Move Marie Mason—Eco Warrior Serves Draconian Sentence in Texas Hellhole
BY LILIA AND PETER
Marie Mason is an earth and animal liberation prisoner serving a 22-year sentence in a Fort Worth, Texas federal prison. Marie pleaded guilty in 2009 to 13 counts of property destruction, with targets such as GMO research labs, boats owned by a mink farmer, logging equipment and environmentally destructive housing developments, among others. No one was injured in any of the actions.
Marie also has many years of above-ground activism under her belt. She is well known for her work as an Earth First! and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizer, and as a musician, writer and artist.
Marie is recognized as a Green Scare prisoner due to the application of a federal terrorism enhancement provision to ensure a long prison term, and for the FBI to boast of another successful “terrorism” prosecution. She is, unfortunately, not alone in this fact, however the lengthy sentence does make her case particularly startling.
“It is obvious the government is trying to send a message,” Marie told London’s Guardian newspaper, “to have a chilling effect, not only on my action, which, of course, transgressed the laws, but also on 30 years of above-ground actions in the environmental rights spheres.”
Due to the length of the sentence imposed on Marie, her case is well known world-wide within the environmental, anarchist and animal rights movements from which she receives broad support. Indian environmental and anti-globalization activist, Vandana Shiva, says of Marie in a widely viewed online video, “I think it is criminal that she is being treated like a criminal. That is why we need a movement; both for the rights of nature, and the rights of the defenders of nature so that they can get along with their work to protect this beautiful planet and our common freedoms.”
After serving two and a half years in a Minnesota minimum security prison close to family and friends with no rule violations, Marie was suddenly transferred to the Carswell Federal Medical Center prison in Fort Worth. There she is housed in a special restrictive unit known as the Administration Unit. She never received any explanation for why she was moved. The gymnasium-sized unit houses up to 20 prisoners, but this space has been cut in half due to a recently constructed new wall; a restricted unit inside a restricted unit.
Many of the women in Marie’s unit suffer from untreated, debilitating mental health issues that are manifested in violent behavior, self-mutilation, screams and sobs throughout the night, and unpredictable actions. The constant barrage of cries and pleas from people in emotional pain constitutes psychological torture. There is no rest or calm in her unit.
Marie and the other prisoners are only allowed to exercise for one hour a day in a small, fenced-in, concrete, outdoor area topped by double-coiled razor wire. There is no room to run or engage in physical activity. Her unit is frequently under lock down, where prisoners are confined to their cells. Friends who have visited Marie report that she and the other women in her unit physically look like they are severely lacking in access to sunlight. Most prisoners know why they have been transferred to this unit—mostly for excessive rule violations—and what they need to do to get out of it. But Marie has been given no indication of why she is there or what she can do to be moved back into the general prison population.
When singer/songwriter David Rovics recently visited her and asked why she thought she had been moved, Marie simply stated: “They’re scared of me.” David says, “Marie is a humble person, not one to brag, but what she says is clearly a statement of the obvious. There is no other explanation.”
In the face of this ongoing unjust treatment, Marie’s support network has instigated a campaign to have her moved out of the restrictive unit and back into general population in a prison closer to her family and friends. The “Move Marie” campaign is working to place public pressure on the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The long-term goal of the campaigners is to overturn or reduce her unjust sentence.
October 21 was a national call-in day with supporters across the U.S. phoning the BOP headquarters in Washington asking for Marie to be moved. Just a few days later, on October 25, supporters all over the world held “Move Marie” events for an international day of solidarity. Community gatherings were held across the U.S., Australia, and Europe where people learned about Marie’s situation, wrote letters and signed postcards that were sent to the BOP. Supporters are still being encouraged to write letters asking for her transfer. They can be sent to:
Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW
Washington, DC 20534
The “Move Marie” campaign has been receiving increased attention with media outlets like Huffington Post publishing a feature on it. One of Marie’s lawyers, Susan Tipograph, was interviewed on the HuffPost Live online TV channel. Tipograph has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI seeking documents relating to Marie’s move, but to date has only received newspaper clippings relating to Marie’s above-ground actions.
We need a huge amount of public pressure to get the BOP to listen to our concerns about the inhumane conditions in which Marie and her fellow prisoners are being held. Please add your name to the swelling number of supporters who are asking for Marie and her cellblock mates to be moved out of Carswell. As Tipograph stated in her HuffPost Live interview, “I think by any standard, the conditions under which she is being held are unconscionable, and are a violation not only of human rights, but of the rights of prisoners in this country to be held in decent and humane conditions.”
Go to SupportMarieMason.org for more information, updated information about Marie, current updates on her legal status, and to join her listserv and find out how you and your community can help bring justice to Marie and the other Carswell prisoners.