Asthmatic Prisoner Doused with Pepper Spray, Refused Medical Care, Dies: Just Another Day in the Texas Prison System

Reblogged from: RashidMod, Nov 8th 2013
Outside support activists have learned of another Texas prisoner dead, due to a combination of guard brutality and medical neglect.
For three consecutive nights medical staff were summoned to the cell of Christopher Woolverton, at the Clements Unit in Amarillo, because he was lying on the floor barely responsive. Finally, on the afternoon of October 22, a nurse came in and, seeing he was still not moving, summoned sergeant Andrew Gratz and Lieutenant Matthew Seymour, informing them that Woolverton was scheduled to see a doctor.
At this point, normally, things should have improved for Woolverton. After a criminally long delay of three days, during which time he was in clear distress, he should have finally received medical attention. But that’s not what happened.
A letter from Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) being held at the Clements Unit in Amarillo, lays out the tragic sequence of events. Remember, when reading this, that Woolverton had been unresponsive, lying on the ground seemingly unable to move, for days at this point. Rashid recounts how,
“Gratz, a notoriously abusive guard, told Woolverton to get up and come to the door and submit to handcuffs or he’d be OC-gassed and forcibly removed by an extraction team of riot armored guards. Woolverton was not responsive. The nurse told him they were going to gas him and to ‘remember how they gassed you the last time and you couldn’t breathe?’ She implored him to get up and come to the door, which he failed to do – in obvious medical distress.
“The nurse and others left and the warden and several other people in street clothes came in, looked in at Woolverton, laughed and left.
“Moments later, Gratz, Seymour and the nurse returned with a team or riot armored guards with gas masks and OC gas. Gratz proceeded, as the nurse watched, to spray Woolverton several times directly in the head (drenching his face and head) with OC gas. After about 10 minutes the team rushed in to restrain him by force. He was then bodily lifted and put on a gurney and rolled out of the pod.
“He was several minutes later brought back in and made to stand by Gratz and the team (directly in front of my cell) with his body and legs trembling like a newborn colt. He distinctly stated, ‘I can’t breathe.’ They also had a cup mask (like construction workers wear) over his nose and mouth. He couldn’t walk, so they bodily picked him up by ankles and arms and carried him into a cell where they left him lying completely naked with no property and without his asthma inhalers. He was not decontaminated of gas. This all transpired at around 2:30 pm.
“Several guards came into the unit and went to his cell and made jokes about his lying nude on the floor. He didn’t move.”
Woolverton was left like this, lying on the floor of his cell, unable to breathe, for almost 24 hours. In this condition, he died. Rashid:
“At 1:30 on October 23, 2013, with his having still not moved – several nurses along with a lieutenant William Williamson and others rushed into Woolverton’s cell to find him dead on the floor in the same spot. They tried CPR to no avail. As they picked his body up and placed it onto a gurney his lower extremities clearly appeared stiff and unbending – rigor mortis having apparently set in. He was obviously several hours dead despite guards supposedly making routing rounds in the unit.”
The case of Christopher Woolverton is not unique. Gas is frequently used against prisoners in the Clements Unit, and throughout the entire Texas prison system cell extractions routinely provide an excuse for violent abuse. Woolverton’s is not the first such case that, combined with medical neglect, has led to a fatal outcome.
Take the case of Larry Louis Cox: in 2007, Cox died from injuries sustained after a confrontation with guards during a cell extraction at the Estelle Unit. Although his hands were cuffed behind his back at the time, he was thrown to the ground, his head hitting his metal bunk and fracturing his spine. Due to the severity of this injury he was unable to stand to his feet – as a result, prison medical staff reported him as “refusing” treatment. On January 26 – after lying on the ground in agony for two days – Cox was finally transferred to an outside hospital, where he died ten days later. A medical examiner would find that Cox’s death constituted homicide by “medical neglect complicating blunt force trauma,” and yet despite recommendations to the contrary from the Office of the Inspector General, no charges were laid.1
The impunity with which guards and medical staff were treated in Cox’s case simply guaranteed that such a tragedy would happen again. As it now has, to Christopher Woolverton.
Rashid explains that,
“In every prison/prison system I’ve been, there is a strict rule against using OC gas on prisoners with asthma and similar respiratory conditions, because it is known to be a fatal mix. Not only did they gas a known asthmatic, but they put a mask on his nose and mouth to ensure he breathed nothing but the gas fumes that saturated his face. His head was so wet from gas that his hair was wet and plastered to his forehead and scalp. He was then left without his asthma pumps, naked in a bare cell on the floor where he died, without decontamination.”
The horrific nature of such abuse notwithstanding, unless there is outside mobilization around this case, it is unlikely that anything will be done to prevent future similar deaths. Already, it is clear that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) is not worried with even having to go through the motions of pretending to investigate why Woolverton ended up dead. Rashid explains that despite the fact that many prisoners in the pod are willing to testify as to what happened, “None of us many witnesses to Woolverton’s death have been questioned or interviewed about this blatant medical murder/wrongful death.”
Rashid, who has himself been subjected to violence numerous times since his arrival in Texas earlier this year, ends by noting that, “If this situation isn’t enough to energize folks to protest the foul TDCJ conditions, I don’t expect anything will.”
  1. Roma Khanna, “Injured Inmate Spent Two Days on Cell Floor,” Houston Chronicle Jan. 23, 2008. []
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The Texas Department of Cowboy Justice: A case of lawless law enforcement

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

September 7, 2013, SF Bay View

Introduction

As I sit writing this, Lt. Deward Demoss passes my cell making segregation rounds. Further down the tier he exchanges words with another prisoner, then yells down to two unit guards, “Make sure Cell 118 doesn’t eat today.” “Yessir,” they both chime in. Such is the abusive impunity here in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) Estelle 2 Unit (E2U). In fact, guards’ summarily denying prisoners meals in this manner is so routine, there’s a nickname for it here. It’s called “jacking trays.” And that’s the least of it.

'Texas' by Kevin Rashid Johnson, web

“Texas” by Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

I’ve not seen conditions such as exist here in E2U in a long while. The level of abuse is on a par with conditions I described in the autobiographical section of my book that once existed in the segregation unit of Virginia’s Greensville Correctional Center, where guards had a literal license to brutalize and abuse prisoners in the most extreme ways. And these conditions are not accidental.

In fact it’s been made quite clear that I’m here in Texas in direct response to my having brought undesired public scrutiny to Oregon’s and Virginia’s prisons through a series of critical articles and reports about conditions in their prison systems and having sued Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) officials in a recently initiated federal lawsuit.

Indeed, one of my claims in that case was based in part on ODOC officials threatening that if I began litigating against and circulating critical writings about them, I’d find myself permanently in the hole and/or sent to another prison system where I’d be made to suffer much worse than in Oregon. And true to those threats, and only six days before the date on which the federal court had ordered ODOC officials, including its director, to appear and answer in my lawsuit, I was hustled off to the TDJC.

This is an account of what I’ve experienced and witnessed in just a couple of weeks here, which can only be described as Cowboy Justice – as lawless as the Wild West. It is also an appeal to public support and activism.

Welcome to Texas

The above mentioned threats were initially made when I first arrived in Oregon from Virginia in February 2012. Then on May 22, 2013, I was told by ODOC Lt. Kenneth Neff, one of the defendants in my lawsuit, that plans were indeed in motion to transfer me to another prison system where things would definitely be worse. I documented his statement.

On June 14, 2013, I was awakened early in the morning, chained up, and put on a plane bound for Texas. With the exception of only a tiny box of items I was allowed to hurriedly select, all my belongings were left behind in Oregon.

The entire transfer was a setup.

The TDCJ was chosen not in spite – but because – of the fact that I had long dreadlocks and their rule of allowing no exceptions for them, not for religious reasons or otherwise. I was told as much by TDCJ Lt. L. Evans, who presided over the premeditated scheme to shave my head by force, which they knew I’d resist and came prepared.

On arriving in Texas on that June afternoon, I was taken by prison van from the airfield to the Byrd Unit (BU), which is the TDCJ’s intake and orientation prison, where all new admissions to TDCJ are received for orientation, testing, processing etc., which takes about 60 days. I didn’t last five hours.

When I arrived in Oregon in 2012, I went through a similar institution but was given an exception to their haircut requirements upon an ODOC chaplain’s confirmation that my hair was grown for spiritual reasons. No such consideration was given at BU.

On entering the BU I went through the routine procedure of a strip search and was then handcuffed to a thick belt secured at my waist, rendering my arms and hands immobile. I was also leg shackled. This was done in preparation for forcibly cutting my hair and neutralizing my ability to physically resist, of which I was then oblivious.

Then came the ultimatum: My hair had to be cut, either by consent or force. They presented it as though my submission under threat of force was actually an exercise of free choice on my part. Yet when powerless people do the same, it’s a crime: robbery, rape, extortion etc. I protested my spiritual rights.

Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson Self Portrait 2013, web

Rashid in a recent self-portrait

I had none, they replied. Then appeared a group of riot armored guards from hiding around a corner. By choice or by force, they repeated. Although it was a futile gesture, I was resigned to resist. So, against my limited struggles, I was strapped down to a gurney, held down by the armed mob, and had my head and face shaved completely bald.

This constituted the first act of lawless law-enforcement I was to experience or witness in the TDJC. I was outraged, violated in the extreme. Even more so when I found later that the TDJC does in fact allow exceptions to their haircut rule, specifically for Native Americans – which, where other spiritual orientations are not afforded the same consideration, is unlawful discrimination.

My resistance and outrage against the physical attack and forced haircut was then used to justify transferring me from BU – without undergoing the required 60 days processing and orientation process – to the filthy solitary confinement E2U prison. I’d only remained at BU for about four hours.

The welcoming ain’t over

When I arrived at E2U, I was met at the van by yet another mob of riot-armored guards. This group was primed for a more straightforward violent attack, which I verbally noted for the record. A female guard, Mildred Dickie, was initially filming my E2U entry on a portable audio-video camera.

A notoriously abusive E2U guard. Carlos Applewhite, physically moved a smaller guard who was originally standing beside me holding my right arm, took up his position, and repeatedly told me to shut up. Which I ignored and pointed out was both hostile and unprofessional.

I was taken to a holding cell and strip searched by Applewhite with Dickie filming and observing, which I protested as an unconstitutional cross-gender strip search. Applewhite then applied handcuffs – behind my back – and shackles, the latter so tightly I could barely stand or walk, which I also protested. The camera was deactivated at that point and Applewhite barked that I’d either walk or be dragged.

I was limped along by the mob to an office where I was instructed to sit in a chair. The door was closed and the armored group stood just outside of it.

Inside the office with me were B2U Assistant Warden Wayne Brewer, Major David Forrest and Capt. James A. McKee. Brewer was the only one dressed in civilian street clothes, so I inquired of him who he was. He responded, “You shut up, motherfucker, I’m doing the talking!” Then, as if on cue, Forrest and McKee rushed me and proceeded to manually choke and repeatedly hit me in the head and face while Brewer ran a stream of threats and verbal abuse past me, promising he’d break me or kill me. I was told then and repeatedly since that I am now in Texas where prison officials do simply as they please – and get away with it. Period. I replied, when I could breathe, that I wasn’t impressed nor intimidated, and to get on with whatever they had in mind.

When they got tired and saw they were getting nowhere, I was kicked out of the office and taken by the armored group to a filthy cell, which was to be my new TDCJ abode.

The cell I was put into is situated directly in front of another prisoner’s cell, Edward Long, 579657, who was just the day before viciously beaten by Applewhite while he was handcuffed behind his back. The evidence of the attack was blatant: a black ring around his left eye, a laceration along the side of his right eye held closed with sutures tape, a badly bruised face and back, and a grotesquely swollen mouth.

Furthermore, Applewhite routinely goes to Long’s cell to boast and taunt him, admitting how he “beat the shit out of” Long until he lay in a puddle of blood. Under the peculiar conditions of prison, guards actually convince themselves that beating handcuffed prisoners and mob attacking individual prisoners in groups of five or more using gas, body armor and other weapons, are accomplished acts of bravery to boast about and take pride in, instead of pure cowardice on a par with mob rape and large adults who beat small children who by nature and circumstance are at a decided disadvantage.

Applewhite also frequently threatens others with the same, and he and other E2U guards constantly act to provoke situations to speciously justify uses of force in general and cell extractions in particular, which consist of a group of guards with weapons and body armor invading the cell of an individual prisoner by force, whom they invariably beat once restrained.

Here in E2U multitudes of prisoners attest to being victims of beatings by guards. Although there are surveillance cameras throughout the unit, guards typically take prisoners into “blind spots” like offices, closets, elevators etc. where cameras are absent and beat them. During cell extractions they simply turn off or don’t train the audio-video cameras on the prisoner, while kicks and punches are thrown and his head is slammed onto the concrete floor or steel fixtures in the cells, and guards use their bodies to block the cameras.

But in many cases, as with Long, guards beat prisoners openly in video-surveilled areas and video footage is either “lost,” recorded over, ignored, or it’s claimed the use of force wasn’t captured on film.

E2U’s primitive conditions

On top of the rampant physical abuse, living conditions in E2U are barbaric. The unit is infested with roaches which are routinely found in our food or crawling on one while he is sleeping or just sitting still. And guards serve and handle our meals in the most unsanitary manner. Thermoses of juice and stacks of trays are served on the lids of wheeled trashcans. The trays are also routinely set on the filthy unit floor during service.

Guards never wash their hands, never wear head coverings and almost never wear gloves. Trays and beverages are set inside of roach-infested and contaminated metal boxes that are affixed to the outside of the cell doors, in which flies and roaches nest and rush to get at the food served and spilled inside the boxes.

Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson

Rashid in an older self-portrait

Guards also go cell to cell handling the filthy locks, chains and latches to open and close the boxes as they handle and serve the food, trays and beverages. The boxes are never cleaned, and we must also put all items passed into and out of the cells into them, including shoes, dirty linen, worn clothing, such as during searches performed each time we leave the cell.

Should one protest these conditions, he’s almost certain to get “jacked” for his tray.

The cells each have internal showers which frequently leak, causing standing water to remain on the cell floors. The shower drain frequently stops or backs up, and smells of raw sewage. There is no air conditioning, no windows at all. The vents are clogged with debris.

And in addition to the intense Texas summer heat and humidity, the cells remain damp due to lack of air circulation and steam from the shower, which never completely evaporates from the cells. The floor and walls are covered with mildew, and black mold spots the ceilings. The cells reek of mildew.

We are never given cleaning supplies such as toilet brushes, sponges, cloths, brooms, mops, disinfectants etc. The only cleaning supply we receive is a tiny bit of scouring powder once a week.

Prisoners with obvious mental and emotional illnesses scream, rant, bang and argue at fever pitch day and night. Many obviously suffering the effects of living under E2U’s solitary confinement conditions for years on end.

Guards at their whim destroy and trash prisoners’ personal property. Often when they are out of the cell, guards simply enter them and throw items out as trash, especially that of prisoners who challenge them through complaints or in the courts.

This is also done as routine summary retaliation against prisoners who dare speak out against or otherwise challenge abusive guards and conditions. My own address book, a number of pre-posted mailing envelopes and other items I brought with me from Oregon that were inventoried by ODOC officials when I left on June 14 were stolen by TDCJ Officials, evidenced by their exclusion from the inventory made of the same sealed box of property when I got here to Texas.

Meals are grossly inadequate nutritionally, with only half the prescribed meal portions served and entire courses not provided at all at nearly every meal. One literally receives one third the amount of food on the trays at E2U compared with what I received in the ODOC. And the ODOC strictly calculated meal portions and calorie counts to ensure that prisoners receive exactly or just above 2,500 calories per day, which is the legal minimum daily calorie intake for a sedentary adult.

No desserts are served – neither pastries nor fruits – although they factor into calculating daily minimum calorie intake. No condiments are given with the unseasoned meals – neither salt, sugar etc. – which also denies basic minerals. All prisoners whom I’ve spoken to on the subject in E2U suffer the continuous torture of constant hunger pangs.

Many who’ve been confined here for some time explain that food portions and quality have been cut to the extreme by the TDCJ to save money in the face of budget cuts, because of mismanagement of food supplies – prisoner workers in E2U contend that officials steal supplies of food – and to induce prisoners to conform their behavior to officials’ will to achieve privileged statuses in E2U on which they can purchase food and condiments from the commissary. Food is thus used as punishment, behavior modification and a scheme to generate money through commissary sales.

Due no process of law

Although I was never oriented into nor notified of the TDCJ’s rules and procedures, I received three disciplinary charges stemming from my resisting the forced haircut of June 14. On June 18 E2U counselor Staci Crowley came to my assigned cell to notify me of the charges and determine if I wanted to attend the hearings, which I told her I did. I only later found after she’d left that she lied, indicating I refused to attend the hearing. McKee presided as the hearings officer and found me guilty in my absence and without the benefit of my being able to present any defense.

McKee then turned around and presided over deciding my security housing committee hearing and had me assigned to administrative segregation based on his own corrupt guilty findings on the three charges. At the next committee hearing, Forrest, my other assailant, followed suit.

And as I said, guards flaunt their abusive impunity. When I was taken out to my first committee hearing on June 19, Sgt. Bret Wuellner and guard Venson Williams Jr. held me facing a wall standing outside the office where the hearing was to be conducted – the very same office in which I was attacked on June 14.

Another prisoner was in the office being “heard.” As he was being “escorted” from the office by several guards, Wuellner remarked, “Damn, what happened to his face?” The prisoner’s face was swollen and bruised – the obvious result of a recent beating.

California prisoner hunger strike solidarity drawing by Rashid Johnson, Red Onion Prison, Va

Rashid is the artist who drew this symbol of California prisoner hunger strike solidarity when he was still incarcerated at Red Onion Prison in Virginia. The drawing is now recognized around the world by people who care about prisoners.

Also, as I’d stood waiting for his hearing to conclude, another prisoner was “held” awaiting a hearing, sitting in a wheelchair approximately 10 feet from me. He too showed obvious facial injuries resulting from a beating. Concerning this prisoner, Wuellner remarked to Williams that he’d suffered his injuries – including being wheelchair-bound – in a “cell entry.”

Wuellner took this as an opportunity to tell me that here in Texas I was in for a “rude awakening.” He asked if in Virginia I’d ever had guards “put hands” on me. When I only gave him a blank look in response, Williams added, “Take it from a Black man: They do what they want here,” speaking of the ranking white TDCJ officials, “and get away with it.” Williams is a Black guard; Wuellner is white.

To Williams’ remark I couldn’t resist responding that the pathetic thing about him and others like him is he recognizes yet goes along with it. He replied, almost apologetically, “It’s just a job and I’m not going to be here long anyway.” He proved, however, on June 28 in his participation in the brutal assault of another Black prisoner in conspiracy with Wuellner, that he is as much party to the abuse as the most racist of TDCJ officials.

Since being at E2U, I’ve been confronted repeatedly with such obvious ploys as Wuellner’s and Williams’, calculated to intimidate me on the one hand and provoke me on the other. Indeed, this has been the basis of this entire TDCJ experience: to intimidate and provoke.

Indeed, since June 14, and on Brewer’s instructions, I’ve been subjected to frequent strip and cell searches every 30 minutes to two hours every day, around the clock, even during sleeping hours. This began as soon as I was assigned to E2U, following the office assault.

On the second occasion that I was confronted for such a search on that evening, by Sgt. Kyle Nash and two other guards, I questioned the basis and legality of the searches. Their response was to tell me they were frequently searching me “because we can” and used my questioning them as an excuse to attempt to escalate the situation to where force would be justified.

Nash summoned Lt. Patrick Eady to the cell, who stated outright that they were going to “do this the hard way,” and I’m “not going to like it.” He told the guards to “go suit up,” i.e., put on riot armor, and that he wanted them to take me into the back of the cell and “beat on” me. I’d never refused to submit to the search, only questioned it, so when they returned in riot armor, I went through the strip search, was handcuffed behind and brought out of the cell.

At that point, I narrated all that had occurred and Eady’s stated intentions for an audio-video camera that was present and presumably recording. I also stated my need to see medical staff for injuries to my face and throat resulting from the assault on me in the office. Following the search, I was taken inside the cell – out of view of the camera – laid on the floor in back of the cell and hit and kicked in the face and head, which I narrated for the camera to pick up.

On June 15, 2013, I hand delivered a sick call request to a nurse Kathy Burrow to be seen for my injuries which was logged in on June 16 but not acted on within 72 hours as required by TDCJ policy – obviously to cover up my injuries and allow a passage of time for them to heal. I was not seen until two weeks later and only because of outside protest of my situation after I’d managed to get word out.

Damage control

In obvious response to outside pressure, an investigation was staged, beginning long after the fact of the June 14 assaults and my complaints. First, I was seen by a nurse on June 27, who merely looked into my mouth and ears with a light, and gave me several aspirin. The following day I was brought out to see TDCJ Dr. Bobby Vincent, then TDCJ investigator D. Morris.

Just before being brought out of the cell, E2U Lt. Ashley Anderson came to my cell to tell me, in friendly tones, that Brewer had just informed him that he’d decided to end the frequent strip and cell searches he’d had me on since June 14. How convenient – just when I was about to be brought out to see a doctor and speak to an investigator about abuses, including the office assault which he’d arranged.

The doctor, himself a TDCJ employee, seemed more inclined to minimize the remnants of my injuries than to treat me. He admitted the only reason he was seeing me was because of complaints about my being assaulted. He claimed to find only “the slightest swelling” to my left jaw and not to feel a prominent bony protrusion on the right side of my throat, which even a layman can feel right now and recognize it to be abnormal and not present on the left side. No care was given.

'Defying the Tomb' cover by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson

Order Rashid’s book, “Defying the Tomb,” from Kerspebedeb Left-Wing Books, at https://secure.leftwingbooks.net/index.php?l=product_detail&p=893.

I was then taken into an office to speak with the investigator Morris – again, the same office where I was assaulted. The “interview” was also attended by Capt. Lawrence L. Dawson, Sgt. Tracy D. Puckett and guard Carlos Amaya Jr. under the guise of providing security but obviously to pick up and pass on what all was said.

I provided a statement about the abuses I’d experienced and the conditions in E2U and emphasized several times that I requested a polygraph examination concerning the abuses and that those who’d assaulted me should be asked to submit to the same – which I know they’d decline – since whatever they said in reply to my complaints would obviously be given preferential consideration by any TDCJ “investigator,” not only because they’re officials and coworkers, but because they are among the highest ranking in the prison.
And this was a case that would prove quite embarrassing to TDCJ’s highest officials, since it would show the abuses are not mere deviant misbehaviors of low-level rogue guards but rather permissive abuse that runs to the highest administrative levels.

The entire force of an “investigation,” however, is as always staged for damage control and seldom provides any meaningful outcome, except only in cases where there is sustained and broad public outrage. And again, only enough is done to pacify that protest. It’s then back to business as usual. In fact, what Morris seemed most concerned about was whether I intend to sue the TDCJ over the abuses.

Still outta control

On that very same day that I spoke to Morris, yet another brutal assault was staged on a prisoner in E2U, involving Wuellner, Williams and the guard Amaya, who’d sat in on and listened attentively to my statement about the assaults on me, from which they obviously took pointers. The assaulted prisoner remains in the hospital as I write this.

I personally witnessed the setup.

The victim, Joe Laws, 553289, is one of the few E2U prisoners who’s refused to be terrorized by E2U guards. As a result of his resistance to their abuses, the guards both fear and hate him. Given this dynamic, an attack of the sort staged on June 28 was inevitable.

Laws allegedly had a run-in with guards earlier that morning. No immediate response followed, obviously because the investigator from the TDCJ director’s office, D. Morris, was at the prison. Also, the guards who attacked Laws used the exact same tactic to assault Laws as I’d explained to Morris that Eady had guards use on me on June 14 inside the cell. Only in Laws’ case they went to the extreme.

The guards who participated in the Laws assault were Amaya, a guard named Smith (believably Nathaniel Smith), Cody Gonzalez, Williams and one other – either Gregory Shipman or Michael Lewis – all of whom were “suited up” in riot armor. They were supervised by Wuellner, and guard Jalisa R. Jackson was operating the portable audio-video camera. When force is used, the guard with the camera is to film the prisoner at all times. However, as the guard did with me on June 14, Jackson stood far off to the side of the cell so the camera would not film activity inside the cell once the guards took Laws into the back of it.

Just 30 minutes before their shift was set to go off at 6 p.m., these guards confronted Laws in body armor for a staged cell search, in pretended response to the altercation that happened almost 12 hours earlier. Following a strip search, Laws was brought out and stood against the wall outside the cell while the cell search was enacted. Jackson “alerted” Wuellner the video camera was not working.

The riot armored guards then took Laws into the back of the cell and laid him face down on the floor, whereupon they acted to remove the handcuffs and back out of the cell in an orderly retreat. At that point Wuellner announced loudly that should Laws try to rise from the floor, force would be used.

Laws never tried to get up. Wuellner told the guards to “get him,” then announced with feigned excitement that Laws tried to rise, was “resisting.” On Wuellner’s cue, the guards rushed back into the cell and began beating and kicking Laws in the head and face. Smith was doing so with steel-toed boots.
The entire wing of prisoners witnessed the attack by sight and/or sound, and many began in outrage to kick their cell doors and yell at the guards in protest. Laws was beaten at length, following which the guards then retreated from the cell and hastily shut the door.

Wuellner then pretended to try and take photographs of Laws on a digital camera as TDCJ policy requires whenever force is used on a prisoner. However he quickly announced the battery was dead so the required still photos couldn’t be taken. Laws was left in the cell bleeding profusely from the head and face.
Their dirty work done, the group of guards left the wing to go home, it being the end of their shift and they being set to have the next four days off.

No nurses nor other medical staff are present in E2U from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. – a gross legal violation – so their attack was also timed to occur when no medical staff would be on hand to examine Laws, as is also required whenever force is used. The next shift was left to pick up the pieces.

Laws suffered a large gash in back of his head, the result of being kicked by Smith with steel-toed boots, several of his teeth were knocked out while others were driven up into his gums, a gash inside his mouth, a fractured jaw, his eye swollen closed, and other injuries.

GÇÿCollective StruggleGÇÖ by Kevin GÇÿRashidGÇÖ Johnson, web

As the drums of war beat against Syria, Rashid has given us a lot to ponder in this drawing he calls “Collective Struggle.”

As I collected the facts on everything, it took numerous prisoners kicking and banging on their cell doors and becoming primed to create havoc to get unit Sgts. Shelby Rayfield and Dustin Harkness to the wing and Laws taken to the hospital, where he has remained for several days. Guards who took him out confirmed he’d lost teeth and others were disfigured, he had over a dozen staples put in back of his head, his jaw was broken etc.

The attack on Laws was obvious retaliation and timed and conducted so as to minimize on-the-spot evidence of a beating and the extent of his consequent injuries. This entire “cover-up” was so amateurish as to be pointless, which only reflects how little these guards worry about consequences for abuse and how free they are of any sort of meaningful administrative oversight, beyond mere formalities.

In fact, as my own case demonstrates, E2U administrators themselves engage in just the same abuses. That couldn’t occur unless that clearance is given all the way up to the level of TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, which is exactly where the lawless executives of Texas take their cues.

Conclusion

In footnotes to this article I will cite the multitude of federal laws – the highest law of the land – violated by the conditions and abuses described throughout this article, demonstrating the genuinely “lawless” character of the Texas officials behind them, whose duty is foremost to defend, apply and “enforce” those very laws, so one cannot mistake the authority of these people or their institutions as anything but illegal and illegitimate.
And it reveals the hypocrisy of U.S. officials when they denounce other governments as dictatorial and terroristic for doing much the same and even less than what’s been done on U.S. soil to U.S. citizens by the U.S. government. Prisoners in Texas’ E2U need as much public support as possible. And it must be broad-based and sustained. Because what’s happening to us on the inside is fated for those on the outside as Amerika becomes more and more overtly a police state and laws become less and less a restraint on official impunity.

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

Rashid Johnson, a longtime prisoner in Virginia who was transferred last year to Oregon and recently to Texas, has been held in segregation since 1993. While in prison he founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter. As a writer, Rashid has been compared to George Jackson, and he is also the artist who drew the image that became the icon of the California hunger strikes. His book, “Defying the Tomb,” with a foreword by Russell “Maroon” Shoats and afterword by Sundiata Acoli, can be ordered at leftwingbooks.net, by writing to Kersplebedeb, CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3W 3H8, or by emailing info@kersplebedeb.com. Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107.

Action call

by Karl Kerspebedeb
Since his article “The Texas Department of Cowboy Justice: A case of lawless law enforcement” was written, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson has been transferred yet again, this time to the Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas.

Supporters had been calling on Texas officials to remove Rashid from Estelle, a unit with a documented history of staff violence and impunity. (Besides Rashid’s aforementioned article, see the recent piece on Truthout: “Beatings and Threats: Odyssey of a Prisoner-Advocate, From Virginia to Texas” at http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/18167-beatings-and-threats-odyssey-of-a-prisoner-advocate-from-virginia-to-texas.)

Yet while Rashid is now out of reach of the guards who abused him at Estelle, any impression that this is a “victory” will likely prove illusory. Rashid himself has written in a recent letter to supporters, “To the extent that you all’s hassling them prompted this transfer, I’m thankful – although from what I’m told, conditions here are no better than at the Estelle Unit.”

While we wait to see what happens at Clements, our priority at this point is that Rashid regain access to his personal belongings.

When he was transferred from Oregon to Texas in June, some 41 boxes of personal belongings were supposed to follow. Any property that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was unwilling to allow Rashid to have was supposed to be transferred to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Furthermore, Rashid was supposed to receive his legal documents that he requires for his lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections. So far none of this has been done, and Rashid is increasingly concerned about what has happened to his property – literally, everything he owns in the world.

Please telephone Virginia Interstate Compact Coordinator Terry Glenn at (804) 887-7866 and ask why Kevin Johnson, VDOC No. 1007485, has not yet received any of his property. It has been two months since Rashid was transferred from Oregon, and if he does not get his property soon, this will directly impact his ability to conduct his lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections.

For more information, see the website rashidmod.com.

Write Rashid at his new address: Kevin Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107. Make sure a first and last name are clearly printed in the return address section of the envelope or your mail will be returned.

Karl Kerspebedeb is Rashid’s friend, publisher and webmaster for http://rashidmod.com/. He can be reached at info@kersplebedeb.com.

The Texas Department of Cowboy Justice: A case of lawless law enforcement

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

September 7, 2013, SF Bay View

Introduction

As I sit writing this, Lt. Deward Demoss passes my cell making segregation rounds. Further down the tier he exchanges words with another prisoner, then yells down to two unit guards, “Make sure Cell 118 doesn’t eat today.” “Yessir,” they both chime in. Such is the abusive impunity here in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) Estelle 2 Unit (E2U). In fact, guards’ summarily denying prisoners meals in this manner is so routine, there’s a nickname for it here. It’s called “jacking trays.” And that’s the least of it.

'Texas' by Kevin Rashid Johnson, web

“Texas” by Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

I’ve not seen conditions such as exist here in E2U in a long while. The level of abuse is on a par with conditions I described in the autobiographical section of my book that once existed in the segregation unit of Virginia’s Greensville Correctional Center, where guards had a literal license to brutalize and abuse prisoners in the most extreme ways. And these conditions are not accidental.

In fact it’s been made quite clear that I’m here in Texas in direct response to my having brought undesired public scrutiny to Oregon’s and Virginia’s prisons through a series of critical articles and reports about conditions in their prison systems and having sued Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) officials in a recently initiated federal lawsuit.

Indeed, one of my claims in that case was based in part on ODOC officials threatening that if I began litigating against and circulating critical writings about them, I’d find myself permanently in the hole and/or sent to another prison system where I’d be made to suffer much worse than in Oregon. And true to those threats, and only six days before the date on which the federal court had ordered ODOC officials, including its director, to appear and answer in my lawsuit, I was hustled off to the TDJC.

This is an account of what I’ve experienced and witnessed in just a couple of weeks here, which can only be described as Cowboy Justice – as lawless as the Wild West. It is also an appeal to public support and activism.

Welcome to Texas

The above mentioned threats were initially made when I first arrived in Oregon from Virginia in February 2012. Then on May 22, 2013, I was told by ODOC Lt. Kenneth Neff, one of the defendants in my lawsuit, that plans were indeed in motion to transfer me to another prison system where things would definitely be worse. I documented his statement.

On June 14, 2013, I was awakened early in the morning, chained up, and put on a plane bound for Texas. With the exception of only a tiny box of items I was allowed to hurriedly select, all my belongings were left behind in Oregon.

The entire transfer was a setup.

The TDCJ was chosen not in spite – but because – of the fact that I had long dreadlocks and their rule of allowing no exceptions for them, not for religious reasons or otherwise. I was told as much by TDCJ Lt. L. Evans, who presided over the premeditated scheme to shave my head by force, which they knew I’d resist and came prepared.

On arriving in Texas on that June afternoon, I was taken by prison van from the airfield to the Byrd Unit (BU), which is the TDCJ’s intake and orientation prison, where all new admissions to TDCJ are received for orientation, testing, processing etc., which takes about 60 days. I didn’t last five hours.

When I arrived in Oregon in 2012, I went through a similar institution but was given an exception to their haircut requirements upon an ODOC chaplain’s confirmation that my hair was grown for spiritual reasons. No such consideration was given at BU.

On entering the BU I went through the routine procedure of a strip search and was then handcuffed to a thick belt secured at my waist, rendering my arms and hands immobile. I was also leg shackled. This was done in preparation for forcibly cutting my hair and neutralizing my ability to physically resist, of which I was then oblivious.

Then came the ultimatum: My hair had to be cut, either by consent or force. They presented it as though my submission under threat of force was actually an exercise of free choice on my part. Yet when powerless people do the same, it’s a crime: robbery, rape, extortion etc. I protested my spiritual rights.

Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson Self Portrait 2013, web

Rashid in a recent self-portrait

I had none, they replied. Then appeared a group of riot armored guards from hiding around a corner. By choice or by force, they repeated. Although it was a futile gesture, I was resigned to resist. So, against my limited struggles, I was strapped down to a gurney, held down by the armed mob, and had my head and face shaved completely bald.

This constituted the first act of lawless law-enforcement I was to experience or witness in the TDJC. I was outraged, violated in the extreme. Even more so when I found later that the TDJC does in fact allow exceptions to their haircut rule, specifically for Native Americans – which, where other spiritual orientations are not afforded the same consideration, is unlawful discrimination.

My resistance and outrage against the physical attack and forced haircut was then used to justify transferring me from BU – without undergoing the required 60 days processing and orientation process – to the filthy solitary confinement E2U prison. I’d only remained at BU for about four hours.

The welcoming ain’t over

When I arrived at E2U, I was met at the van by yet another mob of riot-armored guards. This group was primed for a more straightforward violent attack, which I verbally noted for the record. A female guard, Mildred Dickie, was initially filming my E2U entry on a portable audio-video camera.

A notoriously abusive E2U guard. Carlos Applewhite, physically moved a smaller guard who was originally standing beside me holding my right arm, took up his position, and repeatedly told me to shut up. Which I ignored and pointed out was both hostile and unprofessional.

I was taken to a holding cell and strip searched by Applewhite with Dickie filming and observing, which I protested as an unconstitutional cross-gender strip search. Applewhite then applied handcuffs – behind my back – and shackles, the latter so tightly I could barely stand or walk, which I also protested. The camera was deactivated at that point and Applewhite barked that I’d either walk or be dragged.

I was limped along by the mob to an office where I was instructed to sit in a chair. The door was closed and the armored group stood just outside of it.

Inside the office with me were B2U Assistant Warden Wayne Brewer, Major David Forrest and Capt. James A. McKee. Brewer was the only one dressed in civilian street clothes, so I inquired of him who he was. He responded, “You shut up, motherfucker, I’m doing the talking!” Then, as if on cue, Forrest and McKee rushed me and proceeded to manually choke and repeatedly hit me in the head and face while Brewer ran a stream of threats and verbal abuse past me, promising he’d break me or kill me. I was told then and repeatedly since that I am now in Texas where prison officials do simply as they please – and get away with it. Period. I replied, when I could breathe, that I wasn’t impressed nor intimidated, and to get on with whatever they had in mind.

When they got tired and saw they were getting nowhere, I was kicked out of the office and taken by the armored group to a filthy cell, which was to be my new TDCJ abode.

The cell I was put into is situated directly in front of another prisoner’s cell, Edward Long, 579657, who was just the day before viciously beaten by Applewhite while he was handcuffed behind his back. The evidence of the attack was blatant: a black ring around his left eye, a laceration along the side of his right eye held closed with sutures tape, a badly bruised face and back, and a grotesquely swollen mouth.

Furthermore, Applewhite routinely goes to Long’s cell to boast and taunt him, admitting how he “beat the shit out of” Long until he lay in a puddle of blood. Under the peculiar conditions of prison, guards actually convince themselves that beating handcuffed prisoners and mob attacking individual prisoners in groups of five or more using gas, body armor and other weapons, are accomplished acts of bravery to boast about and take pride in, instead of pure cowardice on a par with mob rape and large adults who beat small children who by nature and circumstance are at a decided disadvantage.

Applewhite also frequently threatens others with the same, and he and other E2U guards constantly act to provoke situations to speciously justify uses of force in general and cell extractions in particular, which consist of a group of guards with weapons and body armor invading the cell of an individual prisoner by force, whom they invariably beat once restrained.

Here in E2U multitudes of prisoners attest to being victims of beatings by guards. Although there are surveillance cameras throughout the unit, guards typically take prisoners into “blind spots” like offices, closets, elevators etc. where cameras are absent and beat them. During cell extractions they simply turn off or don’t train the audio-video cameras on the prisoner, while kicks and punches are thrown and his head is slammed onto the concrete floor or steel fixtures in the cells, and guards use their bodies to block the cameras.

But in many cases, as with Long, guards beat prisoners openly in video-surveilled areas and video footage is either “lost,” recorded over, ignored, or it’s claimed the use of force wasn’t captured on film.

E2U’s primitive conditions

On top of the rampant physical abuse, living conditions in E2U are barbaric. The unit is infested with roaches which are routinely found in our food or crawling on one while he is sleeping or just sitting still. And guards serve and handle our meals in the most unsanitary manner. Thermoses of juice and stacks of trays are served on the lids of wheeled trashcans. The trays are also routinely set on the filthy unit floor during service.

Guards never wash their hands, never wear head coverings and almost never wear gloves. Trays and beverages are set inside of roach-infested and contaminated metal boxes that are affixed to the outside of the cell doors, in which flies and roaches nest and rush to get at the food served and spilled inside the boxes.

Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson

Rashid in an older self-portrait

Guards also go cell to cell handling the filthy locks, chains and latches to open and close the boxes as they handle and serve the food, trays and beverages. The boxes are never cleaned, and we must also put all items passed into and out of the cells into them, including shoes, dirty linen, worn clothing, such as during searches performed each time we leave the cell.

Should one protest these conditions, he’s almost certain to get “jacked” for his tray.

The cells each have internal showers which frequently leak, causing standing water to remain on the cell floors. The shower drain frequently stops or backs up, and smells of raw sewage. There is no air conditioning, no windows at all. The vents are clogged with debris.

And in addition to the intense Texas summer heat and humidity, the cells remain damp due to lack of air circulation and steam from the shower, which never completely evaporates from the cells. The floor and walls are covered with mildew, and black mold spots the ceilings. The cells reek of mildew.

We are never given cleaning supplies such as toilet brushes, sponges, cloths, brooms, mops, disinfectants etc. The only cleaning supply we receive is a tiny bit of scouring powder once a week.

Prisoners with obvious mental and emotional illnesses scream, rant, bang and argue at fever pitch day and night. Many obviously suffering the effects of living under E2U’s solitary confinement conditions for years on end.

Guards at their whim destroy and trash prisoners’ personal property. Often when they are out of the cell, guards simply enter them and throw items out as trash, especially that of prisoners who challenge them through complaints or in the courts.

This is also done as routine summary retaliation against prisoners who dare speak out against or otherwise challenge abusive guards and conditions. My own address book, a number of pre-posted mailing envelopes and other items I brought with me from Oregon that were inventoried by ODOC officials when I left on June 14 were stolen by TDCJ Officials, evidenced by their exclusion from the inventory made of the same sealed box of property when I got here to Texas.

Meals are grossly inadequate nutritionally, with only half the prescribed meal portions served and entire courses not provided at all at nearly every meal. One literally receives one third the amount of food on the trays at E2U compared with what I received in the ODOC. And the ODOC strictly calculated meal portions and calorie counts to ensure that prisoners receive exactly or just above 2,500 calories per day, which is the legal minimum daily calorie intake for a sedentary adult.

No desserts are served – neither pastries nor fruits – although they factor into calculating daily minimum calorie intake. No condiments are given with the unseasoned meals – neither salt, sugar etc. – which also denies basic minerals. All prisoners whom I’ve spoken to on the subject in E2U suffer the continuous torture of constant hunger pangs.

Many who’ve been confined here for some time explain that food portions and quality have been cut to the extreme by the TDCJ to save money in the face of budget cuts, because of mismanagement of food supplies – prisoner workers in E2U contend that officials steal supplies of food – and to induce prisoners to conform their behavior to officials’ will to achieve privileged statuses in E2U on which they can purchase food and condiments from the commissary. Food is thus used as punishment, behavior modification and a scheme to generate money through commissary sales.

Due no process of law

Although I was never oriented into nor notified of the TDCJ’s rules and procedures, I received three disciplinary charges stemming from my resisting the forced haircut of June 14. On June 18 E2U counselor Staci Crowley came to my assigned cell to notify me of the charges and determine if I wanted to attend the hearings, which I told her I did. I only later found after she’d left that she lied, indicating I refused to attend the hearing. McKee presided as the hearings officer and found me guilty in my absence and without the benefit of my being able to present any defense.

McKee then turned around and presided over deciding my security housing committee hearing and had me assigned to administrative segregation based on his own corrupt guilty findings on the three charges. At the next committee hearing, Forrest, my other assailant, followed suit.

And as I said, guards flaunt their abusive impunity. When I was taken out to my first committee hearing on June 19, Sgt. Bret Wuellner and guard Venson Williams Jr. held me facing a wall standing outside the office where the hearing was to be conducted – the very same office in which I was attacked on June 14.

Another prisoner was in the office being “heard.” As he was being “escorted” from the office by several guards, Wuellner remarked, “Damn, what happened to his face?” The prisoner’s face was swollen and bruised – the obvious result of a recent beating.

California prisoner hunger strike solidarity drawing by Rashid Johnson, Red Onion Prison, Va

Rashid is the artist who drew this symbol of California prisoner hunger strike solidarity when he was still incarcerated at Red Onion Prison in Virginia. The drawing is now recognized around the world by people who care about prisoners.

Also, as I’d stood waiting for his hearing to conclude, another prisoner was “held” awaiting a hearing, sitting in a wheelchair approximately 10 feet from me. He too showed obvious facial injuries resulting from a beating. Concerning this prisoner, Wuellner remarked to Williams that he’d suffered his injuries – including being wheelchair-bound – in a “cell entry.”

Wuellner took this as an opportunity to tell me that here in Texas I was in for a “rude awakening.” He asked if in Virginia I’d ever had guards “put hands” on me. When I only gave him a blank look in response, Williams added, “Take it from a Black man: They do what they want here,” speaking of the ranking white TDCJ officials, “and get away with it.” Williams is a Black guard; Wuellner is white.

To Williams’ remark I couldn’t resist responding that the pathetic thing about him and others like him is he recognizes yet goes along with it. He replied, almost apologetically, “It’s just a job and I’m not going to be here long anyway.” He proved, however, on June 28 in his participation in the brutal assault of another Black prisoner in conspiracy with Wuellner, that he is as much party to the abuse as the most racist of TDCJ officials.

Since being at E2U, I’ve been confronted repeatedly with such obvious ploys as Wuellner’s and Williams’, calculated to intimidate me on the one hand and provoke me on the other. Indeed, this has been the basis of this entire TDCJ experience: to intimidate and provoke.

Indeed, since June 14, and on Brewer’s instructions, I’ve been subjected to frequent strip and cell searches every 30 minutes to two hours every day, around the clock, even during sleeping hours. This began as soon as I was assigned to E2U, following the office assault.

On the second occasion that I was confronted for such a search on that evening, by Sgt. Kyle Nash and two other guards, I questioned the basis and legality of the searches. Their response was to tell me they were frequently searching me “because we can” and used my questioning them as an excuse to attempt to escalate the situation to where force would be justified.

Nash summoned Lt. Patrick Eady to the cell, who stated outright that they were going to “do this the hard way,” and I’m “not going to like it.” He told the guards to “go suit up,” i.e., put on riot armor, and that he wanted them to take me into the back of the cell and “beat on” me. I’d never refused to submit to the search, only questioned it, so when they returned in riot armor, I went through the strip search, was handcuffed behind and brought out of the cell.

At that point, I narrated all that had occurred and Eady’s stated intentions for an audio-video camera that was present and presumably recording. I also stated my need to see medical staff for injuries to my face and throat resulting from the assault on me in the office. Following the search, I was taken inside the cell – out of view of the camera – laid on the floor in back of the cell and hit and kicked in the face and head, which I narrated for the camera to pick up.

On June 15, 2013, I hand delivered a sick call request to a nurse Kathy Burrow to be seen for my injuries which was logged in on June 16 but not acted on within 72 hours as required by TDCJ policy – obviously to cover up my injuries and allow a passage of time for them to heal. I was not seen until two weeks later and only because of outside protest of my situation after I’d managed to get word out.

Damage control

In obvious response to outside pressure, an investigation was staged, beginning long after the fact of the June 14 assaults and my complaints. First, I was seen by a nurse on June 27, who merely looked into my mouth and ears with a light, and gave me several aspirin. The following day I was brought out to see TDCJ Dr. Bobby Vincent, then TDCJ investigator D. Morris.

Just before being brought out of the cell, E2U Lt. Ashley Anderson came to my cell to tell me, in friendly tones, that Brewer had just informed him that he’d decided to end the frequent strip and cell searches he’d had me on since June 14. How convenient – just when I was about to be brought out to see a doctor and speak to an investigator about abuses, including the office assault which he’d arranged.

The doctor, himself a TDCJ employee, seemed more inclined to minimize the remnants of my injuries than to treat me. He admitted the only reason he was seeing me was because of complaints about my being assaulted. He claimed to find only “the slightest swelling” to my left jaw and not to feel a prominent bony protrusion on the right side of my throat, which even a layman can feel right now and recognize it to be abnormal and not present on the left side. No care was given.

'Defying the Tomb' cover by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson

Order Rashid’s book, “Defying the Tomb,” from Kerspebedeb Left-Wing Books, at https://secure.leftwingbooks.net/index.php?l=product_detail&p=893.

I was then taken into an office to speak with the investigator Morris – again, the same office where I was assaulted. The “interview” was also attended by Capt. Lawrence L. Dawson, Sgt. Tracy D. Puckett and guard Carlos Amaya Jr. under the guise of providing security but obviously to pick up and pass on what all was said.

I provided a statement about the abuses I’d experienced and the conditions in E2U and emphasized several times that I requested a polygraph examination concerning the abuses and that those who’d assaulted me should be asked to submit to the same – which I know they’d decline – since whatever they said in reply to my complaints would obviously be given preferential consideration by any TDCJ “investigator,” not only because they’re officials and coworkers, but because they are among the highest ranking in the prison.
And this was a case that would prove quite embarrassing to TDCJ’s highest officials, since it would show the abuses are not mere deviant misbehaviors of low-level rogue guards but rather permissive abuse that runs to the highest administrative levels.

The entire force of an “investigation,” however, is as always staged for damage control and seldom provides any meaningful outcome, except only in cases where there is sustained and broad public outrage. And again, only enough is done to pacify that protest. It’s then back to business as usual. In fact, what Morris seemed most concerned about was whether I intend to sue the TDCJ over the abuses.

Still outta control

On that very same day that I spoke to Morris, yet another brutal assault was staged on a prisoner in E2U, involving Wuellner, Williams and the guard Amaya, who’d sat in on and listened attentively to my statement about the assaults on me, from which they obviously took pointers. The assaulted prisoner remains in the hospital as I write this.

I personally witnessed the setup.

The victim, Joe Laws, 553289, is one of the few E2U prisoners who’s refused to be terrorized by E2U guards. As a result of his resistance to their abuses, the guards both fear and hate him. Given this dynamic, an attack of the sort staged on June 28 was inevitable.

Laws allegedly had a run-in with guards earlier that morning. No immediate response followed, obviously because the investigator from the TDCJ director’s office, D. Morris, was at the prison. Also, the guards who attacked Laws used the exact same tactic to assault Laws as I’d explained to Morris that Eady had guards use on me on June 14 inside the cell. Only in Laws’ case they went to the extreme.

The guards who participated in the Laws assault were Amaya, a guard named Smith (believably Nathaniel Smith), Cody Gonzalez, Williams and one other – either Gregory Shipman or Michael Lewis – all of whom were “suited up” in riot armor. They were supervised by Wuellner, and guard Jalisa R. Jackson was operating the portable audio-video camera. When force is used, the guard with the camera is to film the prisoner at all times. However, as the guard did with me on June 14, Jackson stood far off to the side of the cell so the camera would not film activity inside the cell once the guards took Laws into the back of it.

Just 30 minutes before their shift was set to go off at 6 p.m., these guards confronted Laws in body armor for a staged cell search, in pretended response to the altercation that happened almost 12 hours earlier. Following a strip search, Laws was brought out and stood against the wall outside the cell while the cell search was enacted. Jackson “alerted” Wuellner the video camera was not working.

The riot armored guards then took Laws into the back of the cell and laid him face down on the floor, whereupon they acted to remove the handcuffs and back out of the cell in an orderly retreat. At that point Wuellner announced loudly that should Laws try to rise from the floor, force would be used.

Laws never tried to get up. Wuellner told the guards to “get him,” then announced with feigned excitement that Laws tried to rise, was “resisting.” On Wuellner’s cue, the guards rushed back into the cell and began beating and kicking Laws in the head and face. Smith was doing so with steel-toed boots.
The entire wing of prisoners witnessed the attack by sight and/or sound, and many began in outrage to kick their cell doors and yell at the guards in protest. Laws was beaten at length, following which the guards then retreated from the cell and hastily shut the door.

Wuellner then pretended to try and take photographs of Laws on a digital camera as TDCJ policy requires whenever force is used on a prisoner. However he quickly announced the battery was dead so the required still photos couldn’t be taken. Laws was left in the cell bleeding profusely from the head and face.
Their dirty work done, the group of guards left the wing to go home, it being the end of their shift and they being set to have the next four days off.

No nurses nor other medical staff are present in E2U from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. – a gross legal violation – so their attack was also timed to occur when no medical staff would be on hand to examine Laws, as is also required whenever force is used. The next shift was left to pick up the pieces.

Laws suffered a large gash in back of his head, the result of being kicked by Smith with steel-toed boots, several of his teeth were knocked out while others were driven up into his gums, a gash inside his mouth, a fractured jaw, his eye swollen closed, and other injuries.

GÇÿCollective StruggleGÇÖ by Kevin GÇÿRashidGÇÖ Johnson, web

As the drums of war beat against Syria, Rashid has given us a lot to ponder in this drawing he calls “Collective Struggle.”

As I collected the facts on everything, it took numerous prisoners kicking and banging on their cell doors and becoming primed to create havoc to get unit Sgts. Shelby Rayfield and Dustin Harkness to the wing and Laws taken to the hospital, where he has remained for several days. Guards who took him out confirmed he’d lost teeth and others were disfigured, he had over a dozen staples put in back of his head, his jaw was broken etc.

The attack on Laws was obvious retaliation and timed and conducted so as to minimize on-the-spot evidence of a beating and the extent of his consequent injuries. This entire “cover-up” was so amateurish as to be pointless, which only reflects how little these guards worry about consequences for abuse and how free they are of any sort of meaningful administrative oversight, beyond mere formalities.

In fact, as my own case demonstrates, E2U administrators themselves engage in just the same abuses. That couldn’t occur unless that clearance is given all the way up to the level of TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, which is exactly where the lawless executives of Texas take their cues.

Conclusion

In footnotes to this article I will cite the multitude of federal laws – the highest law of the land – violated by the conditions and abuses described throughout this article, demonstrating the genuinely “lawless” character of the Texas officials behind them, whose duty is foremost to defend, apply and “enforce” those very laws, so one cannot mistake the authority of these people or their institutions as anything but illegal and illegitimate.
And it reveals the hypocrisy of U.S. officials when they denounce other governments as dictatorial and terroristic for doing much the same and even less than what’s been done on U.S. soil to U.S. citizens by the U.S. government. Prisoners in Texas’ E2U need as much public support as possible. And it must be broad-based and sustained. Because what’s happening to us on the inside is fated for those on the outside as Amerika becomes more and more overtly a police state and laws become less and less a restraint on official impunity.

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

Rashid Johnson, a longtime prisoner in Virginia who was transferred last year to Oregon and recently to Texas, has been held in segregation since 1993. While in prison he founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter. As a writer, Rashid has been compared to George Jackson, and he is also the artist who drew the image that became the icon of the California hunger strikes. His book, “Defying the Tomb,” with a foreword by Russell “Maroon” Shoats and afterword by Sundiata Acoli, can be ordered at leftwingbooks.net, by writing to Kersplebedeb, CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3W 3H8, or by emailing info@kersplebedeb.com. Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107.

Action call

by Karl Kerspebedeb
Since his article “The Texas Department of Cowboy Justice: A case of lawless law enforcement” was written, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson has been transferred yet again, this time to the Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas.

Supporters had been calling on Texas officials to remove Rashid from Estelle, a unit with a documented history of staff violence and impunity. (Besides Rashid’s aforementioned article, see the recent piece on Truthout: “Beatings and Threats: Odyssey of a Prisoner-Advocate, From Virginia to Texas” at http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/18167-beatings-and-threats-odyssey-of-a-prisoner-advocate-from-virginia-to-texas.)

Yet while Rashid is now out of reach of the guards who abused him at Estelle, any impression that this is a “victory” will likely prove illusory. Rashid himself has written in a recent letter to supporters, “To the extent that you all’s hassling them prompted this transfer, I’m thankful – although from what I’m told, conditions here are no better than at the Estelle Unit.”

While we wait to see what happens at Clements, our priority at this point is that Rashid regain access to his personal belongings.

When he was transferred from Oregon to Texas in June, some 41 boxes of personal belongings were supposed to follow. Any property that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was unwilling to allow Rashid to have was supposed to be transferred to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Furthermore, Rashid was supposed to receive his legal documents that he requires for his lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections. So far none of this has been done, and Rashid is increasingly concerned about what has happened to his property – literally, everything he owns in the world.

Please telephone Virginia Interstate Compact Coordinator Terry Glenn at (804) 887-7866 and ask why Kevin Johnson, VDOC No. 1007485, has not yet received any of his property. It has been two months since Rashid was transferred from Oregon, and if he does not get his property soon, this will directly impact his ability to conduct his lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections.

For more information, see the website rashidmod.com.

Write Rashid at his new address: Kevin Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107. Make sure a first and last name are clearly printed in the return address section of the envelope or your mail will be returned.

Karl Kerspebedeb is Rashid’s friend, publisher and webmaster for http://rashidmod.com/. He can be reached at info@kersplebedeb.com.

Kevin Rashid Johnson and Oregon’s Isolation Torture Unit

On the blog Sketchy Thoughts, we read more background information about Virginia prisoner Rashid Johnson, incarcerated in Snake River Intensive Management Unit (IMU).

Please read it here:

sketchythoughts.blogspot.com/2013/02/kevin-rashid-johnson-and-oregons.html

The blog also mentions this article that was published yesterday:

Oregon Prisoners Driven to Suicide by Torture in Solitary Confinement Units :

Dear friends of Rashid,
This essay was written by Rashid in November or early December 2012. It was transcribed in mid-December, after which (as per our usual procedure) Rashid was sent a hard copy for final edits, corrections, etc. It was sent it to him more than once and we now believe that he never received it because he usually responds quickly with his final edits, but not with this essay. Therefore, we are now publishing it anyway (without any final corrections he would have made) because it throws a lot of light on the context in which Rashid’s recent crisis has occurred. This should be circulated far and wide.
Oregon Prisoners Driven to Suicide by Torture in Solitary Confinement Units

By Kevin Rashid Johnson

Introduction
I am not one prone to fits of temper. But a few days ago I almost lost it. My outrage was prompted by witnessing the steady deterioration of another prisoner, resulting from particularly acute mental torture inflicted in Oregon’s Disciplinary Segregation Units (DSU), which duplicate almost exactly conditions of torture practiced at Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, that were outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1800s. [1]
The prisoner, who’d been housed in a suicide precaution cell next to me in the DSU of Oregon’s, Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), went into an immediate depressed state upon being put into the DSU. Initially, he talked a little. Then abruptly withdrew. He stopped eating, to which the guards were unanimously indifferent. Several taunted him, “if you don’t eat it I will.” He then stuffed toilet paper and the cell’s mattress into the cracks around the edges of the door, apparently to seal off all outside sound and “barricade” himself in.
He blacked out the camera in the cell, and began talking to himself. He sat catatonic in the corner of the cell and naked for days on end. He was confronted only twice by mental health staff who indifferently left his cell when he wasn’t responsive to their half-hearted attempts to talk.
Only after I verbally protested the blatant apathy of mental health and medical staff to his condition, which was obviously due to their collaborating in his mental torture, was a nurse brought to the cell to physically examine him. Whereupon his blood pressure was found extremely low and both the nurse and accompanying guard expressed his mouth and skin showed obvious symptoms of severe dehydration – in addition to not eating, he’d also apparently not been drinking water for several days, although he was supposedly in a “monitored” cell.
The nurse had him immediately taken out of the unit, likely to the medical department since he didn’t return. The next day I was moved to another unit as well. That was on November 14th.
 A High Tide of Suicide
I never learned his full name. The guards and other officials called him only “Acosta” (presumably his last name). In the DSU where we were confined together, there are six suicide precaution cells. I was housed next to one of them.
These precaution cells have in-cell video cameras and prisoners confined to them are generally given only a blue nylon smock-like garment to wear, a nylon blanket, and a mattress. Throughout my DSU assignment at SRCI these cells were always occupied and a constantly changing rotation of prisoners were kept on watch as a result of suicide attempts and ideations. In 22 years of imprisonment, I have never seen such a consistently high and continuous series of suicide cases, which I immediately recognized to result from the extreme sensory deprivation of DSU housing.
 Compelling Idle Minds
Prior to my Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) assignment in February 2012, I’d spent 17 years in solitary confinement, enduring various extremes of sensory deprivation. During that time I witnessed numerous prisoners deteriorate mentally under the conditions of solitary. But in most cases, it took months to years because there was a limited amount of access to in-cell property and one could use the telephone periodically. However, in Oregon’s DSU nopersonal property is allowed, beyond a pen, writing paper, and, if one can afford it and has anyone to regularly correspond with, a few mailing envelopes. One cannot use the telephone to communicate with loved ones at all. One can’t have personal books even. Not even law books.
In DSU a prisoner may only receive up to three novels from a small rolling book cart kept in the unit. Many of which are missing bindings and pages. Such reading per se does little to stimulate the mind and denies one the opportunity and right to select his own subjects and fields of research and study. [2] The three novels may only be exchanged from the cart once per seek.
DSU prisoners are heard frequently complaining that having nothing else to do, they complete novels in two to three days, and are otherwise left completely idle and “bored out of their minds.” Meantime the deterioration sets in: the constant cell-pacing or catatonic states, incessantly talking to oneself, depression, irrational searches for stimulation, and of course, self mutilation and suicide attempts.
 Torture By Design
And ODOC officials know what they’re doing. They consciously use acute sensory deprivation (psychological torture) as a behavior modification technique, with the assistance of mental health staff whose professional role and concern are supposed to be maintaining prisoners in healthy mental states, notaiding in inflicting mental pain and injury on them. This is no different from the doctors and nurses who aided the gruesome medical experiments and tortures of concentration camp prisoners in Nazi Germany.
Indeed, I was moved from the DSU with the suicide precaution cells, when I spoke out in protest to and against one of the DSU staff, D. Jennings, as she indifferently left Acosta’s cell, asking why she was condoning his and all our mental torture under DSU conditions, referring to the high frequency of suicide attempts in the unit; and citing numerous studies of psychiatric and torture experts on sensory deprivation and its being a known form of psychological torture and one of the most hurtful and damaging forms at that. Her response was to walk away with guards laughing. She then gave me a scornful stare as she left the unit.
I’ve learned from ODOC prisoners, officials and ODOC’s own publicly accessible policies – the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR’s) [3] – that ODOC officials very deliberately use psychological torture as a behavior modification technique, which is one reason the DSU is designed as it is. Those found in violation of minor or major prison rules are invariably sentenced to months of mental torture in DSU: typically four to six months at a time, which amounts to prolonged torture as a deterrent to rules violations.
Worse still is the ODOC’s Intensive Management Unit (IMU) where I am now confined. A housing status that lasts from seven months to indefinitely, during which a prisoner must pass through four levels – which requires that he reveal his every thought to his torturers.
Those housed in IMU who receive rules infractions are automatically placed on level one for a month, which is even more restrictive and extreme in sensory deprivation than DSU housing. And for every infraction he then receives, his level one assignment is extended. Such conditions often put prisoners struggling to maintain their sanity in a catch-22, where coping prompts resisting their torturing confinement, and that very resistance prompts infractions which intensify and prolong that confinement. [4]
On the level one IMU status, the prisoner may have only one novel per week, and cannot even come out of the cell for fresh air inside the walled-in enclosure, with only a small patch of the sky visible, that passes for an exercise yard.
Then, too, as a Security Threat Management (STM) lieutenant, Schultz, here at SRCI, boasted in my presence on September 18, 2012, he personally imposes indefinite statuses on select IMU prisoners where they are left in completely empty cells all day, given bedding and linen from 10 pm to 6 am daily, and are allowed writing supplies for no more than four hours per day. He actually admitted to me this was torture and violated the prisoners’ constitutional rights, but proclaimed himself immune from all liability (i.e. above the law), because ODOC policy empowered him to do pretty much as he pleases to prisoners as an STM official. [5]
I in turn sent Schultz a written request that same day pointing out that he wasnot in fact immune for violating the law because he believes his policy-making superiors gave him authority to do so. I then pointed out the sort of character he and his colleagues are, who presume to punish others by imprisonment for breaking laws, when they in fact have no respect for the very same laws themselves – and the highest law of the land that they are under oath to uphold at that, namely the U.S. Constitution. And although ODOC rules required that Schultz respond to my request within seven days, he never replied. [6] Yet, he sees to prisoners being tortured for them violating ODOC rules.
One prisoner who’s been confined in the ODOC for some time – Damascus Menefee – informed me of an ODOC scandal a few years back, where it was exposed in the media that several DSU and IMU prisoners had committed suicide, but were not discovered by officials for hours, because guards weren’t tending their posts and refused to make required security rounds in the housing units. As a result, the ODOC installed electronic devices in the DSUs and IMU that monitor and record the guards’ rounds in the units. What was also exposed during this scandal was that the conditions of the DSUs and IMU were causing an extremely high incidence of suicides and suicide attempts in the ODOC. However, nothing was done to change these conditions that still exist, and, as I have observed, continue to drive prisoners at an extraordinary rate into suicidal ideations and actions.
 History Repeats Itself 
As pointed out the DSU and IMU conditions replicate abuses outlawed over a century ago, at the Eastern State Penitentiary, where solitary confinement was first tried as a method of “reforming” criminals, but only proved to drive them insane.
Whereas DSU and IMU level one prisoners are locked in solitary cells with only novels, at Eastern State they were confined in solitary with only a bible to read, where they were expected to ponder and make penance (hence the name “Penitentiary”) for their wrongs. The actual effects of such confinement, as the Supreme Court found, were quite different:
“A considerable number of prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal were not reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of subsequent service to the community.” [7]
Unite to Fight Prison Torture
Today, as the world joins U.S. prisoners in protest against ongoing solitary confinement in prisons across the country – from the United Nations denouncing the practice of torture to mass demonstrations in support of hunger striking prisoners protesting solitary [9] — the ODOC has managed somehow to remain under the radar, where the most intense sensory deprivation is being inflicted on prisoners, and prisoners are literally dying to escape it. [10]
And it’s known torture; of the same sort inflicted in U.S. torture research labs like at Guantanamo Bay, where U.S. military personnel in collaboration with psychiatrists and psychologists, inflicted, studied and refined various methods and effects of psychological torture on detainees (especially sensory deprivation), which came out in the U.S. military torture scandals of 2004 and led to ongoing mass protests to close down Guantanamo. Professor Alfred McCoy also wrote an extensive historical study and exposure of U.S. military and CIA involvement in refining techniques of mental torture for decades.
Experts in the field know very well that sensory deprivation causes suffering and injury at least as extensive and often more severe than physical torture and injury. As psychiatrist and torture expert Dr. Albert Biderman observed:
“The effect of isolation, on the brain function of the prisoner is much like that which occurs if he is beaten, starved or deprived of sleep.” [12] Furthermore, studies find that sensory deprivation inflicted in solitary confinement even briefly actually causes physical brain damage.
“EEG studies going back to the nineteen-sixties have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement. In 1992, fifty-seven prisoners of war, released after an average of six months in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, were examined using EEG-like-tests. The recordings revealed brain abnormalities months afterward: the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious or, yes, solitary confinement: without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.” [13]
As said, these hypocrites running the DOC are fully aware of what they’re doing. They know they’re engaged in torture of prisoners as lawless as if they were water boarding and electrocuting us. That they pretend to have a moral authority to punish others for breaking laws they don’t respect themselves is what fueled my outrage, as I watched others around me retreat into insanity, mentally deteriorate and literally resort to self-destruction in efforts to stop their suffering.
Here on the inside, the hypocrisy of those in power is blatant. Because we “in here” so long disconnected from those “out there” are powerless in the face of our armed captors, our torturers feel little need to sugar coat reality and hide their true face as they do with the outside masses.
Here in Oregon the public seems oblivious to the abuses carried out in their names within its prisons; abuses that also unbeknownst to them they stand to suffer from, because these tortured souls around me will be returned back to those communities from whence they left. So for the sake of all concerned, it’s in these communities’ interests to end this prison torture and hold those responsible to account.
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People
[1] In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160 (1890).
[2] As the courts have held: “Freedom of speech is not merely freedom to speak; it is often freedom to read. . . Forbid a person to read and you shut him out of the marketplace of ideas and opinions that it is the free-speech clause to protect.” King v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 415 F. 3d 634, 638 (2005).
[3] All of the ODOC’s Oregon Administrative Rules can be read at:http://www.arcweb.sos.state.or.us. The OAR’s relevant to this article are OAR 291-011 (Disciplinary Segregation), OAR 291-055 (Intensive Management Unit), and OAR 291-069 (Security Threat Management).
[4] On this phenomenon see, Dr. Atul Gawadne, “Hellhole: the United States holds thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?” The New Yorker, March 30, 2009.
[5] See OAR on STM, op cit. note 3.
[6] Per OAR 291-109-1020 (4) ODOC staff are to reply to prisoners’ written requests (“Kytes”) within seven days.
[7] See, op cit. note 1 on page 168.
[8] On October 18, 2011 UN torture expert, Juan Méndez, denounced U.S. solitary confinement practices as torture and called on all countries to ban its practice except in extremely exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible. See “UN News: Solitary Confinement Should be Banned in Most Cases, UN Expert Says,” October 18, 2011.
[9] On July 1 and September 29, 2011 six thousand and 12,000 prisoners respectively in California prisons went on hunger strikes lasting three weeks both times, protesting, among other things, long-term solitary confinement in Security Housing Units. Mass support for these hunger strikes spanned the country.
[10] A prisoner confined next to me, as I write this, witnessed two suicides occurring during or about May and July 2012 at Oregon State Correctional Institutions – Segregation Units, in Salem Oregon. This witness being Zachariah Dickson.
[11] Alfred McCoy, “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror”, (New York: Henry Holt, 2006).
[12] Albert Biderman, et al, “The Manipulation of Human Behavior” (New York, 1961) p. 29.
[13] Op cit. note 4.

Statement by Portland Law Collective about Kevin Rashid Johnson

We received this today via an email the SF Bay View kindly shared with us:

Statement sent out by Benjamin Haile of the Portland Law Collective, with Rashid’s approval:

 
“I talked with Kevin Rashid Johnson today [Feb 22nd?] for over 90 minutes. He seemed to be clear headed and to have a good perspective on his situation. 

He said that he would appreciate support in regaining access to his personal property and mail. Officials have placed him on a security designation that precludes access to these things. So he is unable to contact anyone or publish anything. 

He thinks that is retaliation for articles he published that are critical of the Oregon Department of Corrections. The pretext that the officials are using to put him on this status is an incident on January 28, 2012. He was recently cleared of any misconduct in that incident after a disciplinary hearing. 

Furthermore, deprivation of property and mail is not reasonably related to the alleged incident. 

He thinks the best people to contact would be Doug Yancey, the security threat manager for the Dept. of Corrections, and C. Schultz, the security threat manager at Snake River. They are the ones who made this decision. I don’t have direct contact information for these people. 

A starting point for Mr. Yancey would be the Office of the Inspector General in Salem at 503-945-9043. A starting point for reaching Mr. Schultz would be the main line at Snake River, 503-945-9090. […]

“He was very glad to hear that so many people are looking out for him.”

Oregon DOC Attempting to Kill Kevin “Rashid” Johnson!

Posted on by kersplebedeb, on Rashid’s website:

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is a New Afrikan Communist prison organizer and intellectual in the United States and one of the founders of the NABPP-PC (New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter). He has spent most of his adult life in the prison system and continually been subjected to political repression and violence in retaliation for his organizing efforts. He is currently held at Snake River Correctional Inst in Oregon.

After a long and uncharacteristic silence in communication with him and no information on his circumstances – a supporter received the following letter from another prisoner:

 “This is about Rashid. We need a lot of help. They are trying to kill him. On Jan. 31 they put something in his food that made him crazy. On Feb. 2 he took 30 pills. They did not do anything to get the pills out of him…. On Jan. 4 [sic; I assume he means Feb. 4] he ate 3 razor blades. This is all on videotape. They lied and said the X-ray showed nothing. The [blades] are still in him right now. 

He has not eaten since Feb. 3. He has not drunk anything since Feb. 5…. He is passing out and they won’t do anything to help him…. Said he is the one that won’t eat or drink so they are not helping him at all. He is peeing blood and has bad kidney pains…. Med staff will not give him IV fluids…. [As of Feb. 10 he had] lost over 16 pounds. His blood pressure is 191/100 and his urine is the color of coffee….”


It is of the upmost importance to put ALL POSSIBLE PRESSURE on the Oregon DOC AS SOON AS POSSIBLE in order to protect this comrades life!

Please call Snake River at 541-881-5000 and dial 0 to speak with a staff member and express your concern over the situation:

Also call the DOC Inspector General at (877) 678-4222 and Oregon DOC at 503-945-9090.

Fax number for Snake River Superintendent’s Office is (541)881-5460.

Email address of Snake River Superintendent Mark Nooth is mark.s.nooth@state.or.us.

Snake River is open 8-5 MST.  Further details on the situation and support actions will be posted here as they become available.

Oppression, Resistance, Unity, Power: A Statement In Support of the Virginia Prisoner Hunger Strike

From: Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle
By Rashid Johnson
June 21, 2012

In protest against the ongoing and inhumane conditions at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison – one of Amerika’s most notoriously abusive and racist prisons – dozens of men at the prison went on a hunger strike. The strike began on May 22, 2012 and lasted several weeks.

I had spent over a decade imprisoned at Red Onion. Much of that time was spent in political growth, and my writing and circulating reports and articles to publicly expose abuses there, and trying to help build us a support structure on the outside.

I also struggled to impart to my peers the truism that while oppression does breed resistance, resistance without unity and public support is futile, which is why our captors promote division and individualism among prisoners – a “mind your own business” and “don’t concern your self with others” mentality – and manipulate us to misdirect our frustrations and ‘resistance’ against and between ourselves. It is also why they maneuver at every turn to alienate the general public against us with fear and hatred, the old Willie Lynch game.

To repress my efforts, officials kept me in solitary, often isolated from other prisoners. They routinely censored, destroyed and ‘lost’ my correspondence, imposed increased repression and abuses on me, and finally, on February 11, 2012, transferred me cross-country without notice or explanation to the Oregon prison system.

But I’d like to believe that despite their attempts to undermine and frustrate this work, my efforts, in collaboration with others of like mind, took root and bore fruit.

Many of the hunger strikers are men whom I had the honor of serving as both student and teacher. Many are members of street tribes (so-called gangs), whose traditional rivalries kept them divided against and at odds with each other – divisions and conflicts that Red Onion officials acted at every turn to fuel and perpetuate. However, as one of the representatives of the hunger strike stated, “We’re tired of being treated like animals. There are only two classes at this prison: the oppressor and the oppressed. We, the oppressed, despite divisions of sexual preference, gang affiliation, race and religion, are coming together. We are rival gang members, but now are united as revolutionaries.”

And the prisoners now have an outside voice and support structure to publicly air their grievances and demands for basic human rights.

As I often point out to my peers, although we outnumber them at least ten to one and many of us are in prime physical condition, our oppressors have power, and the power to oppress us, only because they have unity and control public opinion. Whereas they keep us divided, and the public alienated against us, it is just as effective a political tool today as it was yesterday on Southern slave plantations and in campaigns to exterminate Native peoples and subjugate Mexicans to turn profits and steel land. It is the politics of oppression.

But today’s prison movement is learning from Georgia’s prisoner strike of 2010, to California’s prisoner hunger strike of 2011, to this latest hunger strike at Red Onion. We are learning that not only does oppression breed resistance, but political consciousness breeds unity, and unity begets power. It enables people so long indoctrinated to believe themselves powerless to see that they can challenge and change oppression by uniting against their common oppressor.

The greater our numbers and unity, the greater is our power to turn mere resistance into seizure of power, which is why unity of the oppressed is the greatest fear of any oppressor. The prison movement has much to teach us. We are conquered only because and insofar as we are divided.

Dare to struggle, dare to win!

All power to the people!

Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson, Minister of Defence of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter, is a political prisoner, activist, revolutionary writer and artist.

Write to him at Kevin Rashid Johnson #19370490, Oregon State Penitentiary, 2605 State Street, Salem, OR 97310-1346

More info at http://rashidmod.com/