by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
“To cooperate passively with an unjust system makes the oppressed as evil as the oppressor.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Peace and blessings, Sisters and Brothers!
This month of October 2017 marks the 10th year that I have been incarcerated inside prisons and jails operated and maintained by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Many things have changed in those 10 years, but many things have stayed the same. The “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” philosophy is still prevalent in the state of Texas.
I watched closely as prisoner rights advocate Jennifer Erschabek fought passionately to reform the broken parole system in Texas. The Texas legislature has no desire or will to change the system.
Texas state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Democrat from Houston, Texas, agreed with Ms. Erschabek that the parole system needed reforming, and she authored a bill, HB2120 that would have given more prisoners in Texas a realistic chance of freedom. The bill died in committee.
In Texas, prisoner lives don’t matter, and nothing illustrates this point better than the decision by the federal government to abandon over 2,000 prisoners at the federal prison complex in Beaumont during Hurricane Harvey. My friend, journalist Candice Bernd of Truth-Out, wrote a heart-wrenching piece which detailed the horrendous living conditions prisoners were forced to contend with during and in the aftermath of Harvey.
As far as the state response to Hurricane Harvey, I have to admit TDCJ did a very good job evacuating state prisoners and moving them out of harm’s way. However, I recently returned from a federal bench warrant in order to attend a federal civil court proceeding. While en route to Court, and during the many days it took me to return, I discovered some horrible things.
I travelled to many other prison units in mid to late September 2017. I spoke directly to prisoners who were travelling on buses and vans with me. One glaring issue and topic which continued to come up throughout the course of our conversations is the shocking increase of prisoner deaths inside facilities operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” philosophy is still prevalent in the state of Texas.
Many of these deaths are attributed to an epidemic of synthetic marijuana usage, which has created chaos for both prisoners and staff throughout the state of Texas.
The problem seemed to be extraordinarily pronounced at the Beto I Unit located in Tennessee Colony, Texas. I spent about a week at Beto awaiting my transfer back to the Eastham Unit, which is located in Lovelady, Texas.
The senior warden who is in charge of ensuring the safety and security of both his staff and the prisoners in his care is Mr. Norris Jackson. In my opinion, Warden Jackson has failed miserably in protecting the lives of prisoners, and he should be removed by the agency immediately.
Here is what I have discovered:
In the past two months, there have been approximately 10 prisoner deaths on the Beto I Unit. The cause of these deaths has been varied, but are in line with a pattern and a trend my free-world friends have noticed across the penal state:
- K-2 (synthetic marijuana) and the psychotic episodes associated with its usage is causing deaths at Beto Unit.
- Employee abuse, medical neglect and deliberate indifference are causing deaths on Beto Unit.
- Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and suicides are causing deaths on Beto Unit and many other Texas prisons.
The bottom line is prisoners in Texas are dying at an alarming rate. I need help from media correspondents in order to uncover the details.
Contrary to the popular belief among prison administrators in Texas, prisoner lives do matter. Sisters and brothers, no matter the race, religion or gender of a person, a human life is precious to me!
I can introduce you to caring and thoughtful prisoners at Beto I Unit who can provide you with the much-needed details concerning these deaths so we can collectively save some lives.
The bottom line is prisoners in Texas are dying at an alarming rate.
Lorie Davis is the director of TDCJ’s Correctional Institution Division. Please let’s ask her why Warden Jackson continues to fail in preserving and saving the lives of prisoners. Saving lives should be Job No. 1, don’t you think?
If you are interested, please contact me or one of my dedicated free-world comrades.
Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people,
Keith “Malik” Washington is a human rights activist currently incarcerated in Texas. He is a co-founder and chief spokesperson 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, 1487958, Eastham Unit, 2665 Prison Road 1, Lovelady, TX 75851, 936-636-7321, ext. **009.