Prisoners file federal lawsuit to end prison slavery in Texas

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.