Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Anatomy of Abusive Prison Guards: Telford Unit's Overt Assault and Punishment Program



Note: As of late October, Jason Walker has been moved to the Ellis Unit. Jason reported that he's in a block of 300 prisoners who are being given cold showers, and when he complains about this (or anything), they lock him up for several hours in a phone-booth-sized cubicle too small to sit down in. To complain about this treatment, you can ring the warden's office at (936) 295-5756  or try emailing the warden at kelly.strong@tdcj.texas.gov. You may wish to ask the warden's office whether anything has been done about this since they received an earlier complaint.
Introduction:
The incidents described in this piece give context to the historical and contemporary art of abuse, inflicted on prisoners from the torturous isolation chambers of the Eastern State Penitentiary during the 1820s, to the 1971 Attica rebellion and beyond.
The documentation of the past, present, grieved events of prison-controlled torture, blaze a paper trail that show abuse by guards is a lot deeper than being inadvertent or isolated events. It is actually part of a poorly-designed program designed to crush the will and spirit of prisoner resistance and unity through intimidation, coercion, physical assault, humiliation, isolation, starvation, and when all else fails – attempts are made to outright murder prison activists and other “troublemakers” who refuse to bow down to the injustice.
These methods do work against many prisoners; but others use them as fuel to the fire in their outspoken voice and work.
Administrative efforts to suppress the truth – or punish those who reveal it – play counter to the kind of ethical standards that the common folk would expect from an institution whose mission is “corrections”, and under a government who often criticizes the inhumane prison practices in other countries, like the Western media's critique of Abu Ghraib, which was called “Saddam's torture central” because of its twice-weekly public executions during the reign of the Ba'athist government. Of course, after U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, the Abu Ghraib prison's name was changed to the Baghdad Central Confinement Facility (BCCF) as a way to sever it from its dark past. But the torture that occurred there after U.S. control made Saddam's “torture central” look like the detritus of those American-regulated acts.
However, U.S. citizens are becoming more aware that these schemes and abuse of official power are common among guards, and are mutually reinforcing through ranking staff. On a bigger scale, it is slowly being spread across the world by way of American militarized occupation of countries like Iraq and its prisons. Instead of continuing Saddam's public executions at BCCF, U.S. military guards like Corporal Chris Graner and Chip Frederick held private executions and torture of Iraqi detainees, while snapping photos of these abuses for personal pleasure and future reminiscing. Unlike Saddam's, their practices weren't intended to be made public, just as with the practices here at the Telford Unit.
This matter raises more far-reaching questions about how the concept of integrity and corrections is understood. As it is, the officers are themselves giving examples of criminal conduct.
There is no honor among abusers
There is an art to the emotional and physical abuse that is inflicted on prisoners by Telford Unit staff of a variety of professions. It is sneakily sketched to first justify any act or reaction made by guards, including slapping, punching, and breaking bones. This may be in relation to a guard being provoked to attack, or just feeling the need to uphold law and order in a way that is personally satisfying or maliciously vengeful.
Justification and relief of any liability comes at the expense of the prisoner being written a disciplinary report for assaulting or threatening to assault staff; self-inflicted bodily for secondary gain (e.g. playing crazy to avoid previous write-ups); refusing to obey an order; possession of a weapon, and any other reason a guard can use to explain why contact with the prisoner was made. In short, it falsely projects the guard as a responder to a dangerous situation or prisoner. A situation that they themselves stage.
One example of this “manipulated enforcement of the law” happened September 20th 2018, around 7:30 AM, to Isaiah Freeman #1562524, who is housed underneath me in 12-Building B Pod 77 Cell, waiting to be moved to the medium custody building once a room becomes available; till then he's single-cell solitary like me.
As Officer Dillon P. Powell escorted the smaller-sized, handcuffed Freeman from the shower back into his cell, he used this handicap to add to his resume of assaults on prisoners. With full awareness that the pod surveillance cameras were recording, and as I watched through the reflection of a window, Powell grabbed Freeman by the neck and choke-slammed him to the ground, obviously attempting to break it.
Powell used one knee and all of his weight to choke-pin Freeman's neck to the ground as he fought for air, until the sleeping pad watch tower guard, Donna K. Strickland, happened to see, and then called for help. Going against the grain of policy, Powell didn't have a walkie-talkie or a second escorting guard, which is designed to prevent another Telford Unit officer from getting killed, as happened in this same setting several years back. He didn't even verbally holler for help.
Sgt Victor M. Raggs, Ira M. “Beastmode” James, Lt. Ricks, and others responded. Ricks manically demanded that Powell remove his knee from Freeman's neck, roll him on his side and allow him to breathe. “Beastmode”'s assistance was nothing but obnoxiously rehearsed screaming threats at Powell's co-worker Jones. Insults like “fat stupid motherfuckers” and a litany of other vulgar language and disrespect came from her mouth, you name it she said it. Raggs said nothing of the harassment directed at Jones, which stemmed from his absence during the assault and the fact that he allowed protective custody prisoners everywhere, willy-nilly. When the smoke cleared, Jones took his frustration out on us.
Powell is the same abusive guard that had just come back from leave following, and in response to, an incident that he had with a hispanic prisoner who occupied the same cell Freeman is now in. And who slammed another handcuffed prisoner on another cell block, a few weeks after slamming Freeman.
Freeman was framed as being aggressive and trying to escape Powell, despite having nowhere to go beyond his own cell. The excited voices of random prisoners demanding that Ricks review the camera footage were abated by Beastmode's empty threats that someone would wake up dead if we didn't mind our own business. Her reputation for using spit, and far worse schemes than Powell can think of, was enough to quiet all except a few who only spoke back from a hiding position in their cells. From her position as a non-ranking officer, she has and exercises more authority than her supposed superiors, often telling them what to do.
Powell was allowed back on the cell block to work, using the opportunity to taunt Freeman cellside and through the safety of the cell door; eventually provoking Freeman into throwing water out of the cell, at which point Powell ran to his supervisor and claimed Freeman hit him.
The original assault on Freeman was never filed, so as to prevent the incident and camera footage from being investigated beyond Telford Unit's damage control “commune”. The water-throwing claim was fully investigated and remedied, while Powell escaped liability unscathed, using the subsequent assault claim to validate his own premeditated conduct – and possible future assaults if he ever crosses paths with a handcuffed Freeman again. Even though Jones was only following Sgt Raggs' orders when he left Powell to escort Freeman alone, he was used as a scapegoat and blamed for the entire event; but I never saw anyone question why Powell took the initiative to do something that he knew ran afoul of policy.
Over-the-top assaultive oversight
Another prisoner, last name Martinez, was a victim of two separate assaults during an unknown time, but within the last two months. I'd actually seen this prisoner during the month of August 2018, painfully pushing his walker with a back-brace on. It was rumored that “staff beat his ass” for reasons unknown, but under the pretext that he tried to “assault staff”, even though he couldn't take a single step without the use of his walker.
Interestingly, when I was thrown in lock-up by Lieutenant Derek D. Sartin on Sept 5 2018, who confronted me with the threat of violence while I was on my way to a disciplinary hearing, I was put in a cell above Martinez. This time, he had a neck brace on, and a badly bruised face and black eyes. He still had his walker, but could barely use it or stand up to submit to handcuffs, which is the only way we can leave the cell. Out of necessity, he avoided leaving the cell to shower.
Unseasoned 12-Building staff were led to believe that Martinez failed at attempting to hang himself, and that his injuries were the result of this, and his placement in lock-up was due to his assaultive behavior. Rumors spread throughout the building as some staff vicariously passed what they'd heard to prisoners who work around us but live in the prison dormitory. These prisoners began doing the same, but adding and deleting details to their liking.
The real reason for his placement in lock-up was to isolate him until his wounds healed, the assault charge was a complete invention. Martinez's entire stay in lock-up generated taunts, harassment, indifference and emotional torment from medical staff and guards alike. He was often called “crazy” and “stupid-ass” for supposedly trying to kill himself, but Martinez defended himself by letting it be known that he was attacked and nearly killed. An Officer Smith commented to me that “they” and medical staff thought Martinez wouldn't make it and that he should be dead, she is one of the many that are saying that he hung himself.
On the morning of September 30 2018, and during my one hour of recreation, Officer Justin W. Freshour admitted that Lieutenant Jesus M. Estrada “beat Martinez' ass” at length and beyond a deadly use of force. “That wasn't a use of force, Estrada beat the shit out of him” Freshour said with a blushing smile. Freshour also noted that Martinez was recently beat again “by staff”, this time here in 12-Building and during Estrada's shift. Estrada has recently been promoted to a 12-Building Lieutenant.
Freshour claimed to have no knowledge of what led to the double assault, and showed no concern about it, like everyone else. He did seem content with the result, and the fact that Estrada now has a broader range of security oversight on prisoners isolated from the help of others, and those under the care of protective custody.
A white prisoner (I lost his contact info) who lives in the protective custody section of 12-Building told me some time ago that Estrada broke his hand by slamming it in the door. He still had the splint on his arm. He claimed to have a lawsuit pending on the matter.
These incidents illuminate the threats that I was subjected to by Estrada and Sgt Zavin M. Gilstrap on July 14 2018. I was taken from my cell on 3-Building by Gilstrap, handcuffed and taken to a dark and secluded area, simply because I refused to stop pursuing the publication of aheat stroke-related article that was confiscated by Security Threat Group officer Angela Mendez on completely fabricated grounds.
Instead of Estrada addressing the issue of Gilstrap threatening to write me a false case for threatening to kill female officers if I didn't give in, he protected Gilstrap by letting it be known that, however Gilstrap wanted to handle the situation, he had his full support. Estrada even mentioned that if I thought everything was a joke, I should go eat lunch and he'd show me what he'd do once the handcuffs were removed. Three white prisoners, a white guard and one black officer stood behind me in the cramped space, seeming to want to see Estrada's threat lived out then and there.
Activist and Professor of Philosophy for Austin's community college, Azzurra Crispino posted a narrative of this event on the PAPS blog immediately after my phone call to her. These events were in full view of various cameras, but little investigating was done, and both Gilstrap and Estrada were hastily assigned to work either end of the walkway that led to the chow halls, law library, infirmary, and mailroom, making it impossible for us to not cross paths.
Captain Gooden was the initial investigator, but decided to pass the investigation over to the culprits' shift captain, “Beard” once evidence showed how unusual the ordeal was. Gooden claimed to be one of the few with integrity, and his desire to have nothing to do with anything has allowed his integrity to go unchallenged.
The Three Little Pigs
Head Warden Garth A. Parker, Assistant Warden Marshall, and Major Timothy S. Hooper, when together, almost look like the three little pigs, if one uses their imagination. All three are replacements for others holding these ranks who were transferred.
Hooper looks like your typical small-town jailer, beer belly, out of shape, thick mustache, smelly breath, extremely hateful and a coward. His belief is that being a top guard means that he's automatically entitled to the highest level of respect and submission, becoming aggressive when a prisoner doesn't go along with this act. However, he is good at hiding his deeply-ingrained racial hatred when around imposing black people, like Warden Marshall. Around Warden Parker, this reserve vanishes, and his verbally abusive behavior builds momentum by the second.
Warden Parker has some of this same racial hatred, and uses obscene language and blatant threats to “do something” as a way to mask his fear of being challenged, whenever he has no choice but to address an issue with a prisoner. He usually sends others to do his ground work for him. When he has something foul up his sleeve, Hooper is called to assist him, as they will both vouch for each other following acts of misconduct.
An example of this foul partnership occurred on Sept 6, 2018, when I was handcuffed and taken to see Parker and Hooper. Before the door closed, I was met with a crossfire of “dumbass”, “lying motherfucker”, and sly threats. The purpose of the meeting wasn't to address a slew of ombudsman complaints regarding various staff, but to threaten, harass, and coerce me into not posting any more blogs or articles that generate such activity. Parker claimed that he'd be monitoring my mail and keeping close tabs on me. If it didn't work, he said, he'd do something to make me stop. He didn't say what that would be, but he did seem confident that it would solve the problem.
Warden Marshall, on the other hand, is a black official and jailhouse “token”, used to quell individual resistance and united fronts against blatant acts of injustice. He's no different than Al Sharpton; often popping up to pose as a rescuer, but only when it serves the interests of his administration more than it exposes its deficiencies and assaultive history. He seems stuck on criticizing our actions, not confronting or analyzing the individuals and situations that provoke it. His method of problem solving is perfunctory, not effective.
This was exposed on September 24, 2018, during a handcuffed visit I had with Marshall, Hooper, and Assistant Warden Michael W. Bates. Bates posed as a fair-minded person who was looking to address my complaint about laundry manager Renitia T. Davis and Lt. Sartin. After Bates left, Hooper claimed that my complaint about Sartin was unfounded. Absurd and devoid of logic as it sounds, Hooper said Sartin was only answering my question of whether he would hit me. Marshall agreed that since I asked him if he planned on hitting me, he had the right to approach me with balled-up fists and say that he might do so.
A change of events warrants retaliation
I am happy to report that the threatening an officer case that I was written by laundrymanager Renitia T. Davis, that resulted in me losing my line class and good time, and being demoted to medium custody status, was ultimately overturned by Warden Bates on October 5 2018. Through the help of outside supporters, and my dilligent networking, I exposed the conspiracy that Davis, C Tisdale PS III (counsel substitute imposter), Disciplinary Hearing Officer Captain Sandra M. Clark, Counsel Substitute Sheila A. Forte and Lieutenant Derek D. Sartin engaged in that prevented me from collecting evidence, attending the hearing, questioning the accuser, and appealing the finding of guilt. Jane M. Cockerham of the TDCJ Ombudsman Office assisted in trying to seal the deal by providing false information to a supporter that filed a complaint. “It was noted that the offender had no disciplinary hearing scheduled for the date of this incident, but that he did attend a hearing the following day. There is no indication that staff violated agency guidelines...”
In a separate response from Cockerham, covering the same issues, she provided more false information: “He was afforded the opportunity to appeal the decision in this matter, but there is no record of him doing so, and the time limits for appeal have expired. Based on a review of available documentation, the case was appropriately processed, and there is no reason for a reversal of the original decision.”
Apparently there was reason for a reversal; on September 26 2018, I filed a grievance laying out the conspiracy, and it didn't take Bates long to rule in my favor, which requires compelling documented evidence, given that the time limit for appeal had expired. “Disciplinary Report #20180337108 has been recommended for overturn. Please allow ample time for this to reflect upon your record...” (Grievance #2019011895). The reversal reflects many due process of law violations.
Even though I defeated the case, since then I've been bombarded with many other cases from Officer Myers, Officer Drager, and others claiming that I'd engaged in lewd acts. These cases are no different to the threat case, as it's my word against theirs. And it subjects me to worse conditions and punishment than what I'd previously got overturned.
On October 6 2018, around 10:00 AM, Officer K. Smith, with the assistance of a protective custody prisoner, attempted to pass me a lunch tray containing the prisoner's spit. “Spit in his tray”, she said in a low tone. “Do it, I'm serious”, she told him with a sincerely straight face. After she realized I was standing at my door, she claimed the tray would go to my neighbor Jose Hernandez #2185302.
This was brought to Raggs' attention to no avail; the very next day Smith was assigned to our pod again. For no reason at all, she denied Hernandez the right to shower, claiming that they verbally refused. Her beef with me stems from the fact that I defeated my case and was helping Hernandez, who is transgender, defeat a threatening an officer case she framed them with on October 6.
Raggs was present when Smith called Hernandez all kinds of terms such as “bitch” and “HIV-having ho”, but just as he was unresponsive to James' threats towards Jones, he was even more unresponsive in this situation. This suggests that Raggs and the prisoner lackey have an understanding with her that enables her to freely engage in malicious activity, particularly when around them.
On October 7, Smith was assigned to work with Jones, a proverbial pushover, who conceals his lack of fortitude by claiming to be a humble servant of Christ.
Not only did Smith deny Hernandez a shower, she wrote them another threat case then tried to get Jones to bear false witness; he declined to do so, but the case was still written. In between these acts, she went from cell to cell spreading rumors about Hernandez being HIV positive. She then openly showed frustration when I refused to leave the day room until she was assigned elsewhere.
A team of guards headed by Raggs entered the pod, and I insisted that Smith being moved elsewhere was a non-negotiable demand. The usual threats of physical assault were hurled, but the hollers of other prisoners stating that they'd riot eventually caused Raggs to finally agree to move Smith to another section. Out of anger, Smith hollered from afar that I'd start getting the same treatment as Hernandez for helping “the dick sucker” and that we must be “sucking each other's dicks”.
But, in the teeth of repression, my personal small token of getting a disciplinary case overturned through struggle, unity, struggle, is only marginal. The real fight is ongoing against the currents of repression, and siding with people of all genders and lifestyles who will assist in advancing correct political lines, and resist trends and struggles that keep the oppressed nation on the cutting edge of surviving government-sponsored mental, physical, and spiritual genocide.
These struggles aren't barred from behind prison walls. They are created here, as time and oppression builds resistance. Whose side are you on?

Jason Renard Walker #1532092
Ellis Unit
1697 FM 980
Huntsville, TX 77343

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Comrade Malik Speaks: I am nearly at my breaking point! Please Intervene!


Comrade Malik Speaks:  I am nearly at my breaking point! Please Intervene!

By Keith “Malik” Washington
10/3/2018

Peace and Blessings, Sisters and Brothers!

Today is Wednesday, October 3, 2018.  I woke up this morning and went to outside recreation. Before being escorted to rec the officers came to my cell with a male Sergeant named Espinoza.  He had the video cam-corder in his hand and I was asked to submit to a strip search. I complied. These strip searches are humiliating and degrading!

TDCJ has be me classified as a High Profile Inmate but no one here has actually told me why I have been placed on High Profile status!  The only reasons I’ve been given is “you have lawsuits.” However, this supports by argument that the prison agency TDCJ has been retaliating against me for accessing the courts!  

Last year I won a civil lawsuit when I challenged TDCJ’s unconstitutional beard and religious headgear policy--while I was litigating that suit I was not subjected to this humiliating treatment.  So why now?? Why the video camera??

After my recreation time in a cement box cage a female Sergeant named Dorian Garza shows up with the cam-corder.  I ask to speak with her before I am ordered to strip naked. I explain to her that I am a devout Muslim and it goes against everything I believe for me to strip naked in front of a woman who is not my wife but the extra indignity of stripping naked while she films me is more than I can bear.  

Sergeant Garza agrees!  She orders her officers to strip me and after they are done she returns with the cam-corder to film me.  I am taken to my cell in order to pick up my shower items--towel, face cloth, soap, shampgoo and shower shoes.  I tell Sergeant Garza that I’ll be five minutes.

However, I am left in the shower for an hour!!  While in the shower Lieutenant Javier Muro conducts a search of my cell.  He takes my mostly “state” items, extra necessities...He leaves me with only one sheet, takes down my clothes line--no big deal.  But there is an underlying issue here on this unit and Lieutentant Javier Muro has established a pattern of attempting to harass and intimidate Muslim prisoners!  

Up to this point I’ve been silent on this topic, just watching and waiting.  Nevertheless, these ongoing strip searches coupled with the fact that a Muslim I’ve known for ten years reached out to me for help, has pushed me over the edge!!  I am requesting an organized response here! I want at least 1,000 free world friends to contact Texas Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier, and Texas Representative James White and ask them specific questions and this time, sisters and brothers, we must demand answers and solutions to these issues.

Please, I really need your help on this:

  1. Why did TDCJ state classification committee member Kelly Enloe approve of my release from Ad Seg yet I have been returned to Ad Seg with no excuse?
  2. What was the reason for dismissing me from the Ad Seg Transition Program?
  3. Upon arrival at the McConnell Unit why have I been classified as a High Profile Inmate?  What behavior or historical data is TDCJ using to justify the humiliating strip searches with cam-corder?
  4. Does TDCJ train their officers to be tolerant and respectful of prisoners who practice Islam or follow the Judaic faith?  Does the Agency monitor instances of religious discrimination and harassment of the prisoners?

Sisters and brothers, I have never ever been “the boy who cried wolf.”  I am known throughout the nation and even in some parts of Europe as being a truthful and respected authority on the conditions inside Texas prisons.  There is a Muslim here on McConnell Unit named Phrory Gamble (TDC# 1426500). His Muslim name is Abdur-Razzaq and he has been on hunger strike for a couple weeks!  I was just notified two days ago. Something is wrong! I’ve known this brother for nearly 10 years and he is not someone who engages anything like a hunger strike unless something is extremely wrong!!

The name that keeps popping up is:  Lieutenant Javier Muro!! The McConnell Unit has recently been placed on what I believe is semi-annual lockdown so we need some concerned citizens to call up here immediately and talk to Senior Warden Phillip Sinfuentes in order to ascertain what the problem is!!  McConnell’s phone number is (361) 362-2300.

I also suggest all of you contact the TDCJ Ombudsman as well as TDCJ’s C.I.D. Division and request statements be obtained directly from Phrory Gamble and myself in order to get a true grasp of the situation here.  

I always say that the best antiseptic for injustice is sunlight. TDCJ has been doing a lot of dirt in the dark for far too long.  We need media exposure!

An update on other matters:
Before I close, I’d like to provide an update on sexual harassment of female officers who work at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas.  While at Eastham, I noticed Major Blake Norman exhibiting perverted behavior toward female subordinates! He was also a hater of Muslims!  Well, sisters and brothers, the chickens have finally come home to roost. Major Blake Norman was demoted to the rank of Sergeant and transferred!  Norman had a big influence on me being sent to this hell hole in Beeville, TX. Hopefully he will learn to respect all wimmin!! Karma is real!  Hell yeah! :)

Dare to struggle, dare to win.  All power to the people!

------

Keith “Malik” Washington is a co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and Deputy Chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter. Malik has been instrumental in calling for the abolition of legalized slavery in Amerika and is very active in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. You can view his work at comrademalik.com or you write him at:
Keith H. Washington
TDC# 1487958
McConnell Unit
3001 S. Emily Drive
Beeville, TX 78102

Friday, October 5, 2018

No evidence, no problem: murder convictions in Texas come as easy as 1,2,3

No evidence, no problem: murder convictions in Texas come as easy as 1,2,3
by Jason Renard Walker

Not guilty verdicts in murder trials are a rarity in Texas, and most likely throughout the nation. The judge, prosecutor, and jurors often fail to act in accordance with the law, leading to wrongful convictions and innocents spending their life in prison or dying through lethal injection.
Cases I've been able to read over and research are normally riddled with technicalities and mistakes that “shock the conscience” of the layman. But the courts aren't moved by such injustice, and have such a lengthy chain of appeals processes that innocent people spend decades in prison after their innocence has been proven. And those behind these wrongful convictions are rarely held accountable. Monetary compensation is handed out, the victim's story makes headlines, but outside of an apology by a judicial representative, the years of mental and psychological torture can't ever be overturned.
A previous case I published on wrongful convictions was the story of prisoner Timothy A. Dawson, who was framed by the Dallas County's District Attorney's office for the December 4th, 1993 murder of a Black man. Despite prosecutor Jason January hiding three key witnesses, Monique Kyles, Latrecia White, and Gregory Paul, who all later wrote affidavits testifying that Dawson wasn't the shooter, he's spent over 24 years in prison, and is currently housed at the Michael Unit Maximum Security Prison in Tennessee Colony, Texas.
These witnesses were kept secret from Dawson's lawyer because “I told [January] I didn't see a light-complexion guy”, White explained in a sworn affidavit on June 29, 1994. “I told Mr. January that the man that was on trial was not one of the men that I saw shooting at the deceased... the two men shooting were very dark complexion. I was never called to the witness stand to testify”, Kyles swore in her affidavit on June 16, 1994.
Even an investigator for the Dallas Country public defender's office, Leroy Griffen, provided an affidavit, creating a huge breakthrough in the case: “During Mr. Dawson's trial, I overheard a black female, who was a state witness, say to another state witness that she was going to get up on the witness stand and lie about what she knew of the murder. The black female who testified is the person who I overheard saying that she was going to lie.”
A witness doing such an onerous thing served January well as, out of opportunistic necessity, this person was the only witness January used to convict Dawson; boosting his reputation and appetite for a murder conviction any way he could get one. Even when these facts were provided in a post trial hearing, the Judge pretended that it wasnt compeling enough to issue a well overdue retrial, even though the newly discovered evidence would result in a different outcome. But just wait, the rabbit hole goes deeper!
  THE WHEELS OF INJUSTICE GO ROUND AND ROUND
 On the partially dark morning of July 25, 2015 in San Angelo, Texas a Hispanic man was on his way to work when he spotted the body of 24 year old, David Titus and his green bike laying in the middle of the street in the 200 block of West 13th Street. Titus had been shot in the neck, the bullet going straight through, and died as a result of the injuries.
 Police initially concluded that Titus had been chased on his bike, rammed by the bumper of a vehicle, then shot in the neck as he laid in the street. An individual who didn't see the shooting or the body gave police the license plate number of a maroon Chevorlet suburban, that belonged to the 47 yr old Stephano Miguel Culbreath, that passed their house around the time of the shooting.
 After locating Culbreath and the vehicle, street crime investigator, Chris Chappa said they noticed hand prints and damage to the front bumper of the suburban. A pinkish paint transfer was on the bumper as well. This invalid evidence was used to support pressing murder charges on Culbreath. Initially Culbreath was arrested and sent to the Tom Green County Jail on drug possession charges. But Culbreath surmise that police trumped up his charge to hold him until they could charge him with murder, which is in violation of law and order.
 Once they found damage to the front bumper of his suburban "They never looked back" said Jessica C. Skinner, Culbreath's attorney. The hand print didn't belong to Titus, the paint transfer wasn't from the bike, and no damage or evidence showed that he'd been hit by a car while riding. As the evidence changed so did the DA's theories.
 Police now claimed that Titus was shot from behind, fell forward, then somehow turned flat on his back in a spread eagle position with a necklace under his neck. 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer argued that Since Titus's body was found on a deserted street, this meant that the only person who could have killed Titus was Culbreath. "We know David owed money and feared for his life" Palmer said. Who also claimed that Culbreath had gone on a man hunt looking for Titus, despite providing no credible evidence to support her claim.
 "They're trying to tack on evidence to support what they beleive... Don't create a theory and try to match evidence with it" Skinner reported to the San Angelo Standard Times. Skinner pointed out how investigations never attempted to properly investigate, question witness and examine evidence.
 Titus's body wasn't tested for finger prints or evidence; no witness came forward fingering Culbreath as the shooter; no bullets were found; no DNA belonging to Culbreath was discovered; and nothing linking him to the crime was shown. Not even the murder weapon; but as the wheels of Injustce turned, Culbreath was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years.
 Evidence that may have illuminated the truth was edited, distorted and cherry picked- namely the police cruisers dash cam footage. 119th District Judge, Ben Woodward privately watched this footage that showed Officer Marcus Rodriguez checking Titus for signs of life as he lay in a pool of blood. For unknown reasons defense attorneys objected to allowing the Jurors to view the dash cam video with the audio on. According to culbreath, when the video was played during his trial the audio had been distorted and most of it was incomprehenshible. But why?
  CULBREATH DESERVES A NEW TRIAL
 The state's entire case was supported by two things: A woman name Loretta Mathis and gun residue found on Culbreath's shorts and in his shorts pocket. The state claim that the latter is where Culbreath kept the murder weapon. "I was frisked four times by officers who wore gloves" Culbreath explained. One of the four officers testified that he'd gone to the firing range that week and had fired his weapon using the same gloves he'd frisked Culbreath with.
 However a forensic scientist, Christopher Chaney, readily admitted that residue is not proof that Culbreath was around or shot a firearm. Gun residue is highly transferable and can remain on clothes after washing them. A mere four particles of gun residue was found, not nearly enough to have come from a discharged firearm.
 A state witness name Codi Mosley testified that she was friends with the victim and knew the defendent. She provided an alibi for Culbreath by admitting that she saw him at the Stripes store on N. Bryant just before 5:00 am (the time police claim Titus was killed) and that he'd went to her house on Brown St. soon after.
 Another witness, 53 yr od Barry Baity testified that he was with Culbreath around 1:00 am or 2:00 am the day Titus died, and had gone with Culbreath to Loretta Mathis house on the 100 block of 12th street, stayed for a short period of time and was taken back to the original spot where Culbreath had picked him up. "He pulled up where I was standing... I got in the car with him." Baity also mentioned that Culbreath was acting normal the entire time they were together.
 Mathis claimed that she heard two gun shots at 5:00 am right after she saw a hispanic male with a stripped shirt and shorts riding a bike north of Irving street. Soon after, she said, Culbreath pulled up to her house sweating. She lived a block and a half over and a block south of the crime scene.
 Mathis admitted to authorities that she'd been drinking alcohol and smoking drugs the night of the shooting, as well as had problems hearing voices others don't hear and gunshots all the time. During her interview with investigators she gave several versions of what she'd been doing that night.
 Originally she told an officer that she believed Titus was still alive and would look for him, around 7:30 am. She claimed when she first heard the shots, she tried to wake her boyfriend up without success. After further probing she doubled back and claimed that around 5:00 am her boyfriend woke up and went home. Even with these contradicting accounts the state simply picked the version that would assist in gaining a conviction.
 As irrational as it sounds the state convinced Jurors that: Culbreath left the Stripes; sped to 12th St and N. Irving; crashed into Titus; got out of the Suburban; shot him in the neck; got back in; raced to 8th street and N Irving; Picked up Baity; drove back towards the crime scene; stopped at Mathis's house; then drove back to drop Baity off. This being done without a working cell phone or knowledge of where Titus would be. Investigators even failed to verify Mathis story by contacting her boyfriend or twin sister that lived with her.
 The state failed to prove that Culbreath had any problems with Titus, knew him, or that he owed Culbreath money. They didn't explain why no high velocity blood splatters were on the ground; no cause of death; the fact that Titus had blood flows going in all different directions on his body showed that it had been moved after he was shot, wasn't explained. The blood flows even went against gravity making it impossible for him to have been shot and fallen to the ground.
 A conviction under these circumstances is devoid of logic or reason, a retrial and nonguilty verdict is more appropriate. As the cliche goes, it's better to free a guilty man than convict an innocent one.
  THE DEFENSE DISCOVERS NEW EVIDENCE
 Police Informant Charles Mitchell provided false evidence that hinged the states theory. Basically he stated that he'd been present when Titus had social interactions and drug deals with Culbreath. Since this witness simply popped up at short notice, skinner wasn't given the opportunity to do her own thorough investigation on him.
 A witness for the defense, Jerry Huffman came forward and is willing to testify that Culbreath didn't kill Titus. He also contests that there are over twelve people that will state Culbreath hadn't sold Titus any drugs or had ever had any social interactions with him.
 This case is currently under one of the many appeals that will probably take place in order for Culbreath to be given a retrial or ultimately a compensated exoneration. Judge Woodard and D.A. Palmer werent looking to convict a murderer, but convict someone of murder. "I hope that this trial will mark the end of a chapter. I hope everybody has a chance to find peace... Lets go forward from this point on" was Woodards words to the victims mother, who was seen leaving the court room, arm around Culbreath's loved one. "I very much respect the Verdict of the Jury and hope that with the conclusion of this trial, David Titus' loved ones can find some measure of peace" Palmer said.
 In fact, the conclusion of this trial did end a chapter: The end of Culbreath's freedom; only to start a new chapter: many years of fighting to be given the chance to be heard by a competent Jury. How can a victim's loved one find "some measure of peace" when they had to sit through a trial, watching another family have their loved ones life taken from them?
 At this prison alone a book can be written about the many men who have documents that show they are not criminals, but victims of an injust system where convictions come as easy as 1, 2, 3. For my readership, Culbreath has this to say during his search for help "it is my sincerest hope that after someone has read about my story and situation that they would become compelled to get involved and try to help or assist in righting the wrong of this racial and legal injustice" (Stephano Miguel Culbreath #2147732)
 Jason Renard Walker #1532092
 Telford Unit
 3899 Hwy 98
 New Boston, TX 77570

   NOTES
1.) www.gosanangelo.com, Wednesday March 8 2017
4.) Defendant Motion For New Trial and Motion In Arrest of Judgment No, B- 15 - 0747 - SA

Prison-assisted drug overdoses: TDCJ is amongst many state and federal prisons affected by the deadly K2 epidemic

Prison-assisted drug overdoses: TDCJ is amongst many state and federal prisons affected by the deadly K2 epidemic

By Jason Renard Walker



In this article, Jason Walker exposes the full deadly cost of the K2 epidemic, and staff complicity in smuggling the drug into prisons. Jason is facing continuing retaliation and harassment for his writing and organizing, please see here for ways that you can put pressure on the prison administration to protect him: https://itsgoingdown.org/urgent-call-to-action-defend-jason-walker-from-staff-harassment/

The number of K2-related deaths in Texas prisons is mounting, year after year. Due to this drug being undetectable by prison drug-testing kits, it has become a favourite drug of choice for prisoners and prison officials who profit handsomely from smuggling it in.
This has caused other common prison drugs, like cocaine, marijuana and meth to be discarded by prisoners who now have the ability to get high without worrying about failing drug tests. Prison staff have also adjusted to this epidemic by abandoning random drug testing, only doing so if the testee is “fingered” by another prisoner, or suspected of having a particular drug in his system. This ultimately increases the rate of positive hit results and allows TDCJ to save money by reducing the amount of drug test kits it uses annually.
From my experience, victims of K2 overdose experience heavy sweating, heart attack and panic attack-like symptoms before dropping dead. So it's highly possible that K2-related deaths are being recorded as heart attacks and heat strokes. A full record for these deaths may not exist.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed K2 as synthetic marijuana, which is a misnomer. It's supposed to trigger the same receptors in the brain as THC – the component in marijuana that produces the high. But unlike THC, the chemical makeup of K2 is unique, and can cause hallucinations, seizures, heart attacks, aggressive behavior, and suicidal acts and behavior.
This is the same drug that made national headlines when, in the span of 24 hours, 70 people overdosed in New Haven, Connecticut.1 And it's not only killing prisoners in Texas, Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald exposed in her August 21, 2018 story that the Florida Department of Corrections has issues with K2-related deaths.2 Prisons in Alabama and all over the nation are becoming infested with K2 and its issues.
In prison, K2 often contains traces of rat poison and roach spray, and doesn't contain a single chemical makeup, so basically it can contain anything. Despite prisoners witnessing their friends die during smoke sessions, they keep getting high. And more often than not, seek the particular K2 strain that killed them. “I gotta get some of that”, some say after learning of an overdose.
Dr Tegan Boehmer, of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, stated that dozens of chemical are used as synthetic cannabinoids, and their unknown characteristics make them dangerous. “They are very dangerous because there are a lot of unknowns.” The CDC studies also suggest this drug is highly addictive.
Blaskey's Miami Herald report gave a peek into the perils of K2 use in prison. “Last year, at Franklin Correctional Institution, Eugene Martin fell forward suddenly out of bed, dead from K2. At Mayo Correctional Institution, Hakim Ramatoola had a seizure and died after smoking K2 described by others who participated as “the worst ever.” Jarquez Jones died at Santa Rosa after smoking an unusual-looking black K2. Jamil Wright overdosed at Martin Correctional. Ruben Harris and Calvin Johnson at Holmes Correctional Institution. Jesse Johnson at Okaloosa Correctional Institution. All in the last half of 2017. And the list goes on.”
From November 1 2017 thru to April 19, 2018, I was housed at the Ramsey Unit in Rosharon, TX; Michael Unit in Tennessee Colony, TX; and Telford Unit in New Boston TX. These transfers were done as retaliation for me exposing bad conditions at each prison. After the circulation and exposure of this piece, I expect to be transferred again.
Between these prisons, I've gathered many reports about prisoners dropping dead from K2 overdoses. Here at the Telford Unit, prisoners and staff contest that “Mike” died from a K2 overdose here on 4 Building, D-pod, Cell 54 nearly two years ago. Rumors say that his “stick” had been laced with nitroglycerin by a guard who'd given it to him. Marks from the welding on the cell to keep it secure pending the investigation can still be seen. Since I've been here, two prisoners have died from overdoses.
In particular, on August 29, 2018, around 2:00 am, I watched a black prisoner convulse, foam and jitter while strapped to a gurney and being moved from 4 Building to the infirmary by medical staff who responded with less than the required urgency to collect an overdose victim. This was hours after I saw medical staff slowly pushing a gurney to grab another overdose victim. The two may not have died, but they certainly overdosed. From what I hear, many prisoners have died throughout the years.
During my stay at Ramsey, Nov 3 2017- Feb 21 2018, three prisoners died from K2 overdoses – one died the same day he was leaving the prison to go home. The number of mild overdoses is astounding. On average, at least one a day has to visit the infirmary here.
Within the nucleus of this epidemic, the symptoms of K2 and the drug itself have been given names that are common to staff and prisoners. Tune, toochie, two, gas, and dropdead are names given to the drug; tune attack, tuned out out, and episode are names given to one whose behavior becomes bizarre, or they “get stuck” and stare into space. Zombie-looking prisoners can be seen slugging around everywhere.
The rolled-up joint itself isn't traditional-looking at all. Due to K2 having such a powerful impact on the mind and body, small toothpick-size “sticks” are rolled and smoked by up to three people. I've seen a person take three puffs then instantly pass out within one minute, stick burning in hand. Guards have a routine of having others place an overdosed prisoner in his cell without calling medical staff, so many overdoses, and their harm to an individual's brain, are going unreported. One guard, Sergeant Garland, is notorious for her indifference to overdosed prisoners. In one instance, she wrote a disciplinary case on a prisoners for not going to work. She recognized he was too high to function, and commented that she knew, but she failed to seek him medical care.
My first encounter with a “tune attack” occurred in June 2018. A prisoner sitting next to me on the dayroom bench had just taken a few puffs; within three minutes, he began clawing at his chest, all the way down to his ankle. It seemed like he thought his heart had left its original spot and come down his leg.
During my stay at the Clements Unit, a rumor spread in 2017 that a prisoners had a tune attack, screamed “I believe I can fly”, then leaped to his death from the cellblock's 3rd tier. On Jan 19, 2018 at the Ramsey unit, multiple prisoners told me that Alfred Brosig had just smoked a stick before strangling Kenneth W. Johnson to death and then showing guards what he'd done. This was after excited friends of Johnson spent time trying to wake the sleeping guard up.3
Medical staff never take tune attacks seriously, and often joke about how the prisoner behaved when they respond to a call. Despite the dangers of this drug, the Telford Unit administration has provided poor oversight on containing the drug, or preventing it from being smuggled in. There is no real interest in implementing a counter, or increasing the amount of scrutiny guards receive when entering the prison. Burnt wicks, partially smoked sticks, and the smell of smoke lingers on the stairwell, in the dayroom, and out in hallway.
Ranking staff see obvious paraphernalia and simply step over it. Evidence of drug use is everywhere, so I believe these officials are turning a blind eye to maintain a dormant environment, even at the cost of self-inflicted death. This is state-sponsored genocide!
What we as prisoners need to realize is that this is a staged epidemic that's designed to stunt our consciousness, growth, and ability to be productive members of society upon our release. Bringing awareness to this is the right thing to do, it's sabotaging our culture and killing us off. Guards get rich, we die!
Between 2016-2017, nearly 60,000 grams of K2 were confiscated in Florida prisons. This doesn't include the amount that was smoked or sold. TDCJ has the biggest prison system in the US, so there's no tellling how much has been smuggled in here.
In the January 2018 issue of the San Francisco Bayview, Comrade Shaka Shakur hit the nain on the head in his piece, “They say the police said I was a snitch, but what does that make you?”, when he explored the perils of lumpen cats hanging with and gossiping with the guards, but claiming exposure of the guards violating our rights is snitching.4
Being in cahoots with guards to push K2 among the masses is no different than a police informant selling drugs in the hood that he got from the FBI to help them frame a drug ring. If someone happened to threaten that guard's job at the prison, wouldn't you conspire to have that cat shipped off, killed, or given trumped-up felony charges? If exposing guards using K2 to kill us is snitching, what does that make you?

Dare to struggle, dare to win! All power to the people!


Jason Renard Walker #1532092
Telford Unit
3899 Hwy 98
New Boston, TX 75570

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

MESSAGE FROM 200 HEAT-SENSITIVE INMATES IN LEBLANC UNIT, BEAUMONT, TX

The legal battle related to the class action lawsuit challenging the deadly heat conditions in the TDCJ continues. An appeal (number 18-20216) is being pursued pro se by approximately 200 heat-sensitive inmates who, due to Hurricane Harvey, were evacuated from the Stringfellow Unit to the Pack Unit in August 2017; and then ordered by U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison relocated to the climate controlled LeBlanc Prison Unit. This particular group of heat-sensitive inmates were by agreement between class counsel Jeffrey Edwards and TDCJ officials, excluded as sub-class members once Edwards was guaranteed a $4.5 million dollar payday in attorney fees as part of the settlement agreement. Currently the appeal is in jeopardy of being dismissed. 

This is because the sole jailhouse lawyer -Lakeith Amir-Sharif - responsible for leading his peers through the legal maze has been ordered by the Court of Appeals to either show proof by September 10, 2018 that he has paid two PLRA sanctions imposed against him over 10 years ago; or to pay in full the $100 and $455 sanctions. Otherwise the appeal shall be dismissed. Curiously as reflected from the District Court and Court of Appeals records, on June 28, 2018 and July 10, 2018 both courts had granted Sharif permission to appeal. 10 donations of $55 each paid directly to the Clerk of Court are urgently needed. Please help and ask someone you know to donate. No more inmates should lose their life because of TDCJ's statewide policy and practice of failing to regulate extreme and deadly indoor heat index temperatures. Make checks or money order payable to U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. In the Memo section, put "sanctions payment for L. Amir-Sharif." Please also sign up for email alerts so you can follow this landmark litigation. Please make a copy of your contribution so the court nor TDCJ can claim that the PLRA sanctions have not been paid in full and therefore the appeal must be dismissed. 

Thank you to everyone for sharing our urgent message. - 200 heat-sensitive inmates in LeBlanc Unit, Beaumont, TX

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Envisioning Prison Abolition: Stories, Visions and Reflections

Envisioning Prison Abolition: Stories, Visions and Reflections
 Azzurra Crispino

“The ability to imagine a world that is different than the present is the beginning of any movement for change: to be able to communicate the world one imagines to others and have it feel possible is the power of narrative.”
(“Telling Our Own Story: The Role of Narrative in Racial Healing” Kellog Foundation).

What prison holds you?
For my incarcerated brothers and sisters, the answer is obvious: Cell 217 in the ad seg block at Warren, for example, for my friend Sean Swain. For my brothers and sisters in the free-er world, it may be the prison of unhealed trauma, a job you hate that you know harms people but you don’t quit because you need to pay the rent, laws you obey even though you know they’re wrong, an abusive relationship, doing the wrong thing because it’s what the employee handbook says to do. The prison of poverty, the prison of hate, the prison of racism – they are all interwoven.

I want you to take a deep breath, clear your mind, and imagine a world without prisons. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What does it sound like? How does it taste on your tongue? How does it feel on your skin?

For me, it looks like a world where everyone is fed good nutritious food and food is never wasted. Everyone has a place to call home. All people have access to education, transportation, and health care. People migrate from one place to another freely. It smells like the air right after a gentle, summer rain. No matter how hard you try, the acrid smell of fear is nowhere to be found. It sounds like people sharing stories, crying, laughing, healing and working to better each other so our communities can be safe. It tastes like a dinner where all my friends are at the table. It feels like a loved one’s kiss on my cheek; a long hug; a fuzzy blanket, diving into warm, inviting water.

Your image may be different. Perhaps it’s every prison in the world simultaneously burning (hopefully without anyone in it). Each of us will have our own vision, our own story, our own reflection. One of the asks I have for you in this piece is to commit to holding in your mind a vision of a world without any prisons, every day, until we make it a reality. Maybe you can only hold that image for 30 seconds at first. That’s okay. The more you do it, the easier it will be. Perhaps pick a specific time and set a reminder. Ask yourself a different question each day. What would zoos look like in a world without prisons? What would mental health care look like in a world without prisons? What would conflict resolution look like in a world without prisons?

Why do this? Because before we can build something, we have to hold it in our minds. In your mind, hold this vision of a world sans prisons. Hug it. Kiss it. Tuck it in at night and tell it a bedtime story. Daydream about it in that boring meeting. Hold it in your mind so strongly that it becomes more real than your solitary confinement cell. Fantasize about it in the most minute detail, like you would if it were a different kind of fantasy.

There are, of course, important questions to be answered:
·      How will we resolve conflicts without courts and judges?
·      What will we do with people who are dangerous? Rapists? Murderers? Child molesters?
·      How do we get from here to there?

Let’s take these questions one at a time
How will we resolve conflicts without courts and judges?
Instead of focusing on the big picture, I want you to focus on your part in it. Is there someone with whom you have a conflict right now? A co-worker, an ex, a child? Focus on that conflict. Bring back the vision of a world without prisons you had earlier, and visualize this conflict in that world. How could you approach this conflict without calling HR, the police, or another authority figure? What would be the outcome you would want from that process?

Blow up the police station in your mind. Forget 9-1-1 except to call the fire department or an ambulance (unless you live in a community where there are other options for those services). Stop thinking in terms of calling an authority or even “I’m going to get him!”. What would bring you peace, healing, even joy springing from this conflict? I’m asking you to imagine it. What would that look like? A little while later, I’m going to share with you what that would look like for me.

Bring back the image of the world without prisons in your mind. This time, bring in a conflict where you were the person who harmed someone. None of us is perfect, we’ve all done it. In a world without prisons, how would you like that wrong you committed to be resolved?

The world you’ve just visualized is a world without police, courts, and judges. See? 

What about rapists? Murderers? Child molesters?
Let me come at this question in a different way: do prisons make people less dangerous? In a word, no. If people become calmer, more thoughtful, better at processing their emotions in prison, it is by accident – despite prison – not because of it. I am thinking of a friend – a beautiful, gentle soul, decades in to a stint on a murder he did not commit. His sister has dialed me in to the call so we can talk, and he is yelling at her. He doesn’t even realize how he sounds. Prisoners come out, and they are worse for it. I am thinking of a time I was woken up out of sound sleep for unasked for and unwanted sexual contact by a former prisoner. (This has actually happened with two different people.) Did prison teach them to negotiate consent? Of course not. Who says please before pepper spraying someone? Makes sure everyone is in agreement before stomping someone in the head and knocking teeth out or gashing their scalp, or worse? Prison is about compliance.  No one can spend any time in such a place and not internalize those hated behaviors, no matter how saintly.

I wouldn’t send my rapists to prison. I didn’t then, out of fear. I wouldn’t now, because it would accomplish nothing. It would not make me safer, it would not make my community safer. Prison rapes are a daily reality in this country, and not always at the hands of correctional officers. What would I like? I would like every rapist to heal. I would like to know no other woman will ever have parts of a night missing because someone drugged her. I would like to know no other woman will walk down the street on her 27th birthday, see a 16 old girl, and think “how could he have done that to me?” I want them so healed they spend the rest of their lives telling their story as cautionary tales, but most importantly, teaching enthusiastic consent practices. That can and will end rape. Prison can’t.

We need healing. I do not want gulags by any other name. I am not interested in “resorts” or “hospitals” that are run like prisons. I want a world without prisons, and I want you to help me build it.

Bring to mind someone you hate. Or someone who really hurt you. What was so hurtful about what they did?

What would be the best way to heal them? What would be the best way to heal you from what they did to you? What would that look like? Smell like? How would it feel? Hold that in your mind.

Here is my example of that today:

Shay, if you are reading this, I forgive you. I forgive you because forgiveness is an act of the will, and my will is strong. I forgive you because it is the only way I could walk out of the prison of my exact memory of your bedroom: the white, starched, button down shirt hung on the firearm; the wooden stock of peeking out; the two White Rain Coconut conditioner bottles next to the shampoo bottle in your shower. I don’t know if someone hurt you when you were 16, too. I didn’t think I was, but I was a child. Even if I could have consented to sex, I told you that without a condom was a never. I told you to stop and you didn’t. The next time, I went along with it because I thought it was the only way I could get you out of my life. My memory is that I was on the ceiling, floating above my body and looking down the entire time. Do you still have the copy of Little Earthquakes I had borrowed and you sent our friend to come get from me and return to you? How could you have done that to me and been a Tori Amos fan?

I want you to heal. I want you to read that paragraph to a psychologist and say, “my work here isn’t done until I can make sense of why I did that to her, and what I need to change so I never do it again.” When you’re healed, I want you to spend as much time as I had to spend healing myself teaching others about enthusiastic consent and what they need to do so that no other person will have to go through what I went through. I don’t hate you. I hate what you did to me. I hate how what you did to me continues to reverberate through my life, twenty years later. I hate that when you got ahold of me online to apologize, you had listed bands I had seen the week before as your favorites – we were both at that Trail of Dead show, and finding that out after the fact made me scared to go see downtown to see a show for years. I don’t want to be scared of you anymore. I want you to heal, and help others. That’s what I want from you, and no prison in the world can give that to me.

What does writing that feel like? A weight lifted from my chest. My throat loosening. It feels strong, and calm. It smells like pus, drained from my body. It tastes like peppermint after vomiting.

In a word, it feels like freedom.

What’s the best place for him, and others like him, to heal? I don’t know, we haven’t built it yet. The closest my mind can come to holding that place right now is a monastery on a mountain. The air is fresh; the food is wholesome. His room is clean, and safe. He has autonomy and say in how his community is administered. He is treated with respect, kindness and compassion. He spends a lot of time meditating, healing and learning. It is far away from me, but there are no wires, no towers, no guns, no cages. He could leave that community to go to a different therapeutic community. Or, if another community believes him to be healed, he could go live there and teach others what he’s learned.

How do we get from here to there?
We can’t just burn down the prisons and let the crops rot in the field. We should definitely do these things. We just can’t stop there. If we do, we will rebuild those prisons we burned down the very next day.

“I have thought a lot about the motto, ‘Fire To The Prisons’ […]. In the direct sense, I embrace the fiery rage and implicit abolitionism that the phrase embodies. I think that immensely powerful sense of dignified rage is critical to remaining grounded and potent. However, I have also come to consider deeper significances. There is the fire of knowledge: we must flood the prisons with knowledge. But there is, most importantly of all, the fire of love. We must flood the prisons with love! The fire of love! A love for humanity! We must never reduce people to mere statistics or ideological categories or the erasure involved in dogma” – Connor Stevens

We must humanize prisoners. For those of us on the outside, that means getting as many people as we can to write prisoners. Do solitary confinement demonstrations, and get passers-by to write postcards to prisoners. For those of us on the inside, that means genuinely relating to our pen pals as people. Tell your stories of life before and during incarceration, your hopes, dreams and aspirations for life after. We all need to believe with every fiber of our being that no human being is disposable. No exceptions. We need to tell stories which reflect this basic truth. We need to love: dangerously, systematically, tactically. Fall in love across the razor wire, and recognize it for what it is: a revolutionary act which denies the differences between us and instead embraces our common humanity. Flood the wires between us with so much love that they crush beneath the weight.

What I am asking is not a mere wishing. I am asking you to gather all your power, and every day, in thought, word, or deed, to do something towards abolishing prisons.

There's a needle. It moves. Like an old school radio dial. 87.1 is a totalitarian prison state. 107.9 is a prison-less society. Every station in between represent steps required to move forward. What are those steps? Where are we on the dial? This can be figured out. Studying the history of slavery in the US & abroad should provide a roadmap. Or looking at governments where prison is not such a major factor. What are they doing that we are not? Figure out the steps, then you can actually work on taking them. One at a time.” - James Dzelajlija

Take one step today to abolish prisons. Meditate on what a world without prisons would look like. Write a postcard. Write a letter. Visit someone. Unapologetically kiss them, even if it gets you written up. Make a phone call on behalf of a prisoner being retaliated against for resisting. Make a phone call to someone outside the razor wire you haven’t called in a while. Reach out and connect with someone. Tell your story with your whole heart. Dream dangerous dreams of freedom. Like a tiger, pace in your cage, and remember who you are.

Take another step tomorrow. Take another step the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after THAT. Not just today, on August 21st, 2018, or until September 9th. Today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter until we have eradicated this social evil from every corner of the planet. If you can’t take a physical step on a certain day, reflect on what you have done the days before and how to make it more effective. Even if it’s for 30 seconds, hold that image of a world without prisons in your mind.  

We must all work together. I have never been incarcerated. But until all my friends, including those mentioned in this piece, can sit at my kitchen table; until I am not afraid of ending up in a cage; I am not free.

“We don’t want bigger cages or longer leashes. We want freedom.” – Jeremy Hammond

“We don’t want California King Beds and milk and honey coming out of the sink. We want freedom.” – Zulu of the Free Alabama Movement