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Prisoners file federal lawsuit to end prison slavery in Texas

March 26, 2016

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington

Peace and blessings, sisters and brothers! On March 7, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge John D. Love issued an order in the federal civil lawsuit brought by 89 prisoners, including myself, who are housed at the Coffield Unit located in Tennessee Colony, Texas.

The typical Texas prison is a former slave plantation – still relying on slave labor. This is the Cummins Prison Farm in 1975. Today, Texas prisoners continue to be forced to work for no pay – their only compensation the promise of good time and work credits to shorten their sentences. But that system is broken, and with the current federal lawsuit, prisoners aim to get it fixed – and start getting paid. – Photo: Courtesy of the Marshall Project

The typical Texas prison is a former slave plantation – still relying on slave labor. This is the Cummins Prison Farm in 1975. Today, Texas prisoners continue to be forced to work for no pay – their only compensation the promise of good time and work credits to shorten their sentences. But that system is broken, and with the current federal lawsuit, prisoners aim to get it fixed – and start getting paid. – Photo: Courtesy of the Marshall Project

The lawsuit challenges the fraudulent good time and work time credit scheme the state uses to defraud prisoners of their “work product” and exploit them in order to enrich the prison agency, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), as well as their slave industries known as TCI, or Texas Correctional Industries.

In the original petition that was mailed a little over a month ago, all 89 prisoners requested that the court grant class certi­fication “as soon as practicable.” The judge, in Tyler, Texas, completely ignored this request. What the judge did do is order all prospective plaintiffs to file individual civil action lawsuits and to either pay the $400 filing fee or proceed in forma pauperis. I will encourage every prisoner in Texas who can breathe to file immediately!

This lawsuit is the legal initiative of the multi-faceted End Prison Slavery in Texas Campaign. All Texas prisoners, male and female, have a vested interest in respect to the outcome of this lawsuit. We are not just asking for pay for our labor; we are requesting that this fraudulent good time-work time credit system be fixed.

Sisters and brothers, you need to know that on the same day we received the judge’s order, I sent a letter and a copy of our petition to First Lady Michelle Obama. I requested that she share our petition with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as well with the hope that the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Unit will consider aiding us in what will be the largest class action lawsuit in Texas prisons since Ruiz vs. Estelle. For those who may remember him, David Ruiz was a dedicated freedom fighter and servant of the people.

The lawsuit challenges the fraudulent good time and work time credit scheme the state uses to defraud prisoners of their “work product” and exploit them in order to enrich the prison agency, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), as well as their slave industries known as TCI, or Texas Correctional Industries.

Sisters and brothers, even though the courts are supposed to be un-biased and separate from the “state’s interests,” all of us who are freedom fighters in Texas know that the courts in Texas conspire and collaborate with the state in order to obstruct and disrupt our path to justice. Case in point: Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed. [Rodney’s execution was stayed a year ago in the face of overwhelming evidence of his innocence, but he is still on death row.] That is why it is imperative that we get not only legal help but media help from somewhere, ANYWHERE!

On a positive note, one prisoner was actually issued a cause in the federal civil lawsuit challenging prison slavery in Texas. That prisoner, Norris Hicks, 505593, happens to be my co-organizer and co-founder of the End Prison Slavery in Texas Campaign. The court actually did us a huge favor by issuing a cause number to Hicks, who we affectionately call Yak-Yak. Yak-Yak has been incarcerated approximately 28 years and he has defined himself as a righteous and dedicated servant of all the people.

Sisters and brothers, soon we will be launching a GoFundMe campaign in order to raise funds for the legal battle that lies ahead. We desperately need your support as we seek attorneys who will represent all Texas prisoners in this worthy cause.

All of us who are freedom fighters in Texas know that the courts in Texas conspire and collaborate with the state in order to obstruct and disrupt our path to justice.

If any of you who are reading this have contacts – legal contacts, media contacts, activist contacts – who are passionate about civil rights and human rights issues, we need help now! Please feel free to contact me or Yak-Yak directly. We both are housed at the Coffield Unit located in Tennessee Colony, Texas.

You can also contact us through our close friend and comrade John Dolley, who is the director of Central Texas ABC and ABC Para-Legal Services, P.O. Box 7907, Austin, Texas 78713; email him at twitchon@hotmail.com.

Please share this media release on social media and any media outlet possible. Please visit our Facebook page and lend your support. Visit Facebook.com/comrademalikwashington or visit comrademalik.com to learn more about the End Prison Slavery in Texas Campaign.

This is turning into a MOVEMENT, folks!! Dare to struggle, dare to win! All power to the people!

Contact Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, 1487958, and Norris ‘Fajr’ Hicks, 505593, aka Yak-Yak, H.H. Coffield Unit, 2661 FM 2054, Tennessee Colony, Texas 75884.

10 thoughts on “Prisoners file federal lawsuit to end prison slavery in Texas

  1. enoch mubarak

    In as much as I understand and appreciate the concerns and efforts from various black organizations, groups, activist and the prisoners i am deeply disturbed, appalled and alarmed that no one remembers nor mentions the victims. A lot of these brothers are not locked down for being choir boys and upstanding citizens.

    Does anyone remember or care about the black girls kidnapped, tortured, raped, murdered and left begging for their lives only to die alone in rat infested abandoned houses, dark basements and cold ditches?

    Does any one remember the mothers beaten, gagged, tied -up, shot, stabbed, drowned or burned alive?

    Does anyone remember or mention the fathers robbed and shot for simply trying to work and provide for his family?

    These various black organizations, groups, activist and prisoners should be aiding and abetting the black men out here struggling with everything the have to avoid becoming prisoners and statistics.

    Dear Black America 2016
    Please remember the victims.

    Reply
    1. Michael

      Enoch, I write this with respect and understanding of your feelings. But the criminal mentality is much more complicated than simply making conscious, free-will choices to commit heinous crimes. The programming and conditioning that creates criminals usually begins in early childhood. There are many factors that mold the criminal mindset: child sexual abuse, being raised by alcoholic or drug addicted parents, being continuously mistreated, being allowed, or forced, to roam the streets, where character is largely shaped by peer pressure. Even the worst psychopaths are not "evil," they are mentally ill. Many books have been written on this subject, which is too complex to go into here.

      I firmly believe that all people are capable of doing terrible things, but I also believe that the worse of the worst are capable of change. 95% of criminals can be rehabilitated, though not by our broken criminal justice and prison systems. Criminals are rehabilitated not by prison conditions, but despite them. I consider myself to be a living example of that truth. Beginning at age 12 I went to different "reform" schools 5 times. As an adult I went to prison 3 times. The last time I was sentenced to death for my part in an armed robbery gone bad, during which a man was shot and killed. I was 23 years old. I stayed on Texas' death row for 3 years before my sentence was commuted to life. I stayed in prison for 40 years before being parole in 2010. I've been on parole for six years and I'm doing very well. I'm happily married to a wonderful woman and living a sober, sane and productive life. I'm proud to say that I serve prisoners and their families and try my best to help them in every way I can.

      I wrote all this in the hope that it will influence you to think a little deeper before you pass a blanket judgment on a class of 2.5 million prisoners. You say, "remember the victims," and I say to you that 95% of all prisoners were themselves "victims" long before they became criminals. Criminals suffer from a social dis-ease, and should be "treated" rather than punished.

      Michael W. Jewell
      President, Texas CURE texascure.org

      Reply
      1. Stephen Lawrence

        Well said Michael. We don’t have libertarian free will as you say. We are the product of our genetics and environment. In an important sense it’s true that a prisoner was just unlucky to get the mix of genes and life experiences he did. If I’d been through appropriately different circumstances I would have done the same as you. It’s sheer luck from my perspective that I didn’t.

        Sadly most people just will not accept this.

        Also sadly and shockingly once one understands that we don’t have libertarian free will, we have a need for deterrents. The person on the wrong end of this doesn’t deserve it. He’s being used to guide others not to do the same.

        To the extent we need deterrents well we have to use them. But these should be kept to an absolute minimum and we should look for better ways. Creating a more equal less punitive society would go a long way to cut crime.

        There is no justification for treating prisoners as slaves.

        Reply
  2. Steve Pickens

    Under no pretense should slavery ever be repeated. Of course people should be punished for committing crimes, but should that punishment resemble slavery… Slavery was a crime itself… What about our ancestors? This is a mockery of their toil & suffering… There are other ways to punish criminals… But this is an insult to an injury.

    Reply
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