by Keith ‘Comrade Malik’ Washington
Revolutionary greetings comrades and Free World allies. Well, it’s 2017 it has been almost one year since Norris Hicks and I wrote the Bamboozled piece.
We never gave him his props but it was Comrade Anthony Robinson Jr. who inspired us to write this piece. As many of you may remember, a parole forum was held on Coffield Unit last year around this time. It was sponsored by the Texas Inmate Families Association or TIFA.
Executive Director of TIFA Ms. Jennifer Erschabek worked extremely hard to lobby Texas legislators to do something about this fraudulent and corrupt good time/work time credit system utilized for the Texas prison system. Jennifer and some legislators came up with something called due diligence credits.
Aggravated and non-aggravated prisoners will be eligible for these credits, which can be earned by working, taking a vocational trade, attending college, or attending some type of rehabilitation class or program. Sounds good! Only one major problem, and I’ve tried to contact Jennifer about this one sticking point: There is still no policy, regulation or law in Texas which compels the parole board to recognize these credits!
So in reality, nothing has changed but the name. Welcome to Texas, folks! This is not to take away from or belittle Jennifer’s efforts; she works her butt off for us.
For those who are familiar with politics and legislators, nothing happens in one session. It takes years, sometimes a decade, to affect change. So this is a start.
For the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, we have work to do. This shit ain’t over! Texas has resorted to a very volatile and impressive program of repression and censorship of comrades such as myself, Comrade Rashid and Comrade Jason Renard Walker. We have been tagged as security threats, our outgoing and incoming mail is heavily scrutinized, I have even had mail thrown away by TDCJ employees.
The strategy has been to isolate us and place as much pressure on us as possible so we will do one of two things: 1) Throw our hands up and quit (NEVER!) or 2) Act out violently so that will justify all of TDCJ’s over-the-top repression tactics.
For the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, we have work to do. This shit ain’t over! Texas has resorted to a very volatile and impressive program of repression and censorship of comrades such as myself, Comrade Rashid and Comrade Jason Renard Walker.
Twitch, from Central Texas ABC, has single-handedly supported the entire state of Texas for years! Just recently we are seeing quality high-level support coming from IWOC comrades in Austin, Houston and Kansas City, Missouri.
I believe the most disheartening thing that has happened is the FBI’s attack on #BlackLivesMatter, the San Francisco Bay View, and comrades like me, Rashid, Kinetic Justice from the Free Alabama Movement and Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan from the Free Ohio Movement. It is hurtful, yet insightful at the same time.
We are heading into a new era in Amerika. An era where we will see heightened instances of totalitarianism, fascism and surveillance state tactics. It is a time when our friends could become informants for fear the imperialist regime may target them! I’ve already witnessed this first-hand on Coffield Unit although I played the “stupid role.”
So let’s take a look at the work we are doing: 1) attempting to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 2) abolishing prison slavery and, in my case, 3) exposing the pervasive problem of toxic water supplies in Texas and Pennsylvania! Yes, I did say Pennsylvania!
We are heading into a new era in Amerika. An era where we will see heightened instances of totalitarianism, fascism and surveillance state tactics.
Comrades, as I close this report, I am requesting some of you to take the time to write, or type, brief letters to the Legislature in Texas and explain to them the desperate need for an independent oversight committee. Those 13 or so suicides I witnessed last year on Coffield Unit left me emotionally scarred! That, coupled with the toxic water we are forced to drink at Eastham Unit is enough to motivate me! What about you? What about our free world friends?
Remember what rapper Lupe Fiasco said in his song, “Words I Never Said”: “In order to become a doctor you have to become an actor! Don’t be silent!”
Toxic water + deadly heat = prisoner deaths inside Texas prisons
President Donald Trump has proposed a budget in which the Environmental Protection Agency will undergo a 31.4 percent budget cut.
Now I have a friend and mentor named Robert S. Muhammad, Ph.D. Bro. Robert is an urban planner who lives in Houston, Texas, and he has a saying: “The people are smarter than you think!” And I believe that.
So if Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt and their corporate cronies have decided to totally defund the EPA, who or what agency will ensure the citizens of the United States have access to clean water supplies and fresh air or healthy soil to plant fruits and vegetables? Intelligent folks like you and me ask these types of questions!
Now I am a human rights activist and when I am stripped down to my core beliefs, I believe a human life is the most precious gift in the universe and all life must be preserved and protected – White lives, Black lives, Latina and Latino lives, Asian, Arab, and all Indigenous lives! Precious! Are we clear on that?
So if Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt and their corporate cronies have decided to totally defund the EPA, who or what agency will ensure the citizens of the United States have access to clean water supplies and fresh air or healthy soil to plant fruits and vegetables?
In the approximately 10 years that I have been incarcerated in Texas, I have been to 18 different prison units. Of those units, three had serious problems with their water supplies.
Coffield Unit, the largest state prison in Texas, has had chronic high levels of coliform bacteria (fecal matter) in their water. The co-founder of the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, Mr. Norris “Fajr” Hicks, is fond of informing Coffield prisoners, “There is ‘doo-doo’ in our drinking water!”
Eastham Unit, where I am currently housed, has high levels of lead, copper and nitrates in its water supply. The state is certainly downplaying the problems at Eastham.
And lastly, the Wallace Pack Unit, located in Navasota, Texas, has notoriously high levels of arsenic in their water supply. Those are just the problems I am intimately familiar with. Trust me there is a much larger list of Texas prisons with toxic and contaminated water supplies.
We have seen retaliation and obstruction of justice tactics by employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Prisoners such as myself and Keith M. Cole have filed lawsuits and written detailed exposés describing the detrimental effects that toxic water and deadly heat can have on human beings.
But we must understand that the Texas Attorney General’s Office headed by Ken Paxton has directed TDCJ prison officials to TARGET jailhouse lawyers and activists. Silencing our voices, sabotaging our civil lawsuits, and stifling our political dissent is the sole purpose of this ongoing campaign of harassment, retaliation and, in some cases, even torture!
Prisoners such as myself and Keith M. Cole have filed lawsuits and written detailed exposés describing the detrimental effects that toxic water and deadly heat can have on human beings.
These are serious allegations and that is why investigative journalists from the online site Truthout have taken on the task of exposing toxic water, deadly heat and aiding the public at large in connecting the dots, because too many prisoners in Texas who have engaged in peaceful litigation efforts or activism have found themselves victim of harsh retaliation tactics at the hands of the state.
The University of Texas Medical Branch, based in Galveston, Texas, has the contract to provide medical care for approximately 80 percent of TDCJ’s 150,000 prisoners, give or take a thousand. Now, UTMB is a world-renowned teaching hospital and somehow their physicians, nurses and physician assistants have FAILED to draw the connection between deadly heat, toxic water and inmate deaths!?
The Hippocratic Oath expressly dictates that caregivers “do no harm,” so will some of our free-world friends and activists please start pressing UTMB President Dr. David L. Callender on this blatant violation of the public’s trust!?
The University of Texas School of Law Human Rights Clinic, headed by clinical professor Ariel Dulitzky, has done an absolutely phenomenal job researching the effects of extreme heat in Texas prisons. Instead of applauding the efforts of Dulitzky and his students, the Texas Governor’s Office and Texas Attorney General’s Office chastised, ridiculed and threatened the UT chancellor in the summer of 2015. The governor’s stance was and still is: “How dare you help Texas prisoners prosecute a lawsuit against the STATE!”
However, in my dealings with the Human Rights Clinic they never offered me legal help, only research and data. But aren’t prisoners in Texas state prisons and jails human beings? Don’t our families pay taxes to the STATE of Texas? Should not we too benefit from the expertise of University of Texas professors and lawyers when the prison agency creates conditions which snuff out our lives prematurely? Inquiring minds demand to know!
Sisters and brothers, at the end of the day when all of the dust clears and the lawsuits have been settled, we have to come to the realization that state and federal governments are being set up to protect corporations, not people. It will be up to us to create innovative means to protect the rights of our most vulnerable members.
Billionaire George Soros donated $50 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU does excellent work and we need them to continue for years to come. However, there are organizations such as the National Lawyers Guild and the Human Rights Defense Center that need an infusion of cash from Mr. Soros.
There are publications like the San Francisco Bay View newspaper and Turning the Tide that are dedicated to protecting the rights and lives of those seldom seen or heard of in the mainstream media. Help them! Remember ALL LIVES ARE PRECIOUS to me!
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! All Power to the People!
Send our brother some love and light: Keith Washington, 1487958, Eastham Unit, 2665 Prison Rd 1, Lovelady TX 75851.