Eric Rudolph: Prison Is Hard
That’s the gist of this story in the Advertiser today:
Olympic [and B’ham abortion clinic] bomber Eric Rudolph laments in a series of letters that the caged atmosphere of the federal prison where is spending the rest of his life is designed to drive him insane.
Rudolph, who hid out from authorities for five years in the woods of western North Carolina before being captured, says that his surroundings at the Supermax prison are getting to him.
“It is a closed-off world designed to isolate inmates from social and environmental stimuli, with the ultimate purpose of causing mental illness and chronic physical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis,” he wrote in one letter to The Gazette of Colorado Springs.
“Using solitary confinement, Supermax is designed to inflict as much misery and pain as is constitutionally permissible,” he wrote.
most individuals are kept for at least 23 hours each day in solitary confinement. They are housed in a 7-by-12 ft (3.5-by-2 m) room, built behind a steel door and grate. The remaining free hour is spent exercising alone in a separate concrete chamber. Prisoners rarely see each other, and the inmates’ only direct human interaction is with correctional officers. Visiting from outside the prison is conducted through glass, with each prisoner in a separate chamber. Religious services are broadcast from a small chapel.
Part of the prison is a “stepdown” program, designed to encourage less antisocial behavior and eventually transfer prisoners out of the ADX and back to the Maximum Security population. The program is three years in length, each year allowing more freedom and social contact with other inmates. Any violation during the program means participants revert to year one.
Most cells’ furniture is made almost entirely out of poured concrete, including a desk, stool, and bed covered by a thin mattress. Each chamber contains a toilet that shuts off if plugged, a shower that runs on a timer to prevent flooding, and a sink missing a potentially dangerous tap. Rooms may also be fitted with polished steel mirrors bolted to the wall, an electric light, a radio, a 13-inch black and white television set that shows recreational, educational and religious programming, and a cigarette lighter. These privileges can be taken away as punishment. The 4-in by 4-ft windows confuse the prisoner as to his specific location within the complex because one can see only the sky and roof. Telecommunication with the outside world is forbidden, and food is hand delivered by correctional officers.
I could not find the letters that the article mentions, but here is the Colorado Gazzette story from which the Advertiser’s story is an excerpt. It includes some of Rudolph’s thoughts on his crime and his sentence, and based on those thoughts, I don’t think he’s quite ready for a return to the general prison population:
Rudolph is serving life without parole because federal prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for his pleading guilty to the bombings and revealing the location of dynamite he buried.
At his sentencing hearings in Birmingham and Atlanta last summer, Rudolph was smug and largely unapologetic. He read a statement saying he bombed two abortion clinics because “abortion is murder, and because it is murder I believe deadly force is needed to stop it.”
The attack at the Olympics in 1996, he said, was meant to “confound, anger and embarrass” the government for sanctioning abortion. He offered a muted apology for the woman he killed and the more than 100 people injured by the nails and screws he packed into the explosives.
He concluded his statement by saying, “The talking heads on the news opine that I am ‘finished,’ that I will languish broken and unloved in the bowels of some Supermax, but I say to you people that by the grace of God I am still here — a little bloodied, but emphatically unbowed.”
Nearly 16 months in isolation have not changed his attitude. Last month, Rudolph sent The Gazette a 16-page story he said was a “satire” based on his sentencing in Birmingham in July 2005.
The names were changed slightly, he wrote, because the Bureau of Prisons won’t let him send mail that deals with crimes or acts of violence.
In it, he mocks the prosecutors, judge and victims of his 1998 bombing of the New Woman All Women clinic, which killed off-duty policeman Robert Sanderson and maimed nurse Emily Lyons.
Lyons was struck by flying nails and shrapnel, which tore out one of her eyes. She has had 22 surgeries since 1998.
In a narrative dripping with sarcasm, Rudolph wrote that he “never learned that there is no freedom more dear to women than the right to dispose of their own unwanted children.”
Lyons, he wrote, “is a facilitator of this sacred right,” adding that he “had pointed his finger in judgment of Emily. And there is nothing more repugnant to citizens of the Brave New World than being called to account for one’s actions.”
Rudolph described Derzis as “brassy, worldly, the kind of woman who had not only been around the block a few times but was probably dragged behind a truck the entire way.”
“Releasing women caught in the shackles of maternity became her mission in life,” he wrote.
Sanderson, he wrote, was “a hero who stood steadfast watch as thousands of women made it to freedom over the corpses of their unborn children. That’s heroism folks!”
Rudolph also detailed his thoughts during the judge’s indictment of his motives:
“Deadly force is sometimes justified to save life. That is what his law books say. This is a riddle that even a fool can resolve,” Rudolph wrote. “The only real question is under what circumstances it is justified to take life.”
The document is among several by Rudolph posted on the Web site of the Army of God.
That sounds like someone who is still very much a threat.
If you want more information, here is the Army of God website, and here is their page about Rudolph, which contains the “satire” mentioned in the article, as well as several other things he has written. As you might guess, the pictures on those two sites are really, really horrific – decapitated and bloody fetuses. You can get to the satire without seeing the pictures as long as you don’t scroll any lower than the link for the satire. It’s called “The Sentence.”