by Jason Renard Walker, Deputy Minister of Labor, NABPP-PC
In a year where Islamophobia is at an all-time extreme in Texas prisons, I think it is a perfect time for me to shed light of the injustice Muslim brothers are facing here at the Clements Unit. I am not Muslim myself, but I am against the oppression of all humans no matter how unpopular their social standing is.
Since I have been in solitary confinement at the Clements Unit, I’ve witnessed the administration fail miserably at recognizing brothers fasting during Ramadan. This has been an ongoing problem for years.
Our regular daily caloric intake consists of a total of 2,200 calories; those fasting receive less than that. Their daily feed consists of breakfast – usually pancakes – and a dinner tray, which in most cases isn’t served until after 10 p.m.
I’ve seen many times when they were not fed until after 12 a.m., and the trays that were given lacked the proper nutrients and calories. Comrade Malik, if you are listening, their complaints are going unheard. If they complain about long waits between meals, they are often verbally abused by guards and ranking staff, who call them babies or sissies for trying to get fed – well after sundown.
This dilemma forces Muslims into breaking their fast to prevent from starving to death. The history of prisoners dying at this prison due to negligence and indifference is profound. The staff here has NO interest in our well-being. Please help!
Since I have been in solitary confinement at the Clements Unit, I’ve witnessed the administration fail miserably at recognizing brothers fasting during Ramadan. This has been an ongoing problem for years.
On June 4, 2017, we were put in a unit lockdown. This was odd given that the observance of Ramadan is a constitutionally protected federal right and being on lockdown compromises one’s effort to participate due to the low calorie sack lunches. Since I have been incarcerated, this is the first time a lockdown has occurred during Ramadan. The annual lockdown wasn’t scheduled until July.
Several guards claimed that we were on lockdown because of a staff assault that occurred in the general population. However, Sgt. Dwayne Granthum tried to spread a rumor designed to incite a religious war between the few Muslims here and the many prisoners who disagree with their beliefs.
When one prisoner asked Grantham about the delay in his Ramadan meal, Grantham claimed that since Muslims attacked staff: “I don’t give a shit if they feed y’all or not. Don’t like it? Become a Christian.” Grantham was obviously trying to bait the brother into committing an adventurist act, thus to meet their Amerikan propagated status quo on how Muslims are to be perceived.
When one prisoner asked Grantham about the delay in his Ramadan meal, Grantham claimed that since Muslims attacked staff: “I don’t give a shit if they feed y’all or not. Don’t like it? Become a Christian.”
The reason for the lockdown is still unverified, but if staff did get assaulted, the question is whether it was a random assault or a supposed act in the name of Islam.
This is the problem: During unit lockdowns, the regular common diet fare is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and several prunes for breakfast and a salami with cheese and peanut butter sandwich for lunch and dinner. Lockdowns usually last three weeks.
The sack meals are so meager, many prisoners who aren’t fasting are fed up with the inadequate meals and began banging on their cell doors and refusing to close their food slots. Ranking staff were called to restore order, but the problem wasn’t addressed, only threats of disciplinary cases and food loafs were made by Lt. Narcisso Sanchez.
Those fasting receive only breakfast, which denies them their right to the required 2,200 daily caloric intake. Since during lockdowns we are getting less than that, Muslims are essentially being starved during Ramadan and being forced to surrender their right to food, in order to get a somewhat nutritious diet or exercise the right to an adequate meal.
The fasters aren’t being fed anything except breakfast – and then only when it’s served before sun-up. Their night time dinner sacks are being outright denied. They also choose to remain anonymous.
On June 5, none of us received our breakfast sacks, which usually come around 2:30 a.m., until slightly after noon. This delay resulted in those fasting not receiving anything the entire day.
As of today, June 9, this is still going on. Since officials aren’t even respecting Ramadan, prisoners on this pod – and possibly other pods – are breaking their fast just to keep from starving. For the past five days, they’ve been receiving only breakfast – one sack meal per day at the most.
One of the fasters requested to have a meal held back so he could eat it at sundown, but he was told by Officer Rodney Killough that if he accepted it, he would be taken off the Ramadan diet. Another observer of Ramadan several cells down from me felt compelled to vow not to fast again in prison.
This is cruel and unusual punishment. It is a weapon the CIA used on captured Muslims during the war on terror, called self-inflicted pain.
The worst part is the fact that Muslims here never have a feast following the end of Ramadan. How pathetic!
If anyone is familiar with the Clements Unit, they know that the guards have procreated their own culture in order to conceal abuses. This culture has prisoners brainwashed into believing that remaining silent about our injustice is a sign of strength and courage – taking it like a man – and any attempt to expose this to the public makes one lame or weak.
Here is why staff show little regard to our health and safety: Our failure to collectively expose this systemic injustice gives them free reign to mistreat us.
This is why I salute prisoners like Natalie Demola in California. She has a profound interest in lobbying for her peers and bringing awareness to a rising rate of suicides in California prisons. She has inspired me to expose our prison system here in Texas.
If anyone out there is listening, please help these observers of Ramadan at the Clements Unit retain their right to fast. According to the First Amendment, it is their right!
Dare to struggle, dare to win. All power to the people!
When we speak, they will punish us: An inside look at a corrupt Texas prison
This story, written in February, gives context to the new story, above.
As the days tick away here at the Clements Unit maximum security prison, a vile picture is beginning to emerge. Staff here are wed to the prisoners being passive towards their corrupt behavior, especially when it doesn’t concern them. And those who “stand up” or “buck” following one of their associates being denied meals or assaulted believe that their only option is to set fires in their cells and induce a cell extraction. The latter is encouraged by guards.
Anything that will lead to a staff member being written up or reported to outside sources is strictly off limits for most prisoners. Guards promote the concept that reporting staff is snitching no matter how flagrant the act. Anyone who has been to jail or prison knows what happens to snitches – they are murdered or forced to hide in a single cell.
In turn, this notion dissuades many from writing grievances on the systemic injustice we are forced to deal with. And it has ultimately resulted in prisoners lying to me about other not being denied meals, when in fact the guard and jacked prisoner both later admit that he was.
This don’t-snitch-on-staff con game is a false classification that officials use as a curbing tool, specifically designed to keep the acts bottled up in prison and off records from the public’s scrutiny. This method is highly effective because it plays into our cultural sensitivities about being labeled as a snitch, induces paranoia, and stigmatizes our need to write and expose the conditions of the prison.
Guards promote the concept that reporting staff is snitching no matter how flagrant the act. Anyone who has been to jail or prison knows what happens to snitches – they are murdered or forced to hide in a single cell.
The administration knows that this smoke and mirrors sham is effective in controlling a large part of the prison population. They are also aware that there are a handful of prisoners who can see through this illusion and are raising the consciousness of others to organize against it.
In response, guards and their supervisors are going to the extreme to scare me straight, but little do they know their techniques and psychological games don’t work. Read for yourself.
Meet the New COINTELPRO?
During the height of the Civil Rights Era and fight for economic justice, Black political power leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X delved into the essence of poor people’s problems – capitalism. Once they exposed that the working class was being exploited by this parasitic system that’s designed to make the rich richer and that we needed to organize against it, the government intervened and had them both assassinated.
Shortly after, a group of revolutionary leaders emerged called the Black Panthers. Their agenda was to organize the people against and ultimately overthrow the capitalist system. Once the government learned that this group weren’t Black supremacists and were getting the support of like-minded individuals from all over the world – race notwithstanding – they secretly sought to put an end to their cause. They sought to discredit, undermine, kill and lock up the most advanced elements.
The FBI generated a series of fake letters to agitate rivalry and suspicion between Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, who was in exile in Algeria. They being unaware that the government would go to these lengths, the scandal was a success. The government’s own records later revealed that these acts and many others against true civil rights activists were called the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO).
Not only does this program still exist, I see the cause and effect of it every day. An Uncle Tom of a guard, Darius Reed, Correctional Officer IV, who’s broadly known as a repulsive liar and self-professed “street hustler,” sent word to me from another pod through a well known inmate lackey. Reed’s claim, which he later verified as saying, was that Kevin “Rashid” Johnson had the rest of his property taken and was in an empty cell. Basically, he tried to manipulate me into crushing out.
Not only does this program still exist, I see the cause and effect of it every day.
“They want to know if you gone get out there” (force a cell extraction), the messenger asked. Guards that are unrelated to staff abuse claimed that Rashid still had property that wasn’t taken during the first raid.
A week after, Reed came to my cell trying to convince me that Rashid was still in an empty cell. “He ain’t got shit. I just came from there,” he lied.
On Feb. 6, 2017, around 10 a.m., I was rudely awakened by two new Black guards. We were on a unit lockdown and were due to have our pod and cells searched. Normally, we are notified at least 30 minutes in advance so we can put all of our property on top of our bunk so it can be searched.
The two guards stood at my door trying to con me into conducting a premature strip search. I was told not to pack my property, but instead step out, get cuffed and wait until it was my turn or be put on the rec yard while my cell was searched.
I’m in Cell 215, so I thought it was rather odd that they would skip the other seven cells on my side of the pod that are all odd-numbered and start with me. “We was told to strip you out now,” the short one stated. I ignored them and quickly began taking everything out of my locker.
Once I heard an empty threat to write me up for not complying, I demanded to see their supervisor. “Oh, you right. Go ahead and put everything on your bunk,” the taller one said as he acted like someone told him that before they both walked away. Minutes later I was put on the rec yard.
A white female office, S. Young, who some of her co-workers sneakily call “trailer park” and a Hispanic male officer named Lovato, searched my cell for close to two hours. Everyone else, even those with more property then me, waited around 10 minutes before their cell searches were completed.
While waiting for his cell to be searched, a prisoner who lives across from me stated that Lovato tore up my cell while Young spent the entire time he watched reading the front and back of sheets of paper that she removed from large brown envelopes – my legal and approved media mail.
He also mentioned seeing books and magazines being tossed out of my cell. This explains the long cell search. I tried to speak to Officer Rodney Asberry about the long wait and what was being taken. He claimed to not know anything, just like every other guard I asked. “You can’t believe what inmates say,” he whispered.
While Asberry escorted me back to my cell, I noticed my December and November issues of the San Francisco Bay View were shredded all over the ground several cells away from my own. A pile of my magazines and legal and educational booklets were lying in front of my cell. Inside was a complete wreck.
The items that seemed to have suffered the most abuse were my article transcripts, legal mail and media mail. Everything had been mixed into one big pile. The captain claimed that everything on the ground was altered. These items went undocumented.
Several minutes later, Officer Young slid a pink copy of a “Disposition of Confiscated Offender Property” form in my door. I never had the opportunity to read over and sign it. Everything that was written on it was faint and illegible so I have challenged what was taken. The only thing that is readable is the signing officers’ names and the stated reason for the confiscation, i.e. “Improperly stored,” “Altered,” “Non-dangerous,” “Ownership Questioned.”
We are allowed to challenge the decision(s), but Asberry signed “Section VI,” “staff witness to destruction of property.” Essentially everything taken from my cell was taken with the intention of being destroyed. He and Young deliberately denied giving me the right to reclaim my property.
Even more so, the property left outside my door was swept away along with a yellow envelope that was sent to me from the district court. Inside this envelope were legal documents, postage stamps and a handwritten motion I intend to send to the courts.
The sweeper did give me back three Socialist Viewpoint magazines, but he wouldn’t continue digging in the trash. I spoke to Young concerning the reason for the confiscation. She claimed that “improperly stored” items go in the trash.
This reason is ironic because we were told to put our property on top of our bunk and table. Plus other reasons were stated along with the unreadable listing of two or three items. She did admit that she turned in the “Black Power” and war books.
Three other prisoners who can see in my cell also confirmed that Young read my mail for over 30 minutes. One stated that he brought this to Sgt. Ramirez’ attention to no avail.
Don’t be fooled by the Black guard: A pig is a pig
Asberry is a Black guard who has been working at the prison for many years. He has a tendency to falsely empathize with Black prisoners and those into the rap music culture.
I just recently heard a rumor that he is related to two other officers at the prison: Capt. Antonious Flanagan and Sgt. Desmond Finney. Both are well known for assaulting prisoners and overseeing assaults whenever one is handcuffed from behind, mentally ill or both.
Their bravery is supported by the fact that they were under the wing of Major Clark, ultimately known as “one of Major Clark’s boys.” Clark no longer works at this prison, but when he did, he authorized the staged suicide killing of a Black prisoner, known as Jamaica, in 2010 and watched as guard Jason A. Moeller and others ran into a white prisoner’s cell and nearly beat him to death this same year.
Many prisoners claim that when Clark worked at the Robertson Unit in Abilene, Texas, he manipulated guards into hanging a prisoner, his death ruled as a suicide. Prison guard Katherine Kindrick claimed that documented records and camera footage reveal that Clark allowed guards to beat a prisoner while he was somewhere outside of his cell. Many officers openly said that they feared him and were relieved whenever he left the prison.
Following my property being swept up in the trash, I spoke with Asberry about why he lied about not knowing what was taken from my cell. “I don’t know what they took. I didn’t shake you down,” he stated. “Well, why’d you sign saying you witnessed Young destroy my shit,” I asked. He then claimed that Young had him sign the form because the supposed witness, Lovato, was new and unauthorized to sign it himself.
Basically, according to Asberry’s own testimony, he falsely bore witness to a messy situation, forged his signature on the state documents, then tried to get me to conspire with him to clean it up, as I’ll explain below.
I questioned him about why he didn’t at least give me the chance to rightfully read over the form and sign the section allowing me to challenge the confiscation. “Sign your copy,” he said. I explained to him that I’m supposed to sign the original copy. He then told me that he knew where the original was, would retrieve it and fix everything. He never returned. Nor did I expect him to.
This is not the first time that Asberry tried to mislead me under the notice that Black folks need to stick together, but it’s the most crucial. Whether or not his intentions were cruel is irrelevant; the facts show that a pig is a pig and can never be trusted.
A few recent abuses for the record
In a previous article, titled “Texas Prison Officials Are Punishing Us for Exposing Their Abusive Ways to the Media,” I briefly mentioned being given a case for having a sworn affidavit posted online which spoke on Rashid being gassed while handcuffed in his cell. Not only was I found guilty, but on my way to the hearing, the charging officer, Sgt. J. Carrillo, saw me pass by a room he was in, simulated hanging himself with a noose, then motioned his lips which seem to have said, “dead nigger” or something to that effect.
The punishment I received – a demotion in line class, 15 days loss of good time, 15 days recreation restriction, 45 days commissary restriction and 90 days in a Level 3 personal property restriction pod, ultimately resulted in me not being eligible to be released from solitary confinement in March 2017 and on parole in June 2017.
Immediately after arriving to the pod on Jan. 18, 2017, I was told by several prisoners, including a victim of this abuse, Michael Wayne Ryan #182093, that several days prior, Lt. Turner, while on camera, sprayed gas in the face of a documented mentally ill prisoner named Robinson while he was handcuffed and lying motionless on the ground outside of his cell.
According to Ryan, on Oct. 3, 2016, under the supervision of Capt. Flanagan, Sgt. Jaime Y. Burkholder sprayed a heavy dose of gas in his face, on camera, while he lay on the ground shackled, restrained by the cell extraction team and as a nurse looked on.
After investigating these claims, a few prisoners, including David K. Valls, who I witnessed have his life threatened by Lt. Sanchez, told me that Major Cano told him that he created a new policy which gives guards the authority to gas prisoners in the face if they lie on the ground and refuse to get up.
By coincidence, Turner gave this claim merit. The same day I was told this, she came to the pod boasting to a prisoner that she’ll gas him in the face if he even thinks about laying it down, so don’t try her.
Today, Feb. 8, 2017, the cell extraction team ran in the cell of a white prisoner. As the door opened, Sgt. Quinten Wankel began telling him to stop resisting. Once he was pinned to the ground, Wankel reached inside of the cell with his left hand and snatched a blanket off of the light fixture. In his right hand – and pointing directly at the prisoner’s face – was a can of gas. As he swung the blanket to block the camera he tried to gas the prisoner in the face but the can was empty, leaving Wankel with a bitter look on his face.
A majority of the policies staff follow are undocumented and a complete invention. They are so broadly utilized that a lot of us believe they are real. This sham results in our grievances being rejected when we explain an event where they failed to follow one of these policies. The investigator will cite the correct rule on the grievance response, and the abuse continues.
The restriction pod, E Pod, that I am now on is where a lot of staff get away with abuses. There are a lot of mentally ill prisoners here. The few days I’ve been here, I’ve listened as others cheered guards on to throw razors in their cells and gas them, deny them meds, and write them bogus cases. Ironically, none of these requests were granted.
A majority of the policies staff follow are undocumented and a complete invention.
But this goes to show that those paid to oppress us only get away with physical and psychological abuse because many among the oppressed don’t know themselves or their enemy.
Dare to Struggle! Dare to Win! All Power to the People!
Send our brother some love and light: Jason Renard Walker, 153092, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 70107.