Jaime and I traveled to Nicaragua on April 15 to visit Jason and bring him the latest news about the case. After standing in the prison line for about two hours on Monday morning, we were allowed to visit with him for about 40 minutes. The visiting area is a large room with concrete floors, walls, and benches. The dilapidated roof is typical of the entire structure, and the place is loud, dirty, and crawling with insects.
Jason was brought out about half an hour after we got to the room. He had a big smile for us and a huge hug. Jaime and I were surprised to see how much more weight he has lost over the last couple months. The malnutrition and stress of prison conditions have taken their toll on him physically. His cheeks are sunken in and his eyes have dark circles around them. His body looked weak and fragile, and he was having trouble lifting the bags of food we brought for him to take back to his cell.
We told Jason about the Change.org petition. He was shocked to learn that over 80,000 people have already signed in the short time since the petition’s release. He was more shocked to learn that, every time a supporter signs the petition, an email goes to our four target representatives in the U.S. and Nicaraguan governments.
We also told Jason about the petition we filed on April 12 with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture requesting an investigation into the appalling prison conditions at La Modelo. He was happy to hear that the investigation would benefit all of the inmates at La Modelo.
Jason told us about the many other inmates at La Modelo who, like him, were grabbed by the Nicaraguan National Police without a warrant and without any evidence of crime. Many of the convictions are for drug-related crimes because the police know that the authorities will not generally question the police tactics in drug cases.
There was one man from Panama who was arrested for drug-related charges. The charges were dismissed and never re-alleged, yet, still, the man is stuck in prison with no way out. There was another man from Guatemala who was wrongfully convicted and eventually found innocent by the appellate court. He too, however, remains in prison because he cannot afford the $50 bus ticket home to Guatemala, and the prison refuses to release him until he can buy the ticket.
We talked to several other inmates while we were there, each of whom had a similar story. Some of them recognized me and Jaime from the news and came over to tell us how much they appreciated someone bringing light to what is happening in Nicaragua.
The news reports continued while we were there. We were interviewed by several newspapers, radio shows, and an investigative television report. The media has been tremendously supportive and sympathetic to what Jason has had to endure over the past eighteen months. A number of the reporters picked up on the fact that the recent UN petition should bring attention to prison conditions, which prison authorities have been trying to keep concealed by, among other things, prohibiting human rights organizations from visiting the prison.
The worst part of our trips to Nicaragua is leaving. Not only do we have to walk away without Jason, which leaves an ache in my heart, but we never know when or if we will ever see him again. This time we managed to take a little piece of him home with us by bringing Jason’s dog, Trueno, a loyal Rottweiler he has had since his time in the Peace Corps, to his new home at our mom’s house in Tacoma. Trueno has Jason’s strength of heart, but he’s no substitute for the original.
We encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive the latest campaign updates. For those who want to do more, you can visit our Take Action page or Donate online. Donations go to Jason’s defense fund which includes legal and travel fees, as well as the costs of getting clean food and water delivered to Jason.
Most of all, thank you for being an engaged and active community. We couldn’t do this without you.