About Rattler's Struggle
NOVEMBER 27, 2018: Rattler held his head high walking into Sandstone prison in Minnesota, knowing he among thousands protected the land, water, and people. Please write to him, as the frontline is continuing behind concertina wire in prison:
Michael Markus 06280-073
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
PO Box 1000
Sandstone, MN 55072
If Western Union is unavailable to you, please send commissary directly to his account through this link by typing his name and his eight digit inmate number without the hyphen:
JANUARY 6, 2021: RATTLER IS NOW ENDURING FORCED PLACEMENT AT A FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISON HALFWAY HOUSE FOR THE NEXT 6 MONTHS
LATEST UPDATE APRIL 23, 2021-Present Day: Rattler now has 3 years under federal surveillance on probation. He is forced by BOP and probation, for now, to be in Bismarck where locals are openly hostile to native people and, still, towards water protectors. He has already experienced hostility for these reasons. Rattler, his loved ones and legal team are working to have him housed with family at home in the coming months. An updated mailing address is pending due to safety concerns. PLEASE SEE HIS SUPPORT PAGE ON FACEBOOK TO CONTACT RATTLER (www.facebook.com/freerattler) OR WRITE TO HIS SUPPORT COMMITTEE EMAIL (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If Western Union is unavailable, please donate money to his paypal and specify to us that the money is for his transition to 3 years of federal surveillance on probation, instead of commissary and aid for prison visitation:
Rattler was sentenced to three years incarceration (excluding two months of time served) AND three years of supervised release (AKA federal surveillance on probation). Judge Hovland told us he will have to do at least 85% of his sentence, amounting to 25-30 months. The judge indicated he had no issue with his last year being in a halfway house, and eligible for work farm or minimum security prisons. The judge recommended a federal prison not far from the Dakotas. When released, probation can also decide after a year of supervised release if surveillance and monitoring will continue.
CONTEXT: It is not up to federal judges what state prisoners get sent to, what level of security prison they're sent to (work farm, minimum, medium, maximum) and how long probation will last. It's up to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP)...
- Rattler was sentenced September 27th, 2018 at 8:30 AM in Bismarck. Since he was not taken away immediately as we expected, he will self surrender to Federal Correctional Institution Sandstone (FCI Sandstone) in Sandstone, MN before 1:00 pm November 26, 2018.
- We will give updates about the overall status of the prison and Rattler's well being, statements from Rattler to give to the public, and other updates related to his case and sentence.
Water Protector Dion Ortiz, the youngest of all our family that received federal charges, was released from FCI Sandstone prison 4/3/19 and is on his way to Bureau of Prison's halfway house to continue the struggle of federal surveillance, potentially for the next 3 years, on probation.
Rattler has released a statement regarding Dion's release and their time spent together in prison:
"Dion is getting out of federal prison today. I have had the opportunity to serve time with him and help watch over him, but he also had friends that he made in here that helped him pass the time, guys his own age. He is a young warrior, and his people should be proud of how he took this time with his head high. He will leave here with his fist in the air proud of what he has done to help not only his people but all people that want a future for their children with Unci Maka. When his great grandchildren ask about the trees, it will be said that Dion fought for them. and when you take a drink of clean water remember this young man that stood up to oppression, that took the lies that the federal government threw at him, and still stood tall and proud representing the people of the Pueblo Nation. I am proud to know him and call him Akicita. I am proud to stand next to him."
November 2019: Rattler has been informed his earliest potential release date is December 2020, but may be as late as April 2021.
COMPLETE NATIONWIDE LOCKDOWN OF ALL FEDERAL PRISONS JUNE 2020
FOR CONFRONTING SYSTEMIC VIOLENCE: "In light of extensive protest activity occurring around the country, the BOP – in an abundance of caution – is implementing an additional, temporary security measure to ensure the good order and security of our institutions, as well as ensure the safety of staff and inmates. In securing our facilities, our hope is that this security measure is short-lived and that inmates will be restored to limited movement in the very near future. The BOP will continue to monitor events carefully and will adjust its operations accordingly as the situation continues to evolve.”
FCI SANDSTONE IS CONTINUING FULL LOCKDOWN DUE TO COVID OUTBREAK AS OF SEPTEMBER 2020
NOVEMBER 5, 2020 RATTLER WAS DENIED COMPASSIONATE RELEASE BY JUDGE DANIEL HOVLAND AND PROSECUTOR GARY DeLORME. AS OF DECEMBER 9, IT'S CONFIRMED RATTLER HAS CONTRACTED COVID-19 FROM SANDSTONE FEDRAL PRISON ALONG WITH COUNTLESS OTHER INMATES.
Despite extensive filings in federal court showing Rattler's prison medical records of untreated edema, untreated and unknown cause of severely swollen legs over the past 2 years, skin infections, the CDC indicating obesity and diabetes as increasing severity of COVID, his diagnosis of latent untreated tuberculosis while incarcerated, medical studies showing tuberculosis DOES increase severity and risk of COVID, and other rulings in court that support Compassionate Release due to pre-existing conditions that are NOT lethal on their own but become lethal with COVID, declarations from Rattler of the prison struggling to deal with COVID outbreak, and declarations from his family providing a safe address for him to be released to with access to medical care, ND Prosecutor Gary DeLorme stated it is "inevitable" people will get sick from COVID. The "safety of the public" meant, to him, there cannot be many releases of inmates due to COVID. He had no response to Rattler's medical files, stating Rattler had no "pre-existing conditions" when we proved otherwise. He said Rattler was capable of caring for his medical needs on his own in prison when in fact NO ONE is receiving adequate medical care within lock up even before COVID. He also claimed BOP's (Bureau of Prison) response to the pandemic has been extensive and thorough and consistent, despite countless first hand accounts in the media, whistleblowers, Senate judiciary hearings held to confront Bureau of Prison about their complacency towards COVID, class action lawsuits filed by government employees due to the lack of protection and protocols to deal with COVID, the U. S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration Notice of Alleged Safety or Health Hazards sent to Bureau of Prisons Director, and other judges ruling in favor of Compassionate Relase due to COVID complications, all prove Prosecutor DeLorme is merely parroting prison propaganda in his filing.
Inmates time and time again being dehumanized, when the prisons themselves are FOSTERING the spread of COVID.
Judge Daniel Hovland simply said he had "sympathy for Mr. Markus" but the "mere risk of contracting" COVID did not fall under the guidelines of the Compassionate Release statute, despite other rulings in other courts concluding the opposite. He gave no direct response to Rattler's medical records, his declaration, or Rattler successfully finding a safe address to be released to.
BOP (Bureau of Prison) has labeled Rattler a "violent offender" due to his charges stemming from his work as Akicita in the NoDAPL camps. This is the epitome of political imprisonment. Highlights:
UPDATE JANUARY 6, 2020: DESPITE FEDERAL COURT, FEDERAL PRISON, AND FEDERAL PROBATION OFFICES DENYING COMPASSIONATE RELEASE OR PLACEMENT WITH FAMILY, RATTLER SUDDENLY WAS FORCED TO A North Dakota HALFWAY HOUSE. Halfway houses also pose their own kind of struggle as political prisoners are required to seek local employment, their own transportation, approval for visits, phone calls and medical care while under federal surveillance, curfews, required BOP courses/"treatment", and a 25% halfway house fee taken from their paychecks in order to keep their beds. Halfway houses do not allow people to freely roam. Inmates can only go to pre-approved public locations on certain days of the week at allotted times to abide by curfew (once "points" are earned to receive such "privileges"). Public locations must have no gambling, alcohol or firearms. They cannot visit private residences or homes. Personal phones must be approved by the halfway house and can be monitored at any time. Social media will also be monitored by halfway house staff at any time. Their personal belongings and their own bodies can be searched by halfway house staff at any time.
UPDATES FROM RATTLER REGARDING PRISON AND COVID-19
NOVEMBER 13, 2020:
"Well its Friday and here is the update for the week. Covid is in J Unit. That is right next door to [my Unit] I Unit, and only a door separating us. People still talk around the door to guys in J. They are finally admitting that guards had Covid. Bbut they are only saying 4 from what I was told. The judge (Hovland) turned me down to get out for COVID...I am still COVID free so far...Hell if I wrote a book on life in prison during COVID it would be a damn short book. Nothing happening, just waiting for them to transfer the virus in here because they are using the herd mentality to fight the virus."
NOVEMBER 5, 2020:
"Well, when the judge (Hovland) said that he isn't gonna let me out, I was disappointed. After all...I have not done anything wrong...I thought that maybe he's mad I'm not doing what they want me to and lash out at everything. But my belief in Creator is too strong for man's laws to tear me down. I know what we did was right and we are right to fight for future generations. I can't help that they don't care about their children's future, or their grandchildren's. So when he said for me to stay in here, I just said a prayer for him and for that Apple of a prosecutor (Gary DeLorme). I have only 5 months left on my sentence and they still have not broken me (after 2 years). I think that's what angers them the most. That is why they don't want me out of here. And they are hoping I will get Corona and die. After all I scare them that much. But just like November 20, 2016 when they were shooting at us on the bridge, the bullets wouldn't hit me. The virus isn't gonna take me out. I am gonna be here to continue to do what Creator wants me to do. Because it's what I want to do and what Creator wants me to do. I walked in here with my head high and my first the air and I am going to walk out the same way. Whether it's before April 10th or on that day. They will not break me. MNI WICONI WATER IS LIFE"
SEPTEMBER 12, 2020:
"The BOP is opening up visits on October 3rd. And I urge people not to come. I know that you want to see your loved ones in here, or in any prison. But for their safety and yours I beg you not to come. We have more corona cases every week and we all know that the BOP don't give a fuck about us. But I know that you all care for your loved ones in federal prisons. So unless its a video call that you can do from home DO NOT come to the federal prisons to visit. Again this is for your safety and ours."
JUNE 25, 2020:
Sandstone prison, where Rattler is incarcerated, had isolated a man with alleged COVID symptoms but the prison has yet to do any testing. There is now at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.
Federal prisons all across the country barely engage in testing. The incompetency of federal prisons to actually acquire testing kits, then applying for approval through the Regional offices for testing to occur, with lack of personal protective equipment for guards and those imprisoned, with lack of space to avoid further spreading, with hydroxylchloroquine still being considered for use with prisoners as the guinea pigs, and bureaucracy preventing elligible release of prisoners, is inevitably compounding the reality of lock up's endless historical continuum of state sanctioned violence and neglect.
We were also informed Sandstone prison sent their own riot squads out into the streets of Minnesota to stand next to street cops to oppose the nationwide protests. Other prisons are doing the same. The oppression and violence enforced by guards in lock up is now in the streets.
Rattler was told although he may technically be eligible for home confinement due to the pandemic, he would probably not get approval because of bullshit bureaucracy: Rattler had to change his legal address that was provided on his Pre-Sentence Investigative Report (PSIR) to the prisons in order to adhere to the COVID requirements for early release specified in Attorney General William Barr's memo March 26, 2020 (one specification being its less likely to contract/spread COVID outside of the prison once on home confinement, and medical care would be more accessible outside of prison once released to a home asdress). He was considered "homeless" by the courts at Pine Ridge despite family support and having work there. His other "legal" addresses housed elderly people, making them ineligible for home confinement during the pandemic. Despite the hoops we had to jump through, we secured an elligible address for home confinement during the pandemic, only to be told the fact we had to change the address could prevent compassionate release. This is typical of prison: you do what is required but it will still be used to punish and oppress.
At the end of May 2020, Rattler's legal team sent memos to his Counselor, his Case Manager, and the Bureau of Prison Regional Office about his elligibility for home confinement during COVID and his new address that complied with the requirements for COVID release that were specified in Attorney General William Barr's memo. As of this week, Rattler's Counselor informed him he will not have his address changed within the prison system until at least August, the probation office won't go check the home for elligibility, and the prison WILL NEVER APPROVE HIM FOR HOME CONFINEMENT. This means we have to take further steps with filings in court, not only under the 2020 CARES Act specifically addressing COVID, but under Compassionate Release legislation.
Federal prisons are still under nationwide lockdown due to the necessary street protests against systemic violence: there is no ceremony or religious services, only one hour outside a WEEK (if they even get that), $50 limit on commissary (if commissary is even being made available), all meals are brought to their cells/bunks, and phones and computers are being moved into Sandstone's housing units so those imprisoned cant even get a fifteen minute break from their bunks. There are no visits. Under the CARES Act, federal inmates were given more phone time but due to the nationwide lockdown of all federal prisons, phone calls and emails are now limited, INCLUDING calls to attorneys/legal teams.
Prisoners are punished for demanding masks, or making their own. They're punished for questioning why guards are not wearing personal protective equipment. Medical units at Sandstone have guards wearing no masks. Yet inmates are the ones being required to clean much of the facility with limited access to sanitation products.
As of April 8th, people must sign up to use the 7/11 (computer rooms to message loved ones on Corrlinks). Communication to all inmates, including Rattler, is severely limited. Timeline for prison to implement full lockdown is indefinite.
APRIL 1, 2020: "Full lockdown for the next 14 days. Prisoners cannot leave their bunks. Guards designate shower time and potentially even bathroom breaks. No ceremony, rec time, limited commissary to $25, no TV room, no exercise. Staff claims they are following CDC guidelines, yet social distancing, masks, or sanitation has not been improved for guards or inmates."
MARCH 31, 2020: "Well the latest thing that is being talked about is moving people out of J unit, which holds 64 prisoners and sending them to other units thru out the prison. Then taking F unit which are gate pass prisoners, and putting them in J unit, then using F unit as a quarantine because F unit is made of cells. But even after all that moving and shifting we are still over crowded. There is NO social distancing at all. We are only allowed to eat 2 prisoners to a table in the chow hall."
MARCH 26, 2020:
"Because of the virus, they (Bureau of Prisons) think that sticking us all in our units for 20 hours a day or more is the solution. Starting the 26th of March there's lock down on us to keep us in our units and only let us out for 2-4 hours a day...They put the memo out that from the 27th until further notice they will no longer be serving supper in the chow hall. We are to get our food in a foam tray and take it back to the unit to eat... 3 [units at a time ] in rec at 4 hour rotating intervals. 6am to 10 am, 11 am to 3 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm. We are allowed 7-11 [AKA Corrlinks electronic messaging] and the phone room even if we are not allowed in the rec room. There is talk of a total lock down next week...[We live in] 7 x 7 cube with bunkbeds and lockers taking up over half the room. Bunks are seperated by a 3 inch wall. 130 people live in 2 dorms. We all share 6 showers, 4 toilets to poop, 4 to pee and 9 bathroom sinks. These are divided in half to each side."
We confirmed no changes to sanitation or NIOSH approved N-95 respirators for airborne pathogens are in use by any of the prison staff. Not even basic face masks are in use.
Ratller also informed us: 300+ people at a time will be struggling to use the phone or message loved ones through Corrlinks. Any suspected cases of COVID-19 results in people getting thrown in the SHU/hole. Exercise equipment gets cleaned after use. Hand sanitizer is ONLY set up at the Corrlinks messaging station (7/11) and at the phones. No respirators or testing kits are available. Any new transfers to Sandstone are checked for fever before being given a bunk. Prison staff arent allowing commissary to be taken to their lockers so no food at their bunks.
He also confirmed any prisoners that get checked out respiratory illness is put into group isolation in the game room of unit K-3. Anyone in isolation can STILL use the group showers.
MARCH 13, 2020: Rattler has been told ALL visits have been stopped "indefinitely", except legal visits that will be cut "for the next thirty days" due to Coronoavirus. They now have 200 extra minutes on their monthly phone time (about 13 extra calls). Rattler keeps saying "We're like a petri dish in here. We (prisoners) are all right on top of each other. We've already gotten sick before from guards." We need people to acknowledge prison is NOT a "safe" quarantine. Prisoners are already designated as last on the list for health, safety, basic rights let alone when there's limited resources and limited knowledge during a pandemic. The more people have to start organizing/fighting to keep each other safe and informed, the more oppressive the tactics from bureaucratic/systemic institutions will become.
RATTLER'S PRISON STATEMENTS THROUGH THE NoDAPL FEDERAL/POLITICAL PRISONER SUPPORT COMMITTEE
SEPTEMBER 26, 2020
"Since 2016 we have all been dealing with a ton of shit. And it seems to be designed to pull us apart. We stuck together thru all the shit at camp. We clung together when we had to face federal charges. Then we had to deal with others that attacked us to try and get a spotlight...But thru all of this we federal co-defendants have weathered a shit storm. And now that [some] prison terms are coming to an end, we are faced with a decision of what to do next. But no matter what we do next, we CANNOT forget that we are family.
Sometimes we say things that might seem insignificant to the person saying it, but to someone else it is hurtful...We started some hard work for Creator and Mother Earth. Don't forget that the person you THINK, or is, mad at you is also your family. And this is family we chose, these are the people we cried tears of tear gas and mace with. Maybe they covered you when cops tried to beat the other. But whatever the reason we NEED to stick together. So no matter how or why you feel mad, or like they are abandoning you, look at that person and remember that you love them because you WANT to...Most of all I am sorry to everyone that I can't do more at the moment to fight for Unci Maka. I may be down but I am not out.
WATER IS LIFE