COVID-19 test kits needed for Federal Bureau of Prisons now! Screening is not testing.

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Assistant Editor for the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper

COVID-19 test kits must be provided for employees and prisoners who work and are housed in facilities operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I have engaged in some investigative journalism and discovered that prison administrators at the Federal Correctional Complex at Pollock, Louisiana, have ordered screening for all federal employees entering the federal prison complex at Pollock daily, but because of a shortage of COVID-19 test kits, the BOP employees are not being tested!

Screening consists of medical personnel seeking to discover whether BOP employees entering the prison complex are exhibiting the symptoms connected with coronavirus infection – symptoms such as high fever or dry cough. However, there is a growing body of evidence which clearly shows that many transmitters of COVID-19 are asymptomatic and the only way to determine whether or not a human being has been infected is through actual COVID-19 testing.

However, I repeat, there are no COVID–19 test kits, and this comes from employees who work in the Medical Department here at USP Pollock. Thus far, most of my fellow prisoners are healthy. Our greatest concern is whether or not the federal correctional officers who work here and come and go daily will also stay healthy.

A formula for disaster

The construction of most modern federal United States penitentiaries resembles a sealed concrete cell block building. We have a central HVAC system which connects to all individual cells in the building. If just one prisoner or guard becomes infected with the coronavirus, it can create a dire situation.

We cannot open our windows for fresh air! We are in a potential death trap and that is exactly why I have raised the alarm . . .

The COVID-19 virus by its nature is an airborne pathogen that can be easily transmitted by the HVAC system here at USP Pollock and many similarly constructed federal facilities across the United States.

We cannot open our windows for fresh air! We are in a potential death trap and that is exactly why I have raised the alarm and pleaded with the general public to demand the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice provide the following:

1) COVID-19 test kits for BOP employees and the prisoners housed in BOP facilities,

2) Personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes masks, gloves and possibly even ventilators when needed!

3) The Federal BOP and the Department of Justice must start to consider releasing prisoners who are within a year of finishing their sentences and who have significant support in free society. 

I happen to be one of those prisoners who have very little time left on their sentence and I also have a large community of supporters who are willing to aid me in my successful transition back into free society.

Keith Washington, better known inside and out as Comrade Malik, has used his investigative reporting skills to expose many deadly prison conditions, including unbearable heat in summer and polluted water, and, more importantly, to cause the government to correct them. This photo was taken in 2019.

Lastly, I leave you with these thoughts to ponder and reflect upon. As assistant editor of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, I seek to amplify the voices of all Black and oppressed human beings. I strive to provide context and texture to the Black experience and as a journalist I continue to aspire to Black excellence.

Our current editor, Mary Ratcliff, is 81 years old and her loving husband, our publisher Dr. Willie Ratcliff, is 87 years old. Both Mary and Willie represent one of the most vulnerable categories of people who could become infected with the deadly coronavirus.

Good intentions will not save the San Francisco Bay View. Right now we are in dire need of financial donations so that we can pay the printer of our newspaper as well as keep the lights on and pay the rent for Mary and Willie, who are on a fixed income. I am pleading with all of you who follow my work and who love and respect the legacy of this one-of-a-kind national Black newspaper to donate generously!

Please take a moment to go to to make a donation. You’re also welcome to call Mary directly at 415-671-0789 with any questions or concerns and to make a credit card donation, or you can email her at Donations can also be sent by check or money order to SF Bay View, 4917 Third St., San Francisco CA 94124. 

I thank you in advance for your generous donations. Please help us save the Bay View!

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

Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. Malik is studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release, which may come sooner than we thought! Malik is co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons Campaign. Visit Malik’s website at

Send Malik some much needed love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, USP Pollock, P.O. Box 2099, Pollock, LA 71467.