Part 1: Rikers Island
We spent the previous twenty-four hours preparing ourselves for what we imagined would be a difficult day: poring over the DOC website’s rules and regulations, reading and rereading reportbacks from the last two visits, seeking and receiving much great advice from lots of great people – and bracing ourselves emotionally. We were probably as prepared as we possibly could have been, but it took the visceral experience to truly grasp its weight.
Upon our arrival via the Q100 bus from Queens Plaza, we followed other visitors towards the entrance along a path that seemed constructed to immediately make you feel trapped and uncomfortable. We stood in line for about 20 minutes between two chain-link fences with barely enough space between them for two columns of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The inside fence has large-print advisory signs on them, which were a challenge to read because there was no room to stand back. The only sign with reasonably-sized lettering was, for some reason, elevated about 20 feet in the air, making it just as difficult to read but in a totally opposite way. Almost every sign throughout the visit bore rules upon rules, and threats of arrest if any of these rules were broken – as if we needed the reminder.
The sun beat down. In the distance, we could see large, imposing buildings surrounded by barbed wire, and we wondered where Mark was. We were among only about six white folks of about 50 total people in sight. Almost all of the other visitors were women with young children, and most seemed inured to the dehumanizing bureaucracy that frustrated us at every turn.
We left everything in the first locker except our quarters, some cash, our IDs, and the books we brought for Mark — (The Gift, The Wu-Tang Manual, and a book of poetry by Adam Mansbach) — and proceeded through the first security checkpoint. We waited in another line inside for about 30 minutes, and when we got to the front of the line, we were each in turn identified, asked for an address, and quizzed as to our relationship with Mark. We were a little surprised when they fingerprinted us and took mugshots, which were printed out and given to us on rectangular paper that looked and served exactly like airline boarding passes.
After another 30 minute wait, we were pointed towards a white bus, which took us to the Eric M. Taylor Center. The short drive across the plaza reminded us we were now trapped in the belly of the beast – giving us the slightest taste of the “YOU CANT LEAVE” message that inevitably resounds for all prisoners throughout every moment of their sentence. It also allowed us a glimpse at Incarceration City – isolated buildings, each surrounded with violent tangles of barbed wire. Every inch of the place is a visual threat, its role as an institution of confinement and disempowerment constantly reinforced.
We received a brief lecture from a corrections officer before being let into the building, including mention that there had been “a slashing” at the building next door earlier that day and no one was being allowed in or out of that place today. After another security check, the back of our left hand was stamped with a clear substance. We were bewildered by the invisible stamp; we don’t know what it was. We were told it was to mark that we had been through security, but we don’t know how to read it and have no idea what, if anything, it says. (We would love to know more about this practice, if anyone knows.)
After an excruciatingly long hour (or so – without phones or watches, and no clocks on the walls, the entire visit felt as though it took place in a time vacuum) in a room full of chairs reminiscent of a free clinic’s waiting room (the soap opera and hysterical baby really set the scene) we were finally called to enter the “visiting floor”.
As of today, I am on my sixth day of a hunger strike. I intend to use my body to make a political statement and to continue to draw attention to the fact that Trinity Church put me behind bars. What would Jesus do?
Thank you to all my friends, no, family, for supporting me. You mean the world to me and I intend to continue my hunger strike until I see your beautiful faces outside. I love you all and hope to see you very soon.
With rage and solidarity,
Report from Daniele and Miriam after visiting with Mark!
This morning 3 of us met to take the bus to Rikers, around the crack of dawn.
Austin came with us, but was denied entry. He had multiple forms of ID, but his photo ID was expired and he was turned away. Lesson learned. For
Mark, we brought envelopes, paper, 3 books and some radical zines, the last of which we were told to mail because they are not books. We’re thinking about binding them into a book.
It was a long, tedious security process to get to the visiting room; we had to take our shoes off three times. Seeing Mark walk in made that completely worthwhile. We hugged and we all cried. Mark was happy to see visitors- he had not been aware that he only gets 2 visits a week and wondered why no one was there on Friday. He has also been getting visits from our legal worker community.
Mark is definitely feeling depressed and withdrawn. He feels like he can’t be himself there- that he left his outgoing, bouncy self on the outside. Mark cheered up significantly halfway though our visit – started feeding on our energy and even laughing at our lame jokes. Daniele told him about her experience with The People’s Puppet and Rude Mechanical Orchestra at the Mermaid Parade. The Coney Island crowd has cheered in solidarity with the Occupy Wall St Banner, and that seemed to lift his spirits a lot. Letters also seem to really make him happy; he told us about receiving some from people all over the country, including oklahoma, and from people hasn’t met, and drawings by children.
He doesn’t feel up to writing back but wants everyone to know he appreciates the letter and knowing that people are thinking of him. He mentioned the freedom party we threw for him right before he had to go. He spoke really fondly of seeing everyone, and of dancing to Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Miley Cyrus. He said that he thinks about that night many times a day, this happy memory he returns to. We hope to have another party to welcome him out.
Mark discussed the doctors he seeing, and life in Rikers. He has seen violence (especially in the hot weather) but inmates and COs leave him alone. He mostly hangs out and reads.
Some of the doctors have been sympathetic, and Mark has been using his regular visits with them (due to his hunger strike) to talk to them about his politics and the reason he’s in jail.
We spoke about his hunger strike, and he seems committed to it, but not at the expense of his long term well being. He joked that he is having an easy time keeping up with his Veganism. He is drinking liquids, and Miriam discussed the health risks of what he’s doing with him.
On the last (first visit) Mark said he couldn’t believe how the community was organizing to support him. How much love and solidarity there is. He called us his family not his friends, and send his love.
Keep the letters coming! You can also send him books; true to the caring personality we know and love, he’s been sharing them with the other inmates.
This statement was given to Marks lawyer Meg, to share with the community. For legal reasons 2 words have been changed.
Yesterday, Trinity Wall Street “Church,” the NYPD and the State of New York sentenced me to forty five days in jail for my political beliefs and actions. This decision by Judge Sciarrino was in response to the alleged actions of my comrades and I on D17, i.e., December 17, 2011.
On that day, my intention was to facilitate the on-going efforts to convince Trinity Church that our use of the space was consistent with their principles and mission. I wanted the unused and deserted lot to the community within Occupy Wall Street and beyond, so that through collective grassroots effort we would build an alternative society built on mutual aid, solidarity and anti-oppression.
For those intentions, I am now serving a forty-five day sentence on Riker’s Island. In response I have taken my protest out of the streets and into the jails. As of 2pm June 18, 2012, drawing inspiration from Jack, Diego, Malory and Shae as well as numerous prisoners and activists worldwide, I have been on a hunger strike. I will continue the hunger strike until I am released, to draw attention to the political nature of my arrest, sentencing and the greater themes and goals of the occupy wall street movement. This punishment has further strengthened my resolve to build a society, alongside my comrades, that does not further the corporate agenda of the prison industrial complex, compassion for all, community, solidarity, and mutual aid for all. Everything for everybody.
With solidarity and Rage,
Mark Adams, Occupy Wall Street
UPDATE ON MARK ADAM’S STATUS (Tue 6/19)
UPDATE ON MARK ADAM’S STATUS from his lawyer, Meghan Maurus, who just got back from visiting him at Rikers (abbreviated, more details to follow):
– If all goes well, Mark will be RELEASED on good behavior on SUNDAY, JULY 15
– Mark is in a very peaceful place and feels good about everything. He saw people waiting for him as he was transferred from central booking, feels loved. Practiced OWS meditation techniques when he first got to his cell and it made him feel a lot better. Wants us all to know that we’re his family and sends us a BIG HUG!!!
– Lawyers are going to file for an appeal today/tomorrow and ask for bail to be posted. At that point, Mark will decide whether or not he wants to pursue an appeal (which could take a year and wind up with him back in jail) or just serve out his time now- Mark was given copies of three books: *The New Jim Crow* by Michelle Alexander, *Walking with the Comrades* by Arundati Roy, and a fiction book i can’t remember the name of
Letters are one of the best ways to keep Mark (and other prisioners’) spirits high. There are some IMPORTANT guidelines on writing letters to political prisoners.
Advice from our legal crew:
1. Anything too radical WILL NOT be given to Mark. Anything political may be cause for profiling, so the lawyers request discretion.
2. Do NOT talk about actions (you might get yourself, or Mark in trouble).
3. Do not talk about Mark’s trial, or the judge, or the DA nincompoops.
Mo says “Think about writing a letter to your Grandmother”
Here are some excerpts from the letter writing guide compiled by the Black Cross, a political prisoner support group.
-Don’t write in glittery pens, or include glitter in the envelope
-Some prisons don’t allow in cut outs from magazine or newspapers. We’ll let you know.
-Number the pages, in case they take one
-Include a return address on the letter, they might not get the envelope
-Don’t make promises you cannot commit to
-Don’t write anything the cops shouldn’t know
Now that you know, you can send Mark mail at the below address:
Mark Adams Booking # 3491210446
NYSID # 11706754
Eric M. Taylor Center
10-10 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370
If you’d like to know more about what you may and may not send (like package restriction) follow this link: