Saturday, July 14, 2018


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 
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:

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
McConnell Unit