Marius Mason is an anarchist, an environmental and animal rights prisoner serving nearly 22 years in federal prison for acts of sabotage carried out in defense of the planet. No one was injured in any of these actions. After being threatened with a life sentence in 2009, he pleaded guilty to charges of arson at a Michigan State University lab researching Genetically Modified Organisms for Monsanto, and admitted to 12 other acts of property damage. The sentencing judge applied a so-called “terrorism enhancement” to his term which added almost two more years than the maximum requested by the prosecution. This is the harshest punishment of anyone convicted of environmental sabotage to date.
Marius is incarcerated in the high security Administration Unit at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. According to the prison’s own literature, the unit is “designed for female inmates with histories of escapes, chronic behavior problems, repeated incidents of assaultive or predatory behavior, or other special management concerns.” Marius has never violated any prison rules. Clearly, he is being held in this unit because of his political beliefs and in an effort to silence him.
Marius’ gymnasium-sized unit, housing up to 20 prisoners, causes severe distress and worsens the debilitating mental illnesses and PTSD from which some of the prisoners suffer. The confinement and isolation result in periodic acts of violence and suicide attempts as women struggle to maintain sanity in these conditions.
The prisoners are only allowed to exercise in a small, fenced-in, concrete, outdoor area topped by double-coiled razor wire where there is little room for physical activity.
The unit is frequently and unpredictably locked down for hours on end due to violence and suicide attempts resulting from the claustrophobic and oppressive conditions. Prisoners leave the building for medical treatment, but only after a protracted wait and fierce advocacy on the part of the prisoner even though Carswell is ostensibly a medical facility. Access to mental health counseling, medical care, and educational opportunities are greatly diminished because of security issues.
Inmates who are housed there because of behavioral issues are told what they have to do to be transferred. They are given structured programs and measurable goals so that they may eventually return to the prison’s general population. But not Marius. As a political prisoner, he has no idea what he needs to do, if anything, in order to be released from his strict confinement.
The psychological corrosiveness of a sterile environment, the lack of adequate access to exercise and mental simulation, the psychological trauma suffered by all of the prisoners, and the seeming impossibility of attaining freedom from this unit constitutes a cruel, but unfortunately, not an unusual punishment. The unit exacerbates and worsens the behavior it says it works to correct. It should be closed and Marius and the other prisoners moved from it immediately.
It is urgent that we do everything within our power to move Marius to the general population of a low security facility and then work to reduce his outrageous prison term. The unfairness of his sentence can be seen when compared to those meted out to others.
Recently, a man who set an arson for profit fire that paralyzed a Detroit firefighter and injured six of his colleagues was sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison. Rebecca Rubin, accused by the government of taking part in 20 fires attributed to the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front that did $40 million in damage, pleaded guilty and received the federal minimum sentence of five years.
It is unclear why the government has singled out Marius for such a harsh sentence and strict confinement, but every day he is forced to live in these conditions takes a toll on his mental and physical health.
We demand that he be removed from this restrictive unit and transferred to a prison near his family and friends. And, that his sentence be reduced to that of Rebecca Rubin’s.