Refusal to eat cooked food lands environmental activist in hot water
By ROD MICKLEBURGH
Saturday, July 31, 2004 - Page A3
VANCOUVER -- There are farcical elements not unlike the Monty Python skit about the threat of a man armed with a banana. But to his anguished American parents, what is happening to their son in a Canadian jail is no joke.
Tre Arrow, 30, who is wanted in the United States for ecoterrorism acts, has been banished to five days in solitary confinement for keeping contraband in his cell.
The illegal stash that alarmed prison authorities at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre consisted of two apples, a plate of zucchini and carrot sticks -- and six apparently dangerous bananas.
The illicit fruits and veggies were amassed by Mr. Arrow as part of an ongoing dietary war with authorities over his refusal to eat food products that are cooked or pasteurized.
The pretrial centre will not accommodate Mr. Arrow's unusual needs, providing only a meagre supply of fresh fruit and uncooked vegetables at mealtime, his lawyer, Rudolf Kischer, said yesterday.
As a result, Mr. Arrow has wasted away to less than 100 pounds in recent weeks, worrying his parents and angering them at the treatment he is receiving in custody.
"We are just flat outraged. We can't believe this is going on," said Mr. Arrow's father, Jim Scarpitti, who runs a plumbing and air-conditioning business in Florida. He said his son has lost more than 50 pounds since his arrest.
"As far as we're concerned, this is cruel and unusual punishment. We never thought it [solitary confinement] would go this far. It's becoming a matter of life and death. Somebody has to intervene and stop this. It's just not right."
Corrections spokesman Bruce Bannerman said prisoners are not allowed to hoard fruits and vegetables in their cells because of fears they could be fermented and turned into alcohol.
"Then it's a security concern, so corrections staff are vigilant to observe if there are any quantities of vegetables and fruit that are retained for a long period of time," Mr. Bannerman said.
He declined to comment specifically on Mr. Arrow's case.
Mr. Kischer said the situation is ridiculous.
"Mr. Arrow is not going to make alcohol. This is not about him at all. It's about the prison people making a point.
"My client is just asking: 'Don't cook my meals.' But they won't provide him with raw food," Mr. Kischer said. "It's so childish."
Mr. Arrow, on a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation most-wanted list with a posted $25,000 reward, was picked up in Victoria this year after allegedly trying to shoplift a pair of bolt-cutters.
He faces charges of helping to firebomb several cement mixers and logging trucks in Oregon during environmental campaigns in 2001.
Mr. Arrow is a veteran activist with a small but loyal following. He changed his name from Michael Scarpitti several years ago. In one of his most well-known stunts, he lived on the ledge of a forest service building in Portland for 11 days to protest against logging policies.
Mr. Kischer said his client embraced his raw food diet four years ago. He has been trying to keep to it by trading his hot meals to other inmates for their supply of fruits and vegetables.
"This is his life. It's not asking a lot just to give him a plate of uncooked food. But for some reason, the warden has said: 'Screw you. No exceptions.' "
Mr. Scarpitti said his son's condition appears to be deteriorating. "When I talked to him by phone last Saturday, his voice seemed weak, and for the first time, he said to us that he wasn't feeling good."
While he doesn't agree with the way his son carries out his environmental protests, Mr. Scarpitti said he admires him for his determination to protect the water, air and earth.
"That's the path he's chosen, and he'll die for his beliefs. He doesn't care. That's just the way he is. We try not to get too upset, but that's what worries us. We need to get him out of there."
He added: "You know, you hear about all the terrible things that go on in prisons, and then you see your son in solitary confinement for hoarding a couple of apples and six bananas. . . . It's very hard to understand."
Mr. Arrow has applied for refugee in status in Canada. He is being held on an immigration warrant that claims he is a flight risk until he is extradited to the United States.