NonViolent Action in Jail - Part II

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From: John Murtari (
Date: Sat May 26 2007 - 11:19:06 EDT

Good People & People of Faith,

This is a continuation of a prior message,
http://www.AKidsRight.Org/archive/archive2007/0017.html, about
NonViolent Action and the time I spent in jail last year.  Again, I
share this first hand view so others can understand what the
experience was like, and also learn from my mistakes.  This was an
extreme action and something I normally don't do or recommend or want
to repeat, but it may be appropriate in certain situations.

The Bum's Rush
A friend brought me to the jail on a Monday.  We were both wearing
coat & tie.  I went up to the window, gave them my name and a letter
saying I would not cooperate. I also told the guard at the window what
I planned on doing.

A little while later they told me to go through the doors for
processing.  I politely told them no.  A few minutes more and another
guard came through to talk to me.  It happened to be someone I knew
from one of my previous 'visits' (as I said before I am usually a
model prisoner).  He asked what was going on?  I explained this was an
unjust sentence, that my Civil Right to be presumed a FIT & EQUAL
parent to my child had not only been violated -- it wasn't even
recognized as existing...

Of course, he told me I needed to be processed and this was going to
make it 'difficult'.

IMPORTANT - This was something I said a lot that day.  I apologized
for the inconvenience.  I didn't mean to hassle them. I was not going
to struggle with them or threaten them in any way -- I was just going
to be passive. I would not voluntarily cooperate with injustice.

A longer wait....the 'response' team came out and four of them held me
by legs and arms and carried me into booking.  For a while I actually
hoped they might 'reconsider', but, that was the end of that....

They dumped me on the floor in booking and told me to get undressed.
I repeated the message above.  They stripped the clothes off me and I
was naked on the ground with them standing above, it was humiliating.
Finally, they threw me a jail 'jump suit' and said put it on, they

Not Self Torture
So far things had gone pretty much as I expected.  I put the jump suit
on.  Why?  My goal was to put pressure on them by noncooperation, the
big part of my effort was going to be not eating/drinking until they
took care of me.  Being 'naked' or partially clothed was more
inconvenient and a distraction for me.

I will jump ahead briefly to the point where they put in a
nasal-gastric feeding tube and met my fluid/nutrition needs.  The
Doctor told me it would 'help' if I drank fluids via my mouth to keep
the outside of the tube clean as it passed down my esophagus.  At each
of the mealtimes I would drink a cup of clear broth and a cup of
juice.  Why?

They had accepted the burden of caring for me via feeding tube;
however, if I ignored their advice on how to avoid complications, I
could have damaged my throat.  I was not going that far.....

The Padded Cell
When they saw me in the jump suit, they were hopeful I would get up
and continue processing.  I did not.  They carried me around. I would
not answer their questions.  Eventually they brought me to
'restrictive' housing.  Someone finally got smart and put me in a
wheel chair.  It was one of the hottest days of the summer.

They dumped me in one of the worst cells in the place, plastic
covering the door, little ventilation, and just a padded cot in the
middle.  I just lay there after they put me down and relaxed.

I was concerned because their was no air conditioning and I was
sweating even with no activity. I knew I should have 5 days with no
water in optimal conditions -- but this wasn't it!  They brought me
dinner.  I just left it where they put it.

There was a lot of noise in the 'bad boy' block, two guys next to me
were yelling most of the night, one guy kept saying his rights were
being violated, another one was complaining about medical attention
and threatening to sue!  It is not unique.

I just kept quiet and didn't speak unless spoken to. At least the hard
part (I thought) was over, it was now out of my hands.  I had prepared
the best I could and there was nothing left for me to initiate.  I
just lay on the padded cot and prayed.  As a Catholic I'm familiar
with the Rosary, a very repetitive prayer, and by counting on my
fingers I would do several recitations.  It was my common routine
when left alone by them.

Moved to a Medical Facility
They brought me breakfast and lunch, I just ignored them.  On Tuesday
I did talk to a 'counselor' and let them know what I was doing.  I was
surprised I didn't feel hungry at all as I passed 24 hours without food
or water.  I guess I was more concerned about dehydration than food.

The normal glucose range (I know now), is in the 70-110 range (mg/dl).
They called me up to a nursing unit to have my blood sugar tested with
one of those finger prick devices.  They got a reading of 43. That
appeared to concern them.

About an hour later I was told I was going to be transported to
downtown Syracuse, the jail there had doctors on staff and a complete
medical floor.

Just have a drink with me!
By Thursday I was starting to feel it, my blood presser and pulse were
both down.  I began to have a fascination with water. I could take a
shower and I would spend time just standing under the stream.  I would
open my mouth and just let it bounce around in my mouth.  I would
swish it and spit it out I kept a log, it was difficult to sleep or
talk, I actually drank from 3-6 ounces/day then.

My weight was really dropping mostly due to dehydration.

The medical director spoke to me privately.  She was very nice.  She
told me, "John, it's going to take us a while to get the medical kit
we need to do a nasal-gastric tube.  I don't want anything to happen
to you...."  Then she pulled out a cold bottle of water -- it looked
great!  "John, will you just drink this for me now?..."  I said, "No."

She talked to my about Kidney damage, and also about my son.  Did I
want to burden him with my care if I required dialysis later? It was a
difficult conversation and I was almost ready to do it... why take the
risk?  I also knew it could be a ploy just to delay things....

I thanked her, but said I had to stick with no.

Alice in the Hospital Emergency Room!
When not being 'tested' I was just lay in my cell with no activity.
They were having a hard time getting a pulse and blood pressure.
Sometimes they would have to use the stethoscope to get the pulse.

By Friday morning it had been four days without food and only dripping
amounts of water.  A doctor and nurse showed up early in the morning
and my vital signs didn't look very vital.  I can remember the nurse
telling the Doc, "his pulse is weak and irregular."

The doctor told me he was going to send me to a Hospital emergency
room for a fluid IV.  I was very relieved to hear that.  It was
strenuous getting to the hospital, they put a lot of chains on you, it
is hard to walk, we had to wait for hours even there....

One emergency room doctor ordered the IV and they started the prep and
put a tube into a vein.  Then another older Doctor showed up and she
questioned me about my reasons and finally said they weren't going to
do it!  It I wanted to hurt myself, that was my choice, when my
kidney's failed, they would be happy to treat me then.... it was a
medical ethics thing.

I could spend pages on that thought, but I'll skip it for now...

Heck, I'll sign!  Give me that water!
Anyway, the bag of fluid was so close!  I was crushed, exhausted, and
back at the jail very late in the day.  It had now been 4 days.  I
felt the Hospital had given the jail a good 'cover' for not treating
me -- it was not their fault now!  I lost my confidence in success...

After a few moments back in my cell, I went to the sink and drank
about three-four small glasses of water.  It felt great.  I could feel
the lights go back on in my head. It was amazing -- but my conscience
felt terrible - quitter!  So what are you going to tell Domenic now --
"well, it was a little too much for Dad!"  What about the other
parents who were counting on you?  What about all that Faith and
Sacrifice stuff you talk about - huh!  What about it!

I was at the Academy from 74-78. We had one instructor who'd been a
POW during the Vietnam War.  Shot down in an F-4.  Should have turned
left after a bomb run, but he turned right -- too bad, spend the next
five years of your life in misery!  I believe his back-seater died.

He talked to us about torture and how it was there.  I could remember
one thing he said very clearly, "Don't kid yourself, when they quiz
[interrogate & torture] you they will break you and you will talk."
What separates the prisoners who survive with dignity from the others
is rebound.  Once some people fail, they start talking like a parrot,
they'll do anything the enemy wants, they feel they are no good, it
doesn't matter any more.....

Remember, that is not true.  Get your self together, when you go back
to quiz the next day, don't answer.  Make them work for it again....

I resolved to see it through, not drink anymore, and keep my dignity
and not betray the trust my son had in me, and also many of you....

Monday and the Shakes
It was funny, but I still didn't feel hungry over the weekend.  I
could feel myself growing weaker.  It seemed strange, but my blood
sugar level rebounded into the normal range.  A doctor explained
that was expected, the body was now burning other internal stores
to supply itself with energy.

We had a small 'rec' yard.  Part of it opened to the outdoors and you
could see the sun and feel the wind.  I used to go there and just lay
in the sun -- I felt like a reptile.  I had to be very careful getting
up, a few times I began to black out and lost my vision.  It reminded
me of the effects of a high-G turn when I was flying.

Anyway -- I didn't want them to see me stumble or fall.  That yard was
my special place, apart from everyone.  If I fell, they would restrict
to my cell where they could watch me closely.  I didn't want that...

It was now seven days with no food and very little water (just the
splurge on Friday).  They put me in a cell with two other inmates (the
inmates told me the nursing staff had asked them to try to convince me
to eat).  It was about three in the morning and I had the shakes, my
whole body started to tremble and I couldn't stop it.  I had no idea
what was going on.  I asked one of my room mates to call the guard.

The nurse and the guard game. The vitals were bad (as usual). She just
said it was probably 'blood chemistry' and not much they could do.
They left.

I thought to myself, well I guess if my heart stops that will be a
'medical emergency'.  I knew they could normally revive people, but
what if your 'blood chemistry' is all fouled up -- hard to start the
car when the plugs are fouled...  It subsided after about 30 minutes.

How About some Chocolate Little Boy?
The next day I was walking slowly from the rec yard, one of the
nursing supervisors stopped me.  She pulled a beautiful Hershey's Bar
out of her uniform and said, "Here, you can have this if you want."  I
thanked her, but turned it down.

I was starting to scare myself in the shower. I looked down one day
and noticed that my knees had become large -- then I realized they
hadn't, but my calf and thigh had shrunk. I could feel the muscle
change.  It reminded me of the pictures you see of the kids
starving.... I knew what was being burned for energy.  I had gone in
at 155 stripped, in a week I had dropped to 132 with my clothes on.

Rally on Tuesday!
Teri Stoddard (teri@AKidsRight.Org) was my connection to the outside
world during this time.  I could call her via phone connection from my
office which I could call collect.  I kept her appraised of what was
happening and she was making good efforts to contact the media and she
told me about the Rally to be held near the jail.

She passed on words of support and that certainly lifted my spirits.
I was starting to get mail then. It was great to hear from other
parents!  If the jail had been hesitating to insert a feeding tube, I
think the interest expressed by the Syracuse newspaper finally made
them decide.

They had originally requested to come in on Tuesday, but the jail held
them off.  Told them I would have the tube put in, they could talk to
me on Wednesday.....

Next Message
Having a tube pushed up your noise and down your throat. A relief?

                                       John Murtari
Coordinator                            AKidsRight.Org
jmurtari@AKidsRight.Org                "A Kid's Right to BOTH parents"
Toll Free (877) 635-1968(x-211)        http://www.AKidsRight.Org/

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