TX: Lead and Copper in Eastham Unit Water: A Potential Silent Killer

by Keith “Malik” Washington, Deputy Chairman, New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter)

Published originally in : Incarcerated Workers

“…We’re reaching a point where capitalism’s rapaciousness threatens the collapse of entire ecosystems and has us catapulting toward irreversible climate change catastrophe.” – Political prisoner David Gilbert, from an interview with Bob Feldman

Revolutionary Greetings Sisters & Brothers!
Right now, many of you are obtaining a clearer perspective of what actually is going on inside Texas prisons: deadly extreme heat, toxic water, and the “mysterious” deaths of prisoners at the Bill Clements Unit have recently been exposed by journalists who are not imprisoned. I am very glad to see this.

More than ever, now is the time for “the chickens to come home and roost” for the actions perpetrated by the ultra-corrupt prison officials of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Like Brother Malcolm X, I say “chickens coming home to roost never made me sad, they only made me glad.”

The focus of this brief essay is the purposeful poisoning of prisoners housed at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas. Once again, we are seeing a collusive and co-ordinated effort by the state of Texas and its prison agency, TDCJ, to cover up the poisoning of prisoners.

I say once again, because TDCJ has done this before. Candice Bernd of Truth-Out just recently reported on the problem in her article “Cruel and Unusual: Texas Prisoners Face Deadly Heat and Contaminated Water.” I highly recommend you read Ms Bernd’s article and follow the series she is working on with her colleagues from Earth Island Journal, Maureen Nandini Mitra and Zoe Loftus-Farren, “America’s Toxic Prisons: The Environmental Injustices of Mass Incarceration”.

I met Candice Bernd in July 2017 right here in the Eastham Unit. I was impressed by her intelligence and also by her commitment to unearthing the truth and reporting it. Like me, Candice is not just a journalist, she is an activist.

In 2015, I began raising the alarm about arsenic contaminated water at the Wallace Pack Unit (Pack I) located in Navasota, Texas. Panagioti Tsolkas, the co-founder of the Prison Ecology Project, raised the alarm also. In November 2015, I asked Professor Victor Wallis PhD of Berklee College (School of Music) in Boston, MA, to submit a complaint to the the TDCJ Ombudsman Office concerning the arsenic-tainted water at Pack I Unit. In the response we received, everybody lied! TDCJ lied, the Texas Commission on Environmental Justice lied, Emma Guerra the Ombudspersyn lied too!

A lot of people don’t realize that I am a communist and I subscribe to a very strict process when I am confronted with a problem. I apply historical dialectical materialism. I perform a concrete analysis of the conditions around me.
So I decided to provide for you the actual response we received from the TDCJ Ombudsman when we complained about arsenic contamination at the Pack I Unit in November 2015.

TDCJ Ombudsman to Dr Wallis-re arsenic water and extreme heat

TDCJ Ombudsman to Dr Wallis-re arsenic water and extreme heat: TDCJ officials deny the poisoned water.

In June 2016, Federal Judge Keith P Ellison ordered TDCJ to provide arsenic-free water to prisoners at Pack I because a finding of fact proved that Pack I’s water supply contained 2.5-4 times the EPA approved level of arsenic. So we learned a valuable lesson from that experience.
The State of Texas and its Prison Agency will lie about serious violations of humyn rights – FACT!

Through my research here on the Eastham Unit located in Lovelady, Texas, I have discovered that there has been a high frequency of lead and free copper found in the water system which serves Eastham Unit. Free copper and lead reveal a problem with the lines and service lines at the Eastham Unit. Corroded pipes are present here! The lead is exceptionally problematic because one of the detrimental health effects is high blood pressure or hyper-tension.

New Afrikan/Black men have a predisposition for high blood pressure! So now we are looking at a disproportionate number of New Afrikans incarcerated here at the former slave planation of Eastham. We factor in the deadly extreme heat and the heightened risk of heat injury and death; couple that with the consumption of toxic water, and this is a textbook example of an 8th Amendment US constitutional violation (cruel and unusual punishment).

Now, the first thing the professional liar Jason Clark will say is: “There are no traces of lead or copper in the Eastham water supply.” Jason Clark is the spokespersyn for TDCJ, he is paid big bucks to lie! If I had listened to Clark and the rest of the TDCJ liars in 2015, I would have ceased my exposure and investigation, but I know better. I continued to press the issue, and in June 2016 I was vindicated.

Right now, as I speak to you through this essay, my anarchist comrades at the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons are beginning to pore over data contained on the website operated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. I have asked Panagioti Tsolkas to ask college-educated toxicologists to study the data so that we can come up with a respected and authoritative opinion about the toxins present inside the Eastham water system.

I am requesting more free-world citizens help me force TDCJ to allow an objective and independent water quality testing organization to be allowed to enter Eastham and test our water from the taps in our cells! Oh yes! I’ve been doing my homework and TDCJ has been fraudulently manipulating the sample point so inaccurate lead and copper readings are recorded!

I am a New Afrikan Black Panther, so of course I have a vested interest in protecting the health and lives of black people – but my commitment doesn’t stop there! Some of you may be aware that I have been training a white man named Comrade Kado to be an effective jailhouse lawyer and human rights activist. Comrade Kado has fiery red hair, blue eyes and has been diagnosed with chronically high blood pressure!

This lead-contaminated water leads to kidney problems and high blood pressure. High blood pressure leads to strokes and strokes lead to death!
There are white, black and latin men at Eastham who can easily succumb to the “silent killer” which exists in the water we are forced to consume. We have no other water source!

The reason why these types of environmental problems are so very pervasive inside Texas prisons is that prisoner lives are not valued. Society is constantly bombarded with negative images of the violent, belligerent and manipulative convict.

No-one wants to talk about the Marissa Alexanders, or my comrade Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, who exposed the abuse of prisoners in Texas and was banished to a hole inside a Florida prison. Rashid’s “crime”? Having more concern for his fellow prisoners than he has for himself! And these are the types of stories the mainstream media ignores because they don’t fit the narrative the “powers that be” want to be in the fore-front of society’s collective mind. I humbly request that you start to question the oppressors in Texas and Florida.

I have a final word to offer on the topic of white supremacism and the rampant spread of neo-nazism in Amerika: Sisters and brothers, if we are extremely passionate about taking confederate statues down because they represent the vestiges of and legacy of white supremacy in Amerika, then we must become doubly committed to dismantling and abolishing the institution of legalized slavery in Amerika!

The United States leads the world in the proliferation of slave kamps and deadly gulags. President Donald Trump is a true reflection of Amerikan values and morals, he represents the cruel and harsh reality that we have been ignoring and unwilling to confront – until now! Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!

This essay is dedicated to the memory of the comedian, writer and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, October 12, 1932 – August 19, 2017.

Keith “Malik” Washington is a humyn rights activist currently incarcerated in Texas. He is a co-founder and chief spokespersyn for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement. Malik is a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and he is the Deputy Chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter). Malik has been instrumental in calling for the abolition of legalized slavery in Amerika and he is very active in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. You can view his work at comrademalik.com or write him directly at
Keith ‘Comrade Malik’ Washington TDC# 1487958
Eastham Unit,
2665 Prison Road 1
Lovelady, Texas 75851

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Horrific Conditions for Live-Stock Animals in Texas Prisons Exposed

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
(we received this report by email via a supporter)

https://comrademalik.com/

“Instead of supporting the hidden cruelties of factory farms and slaughterhouses, each of us can choose to act with compassion by boycotting animal agriculture.”

–Vegan Outreach

[The film, Cowspiracy, documents the enormous impact the meat and dairy industry has on the environment and climate change. One really should eat vegan to really be an environmentalist. –Mark M Giese, typist]

My name is Keith ‘Malik’ Washington. I am an investigative journalist, an environmentalist, and human and civil rights activist. I am one of the most outspoken critics of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. What sets me apart from many criminal justice reporters is my status.

I have been incarcerated in Texas for 10 years. I have been housed on 18 prison units operated by the State of Texas and TDCJ.

I am intimately familiar with the day-to-day operations at the agency.

For years I have written essay after essay which exposes the inhumane conditions forced upon prisoners who find themselves trapped in a Texas prison. However, as an activist, my perspective has expanded significantly.

In 2017, I now see the detrimental impact the sprawling prison system in Texas has on the immediate environment. There is an ecological dynamic here which has been ignored.

Texas prisons (TDCJ) operate an extremely lucrative agriculture business which includes vegetable crops, cattle, hogs, and chickens. I have written extensively about Texas Correctional Industries and the exploitation of free prison labor in Texas. I have drawn the connection between profits and the corrupt parole system in Texas.

We all know good time and work time credits mean nothing to Texas prisoners–we are slaves and forced into a life of perpetual involuntary servitude.

But what if I told you the state of Texas and TDCJ have established a multi-million dollar agribusiness which subjects animals to horrific and cruel conditions which would shock the world? Would you remain silent? Allow me to give you a glimpse of hell.

Welcome to Wynne Farm!

In February 2014, I was released from long-term solitary confinement (ad-seg). I did 22 months in a very small cage. I was released to the general population on the Wynne Unit, aka the Wynne Farm which is located in Huntsville, Texas.

Wynne Unit is the headquarters of numerous TCI light industrial factories and it has a large agriculture element which is maintained by prisoners.

The crops, which include corn, peas, watermelon, squash, and green beans, to name a few, are cultivated by prisoners on medium custody.

I was assigned to medium custody for 6 months at the Wynne Farm in 2014. I went into those fields to work outside the gate 3-5 days a week.

In close proximity to the fields at Wynne Farm is a large egg-laying operation. And this is where I caught my first glimpse of modern-day animal cruelty in Texas prisons.

I smelled the large hen (chicken) warehouse before we actually got right up on it.

It was May 2014, a beautiful day outside. The building was made of grey metal and aluminum. It was an old building. As I looked inside, I saw numerous cages. Hens were packed like sardines. Underneath the cages were virtual mountains of bird feces.
The egg-laying hens were packed in these feces-filled cages. I saw dead birds in the cages–some were green–obviously very sick and shaking badly.

The cages are so small, hens cannot turn around or spread their wings. Our job was to remove the fecal matter. The smell of ammonia was very strong. Some birds I noticed had burns on their feet and legs, this from being housed in filth.

TDCJ benefits greatly from being immune to any oversight of any regulatory agency.

This lack of oversight is not just relegated to TDCJ’s agriculture business. Prisoner rights activists have cried out for years for an independent oversight committee which has the authority to enter these prison plantations. Transparency and accountability have not been a part of the TDCJ business or management model. Hopefully, this essay will provoke a much-needed conversation.

After doing a vast amount of research, I learned that the cages TDCJ uses on Wynne Farm are called “battery” cages. They are typically less than half a square foot of floor space per bird but TDCJ goes far beyond any industry standard and stuffs in 2 or 3.

Many birds at Wynne die of asphyxiation and dehydration. Decomposing corpses are found in cages with live birds every day at Wynne.

One hideous presence I saw at Wynne Farm were large well-fed vultures. These carrion-eaters sit in large groups on top of the hen building at Wynne. It’s hard to miss them and it is a telltale sign that something is very wrong there.

Recently, I learned Eastham Unit has a similar egg-laying operation and I received details. The operation produces approximately 80 000 eggs per week. It is a 24-hour-a-day operation, the lights never go out.

TDCJ makes approximately $100 000 a week just from the eggs here at Eastham.

Eastham also has 3000 hogs, 600 sows, and it ships for sale 21 piglets a week. I have a word about accuracy in reporting. I cannot tell you what the conditions are like for the birds at Eastham Unit nor can I tell you how the hogs are treated. I do recommend that we demand to be allowed on the Wynn Farm immediately.

I spent some time on Coffield Unit last year which is located in Tennessee Colony, Texas. There are 3 large units in the area which raise hogs. I can tell you that the pigs on Coffield, Michaels, and Beto Unit are subjected to abuse.

I have gathered firsthand reports of pigs being kept on concrete slabs which create deformities of pigs’ legs. Pigs like to root and dig in the dirt and mud and this staging on concrete obviously prevents that.

But I discovered something quite shocking about TDCJ’s various hog and cattle operations.

While housed at Coffield Unit, I discovered large quantities of coliform bacteria were regularly found to be present in the water system. I’ve discovered raising animals for food causes more water pollution in the US than any other industry because animals raised for food produce 130 times the excrement of the entire human population. 87 000  pounds of fecal matter per second.

Much of the waste from factory farms like those TDCJ operates as well as pig slaughterhouses like the one on Michaels Unit produces toxic runoff which contaminates streams, rivers and ground water.

Toxic water is a pervasive and systemic problem in the entire state of Texas. So not only is TDCJ abusing animals, it continues to be a major polluter of our environment. The time to act is now.

No matter how much evidence we produce or how many thought-provoking questions we ask, the Agency of TDCJ will continue to misinform the public and violate the public’s trust.

We must seek out the companies doing business with TDCJ’s agribusiness and then expose them and boycott them.

First, we contact the Freedom of Information Foundation for Texas and request their help in finding out who us buying eggs and hogs from TDCJ. Then we respectfully ask these companies to stop doing business with TDCJ until the agency cleans up their act.

Texas will not listen until we start affecting their bottom-line profits; that’s the language the system understands.

Our cries for humane conditions for humans have been routinely ignored–here is and example:

Prisoners housed in Ad-Seg don’t work and it costs a lot to house us in solitary. Many prisoners have died on account of the deadly extreme heat in Texas prisons.

Young pigs are vulnerable to extreme heat. Young piglets generate profits for TDCJ.

A couple years ago, TDCJ invested $175 000 for a cooling system for the pigs. The pigs are being preserved for slaughter so TDCJ can benefit. TDCJ does not have any concern for animal rights or human rights. Its main focus is profits by any means.

It is time we take a closer look at what is really going on inside Texas prisons. As activists who are on the “front lines,” we have a duty to confront those entities who abuse and mistreat animals as well as pollute our precious water supplies.

I can only ask that you amplify my voice so that it is heard beyond these walls. I will continue to struggle.

P.S. Visit www.10billionlives.com