Over the past month Federal Bureau of Prison officials at the Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg have issued incarcerated author Christopher Zoukis a series of incident reports in a seeming attempt to censor his critique of the prison system. All of these disciplinary actions came on the heels of the release of his latest book – College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland, 2014) – in what some are calling systematic retaliation.
The allegations have all come in the vein of him allegedly conducting a business. The incident reports were all issued by members of the Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg’s Special Investigative Advisor Department, the investigatory component of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Specifically, they were issued by department head SIA J. Negron and co-worker SIS technician A. Holderfield.
The allegations at hand are that Mr. Zoukis is allegedly operating three distinct businesses:
- Publishing uncompensated articles on a popular news media blog and inquiring about their number of Facebook likes.
- Sending a single letter in which he attempted to obtain the rights to an out of print prison preparation manual, in an effort to update it and publicize it online for free, so that it could continue to help soon to be free prisoners and their families.
- Having a personal bank account outside of prison and asking a friend to use funds from it to obtain his credit report in an effort to prepare for his release.
Many of Mr. Zoukis’ supporters are viewing the current disciplinary actions as a continuation of those that occurred two years ago. In 2012, the same SIS department led a campaign of retaliation against Mr. Zoukis following the release of his first book Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security (Sunbury Press, 2012). Then, three separate incident reports – all of which concerned alleged business activity – were issued and Mr. Zoukis was remanded to solitary confinement for five months. SIS technician P. Vaughan led the effort at the time. After months of appeals, which were coordinated by attorneys, Alan Ellis and Todd Bussert, all of the incident reports were overturned and Mr. Zoukis’ record was expunged.
As it currently stands, Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg actors – namely Unit Manager Angela Tomlinson – have held two disciplinary proceedings in which Mr. Zoukis was not permitted to call any witnesses, present any evidence, or even make a statement on his own behalf. He was summarily sanctioned to the loss of visitation, email and commissary. This week it is anticipated that Mr. Zoukis will be seen by his Unit Disciplinary Committee and the case will be referred to Disciplinary Hearing Officer W. Bennet. Zoukis is hopeful the outcome will not include confinement to the Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg Special Housing Unit.