Jimmy has agreed to send a monthly letter to his fans which will be posted here.
Please feel free to visit often to see what he is working on.
A message from Jimmy’s parents:
Today is January 11, 2021 and Jimmy is still in solitary confinement. He was placed in solitary on his birthday, December 4, 2020. That was the first time we were not able to wish him a happy birthday since he was born. Due to solitary, this was also the first time in his life we did not wish him a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. As much as we are disappointed, we can only imagine how much Jimmy is suffering. Among other potential issues, he has now been totally isolated from any English speaking person for more than 5 weeks. We don't know why he was subjected to his longest period in solitary and, after several calls to the prison by the US Embassy, all we could confirm is that he is in solitary. The Russian authorities would give no reason for this punishment or how long he would be confined.
It appears the Russian government is trying to break Jimmy’s spirit and we can only hope he will continue to fight through this effort. We know from phone conversations over the past 4 years of imprisonment, Jimmy always talked about getting through this crisis, remaining strong, and looking forward to getting back to rebuilding his career.
Jimmy knows he has certain rights, even in a Russian Labor Camp, as continuously reminded by the US Embassy, and has always fought for those rights. In 2018 he filed a Transfer of Prisoner application with the US Dept. of Justice and the Russian Ministry of Justice in accordance with a treaty between the two countries. The USDOJ reviewed the case and immediately approved his request. To date we have had no reply from the Russian MOJ, despite follow up letters from the USDOJ requesting a response. The Russians have no interest or incentive to entertain such a request. After all, prisoners provide free labor. Since the USDOJ cannot get a response, Jimmy decided to write letters to 10 different officials in Washington, DC as a follow up to letters written by us. After Jimmy spent limited funds buying stationary, envelopes and adding the proper postage, he gave the 10 letters to the prison administration to mail. The authorities must open them for translation to Russian so the authorities can monitor his thoughts. Jimmy inquired almost weekly as to when the letters were mailed. At the end of November he was told that all 10 letters were lost and never mailed. About a week later he was removed from the general population and placed in solitary confinement indefinitely. Just another example of the violations of Jimmy’s human rights.
We don’t know for sure why Jimmy was confined to solitary and look forward to the day he is able to call us and explain what happened. When he tells us we will post it here on TWNS. Thanks for your prayers and interest in Jimmy's welfare. Jim & Bella Wilgus
In March 2019 the Federal Penitentiary System in Russia reported a total prisoner population of 558,778. Jimmy is in a Labor Camp in the Republic of Mordovia, about 500 miles outside of Moscow. The arrangements are like military barracks, except with a lot of barbed wire fencing. There are about 18 buildings at this Camp. The interior is open and about 60 prisoners sleep inside. Jimmy makes friends easily and gets along with all of them, teaching English and learning a few Russian phrases. He is good friends with an American prisoner, Tom Stwalley, who is imprisoned on charges of growing marijuana in his Moscow apartment. Tom is a jazz musician/singer and they share a lot of music stories.
As of August 1, 2020, Jimmy submitted a request for a Prisoner Transfer from Russia to the US. His request with the US Dept. of Justice has been approved and Russia has been so notified. His application with the Russian Ministry of Justice was submitted in January 2018 and we are waiting for their decision .
Sept. 5, 2020: Jimmy made a surprise phone call to his parents on Sept. 4. His cellmate Tom was physically attacked by a Russian inmate who was younger and stronger. Tom was immediately removed but not the assailant. Jimmy was at the factory at the time and received a call to report to the office. When he arrived, he and Tom were detained there for more than 7 hours, after which they were ushered to a confinement cell and remained there for 7 days.
Jimmy could not get an explanation as to why he was being held in solitary confinement when he had nothing to do with the altercation. When they were released a week later, they were asked to sign a paper confessing they were "held in confinement because they had broken prison rules". The statement was in Russian so the interpreter told them what they were signing and if they didn't sign this document they could not go back to their regular cell.
When they were returned to their regular cell, the Russian attacker was still there and was never punished. Jimmy was told by another prisoner that the Russian prisoners were encouraged by the Commandant to fight with the Americans, to get them in trouble. The Russians would not be punished.so long as witnesses confirmed the American started the fight. In this case, Tom was in the cell with a couple of Russian prisoners while Jimmy was working at the factory.
Jimmy claims he and Tom, the only Americans in building 17, get along very well with the guards. As a matter of fact, as soon as Jimmy returned to his cell, a guard called to invite him to use the office phone, which he did to call his wife and parents. The guards told Jimmy that the Commandant at this Labor Camp does not believe in pardons for Americans and, with multiple charges of violations, he can extend Jimmy's sentence beyond 12.5 years.
It appears that the Commandant at this Labor Camp has a vendetta against Americans and has charged Jimmy with several violations which Jimmy claims are false. Jimmy has requested that somebody do something to get him transferred to another prison near Moscow. His wife Elena has located such a prison and his parents are asking the US Department of State to insist that he be transferred to the prison closer to Moscow where he can be safer and monitored more often by the American Citizen Services, a branch of the US Embassy in Moscow.
Jimmy has also requested that his fellow American, Thomas Swalley, be included in a transfer. His parents are working on this option, as well as his transfer to a US Federal Penitentiary for a retrial. We’ll keep you posted.