TEXAS PRISONERS FACE RETALIATION FOR 2016 STRIKE
AUSTIN, TX – On Sunday, Jan 22nd 2017 at 4pm, immediately following the 44th Roe v Wade rally, Prison Abolition Prisoner Support (PAPS) will hold a press conference at the Texas Capitol to address the injustices faced by inmates – men and women, in Texas and nationally – who participated in the 2016 inmate strikes.
Texas prisoners went on strike in April 2016 to demand adequate medical treatment, an end to the $100 medical co-payment and for all prisoners to get hepatitis c treatment; better living conditions, such as no more toxic water, mold, and an end to long-term solitary confinement; “good time” work credit to be automatically counted when a prisoner has a parole board hearing; those who file a habeas corpus brief to be appointed a qualified attorney; and that the Legislature form and appoint a committee with true oversight powers over the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. When the strike went national on September 9th, 2016, prison officials were ready. They put all units that were likely to strike on pre-emptive lockdown in order to ensure Texas prisoners did not participate in the nationwide protest, billed as the largest prison strike in US history.
Two notable Texas prisoners were retaliated against for their ideological role in the 2016 strikes. Keith “Malik” Washington was one of the first to call for strikes. On September 9th, 2016 he and fellow incarcerated workers were not able to work stop due to threats from correctional officers. Even though no strike action occurred, Washington –deeply committed to non-violence -was charged with inciting to riot, placed in administrative segregation (solitary confinement) and moved to Eastham Unit, notorious for toxic water.
Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, who has written many articles about the prisoner strike, including for the San Francisco Bay View, and has consistently been a whistle blower regarding wrongful deaths in Texas prisons, was tear-gassed in his cell on Dec 21st 2016 and was left without his property – including his blood pressure medication - for at least three days. Although the warden claims this was due to Johnson refusing to return hand restraints, questions remain: why would Johnson have wanted to be handcuffed in solitary confinement? It seems far more likely that Johnson was gassed in retaliation for his organizing and his political writings.
Johnson received disciplinary action when his letter was posted to a website by a supporter. The April 2016 TDCJ Offender Orientation handbook states, “Offenders are prohibited from maintaining active social media accounts for the purposes of soliciting, updating, or engaging others, through a third party or otherwise” – however, this letter was posted to a website and not to social media.
MEDIA AVAILABILITY: CURRENT & FORMER PRISONERS, SUPPORTERS