The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Frank Woolever

Editor's Note: Frank left Syracuse in early April to serve a three month senetence in
Frank speaking at the SPC rally on the 3rd anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Photo: Andy Mager
federal prison camp for his nonviolent protest action at the US Army School of the Americas (now officially called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in November of 2005. Since writing this piece, Frank has been released and we welcome him back home.

"The pen is mightier than the sword." That dictum proved true once again, when my op-ed piece appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard on May 25. No one here at Canaan Satellite Camp seemed indifferent to it.

The administration folks were clearly upset. Even before the paper arrived here (always a few days after publication) the prison Administrator and her team had a copy of it. She called me into her office after the midday meal the following Monday. I was informed that somehow I was supposed to have known that permission was necessary to send something to the media. When I questioned exactly how I should have known it, the hesitating answer was that it could be found in a document on the computer in the Law Library. I had previously been told by the Education Director that I could not use the computer unless I was "working on my legal case", which of course I did not need to do. When I then appealed to freedom of speech, they had no response. Case closed!

Most of the inmates appreciated the article, and several personally thanked me for it. Some wanted to know how they could send letters to their own newspapers. A couple wanted to send follow-up ones to the Post-Standard. I encouraged them all, but also let them know of my experience with the administration.

Some inmates were less than appreciative, thinking that I had criticized them for wasting food. They were correct. Since the letter was published, I have noticed slightly more sensitivity of inmates to finishing their food. Perhaps they are not taking quite as much in the first instance.

The C.O.'s (Corrections Officers) also read it, and a number of them made comments, mostly favorable. One of them told me that it appeared on some type of government (Bureau of Prisons) website, where he read it. Once in a while, we get patted down in routine search for contraband. One C.O., after he had frisked me, told me that he had read the article. "Well written," he said.

My Landscape Supervisor read it without comment. Later, when I asked him about the possibility of composting, he said that he was ready to get one started. We're now in the process of connecting with the Food Service team to get the process in motion. Whether or not that article gave the supervisor a little push, I will likely never know. However, if composting, as one part of recycling, starts in the camp, then the article was worth its weight in gold, "black gold" that is! (Black gold is another name for the completion of the compost process.)

Frank Woolever