On July 2, environmental activist Daniel McGowan entered federal custody to begin serving his seven-year prison sentence. Daniel had applied to remain out on bail until the BOP designates a long-term location for him, but his motion was denied—obviously because he has refused to cooperate with the government or remain silent about his case. Here we offer a report from Daniel’s last morning in freedom, followed by everything you need to know to write Daniel a letter of support and encouragement.
walking into daniel and jenny’s home this morning was like walking into an electrified field of emotions. the air crackled with the tension of all the feelings a morning such as this would bring. the gnawing feeling of sadness and anger that i woke up with exploded inside such an atmosphere. i had to swallow hard the growing lump in my throat, the tears begging to flow out from behind my eyelids. i didn’t want to cry, not yet. i busied myself, making breakfast with other friends, not wanting to stop. every time i did, when i looked at daniel, when i paused and felt the weight of what was coming, i could barely stand it.
daniel was trying to be normal, but the look on his face belied any of those efforts. i can’t even fucking imagine how heavy he must have felt, how it must feel to leave everyone you love, to leave your life, to be put into a concrete box for 7 years and have all the moments and possibilities of your life stolen away from you, taken by something you have dedicated your life to fighting against. it was hard not to cry. and i gave up trying not to. we left the house. daniel left his house. he was walking ahead of us, with jenny, holding her hand, his partner’s hand. we are a small procession, daniel at the head. the documentary film team is following us. I feel sick to my stomach, like someone has punched me, hard. i feel like crawling out of my skin, what the fuck are we doing? why are we doing this? why are we taking our friend to this place? why are we calmly delivering him to everything we hate, to people who want to destroy us? what the fuck are we doing? what the fuck are we doing? what the fuck are we doing? what the fuck are we doing? we’re in the subway. daniel is always close to jenny. he grabs her hand. he whispers something in her ear. he kisses her. every moment precious of course because every fucking moment we’re hurtling ever closer to fucking prison. but now we’re leaving the subway. we’ve met up with the lawyer who is going to represent him while he’s at the metropolitan detention center (mdc), and somehow we keep fucking walking, walking, calmly walking to mdc. the camera crew can’t film the front of the facility, and daniel prefers to say goodbye to us, his friends, now. the brave faces come off. everybody cries. how does it feel to say goodbye to your friend? how does it feel to watch as something precious slips away from you? to see forces of state power win? to take away? to exert their power and influence in a way that is inescapable? that seems to turn everything around you into a barren field of powerlessness? well, it’s fucking painful. it’s terrible. it breaks something fragile inside, the shards of which dig deep and do not want to let go. and daniel leaves. he is walking away. some of us won’t see him for at least 7 years, maybe 10. some of us may be given the “privilege” of seeing our friend, but only under their rules and with their restrictions. daniel moves away from us. he is out of sight. out of sight. hidden behind walls, barriers, bars, concrete, fences, rules, brutality, authority. out of sight. but not out of mind. not out of our hearts. there is absolutely no way to make yourself feel better in this situation. there is no way you can console yourself with the little personal pressure valves that help maintain your ability to function in this world. there is no way to escape that we are not in a position to seriously fight these motherfuckers. there is no way to not keep fighting. there is no way but to recognize that we shouldn’t function in their world, under their rules, with their morals, with their systems, with their limitations, oppressions, and exploitations. there is no way out of this but to seriously fight these motherfuckers. to daniel, my friend: your courage inspires. i miss you already.
How to Write Daniel in Prison
MDC BROOKLYN METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER
P.O. BOX 329002
When sending a letter, it’s best to keep it simple. Write on blank notebook or copy paper no bigger than 8.5x11 and don’t use any special colored or gel pens or pencils, stamps, or stickers. Don’t write anything on the outside or inside of the envelope except the prisoner’s address and your full name and return address in the upper left hand corner of the addressed side of the envelope. Use plain white envelopes without a clear plastic address window, or any special decorations. Most prisons also REQUIRE a return address on the envelope. Please take a minute to read the following VERY IMPORTANT guidelines.
- Write on both sides of the paper, since the number of pages he can have may be limited. It is also totally acceptable to type your letters. More will fit on a page.
- Write your address inside your letter/card if you think he does not have it, but DO NOT put an address label anywhere inside or on the letter/card. Address labels are ONLY OK to go on your envelope.
- Do NOT send him stamps, envelopes (self-addressed or otherwise), blank paper or notecards. He will not be able to receive them and he will be denied your letter.
- Do NOT send him any form of currency, whether cash, check or money order.
- Do NOT send photographs larger than 4x6. Do not send polaroids and make sure the content is appropriate.
- Do NOT include any paperclips, staples or any extra things in your letter.
- Do NOT send a card that has glitter or any 3D objects in or on it.
- Do NOT send cards with paper inserts glued in them.
- Do NOT tape your envelope shut.
- Do NOT ever write “legal mail” or anything implying that you are an attorney unless you are
- Please use your common sense; don’t write about anything that is likely to get a prisoner in trouble in any way.
- Daniel does not receive the envelope your letter is mailed in, so write your return address and full name in the letter as well.
- Also, number the pages like “1/5, 2/5,3/5…” so that a prisoner can tell if some pages are missing.
- If you send Daniel a letter and it gets returned to you, please let us know about it so we can add any other restrictions to the guideline list.
- Please do NOT send in any books to Daniel yet.
We are in the process of getting a system going for him to receive books. If you would like him to receive books we would prefer you donate money and we will make sure to get him a book on his request list and let you know about it.
Thanks so much, Family & Friends of Daniel McGowan homepage: www.supportdaniel.org