Petersburg, VA – A Virginia prisoner, prisoner advocate and author was recently targeted by the U.S. Counter-Terrorism Unit for his writing activities.
“I’m a U.S.-born citizen with no ties to any terrorist organization, I don’t understand why I’m being targeted like this,” says Christopher Zoukis, a current inmate at FCI Petersburg Medium serving time for non-terrorism offences he was found guilty of in 2004.
Zoukis was just recently released from six weeks of solitary confinement at Petersburg after three incident reports were taken out against him by a member of the Federal Bureau of Prison’s Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), an intelligence agency tasked with investigating and preventing terrorist acts within U.S. borders. Specifically, he was charged with conducting a business and unauthorized contact with the public for his involvement. The charges seem to stem from Zoukis’ involvement in a free, electronic news service for prisoners called Corrlinks.com/TRULINCS, publishing three books, running three education-based websites and an interview he did on the phone where he discussed one of his books as well as the underground economies of prisons.
“Instead of investigating terrorists and trying to foil plots, the Federal Bureau of Prison’s CTU seems to be preoccupied with finding creative ways to shut up a single prison writer who has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism,” says Zoukis. “Instead of focusing on ISIS threats or other terrorist plots, they are spending their time and taxpayer money focusing on what I post at PrisonEducation.com and the content of my latest book or interview.”
While this isn’t the first time Zoukis has been targeted for his writing activities (Zoukis has previously had seven incident reports for the same charges in 2012 and 2014 which were expunged), and it’s certainly not the first time a prisoner has undergone attack for writing about federal prisons, it is the first time the CTU has become involved.
So, what led this unit to take notice of Zoukis in the first place? In March of this year, the same official from the CTU instituted a ban on the Corrlinks.com/TRULINCS service, which was overturned in April. Shortly after that, this official contacted the Petersburg Special Investigative Services (SIS) department to get them to write incident reports against Zoukis. The Petersburg officials refused, as they had already laid those same charges previously and Zoukis was found not guilty. Just after that, the CTU official laid the charges himself. As a result, Zoukis was placed in solitary confinement for six weeks before seeing the Discipline Hearing Officer, while other prisoners were kept for one to two weeks maximum. Zoukis was found guilty of the business charges, not guilty of the other charges, and was released from solitary in mid-July. He plans on appealing the guilty charge.
The federal prison’s CTU involvement in a writer’s activities is concerning as it threatens free speech and First Amendments rights, but also that terrorism funds are being used to seemingly censor a prison writer.
For information on past charges and other details regarding this situation, visit this helpful Q & A article.
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About Christopher Zoukis
Christopher Zoukis is an outspoken prisoner rights and correctional education advocate who is incarcerated at FCI Petersburg Medium in Virginia. He is an award-winning writer whose work has been published widely in major publications such as The Huffington Post, Prison Legal News, New York Daily News and various other print and online publications. Learn more about Christopher Zoukis at christopherzoukis.com and prisoneducation.com.