Pennsylvania prisoner fights toxic prisons

This is the lightly edited text of a speech given for the Fight Toxic Prisons 2017 National Convergence Conference, held June 3 in Denton/Ft. Worth, Texas. Arroyo’s remarks were recorded for the occasion by Prison Radio.

Hello there, environmentalists, ecologists, bioneers, blue-gold/rain forest protectors, movers/shakers, GMO opponents, Green Tech innovators, Indigenous leaders and social/environmental justice activists gathered here today. I want to thank you for your magnanimous invitation to join all of the “environmental regulators” at this unprecedented conference.

The environment includes everything around an individual: the air one breathes, the water we drink and the place in which we live. As such, the environment serves as a protective factor and promotes one’s overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being. …

This is why we are here to deliberately fight toxic prisons together in support of those inside the Nation of Prisoners. I believe it is important that the voices be heard of all who are directly or indirectly impacted by the building of this massive $444 million project, the plan proposed by the [Federal] Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to build their facility on a toxic coal mine site in Letcher County, Ky.

I’d like to start off by quoting the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Many states have already learned a painful lesson from their dealing with projects such as the one being proposed by the BOP. And this is because, in every one of those cases, the tragic consequences of allowing similar projects to operate in those other communities could not have been fully appreciated until it was too late to stop the devastation to both human lives and the environment.

Indeed, too often, the problem is that the people in those communities are unaware that [prison] companies have a specific set of criteria for targeting their next victim community, that is, communities with high unemployment rates where people are in financial trouble. And once those factors are in play, they got what they need to get their foot in the door. Sadly, even when some might feel apprehensive about the potentially bad consequences of having these projects in their communities, those real concerns compete with the fear of an uncertain financial future for themselves and their families. This is when the seduction dance begins on the part of these giant corporations and the BOP.

First, they come into the community offering a bright future for those who would support their BOP plans by promises of good paying jobs. Then, to do away with any real concerns about personal health and environmental toxic-site damage, they bring in their so-called experts in their expensive suits with an air of respectability, pretending to be pillars of society, when they are nothing more than hired guns who come into an unsuspecting community speaking the latest impressive sounding scientific jargon. With the skill of a master illusionist, they complete the deception started by company executives.

The tragic success of this deceit is reflected in the readiness with which average tax-paying citizens unwittingly welcome these corporate environmental terrorists into their communities, only to regret it later when their tax-paying citizens’ lives are devastated by an unlivable environment and their bodies are ravished by terminal diseases.

One of the strongest examples we have that this project is being proposed without any thought of the consequences to environmental justice, water quality, prisoners’ rights, endangered species and the lack of assessing alternatives to incarceration, can be found in the [Letcher site] environmental impact statement. That’s where the BOP states they have “determined there is no significant new information relevant to environmental concerns and appreciable changes to potential impact as a result of modifications to the Roxana site.” (tinyurl.com/ycpp774f)

It is very clear from that portion of the statement that the BOP has no idea as to what detrimental impact the building of this federal facility on top of a toxic mine site, costing taxpayers $444 million out of the federal budget, will have on both human life and on the environment, for that matter.

In light of this revelation, we have to ask, can anyone see the insanity in this? In effect, the BOP doesn’t mind experimenting to gather data in which close to several thousand federal prisoners, federal corrections officers, civilian staff and the rest of the population of the Roxana-site community will be reduced to the status of guinea pigs. In effect — lab rats.

In closing, there are two reasons for doing anything: a good reason, [and] then there is the real reason. Is there any economic feasibility to waste the taxpayers’ $444 million on a federal prison that will eventually promote sickness and cancer, causing diseases to both the federal prisoners and civilian staff members alike?

Fight the BOP and prevent them from building on a toxic mine site in Roxana. Mutual allegiance is our support system. That is our contract. Protest! Fight, fight, fight!

Bryant Arroyo © 2017  Letters can be sent to:
Bryant Arroyo #CU-1126, SCI Frackville,
1111 Altamont Blvd., Frackville, PA 17931