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Rashid attacked: Texas prison officials are punishing us for exposing their abusive ways to the media

January 19, 2017

by Jason Renard Walker

This photo of Jason Walker holding his GED certificate illustrates a story he wrote on the very popular website TruthOut. It’s headlined “Unpaid Labor in Texas Prisons Is Modern-Day Slavery.”

I’ve been housed in solitary confinement at the Clements Unit maximum security prison since 2010. From the very first day I stepped foot in a cell here, I witnessed other prisoners being denied meals for days for little or no reason at all, beaten by roguish members of the cell extraction team under the direct orders of Major Clark and Sgt. Lance Mondragon, and a number of other foul acts previously carried on unknown to the media and the public.

The prisoners’ response to this is passive. It wasn’t until Kevin “Rashid” Johnson showed up to Texas from a prison in Oregon in 2013, through the interstate compact transfer program, that the media learned how corrupt staff are at this prison.

In turn, I was educated on the importance of reporting corrupt prison officials to the media and the public. I was also coached on the backlash and retaliation that came as a result of doing what many prisoners see as dangerous and taboo.

It wasn’t until Kevin “Rashid” Johnson showed up to Texas from a prison in Oregon in 2013, through the interstate compact transfer program, that the media learned how corrupt staff are at this prison.

My published exposés range from the deliberate spreading of the tuberculosis virus at this prison to the administration attempting to frame a prisoner for the death of Alton Rodgers, who actually may have died from advanced TB and medical indifference.

The former and latter articles not only drew the interest of an Amarillo journalist and attorney, but they have also drawn the interest of various ranking officials at this prison who are harassing me and giving me bogus disciplinary cases to discourage me from exposing them.

In fact, they’ve only encouraged me to keep shedding light on what they are doing.

An unchallenged culture

Despite this being a maximum security prison, designed to house the most violent Texas prisoners, few if any violent prisoners are housed here. Quite to the contrary, prison guards are the ones that are violent and vindictive. Indeed, it is documented that the Clements Unit has the highest rate, in number and severity, of uses of force by guards of all Texas prisons. (See “Force against Texas inmates on the rise” and “Clements Unit placed on dubious list.”)

This high rate in the severity of the documented uses of force reflects prisoners mostly having injuries that are inconsistent with a routine use of force. I actually overheard a prisoner talking to others about being beaten during a cell extraction while guards told him to stop resisting. He claimed to have kept quiet about the incident to prove he could handle such things.

Odd as it seems, he wasn’t trying to impress other prisoners but rather the guards who’d beat him and were probably delighted that he allowed them to assault him at their leisure.

Despite this being a maximum security prison, designed to house the most violent Texas prisoners, few if any violent prisoners are housed here. Quite to the contrary, prison guards are the ones that are violent and vindictive.

Over the course of several months, new guards are shown the ropes and taught how to get prisoners to comply with their own personal and supervisor-invented policies, e.g. denying “shit talkers” and mentally ill prisoners meals, medical care, recreation, commissary and grievance forms on which to file a complaint.

Most prisoners here agree that reporting on staff is a no-no and others don’t see it as being effective, so they don’t bother to report cases of abuse they see or that is inflicted on them. Very few actually consistently do.

This is a big reason why guards are violently reckless. They aren’t accustomed to outside pressure from citizens and the media; their reactions are spontaneous just like their abusive behavior, so their acts aren’t well thought out and devised to look justified.

Guards aren’t accustomed to outside pressure from citizens and the media; their reactions are spontaneous just like their abusive behavior, so their acts aren’t well thought out and devised to look justified.

It is well known among staff and prisoners that if we file a grievance without any physical evidence, their failure to admit the allegations results in our claims being dismissed. Simply enough, they lie during any investigation.

Outside pressure and exposure is one aspect that can counter this, which is what Rashid has been doing for years. Staff are now realizing this, too, and are retaliating to cause disruption and preserve their practices.

The effects of challenging an unchallenged culture

Several weeks ago, at the end of December, I watched as Rashid was removed from the cell block and taken to a holding cell. Under orders of Capt. Flowers, Sgt. Waak and others confiscated his legal mail, media mail and personal property under the notion that it wasn’t properly stored.

They put him back in the cell, closed the door and Officer Leonard was told to gas him while he was still handcuffed and requesting to have the law library contacted to verify his claim that he was told to have his property out so they could conduct a subsequent legal mail storage review. Sgt. Carrillo and those present refused to give us witness statements.

Many times, officers have made off-hand remarks in front of me about things that Rashid had written which resulted in the warden getting on their ass because the claims turned out to be true. One case in point is Lt., now Capt. Antonious Flanagan ranting about Lt. Carlisle forging his name on disciplinary reports that he didn’t write nor approve to be written; but due to Rashid’s grievance, he got chewed out by his boss anyway.

Many times, officers have made off-hand remarks in front of me about things that Rashid had written which resulted in the warden getting on their ass because the claims turned out to be true.

Several years ago, I was escorted to see Capt. Smith. I was told that if I didn’t stop reporting incidents, I would get “more time” among other things. The complaint in question was a quote I made in an article Rashid wrote about prison-assisted suicides.

It’s obvious that Rashid’s items were taken to disrupt his prolific writing and so they could be scavenged for anything of interest sent to him by his attorney and media contacts. This is no theory.

Both Rashid and I have been victims of the mailroom continuously opening and reading our incoming approved media mail outside of our presence. It happened to me on Oct. 23, 2015, when the mailroom illegally read mail from the editor of Prison Focus, Ed Mead, and on Oct. 6, 2016, when they read mail from John Washington, a journalist for The Nation. A few times they read Washington’s mail and sent it to me opened as general mail.

Here recently, Creede Newton, an Amarillo journalist, contacted me, Rashid and Joe Greggs, who is charged with killing Alton Rodgers, to stage a media visit in connection with an article he was preparing to write for The Intercept. All three of our visits were denied without logical explanation.

It’s obvious that Rashid’s items were taken to disrupt his prolific writing and so they could be scavenged for anything of interest sent to him by his attorney and media contacts. This is no theory.

I wrote a grievance on this issue and was given an empty excuse why the visit couldn’t take place. The reason consisted of several parts, namely the warden can deny a media visit if it harms the offender’s rehabilitation, disrupts the operation of the institution and security, and has a negative impact on the victim or victim’s family. (You can view a copy of this grievance by making an Open Records Act request for Grievance No. 2017041020.)

In contradiction, the response stated that I wasn’t being denied access to the media and was free to correspond with Newton through the mail. Ironically there was nothing stating which one of the rules Newton’s visit violated and how this rule didn’t apply to correspondence through the mail. Remember, incoming approved media mail at this prison is routinely opened and read without any consequences, which is why interviews were being done through a visit.

Media visits of this nature are new to the unit administrators, who are used to a few complaints from our family members and nothing more. Add the fact that Greggs was sought for a visit, too, and it’s clear that the warden denied them to prevent the media and public from knowing how deeply ingrained the corruption here is, since Greggs is being framed by officials for murder and he is being represented by Jesse Quackenbush, the attorney who contacted me and Rashid and who is also representing the family and estate of Alton Rodgers.

Something more sinister is afoot

As I laid out earlier, Rashid has been targeted for his online exposés. On Jan. 5, 2016, he was put on High Profile Status. This resulted in him being moved to a cell on another pod that has a surveillance camera pointing at the cell door recording it 24 hours a day.

At this particular prison, these cells are sometimes used for those who continuously write grievances claiming to have been sexually assaulted by staff. Upon leaving these cells they are cavity-searched and escorted by ranking officials and a portable camera. They are to take recreation alone. Rashid is no exception to the treatment of being on this status despite doing nothing wrong.

Rashid has been targeted for his online exposés.

Just days before he was moved, I received a message from Rashid stating that multiple sources filed complaints to the warden’s office and ombudsman concerning Rashid being gassed and left in the cell without the opportunity to decontaminate. It’s no coincidence that following this he was given a disciplinary case for having an active social media account right as he was told he was moving. This move was authorized by Flowers, the same officer who authorized the illegal taking of Rashid’s property.

Most of Rashid’s exposés have focused on three prisoners dying whose deaths could have been prevented: Christopher Woolverton, Arcade Joseph Comeaux and Rodgers.

Since many prisoners are aware that Rashid can draw attention to incidents that normally get swept under the rug, they – and I myself – send him written descriptions, which he uses to write articles. The move of putting him on High Profile Status is obviously designed to stop his communication with us and to limit it to that of prison guards and inmates who support them.

In support of Rashid, I wrote a sworn declaration under penalty of perjury concerning the gassing incident. This document was posted online and intended to be used as evidence for his civil litigation.

Most of Rashid’s exposés have focused on three prisoners dying whose deaths could have been prevented: Christopher Woolverton, Arcade Joseph Comeaux and Rodgers.

On Jan. 6, 2016, Sgt. Carrillo came to my door and demanded that I admit that the social media account used to put documents with my signature on them belonged to me. I was told that I would receive a case if I didn’t talk about the account and who posted the documents. I refused to talk.

Hours later Sgt. Waak came to my cell and asked for my statement for the case. She refused to tell me anything other than it was a case for a “postal violation” for having a social media account. No insight as to who wrote the case, no time the incident occurred, nothing. She said that was none of my business.

This declaration contained incidents that involved Sgt. Waak, Lt. Turner and Capt. Flowers. Due to the described events being true, I am now being targeted for writing the complaints and harassed behind it.

But it’s too late; the world has already read them, just like they are already aware that the deadly TB virus is spreading among us, that prisoners are being gassed by prison guards for fun, assisted in attempting to commit suicide, and allowed to wither and die at an alarming rate.

Creating a new culture

The smarter guards have resigned on their own terms to escape being punished for past acts that were once a normal part of working at the Clements Unit. The pressure pipe that once kept these incidents confined to the mist of solitary confinement is now slowly leaking out to the public through a hydra of caring grassroots media outlets – and they’ve become aware of this.

Just like in biblical mythology, a purgatory exists at the Clements Unit. When Judgment Day comes, those responsible for being corrupt will be called forth to have their fates decided and those no longer here will be brought back to do the same.

The pressure pipe that once kept these incidents confined to the mist of solitary confinement is now slowly leaking out to the public through a hydra of caring grassroots media outlets.

Until then the culture has to be challenged and a new understanding implanted, one that gives us the ability to have foul guards held accountable for what they do, one that establishes a new link and channel for prisoners to complain, independent of the state’s control.

This culture can only be created with the support of the general mass of prisoners. If the public is unaware that something is wrong inside of prison, they can’t make themselves available outside to help stop it.

Dare to Struggle! Dare to Win! All Power to the People!

Send our brother some love and light: Jason Renard Walker, 1532092, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107.

How you can help

Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/747599022071362/ for detailed instructions on who to contact and what to say. Texas prison officials are very sensitive to and fearful of media exposure and the resulting public pressure, so the gassing of Rashid creates an opportunity to increase that pressure.

Also, be sure to sign the Roots Action petition if you haven’t already. Please share it. The current signature count is 9,850. Let’s double or triple that.

Read more about the gassing incident written by Rashid himself and several witnesses on http://rashidmod.com/.

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