of institutional life, this rule, if accurately conveyed, puts prisoners in an untenable situation: either they inform on a fellow prisoner(s) and are potentially labeled a “snitch” or “rat” — a label that can carry serious risks generally but especially in a prison setting — or they face institutional reprisal(s) for essentially refusing to put themselves in harm’s way.


Also reported is that what began as a relatively benign protest to the announced policy, involving successive units of prisoners walking past the chow call when called out for a meal (i.e., denying food), resulted almost immediately in the institution locking down the entire facility for ten days. As reflected in the memorandum, the lockdown occurred just before the holidays, meaning it seems that Fairton prisoners were denied communication and/or contact with their families and loved ones during what is, for most, an important time of the year. Of course, when an institution is on lockdown (and prisoners are confined to their cells), the need for staff presence is lessened. In other words, the situation appears to have afforded an opportunity for staff to make use of unused leave time if they were so inclined.

The feedback received also confirms an encouraging aspect of the incident, namely that medium-security prisoners did apparently elect to pursue a constructive protest when faced with what they viewed as an objectionable policy and maintained a degree of solidarity after what can be fairly characterized as institutional overreaction. Less reassuring is word that the lockdown presented particular difficulties for prisoners suffering from mental health issues. Also, there is word that prisoners involved with organizing the nonviolent action may have been transferred from the facility.

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  • “Collective punishment,” when employed as a tactic in international conflict, is a war crime and violates the Geneva Conventions. As applied in a prison setting is there any case law holding that it violates constitutional due process?

  • Anonymous

    Being someone who has personnal experience with the prison system I commend the staff of this institution for taking an active role and attempting to rid dangerous contraband from their prison. I do not feel the loss of privileges outweighs the potential dangers associated with these inmates continuing to demonstrate their criminal behavior while incarcerated by making weapons and homemade intoxicants. As recently published on this sight we can see the dangers that hard contraband (knifes) pose in a prison environment. A 29 year man was recently killed by another inmate involving a homemade weapon. Fairton a few months earlier had a disturbance where inmates were injured by other inmates. This clearly shows the dangers inside a prison system. These inmates inside these prisons continue their criminal/gang related activities and extort other inmates by force not associated with a gang. I too am inconvenience by not being able to talk or visit my friend but if these procedures would help my friend complete his sentence unharmed it is worth the inconvenience. Once again I commend the staff for taking an active role in trying to ensure inmates/staff remain safe within their prison.

  • Anonymous

    Are phone and email down does anyone know or is it lock down