Bulger has been prohibited from writing to Greig, who is serving her time at the federal penitentiary in Waseca, Minn. The last time the couple saw each other was in June 2011, when they sat handcuffed in a van, separated by deputy US marshals, as they were driven from the federal courthouse in Boston to separate jails. Greig watched Bulger step out of the van at the Plymouth jail, then continued on to a Rhode Island jail.
Sunday said Bulger felt the government was pressuring Greig to cooperate and insisting she share information that she did not have. He was especially aggrieved that the government moved to seize Greig’s family home in South Boston and the house in the Squantum section of Quincy that he bought for her. The government released its lien on the properties after Greig’s conviction so she could sell the Quincy house and pay a $150,000 fine.
In his letters from jail, Bulger complains about the tight security under which he has been held at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility since his arrest and his return to Massachusetts. He said he is kept in his 8-by-12-foot cell 23 hours a day, allowed out for an hour five days a week. Now 83, he keeps himself in shape by doing more than 100 pushups a day. He said he’s fed food, often cold, through a slot in the door, likening it to being in a zoo. During his hour of recreation, he’s watched by an officer with a canine. He is not allowed to watch TV or listen to a radio and spends much of his time reading, writing letters, and preparing for the trial he has dubbed “The Big Show.”
“Wish I was back on Alcatraz,” Bulger told Sunday in one letter.
Sunday said he’s worried about the toll that jail is taking on his friend’s health and believes the conditions are cruel, inhumane, and amount to pretrial punishment. “He’s pulling some hard time,’’ Sunday said.
Bulger and Sunday became friends at the US penitentiary in Atlanta, Bulger’s first stop in the federal prison system after his 1956 conviction for robbing three banks in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Indiana.
Sunday, a highly decorated US Army private, was court-martialed at age 19 on a charge of raping a woman while serving in Korea. He insisted it was a case of mistaken identity and he was innocent, but he was found guilty and sent to federal prison. He worked in the prison infirmary where Bulger volunteered to take part in a medical experiment testing LSD in exchange for shaving time off his sentence. Bulger suffered from severe hallucinations, and still complains that the effects of the LSD testing cause him constant nightmares and rob him of good sleep. Bulger says the nightmares faded as he and Greig settled into a comfortable life in Santa Monica, but they returned after his capture and incarceration.
Bulger was transferred from the Atlanta prison to the island prison of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay after being suspected of aiding an escape attempt, and Sunday soon joined him on The Rock, where they became part of a unique fraternity. The two men never saw each other after leaving Alcatraz, but had formed a bond that endured. Bulger called Sunday sporadically over the years, including several times while he was on the run, unsuccessfully trying to enlist his friend’s help in obtaining fake identification. After Bulger’s capture, Sunday reached out to him by letter and the two have been exchanging long letters since.
Sunday remains fond of Bulger and said he gave the authors access to the letters because he believed it showed a different side to the career criminal, who once bought a car for a former inmate so he could drive to his dialysis appointments.
The book also traces Bulger’s roots as a child of the Depression, whose family moved into South Boston and into the first public housing project in New England as part of the New Deal. Relying on previously undisclosed records from the National Archives, the authors describe how Bulger graduated to bank robbery in his 20s after a less than stellar few years in the Air Force.
According to letters Bulger wrote from prison, and the accounts of prison authorities, Bulger began his 20-year sentence for bank robbery intending to use this time in prison to make up for the education he spurned in his youth. Instead, an impetuous Bulger chafed at prison rules and constantly found himself accused of associating with troublemakers.
While Bulger’s transfer to Alcatraz was meant as punishment, he came to value his identity as a former inmate at the notorious prison as a badge of honor. He remained friendly with and generous to his Alcatraz friends, paying for the exhumation and reburial on sacred Choctaw land of Clarence Carnes, a Native American inmate who used to deliver library books to Bulger in his cell.Continued...