Leonard Peltier Update (8/99)


On May 25, political Prisoner Leonard Peltier, who is suffering from a severe medical condition which causes his jaw to be frozen open 13 millimeters, requested current x-rays from prison authorities. The x-rays would help Maxillofacial expert, Dr. Eugene Keller of the Mayo Clinic, to determine what can be done to treat him.

Because prison authorities aren’t allowing Peltier to be transferred to the Rochester Medical Facility for federal prisoners, a facility where Keller could examine and treat Peltier, his defense team decided to attempt bringing Keller to Peltier instead. The physician is willing to examine Peltier at Leavenworth Penitentiary, but must have current x-rays before making the trip.

Prison authorities haven’t x-rayed Peltier’s jaw since 1996. Despite this, they aren’t allowing Peltier to receive current x-rays. As of July 16, his defense committee had received two different responses from two different departments of the Bureau of Prisons regarding the request.

The first was from Phillip S. Wise, Assistant Director of the Health Services Division of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in Washington D.C. In this May 28 letter to Senator Wellstone, Wise stated that Keller wasn’t authorized to receive x-rays of Peltier because he isn’t contracted with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He goes on to say that, "There is no clinical indication for a second opinion by Dr. Keller."

To the contrary, Warden Booker noted in his June 8, 1999 direct response to Peltier, "Please be advised that you are free to provide Dr. Keller with copies of records which are contained in your Bureau of Prison’s Medical file."  However, he completely neglected to address Peltier’s request for current x-rays. Amnesty International, France Libertes’, Physicians for Human Rights, several members of the European Parliament, and many more human rights groups and concerned individuals have written to Warden Booker in support of Peltier’s request for current x-rays of his jaw.

Until March of this year, prison authorities were willing to transfer Peltier to the Springfield Medical Facility for surgery. Because Peltier had already undergone two unsuccessful surgeries that worsened his condition in 1996 at this same facility, he refused to go. Prison authorities are now confident that Peltier’s condition cannot be treated at all. Interestingly, prison authorities made this conclusion without the use of current x-rays.

Alarmingly, Phillip S. Wise of the Federal Bureau of Prisons also stated in his response letter that Peltier is suffering from, "diabetes, a cardiac condition, and hyperlipedemia."  The prison hasn’t yet begun blending Peltier’s food, and because he can’t bite or chew, he must eat mostly soft, starchy foods. This makes it difficult for him to control his diet and may be contributing to his ailment.

The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC)urges supporters to mention his serious health condition when writing and speaking to governmental officials about Peltier’s plight. They also suggest writing to Warden Booker and the BOP in support of his request for x-rays. Attorney Eric Seitz is taking steps to ensure that Peltier receives the treatment he needs, but needs public support.


  • Ms. Kathleen Hawk, Director, Bureau of Prisons, 320 First St. NW, Washington, DC 20534; Fax: (202) 514-6878; Phone: (202)307-3198; 6878; E-mail khawk@bop.gov, or swolfson@bop.gov 
  • Warden Booker, Leavenworth Federal Prison, Box 1000, Leavenworth, KS 66048
  • Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, PO Box 583, Lawrence, KS 66044; (785) 842-5774
  • Bill Koehnlein can be reached at toplab@mindspring.com 

Sample Letter:

Dear Warden Booker,

I am a concerned citizen and supporter of inmate, Leonard Peltier, #89637-132.  I am aware that Mr. Peltier is suffering from a jaw condition which causes him great discomfort and difficulty in eating. I have been made aware that Mr. Peltier has made a request for current radiographs and C-T scans, which will allow Dr. Keller of the Mayo Clinic to determine whether his condition warrants treatment. Dr. Keller would be willing to treat Mr. Peltier upon determining he is the right doctor to do so. I understand that these x-rays can be obtained in close vicinity to USPL which will cost the prison and tax payers such as myself, very little.

I hope that these x-rays will be taken in an expeditious manner so that Mr. Peltier’s suffering can be alleviated.  Thank you for your time.