Follow Joel's Blog: 'Portal into Another Dimension’ and 'Locked-in and Free as a Bird'
From Support Joel
Follow the blog of Joel Bitar (American G20 extraditee)
"Portal into Another Dimension"
So, I’m finally through. My greatest fears have come to light. For the past four years I have been terrified of the prospect of being thrown in a cage. Bad dreams, constant anxiety, and a lurking fear in the back of my head have been my masters and it’s great relief to finally begin my sentence. It was extremely empowering to politicize my case through my statement to the judge. The Canadian legal system has been trying to depoliticize the G20 cases by turning up the statistics. I feel as if I was able to resist their efforts, at least on a small level.
After my sentencing I was handcuffed and brought through the courthouse. The court officer arresting me took me to a door with a slit just for the eyes and then knocked, like a bouncer at a hip, exclusive club. We passed through a door which could well have been a membrane into another dimension. The walls suddenly became dirty, desks dilapidated and ceilings were falling apart. I was brought into a room, surrounded by three massive court officers where I stripped, squatted, spread my cheeks and coughed (humiliation and domination are the foundation of the prison system).
The reaction to my case in the bullpen was interesting. People approached me to ask what I was in for. When I responded that I broke windows of police cars, I was treated to high-fives and even a hug. This was by far the best bullpen experience I had because I realized that – in this place – I was going to fit in. It was quite the opposite of the alienation I feel walking around the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We waited in the courthouse bullpen for about seven hours until we were brought to a paddy wagon and then transferred.
After processing I was brought to my range. On the ride over a few inmates struck a bit of fear into my heart by warning me that I might get picked on or have to fight someone. When I finally arrived in my cell, my cellmate, a forty-year-old Ukrainian father of two, showed me true kindness. He gave me extra sheets and blankets that he had collected and asked one of his friends for extra paper that I am now writing on. We spent the rest of the night discussing topics like Anarchism, the Russian revolution, the EU crisis, and the failure of the US war on drugs. It turns out he was a major student organizer for the movement for Ukrainian independence before the fall of the Soviet Union.
My first day could have been worse.
"Locked-in and Free as a Bird"
We are locked in today. Lock-ins are typically done randomly and arbitrarily. The justification is that the guards are understaffed. It’s a nice break from the drama and tension of the range (all though my range is pretty calm and free of drama). I’ve been working out pretty hard since I’ve gotten here. I view self-care in here as a form of rebellion and resistance. This place is designed to destroy our bodies and minds via atrophy so anything you can do to stay physically and emotionally healthy is a counterattack. I’ve been preparing for this experience by learning bodyweight exercises, yoga, and meditation.
Since we were locked in, I invented a cardio-based routine to get the heart pumping. I literally ran in place for about an hour, mixing in jumping jacks, gate lunges, and a couple of other things. I then did 30 burpees and an ab-workout (nothing too crazy because this is a light day). I got satisfaction knowing I was more productive than all the guards in this place.
Later, before bed, I will do some yoga and meditation to relax my mind. I’ve also been acquiring threads from various places to floss since the jail has deemed it – floss – a banned item. Every tooth crevice I clean is a victory and every time the thread breaks, I curse under my breath.
Escapism is also a helpful tool in passing time. I’ve been reading magazines and watching some movies on the common TV. Yesterday, the entire range was watching “Blue Streak” where Martin Lawrence is a jewel thief who poses as a Los Angeles Police detective. A movie that makes nonstop fun of police is a pretty big deal in a place like this.
I’m expecting a visit from a wonderful friend on Tuesday so I’m excited about that. The food here at Toronto West Detention Center is excellent because there’s a legitimate kitchen. I’ve gotten comfortable here, but I’ll be moved soon. I’ll definitely be writing about that experience when it happens.