Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Envisioning Prison Abolition: Stories, Visions and Reflections

Envisioning Prison Abolition: Stories, Visions and Reflections

“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 have been 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. 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.

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 shirt hung on the shotgun; the wooden stock peeking out; the two White Rain Coconut conditioner and one 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 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




Wednesday, August 1, 2018

URGENT CALL TO ACTION: CALL IN FOR SEAN SWAIN

11:45am CST UPDATE:  The 614-387-0588 number is a general switch line, and was overheard saying "I need to turn off my phone" after thinking the activist on the other line had hung up. We are doing an excellent job, please keep it up!

Call-in for anarchist prisoner Sean Swain


Sean Swain, a long-term anarchist prisoner in Ohio, has come under fire
by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The ODRC has
increased Sean’s security level from 3 to 5b, an increase that has sent
him to solitary confinement, led to him being handcuffed during visits,
and further removed him from any possibility for parole. Additionally,
the ODRC is threatening to put Sean on interstate compact, a system that
ships subversive prisoners around the country, places heavy restrictions
on communication, and interns them in the black hole of the interstate
compact system.

We’re calling for any who feel compelled by Sean’s plight to call ODRC
director Gary Mohr and demand that Sean’s appeal to the current
disciplinary hearing be granted and that Sean’s security level be
lowered. (A script for the call can be found below.)

Thank you all. Your solidarity means so much.
some friends of Sean Swain

Call:
Director Gary Mohr
614-387-0588
drc.publicinfo@odrc.state.oh.us
melissa.adkins@odrc.state.oh.us (Administrative Assistant for Mohr)

If this number is shut off, Bureau of Classification:
614-752-1106. (The person who answers will claim she can do nothing. Just keep her on the line as politely and for as long as possible.) 


CALL-IN SCRIPT

I am calling on behalf of Sean Swain, inmate #243-205. I am [your relationship to Sean: friend, concerned citizen, etc] of
Sean's. I am calling to request the ODRC grant Mr. Swain's appeal
regarding his most recent disciplinary record, drop the charges, and
lower his security level from 5b to 2. Mr. Swain is not a physical
security risk, and there is no reason to keep him at such a high
security rating where he will be unable to get the programming he needs
to be eligible for rehabilitation and parole. Thank you for your
consideration.


Please remain polite! Call and share widely!

Feel free to write to Sean:

Sean Swain #243-205
Warren Correctional Institution 
PO Box 120 
Lebanon, OH 45036

Saturday, July 14, 2018

URGENT UPDATE: JASON WALKER


Received a call from Jason Walker today. He states that between 6 and 6:30 this morning, an incident occurred between him and SGT GILSTRAP and LT ESTRADA. 

The previous day, he had been told that there was an issue with the Security Threat Group mail room regarding an article that he had been sent by Victor Wallis. However, when Jason spoke to the mail room staff, he was told that the real issue was with the article he just put in the mail to Victor regarding heat strokes occurring at Telford Unit. Specifically, the issue was that the title included the words “Black Panther Party Prison Chapter”.  Jason pointed out these words have been in his outgoing mail without the Security Threat Group being concerned, but he was told that it was now an issue by the mail room staff. Jason removed those words, and put the article back in the mail to Victor Wallis.

This morning, GILSTRAP told Jason that Jason needed to go up front. Initially, Jason refused, but eventually he did. Gilstrap told Jason to “remember he was” and that Telford was a different unit than he was used to. Specifically, he told Jason that Jason needed to stop writing about issues regarding conditions. Gilstrap threatened Jason that if he did not stop speaking out, Gilstrap would issue Jason a write-up claiming that Jason had threatened to kill female correctional officers. Jason denied having done so, to which Gilstrap said it didn’t matter. When Jason asked to report this, Gilstrap told him that everyone is on the same side, and that reporting wouldn’t do him any good. Jason was handcuffed, and taken to LT ESTRADA, who told Jason that he better not see Jason pass by his office any more (which is both on the way to the chow hall and to the law library) or Jason could expect to have something done to him. This was all in the full view of the A-Block cameras, including the one near the laundry area and the two adjacent cameras. 

Jason is concerned for his safety and also that he may be framed as having threatened female correctional officers.

Please write Jason to show he has support:

Jason Renard Walker 
01532092
Telford Unit 
3899 TX-98
New Boston, TX 75570 

Will be updating this with a call-in campaign soon. 

[And yes, I did get this call while I was driving from one prison visit to the next. All in a day's work]

Photography Review: Ohio State Penitentiary with Jermane Scott and Greg Curry

Day 2

Ohio State Penitentiary is an imposing building. If you're not paying attention, Warren Correctional could be an ugly high school. Ohio State Penitentiary starts out unassuming, just turn right onto a road across the street from a farm. When I pulled up, though, the fence has a net of wire that screamed "we mean business". There are several stop points to get in. From the sidewalk, I could hear the guys screaming from administrative segregation.

I had the disturbing privilege of visiting two prisoners wrongfully convicted of murder at this unit. I don't think Ohio realizes just how many people there are in its prisons convicted of taking a life that did not. Both should have been eligible for contact visits and were at a security level low enough not to even be at OSP, but we nevertheless visited through glass in a small booth that (to me) felt like a cell.

The COs were royally confused that I was visiting two people back-to-back, so that raised some challenges. But I wanted to capture the feel of how different these two Black men, both innocent of which they have been convicted, are.

Talking to Jermane about his youth was to look back on his life through the lens of an older man who realizes the structural issues that led him to choose the street life. He is excited to be getting a visit from The Innocence Project next week, and we did quite a bit of strategizing. For those unfamiliar with his case, Jermane went on a shopping spree with a credit card that turned out to belong to a dead man. When he refused to snitch on how he came into possession of the credit card, he found himself facing the death penalty for a murder he did not commit and could not have committed. For example, evidence was withheld that the neighbors knew the victim hid his garage door opener, the location of which was necessary for the murderer to use the car as the get-away vehicle. Jermane didn't know the victim; couldn't have known about the garage door opener; didn't drive the get-away car, because he didn't kill him.

But since when does the US justice system care which Black man killed someone, as long as someone is warming a bed in the prison plantation? As a high security prisoner, Jermane costs the State of Ohio more than $60k to house, not to mention what his supporters spend in overpriced phone calls and gouged commissary items.

What struck me the most though was Jermane's decision, when he was 36, to become a pacifist. I'm often told that the only reason I can be a pacifist is that I'm a middle-class white woman; that my pacifism is really an extension of my privilege; that it is bought through the violence of others. Across the glass, with a warm smile, is the counter-example. This is a man who spent 20 years of his life as a gang member, inside and outside of prison, peacefully retired, and now continues to live non-violently in one of the most violent situations one can be. I was curious if people tried to goad him into fighting, and he just smiled, shook his head, and let me know that wouldn't work.

At the end of our visit, I had to go all the way down the elevator (ELEVATOR? Never seen one of those in a prison), check out, then come back in.

Prisoners getting non-contact visits are also not allowed food or drink during their visits. That's different from Texas: there, you buy from vending, hand it to the CO, and the CO takes it behind the glass. Technically, I could buy vending for myself and rudely eat and drink in front of them, but my mother raised me better than that. Since there was no time between the visits, that meant I couldn't eat or drink until I was all the way done. There was a drinking fountain on the second floor, but it didn't appear to be working.

Going to the bathroom between visits was eventful. I tried to go downstairs, but was told to use the upstairs bathroom. The CO upstairs tried to get me to exit the unit to use the restroom outside of security, not realizing that I was visiting two separate people. So, I ended up using a bathroom I thought I was locked in for a few minutes. I've never had to knock on a door to be let out of a bathroom before (even though it turned out I just hadn't turned the handle hard enough), but that brief 10 seconds of confinement was yet another reminder of what my friends go through every single day for decades.

Now we get to the Photography Review portion. Because Sean couldn't get a picture, and I was told I couldn't buy commissary, I wrongfully assumed this meant I couldn't get pictures during this visit. Greg knew better, and ordered three pictures taken. I hopped on the counter, trying to stand in a way that made it seem like we were together. The photographer was another inmate, and Greg was adamantly instructing him on what to do to avoid the massive glare coming off the glass. To be fair, the glare was bad enough that I kept moving so that my head was immediately in front of Greg's even while we were talking - that was the only way that I could get a good look at him.

Most of us think of Greg as the resistance fighter, wrongfully convicted of murder during the Lucasville Uprisings of April 1993. Let me point out he has a softer, funnier side. His dating advice: go to RV conventions, because it's a good place to meet guys who like to travel and have their life together. It was a gentle reminder that just as much as I worry about my pen pals, they worry about me.

There is plenty to worry about with Greg. His security level is a 4, which means he should have been let out of OSP, out of segregation, and able to transition back to general population. But the Central Office can't seem to find a bed in a lower security unit for him, so he continues to be held in administrative segregation for no good reason. Keep in mind, if he had been moved to his new unit, we would have been able to hug hello and goodbye, share vending machine junk food, and sit next to each other like human beings. Instead, we tried our best to be heard through the glass, sometimes yelling to get our points across.

Suddenly, it was time to go. The worst part of a non-contact visit is watching the person I'm visiting bend down to put their arms into the hole so they can have their hands cuffed behind their back again. Greg pointed to a bar on the ground of his side of the booth, saying that back in the day, he would have been chained to it while being behind the glass during a visit.

I'm sitting at a diner, about to go to bed before heading off to my next visit, this time in Pennsylvania. But I feel like part of me was never let out of that bathroom, never walked out of that fence. I kept seeing it while I was driving across the beautiful Pennsylvania landscape.

How are we going to abolish these factories of evil? In the mean time, I keep carrying in light.

Restaurant Review: Au Jus Roast Beef at Warren Correctional Facility with Sean Swain


For those of you who have never done a prisoner visit in Ohio, you may be surprised to know that this fine dining experience requires a reservation. I arrived at exactly 2pm, as was instructed. My pants were loose, my bra was free of an underwire (which is not easy!) and I was given my ticket so I could wait before going through the metal detector and getting my hand stamped in invisible ink. Two other women were not so lucky: one was given a pair of scissors to cut her underwire out, and the other had to go buy another pair of pants as her capris were deemed too shot for entry.

I arrived to find Sean already seated at the small yellow chairs, his hands bound to each other and to a belt at his waist. Since he’s in administrative segregation (again!), they would not let us get pictures, nor could he have full movement of his arms. Although this was my third time visiting someone wrongfully convicted of murder, it was the first time I had a contact visit.  Due to my “reservation” being for 2:30 and again at 5, I had to exit the visitation room and go through security completely in between the visits. The good news is a visitor is allowed one hug coming in and one hug coming out, which means I got to give Sean four hugs instead of two. The only struggle was to figure out how to hug someone who is bound in such a way. I put my arms around him and hugged him as best I could, while he smiled and tied to hunch his shoulders towards me in an exaggerated shrug.

I was expecting to be able to take pictures, so had put enough money to cover that on the white plastic card, which cannot be refunded but can be re-used, except only at that facility with that particular prisoner. I wasn’t sure when I am coming back through this way (well, that’s not quite true – I have a visit scheduled for Monday at Lebanon CI, which is down the road from Warren), so I figured let’s eat up. Sean and I split two surprisingly good roast beef sandwiches with dipping sauce. I wasn’t necessarily thinking of the challenge of eating with my hands bound when I made the choice, though it turned out to be delicious and we ordered another.

Of course, the conversation was the best part of the meal. This is, after all, the future Last Governor of Ohio. Particularly of interest were his conversion story to Islam, and 9th century autonomous zones under Islamic "rule". 

As I stood at the wall, lined up in single file, the correctional officer kept calling out on his walkie talkie that he needed additional help to be able to get us out and the prisoners back in. "They can just let us walk out with them" I said to the woman next to me. "I wish," she replied. 

Let's make that wish a reality. 

Tomorrow: two dates at one unit!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Urgent Call to Action: Get Malik Washington out of Ad-Seg

[Reposted from Blue Ridge ABC] 
All Hands on Deck:  Get Malik Washington out of Ad-Seg!
Several weeks ago, friends and supporters of incarcerated freedom fighter Comrade Malik Washington were overjoyed to hear that he was getting released, finally, from Administrative Segregation (solitary confinement) at Eastham Unit in Texas--until TDCJ pulled a fast one, falsely claiming that he refused to participate in the Ad-Seg Transition Program to get him released back to general population.  
This is a complete lie:  Malik has been fighting to get out of Ad-Seg from the moment he was thrown in there two years ago on a bogus riot charge (which was, itself, retaliation for prison strike organizing and agitating against inhumane, discriminatory conditions).  
Here's what actually happened:  when Malik arrived at Ramsey Unit on June 21, he was assigned to a top bunk, which is prohibited by his medical restrictions as a seizure patient.  TDCJ had failed to transfer his medical restrictions records, or had erased them, and are now claiming no record of these restrictions, which have been on file and in place for the past ten years.  Malik wrote a detailed statement requesting to be placed on a lower bunk in order to avoid injury; later that night, he was abruptly transferred back to Ad-Seg at a new Unit (McConnell).  
Malik was told that Ramsey staff claimed he refused to participate in the Ad-Seg Transition program--this is NOT true, and he needs to be re-instated to the program immediately!  He also urgently needs his medical restrictions put back into his records!
-----
We are extremely concerned for Malik's safety, and urgently need the help of everyone reading this. Please take one or more of the following actions, and get a couple friends to do the same!
1. Call Senior Warden Phillip Sifuentes at Malik's current facility (McConnell) and tell them Keith Washington (#1487958) must be transferred out of McConnell and re-admitted to the Ad-Seg Transition Program!
Phone #: (361) 362-2300 (**048) 00 --  ask to be connected to the senior warden's office/receptionist--try to talk to someone, but also can leave a message. 
Sample Script: "Hello, I'm calling because I'm concerned about Keith H. Washington (#1487958) who was recently transferred to your facility.  I understand he was transferred there from Ramsey Unit, because he supposedly refused to participate in the Ad-Seg transition program there, but this is not true; Malik never refused to participate, and he needs to be re-admitted to the transition program immediately!  I am also concerned that his heat restrictions seem to have been removed from his records.  He is a seizure patient and has been on heat and work restriction for years, and these restrictions must be reinstated immediately."
Please let us know how your call goes at blueridgeABC <at> riseup <dot> net
2. Flood TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier with calls/emails!  You can use the above phone script as a guide for emails. 
(936) 437-2101 / (936) 437-2123

3. Flood TDCJ with emails demanding that Malik’s health restrictions and work restrictions be restored: Health.services@tdcj.texas.gov

You can use the call script above as a guide; you don’t need to mention the Ad-Seg situation, but just focus on the need to restore his heat and work restrictions!

4. File a complaint with the Ombudsman's Office (the office in charge of investigating departmental misconduct); you can use the above phone script as a guide for emails.

5. Write to Malik!  Every letter he receives lifts his spirit and PROTECTS him, because prison officials know he has people around him, watching for what happens to him.

Keith H. Washington
#1487958
McConnell Unit

Friday, June 1, 2018

Urgent Action: Rashid Johnson

*URGENT CALL ALERT*

Prisoner Name:
Kevin “Rashid” Johnson #158039
Florida Department of Corrections – Santa Rosa Correctional Institution


DETAILS OF SERIOUS ABUSE OF KEVIN RASHID JOHNSON

*Speaking up against brutalizing a mentally ill prisoner*

On May 21, 2018, Kevin Johnson was retaliated against for speaking up on
behalf of a mentally ill prisoner named Murphy who was being brutalized
by corrections officers at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
(SRCI). As Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) officers were
gassing and assaulting Mr. Murphy for making too much noise, Mr. Johnson
raised his voice from inside his solitary confinement cell (in order to
be heard on the video and audio recorders on the cell block) and said
that prison guards had been abusing Murphy by failing to provide him
with needed mental health care, by withholding meals, and by responding
to his mental illness with violence by gassing him nine times and
brutally extracting him from his cell.

*Retaliation for speech*

For this act, Lt. Marcus Stokes told Johnson that he was going to be put
on “strip cell,” a punishment where everything in a prisoner’s cell is
removed, including toiletries and bedding, and he is left in solitary
confinement with nothing but his underwear. Stokes and three other
officers then gassed Mr. Johnson six times. After having been put in
handcuffs and taken to the showers to clean off the residue from the gas
attack, Mr. Johnson was brutally thrown down to the floor, while Lt.
Stokes repeatedly threatened to kill him and stated that he was “a
marked man.”

*Unconstitutional pretext for punishment*

As a pretext, Lt. Stokes wrote in his disciplinary report that Mr.
Johnson was punished because his property was “not properly stored” and
his “bedding was on the floor.” The practice of FDOC officers gassing
and then putting prisoners on “strip cell” for minor disciplinary
infractions, as a form of retaliation, or for no reason at all has been
well documented by news media and courts. According to one Miami Herald
report, previous instances of this kind of abuse caused FDOC to change
its policies so that prison guards may no longer gas prisoners and put
them on “strip cell” for improperly storing their property or not making
their beds. [1]

*Interference with access to legal counsel and courts*

On May 24th, Mr. Johnson’s time on “strip cell” was to have ended;
however, FDOC officials returned only one bag of his property, when
there should have been six bags of property. Missing property included
legal documents necessary to pursue litigation against FDOC officials
for numerous violations of his constitutional rights. By withholding
this property, FDOC officials were successful in denying Mr. Johnson the
ability to exchange legal documents with his attorney Melinda Patterson
during a legal visit on May 24th, thereby interfering with his right to
legal counsel and his right to access the courts.

*Reading and tampering with legally privileged mail*

A letter clearly identified as legal mail sent by attorney Melinda
Patterson to Mr. Johnson on January 22nd, while he was at Florida State
Prison, was received already opened and resealed with a pink glue stick.
On April 1st, legal mail sent by Mr. Johnson while at SRCI to attorney
Dustin McDaniel was opened, read by FDOC guards, and then resealed with
tape prior to delivering to the mailroom staff. Another letter sent by
Mr. Johnson on April 1st via privileged media mail to his editor Carole
Seligman was opened, read, and resealed by guards prior to delivering to
the mailroom staff. These letters were delayed and received 2 weeks
after the date they were submitted for mailing. Mailroom staff admitted
that these letters were tampered with, when responding to Mr. Johnson’s
grievances #119-1804-0722 and #119-1804-0723.

*Destroying legally privileged mail*

Legal mail sent by Mr. Johnson to attorney Dustin McDaniel on April 17th
was never received, is now missing, and was presumably destroyed by FDOC
officials. Letters sent by Mr. Johnson to his editor Carole Seligman on
April 5th, 16th, 17th, and 25th were never delivered and were presumably
destroyed by FDOC staff. Included in these mailings were three essays
for publication detailing abuses inside the FDOC.


*DEMANDS*

- Return all confiscated property to Kevin Johnson #158039

- Stop the interference with Mr. Johnson’s legal and news media
correspondence

- Stop retaliation against Mr. Johnson for exercising his First
Amendment rights

- Stop the repeated, cruel, arbitrary, and excessive punishment of Mr.
Johnson

- Immediately transfer Mr. Johnson from Florida DOC to Virginia DOC


*PLEASE CALL*

Walker Clemmons
Warden - Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
(850) 981-5199

Kenneth S. Steely
General Counsel – Florida Department of Corrections
(850) 717-3605

Patrick Finan
Security Operations – Interstate Corrections Compact Unit
(850) 717-3222

Lester Fernandez
Inspector General – Florida Department of Corrections
(850) 488-9265

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Wheels of Injustice: He Spent 24 Years in Prison for Something He Didn’t Do – Here is the Evidence to Prove It


The Wheels of Injustice: He Spent 24 Years in Prison for Something he Didn’t Do – 
Here is the Evidence to Prove It

By Jason Renard Walker, Deputy Minister of Labor – NABPP

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, or however the saying go; which is how the District Attorney’s office in Dallas County, Dallas, Texas has been operating from the early 1990s up to today.

It’s highly possible that these same corrupt tactics have been used way before what I’m about to describe, but I choose to focus on the documented events I was able to witness and research. This includes an outright wrongful conviction campaign by D.A. Jason January, who tried to coax false statements from witnesses in a successful effort to frame a black man for murder, then suppressed every witness that told the truth.

Unlike traditional journalism on the wrongfully accused that is extremely wordy and filled with statistical rhetoric, this piece is designed to bring action and awareness to a corrupt judicial system in Texas and set someone free.

Timmy A. Dawson #681033, who is a native of Dallas and as of now resides at the Michael Unit maximum security prison in Tennessee Colony, Texas, is a victim of being wrongfully convicted. But in his case it was deliberate.

After spending over 24 years in prison, filing all sorts of appeals and writs to prove his innocence and having gained no ground towards his release, Dawson is forced to wake up to the day-to-day- fact that he may have to spend the rest of his life in prison for a murder he, witnesses, and facts say he didn’t commit.

Throughout his incarceration he’s had to deal with the burden of stress; high blood pressure; knee surgery; the death of his father, brother, two aunts, half sister, and stepmother; all on the back of being born with a bad heart.

He’s also had to deal with seeking a probate lawyer to help him reclaim the land, oil, and mineral rights his dad left him. This is in relation to his half sister and another associate forging Dawson’s name on documents in order to falsely obtain possession since neither were heirs. These are documented events!

Dawson rightfully feels that if the D.A.’s office wouldn’t have hidden witnesses and evidence, “I’d have been exonerated”.

On the night of December 4, 1993 in Dallas, several credible witnesses – namely Monica Kyles, Latrecia White and Gregory Paul – all state that they saw two dark skinned black men, one tall and one short (Dawson is light skinned), fire several shots at another black man, Curtis Lean Brown, before fleeing the scene on foot.

All three witnesses reported seeing the shooting from two different locations, with Kyles standing in her bedroom window, and White being near the John D’s night club with Paul, who says he was around 30 feet away from the shooting.

All three contest that they spoke with D.A. January during the trial, denying that Dawson was one of the shooters. “The D.A. never called me up on the witness stand because I told him I didn’t see a light complexion guy,” White wrote in her affidavit. “The man that was on trial was a very light complexion man and the two men shooting were very dark complexion. I was never called to the witness stand to testify,” Kyles stated in hers.

In an attempt to invent a motive for Dawson and give the state a theory, January claimed that the shooting was behind a dispute over a jacket (that didn’t contain Dawson’s DNA) at the John D’s night club that escalated after closing hours.

The only person and witness to testify, Cassandra Wilson, went along with the D.A.’s program and adopted the jacket theory. This is why she was called to testify and the other three witnesses hidden from the defense.

Contrary to the wheels of justice, January’s only goal was to find someone willing to finger Dawson as one of the shooters, with little regards to the overwhelming amount of contradicting evidence that he himself tried to manipulate – pure opportunism.

During an appeal hearing for a retrial that was denied, evidence supporting Dawson’s innocence mounted. As the cliché goes: the flood gates to hell opened.

On Feb 11, 2000 Leroy Griffen, an investigator for the public defenders office, provided an affidavit bearing witness to the following: “During 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 know of the murder. I don’t recall the female’s name, but I learned later from the attorney representing Mr. Dawson that only one black female testified. The black female who testified is the person who I overheard say that she was going to lie…”

Another woman, Michelle Woods, told Tim’s counsel Gracie Lewis that she heard Paul say, “It’s a shame that that man is going to the pen for something he didn’t do”. This prompted Lewis to investigate the claim which generated a snowball effect and spearheaded the suppressed witnesses into existence, who then provided sworn affidavits with no obligation other than to tell the truth.

Despite this exposure of mishandled witnesses, Dawson has received very small and limited amounts of legal assistance. Chris Scott, who was exonerated in 2009 for a murder he says he didn’t commit, briefly reached out to Dawson under the notion that he would help him get exonerated too.

This effort resulted in Dawson’s case getting a very general and undetailed mention in the mainstream publication Men’s Journal (March 2016 issue) that only noted his conviction being a result of bad lawyering, no evidence, etc. This did nothing to help further his progress or need of legal help.

This is mainly due to the fact that his current prison location, address, correctly spelled first name, and prison ID number weren’t listed, nor was there any proof that withheld witnesses got deliberately suppressed from testifying about what really happened. And that these witnesses eventually wrote affidavits expressing the same.

Dawson explained that as soon as the article was in print and the sensational rewards for the writer reaped, Scott (who only visited Dawson a few times) simply vanished when it became obvious that it would take more resources than a glory seeking styled article to net his release and possibly more. Not to mention that Scott never told him that the basis for their brief exchange was to compile anecdotal support for a mainstream article.

This may have played a part in Dawson’s lack of subsequent exposure and legal help, since by reading the article it seemed like Dawson had a network of support via Scott and the legal team he mentioned.

The same kind of help that Scott mentioned having trouble receiving is the very same help Dawson needs. But Dawson’s case isn’t unique at all, other prisoners throughout Texas, and many at the Michael Unit, are serving time under wrongful and questionable convictions.

This case in particular stands out because the conviction was singlehandedly a result of January’s effort in using his integrity and cunning skill to craft and manipulate the trial’s outcome. An effort I’m all too familiar with.

I was the victim of something similar in December 2000. But the D.A. on this burglary case, Brian Corrigan, was unsuccessful in manufacturing a conviction. This was with help from law enforcement.

During a pretrial hearing, the victim and only witness to the crime, Tonya Scroggins, testified that I wasn’t the person to commit the crime. She then pointed at the state’s witness and known informant, Ron Reed, who she accused of the burglary to the oohs and ahs of courtroom spectators.

Even though she refused to change her story, this didn’t persuade the Judge to dismiss the charge but only to launch a conviction campaign with the D.A. and my court-appointed attorney, John Hendrix’ help.

This resulted in me being strategically placed around informants in hope that I would admit guilt to the many prisoners who claimed that admittance is the first step to release. This carried on for over a year until a not guilty verdict was reached on December 12, 2001 (see cause no. F00-24176-PM).

This only validates how systemically manufactured evidence is used in the Dallas County D.A.’s office and probably within the Judge’s chamber and beyond; as one of the jailers who didn’t like me was mysteriously part of the jury pool and nearly made the cut.

In early 2002 the Dallas Morning News published a short article about dirty cop, Officer De La Paz, who was exposed for his role in arresting random people for cocaine, but the drugs turned out to be sheet rock he himself planted in the evidence room.

The initial field test deemed the drugs positive but follow up tests to pounds of seized cocaine De La Paz had a hand in turned out to be sheet rock. This called for dozens of drug related cases to be brought back to court and many cases dismissed.

The Dallas County D.A. and Sheriffs’ offices have a history of employing such bad apples where, after exposure, the story fed to the public is that it was the work of that individual who was fired (or resigned) and the problem solved.

In reality knowledge of and participation in these scandals streak throughout the department’s entire ranks and are behooved by judges signing faulty search warrants. And forensic experts who often mishandle DNA tests and other sensitive evidence.

This is why men and women like Dawson and their cases are kept out of the public eye and witnesses who know the truth are suppressed by the very same officials that have the official duty to seek justice for the victim of injustice.

If witnesses, evidence, and facts say Dawson is an innocent man, why is he still in prison after 24 years without the slightest hint on who to turn to for help?

As of today, the only help he has is any that comes as a result of the exposure of what the state of Texas has hid for nearly three decades – which is the truth!

Dare To Struggle, Dare To Win. All Power to the People

Jason Renard Walker 
#1532092


Please check for Jason's current address by going to TDCJ's inmate locator website.
Jason is reporting being moved often and experiencing mail disruption (more information to follow).

Reprinted with permission from sfbayview: http://sfbayview.com/2018/04/the-wheels-of-injustice-he-spent-24-years-in-prison-for-something-he-didnt-do-here-is-the-evidence-to-prove-it/



Thursday, April 26, 2018

A GARDEN IN THE GHETTO

by Bobby Bostic
Growing up in the inner city ghetto of St. Louis Missouri did not allow our family to see many of nature's wonders. Our neighborhoods were full of vacant houses, broken down cars, drug dealers every which way you looked, gangbangers posted up and down the block, broken beer bottles loitering the sidewalks, yards with run down grass, streetlights that didn't work, etc. It was more like nature's curse rather than nature's gift.
There was, however an exception. Ironically it was right there in my own backyard. Yep, my mother had a small garden. When she first started this garden people looked at her like she was crazy. Her friends made comments such as: "girl what are you doing planting a garden in this dump", and Dee Dee do not waste your time because somebody will just steal your vegetables before you get them", "it will never work in this neighborhood, etc. Being the determined soul that she is, fortunately my mother ignored the critics. She wanted her garden and she got it. Me being the curious child that I was, I watched her every step of the way.
She went into the backyard and tilled the hard worn soil. First she would water it every day, then she purchased a hoe and started turning over the soil. Once she did this for awhile, she started planting the small seeds that she got from the local hardware store. There was seeds for tomatoes, greens, lettuce, cucumbers, etc. I looked at the little seed packs and started shaking them and wondering how could she possibly grow something from these seeds in these bags. My mother is a proud lady so she went out into her garden every day. She would put on her straw hat and be out in the blazing sun on her knees arranging the rows of the garden. She would spend hours out there while we were out front playing games. She would come in all sweaty to get a drink of water and then go back out there in her garden. People shook their head at her but my mother did not care.
When it rained outside she would just sit there staring out of the window at her garden. After the rainfall she would go back out there and adjust the soil. I never understood what she was doing. Nevertheless in a few months everything that she planted blossomed. Right there in the ghetto, surrounded by drive by shootings, drug deals, and extreme poverty my mother's garden got really big in our backyard. It took over 80 percent of the backyard. When you stepped back there all you could see was her garden. It was a beautiful sight. IN the backdrop of an alley littered with trash and cracked concrete stood her picturesque garden. It was many colors. The greens were growing everywhere. She had yellow flowers back there, cucumbers, lettuce sprouting everywhere, and other stuff that I do not know the name of. It sure looked good though. And it tasted even better. She would have certain days where we ate entire meals made entirely from what she cooked in her garden.
Lo and behold, those same neighbors who criticized her meager efforts started coming over asking her for some of the vegetables and other edibles that she was delicately growing. My mother never holds grudges and she was proud to share her fruits and vegetables with all of her neighbors. She would store a lot of what she grew in the house and give everything else away to her neighbors and her sisters. This became a sort of tradition for her. Despite how poor our family was, my mother would not allow poverty to define her. In our concrete city streets she created her own personal paradise. Despite all the negativity surrounded us her kids could go into this garden and find some refuge of peace. It was our own little corner of the world. We did not do any of the gardening but just walking through it we felt part of her garden. She had the rows all neatly spaced. She kept the dirt moist, etc.
I would sometimes see her out there in her lawn chair, oblivious to the world, just sitting there drinking some tea, straight chilling. Mama would have on some sandals and be so peaceful out there in her garden. She always created little small miracles. Right now to this day, 30 years later I wonder how did she do it? She always use to say that she be at peace in her garden. It was peaceful back there. She would sit in the garden with her own thoughts for hours. She couldn't afford a vacation or go on a trip. Instead, she would get away from it all while sitting right there in her garden in the very troubled chaotic ghetto slum that we lived in. Like the rose that grew from the concrete, she defied the odds and grew a garden in a place where nature does not traditionally bloom. By refusing to allow the walls of hell to close in her, my mother created her own paradise right there in ghetto by way of her lovely garden.

To learn more about Bobby’s story see: http://www.freebobbybostic.com/  and
http://freebobbybostic.wixsite.com/freebobbybosticnow

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

TDCJ Field Ministers help to usher in Dramatic “Culture Change” at the Eastham Unit! - Written by: Keith “Malik” Washington


TDCJ Field Ministers help to usher in Dramatic “Culture Change” at the Eastham Unit!
Written by: Keith “Malik” Washington

Peace and Blessings Sisters and Brothers!  It is your brother in Struggle, your solider for Change, Comrade Malik reporting in from the Texas Gulag.  April is here and with the new month we have Easter, Spring time, Reflections on the Past, and New Beginnings!  Last year around this time, prisoners at Eastham were falling out in droves suffering from “Toochie Attacks”.  Toochie or Tune is the street name or rather prison name for K-2 also known as synthetic marijuana.  Last year, this Unit was flooded with the drug and it created a horrible atmosphere of chaos and violence.  Prisoners were assaulting each other and Staff.  This created a hostile work environment and some officers lost their cool also.  Eastham was in need of a spiritual revival.
In Ad-Seg last year I was fighting for more humane conditions of confinement.  We had a Roach and Rodent infestation problem and our opportunities for outside recreation were limited to 2 or maybe 3 times a week.  I am glad to report that a lot has changed for the better here at Eastham Uni and I attribute it to a few things.  First, in Ad-Seg we have a new Warden.  Kenneth Hutto has a much different “management style” than the previous warden.  He is strict but fair and he does not tolerate an un-sanitary or un-healthy environment.  He seems to realize that human beings who live in small cells 23 to 2 hours a day, 365 days out of a year need adequate opportunities for outside recreation.  We’ve been getting 5 days a week!  The weather is starting to get nice so I will be going out regularly in order to shed these extra pounds I’ve picked up during winter.
One of the most welcome additions to Eastham are prisoners who attended and graduated from TDCJ’s Theological Seminary School which is at the Darrington Unit located in Rosharon, Texas.  The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary School (SWBTS) at Darrington is privately funded.  After completing 125 accredited hours in approximately four and a half years students received a Bachelor or Science Degree in Biological Studies and officially become “Field Ministers”.  Senator John Whitmire has been one of the biggest supporters and advocates for these “Field Ministers”.  In Theory they are supposed to go out into the General Population and Ad-Seg Units and act as an Extension of the TDCJ Chaplaincy Department.  I actually had the pleasure of meeting and becoming close friends with a couple of these college trained “Field Ministers” and I can tell you that these men are incredible Ambassadors for Positive Change!  Stanley Rucker and Melvin Aviva are just two of the “Field Ministers” I’ve grown to know and work with here at Eastham.
When brother Stanley discovered that a lot of prisoners in Ad-Seg were without Whirl-wind fans, he took the initiative to create a list and gave it to the Senior Warden here Billy Lewis.  Warden Lewis contacted the Property Officer here and on June 21, 2017 Ad-Seg prisoners got fans!!  Brother Melvin and Brother Stanley also helped me address some sanitation issues we were having here in Ad-Seg.  In General Population Melvin, Stanley and the other “Field Ministers” began to work on the HEARTS and MINDS of prisoners who were in the midst of addiction to K-2!!  Medium Custody prisoners were some of the most frequent victims of the so called “Toochie Attacks” so that is where Brother Stanley and Brother Melvin went to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the prisoners who needed it the most!!  And I am a MUSLIM and I LOVE AND RESPECT THESE SOLIDERS FOR CHRIST BECAUSE THEY HAVE INTEGRITY AND HONOR!!  And I was not the only one who noticed!  During Hurricane Harvey last September Eastham hosted hundreds of prisoners from the C.T. Terrell Unit.  They were housed in the Gym and in the Chapel area.  It was our “Field Ministers” who acted as servants and helpers to these prisoners/evacuees many who were elderly, disabled, and infirm.  In essence, our “Field Ministers” acted as Home Health Aids providing care and support for our guests!  So in theory, Senator Whitmire hoped that the “Field Ministers” could help deliver the Message of Christ but in PRACTICE these “Field Ministers” have done that and so much more!!
A “spirit” of peace and tranquility has descended upon the Eastham Unit.  There is co-operation between high ranking staff and the “Field Ministers”.  What I mean is that these “Field Ministers” have earned the respect of the Administration and thus they have been granted a lot of latitude to move about and interact with all security levels.  The “Field Ministers” are PROBLEM SOLVERS ACTUALLY ACTING AS A LIASON BETWEEN PRISONERS AND THE ADMINISTRATION.  I am so supportive of these men because they are a manifestation of qualitative and quantitative change in a system which has been stagnated in the “OLD WAYS” for years!  On top of that, I can teach more people how to fight for their rights when they aren’t angry and “high” on K-2!!  More later Comrades!! This is Comrade Malik signing off until next time!! All Power to the People!!!



Keith ‘Malik’ Washington is a co-founder and chief spokespersyn for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and he is the 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 can write him directly at:
Keith ‘Comrade Malik’ Washington
TDC #1487958
Eastham Unit
2665 Prison Rd. #1
Lovelady, Texas 75851