by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)
“Dear U.S. Attorney General: For over 100 years, citizens born and naturalized in the U.S. who have been convicted of crime have endured the inhumane indignity of being stripped of our citizenship and right to vote through felony disenfranchisement by way of the United States Constitution’s 13th Amendment. Additionally, citizens who have been arrested or continue to be housed in jails and prisons nationally in all 50 sovereign states have been subjected to the conspiratorial practice of police and/or prison officials who violate our First Amendment right to free speech as well as political association through on-going censorship practices that limit what we can read or write and to whom.” – Excerpt of grievance crafted by North Carolina Department of Correction prisoners Randy Watterson and Joseph “Shine White” Stewart
Randy Watterson and Joseph “Shine White” Stewart are two imprisoned freedom fighters and jailhouse lawyers who reside in prisons operated by the NC DOC. Like myself and many other like-minded and similarly situated prisoners across the United States, they have been subjected to an on-going campaign of retaliation, abuse, mistreatment and censorship because they utilize and exercise their First Amendment free speech rights in order to expose the injustices they and numerous North Carolina prisoners experience daily.
Randy, Joseph, as well as their small but mighty support teams at Durham ABC and Blue Ridge ABC have requested that I ask all of you to support them on May 7, 2020, as North Carolina prisoners seek to deliver a formal grievance to U.S. Attorney William Barr and other entities within the U.S. Department of Justice.
Shine White writes:
“Revolutionary greetings to all resilient, dedicated front-line warriors, who sacrifice daily to ameliorate the living conditions for all prisoners held captive within the many razor-wire plantations across the nation.
“As Minister of Defense for the White Panther Organization, it’s my duty to strategize and implement the most effective strategy that would ensure redress with my advocacy efforts. Of course, direct action would compel overseers and administration to honor our demands for adequate healthcare, livable prison conditions, abolition of the [slavery clause in] the 13th Amendment, etc. But as we all know, the majority of prisoners aren’t susceptible to direct action. They’re unable to marshal the courage that’s needed to face down our common enemy.
“So while strategizing, I knew the tactic would have to be one that doesn’t demand sacrifice. With the help of my Komrade Randy Watterson, we have drafted up the grievance [posted below] that’s to be addressed to the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
“Komrades, there is to be a Nationwide Grievance Campaign not only for prisoners here in North Carolina but for ALL prisoners who are subjected to the conditions complained of or have similar complaints to those listed in this grievance.
“Prisoners, their families and friends, anyone who is being affected by incarceration should submit their own grievance to the US Department of Justice. There has been an agreed upon date set that everyone should mail their grievance in. The date is May 7, 2020.
“A copy of the grievance can be downloaded from [here or from] my blog ShineWhite.home.blog. For those who don’t have access to the internet, you can write to Floadgales Publishing at P.O. Box 15401, Durham, NC 27707. …
“I end this with a clenched fist salute, I hope we marginalized can surmount the barriers between us and unite towards the common goal against the common enemy.
“I’m Here, I’m Alive, I’m Struggling. Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!”
Joseph “Shine White” Stewart
This grievance, which is available below, details just some of the illegal and unconstitutional practices perpetrated by North Carolina DOC as well as multiple other jurisdictions all across the United States. In order for the public to obtain a firm grasp and clearer understanding of the nature of the wrongs being levied against prisoners in Amerika, I will unveil the details of my own personal and current legal battle, which up until now I have not revealed in as much detail.
Stop retaliating against us for exercising our First Amendment rights
On Feb. 3, 2020, a panel of judges from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana remanded a civil case I filed against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice back to the U.S. District Court in Houston, Texas, for further review. If not for the mutual aid and solidarity of Dr. John S. Dolley Jr. of Central Texas ABC, a prison abolitionist collective in Austin, Texas, I would have never known the case was remanded.
The on-going lockdown environment here at USP Pollock, Louisiana, places not just me, but hundreds of imprisoned jailhouse lawyers at a clear disadvantage to follow their cases, retrieve updated opinions and access legal materials which enable all of us to access the courts. Our rights continue to be encroached upon and outright violated.
I myself am simply fighting for justice and attempting to establish a legal precedent that will aid all imprisoned incarcerated workers and jailhouse lawyers. We are individuals struggling to secure freedom, justice and equality for all human beings.
Nevertheless, I want to stay on topic in order to explain why my civil action, which was recently remanded back to the U.S. District Court, is important to all imprisoned freedom fighters who have been retaliated against for exercising their First Amendment free speech rights.
The cite of my case is as follows: Case No. 4:19-cv-1723 Keith H. Washington v. Lorie Davis, Director of Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division. The judge presiding over the case is the Honorable U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.
The case originated when I challenged a bogus and fabricated disciplinary report written by TDCJ Security Threat Group Officer Joseph D. Mireles at the W.G. McConnell Unit located in Beeville, Texas. [Security Threat Group, or STG, is a euphemism for “gang,” so an STG officer is a gang investigator – ed.]
Ironically, I was paroled from the custody of TDCJ immediately after I filed my Certificate of Appealability with the 5th Circuit. Judge Gilmore had initially dismissed my civil action, but now I am back in court! Allow me to provide some background to this situation.
In June 2018 I was released from long term solitary confinement at the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, Texas, and I was transferred to the Ramsey I Unit located in Rosharon, Texas, in order to participate in a program that was supposed to help me re-integrate and transition back into general population and free world society.
At the same exact time that this was happening, in June 2018, my comrade and trusted friend and confidant Ms. Julie Schneyer and I collaborated on two separate essays which were published in the June 2018 edition of The Brooklyn Rail. The Brooklyn Rail publishes radical perspectives on politics, art and culture. They also are very supportive of the Prison Abolition Movement and the Prisoner Human Rights Movement.
The common theme that both Julie and I chose to write about was ending prison slavery. My piece, entitled “End Prison Slavery in Texas Now!” was a scathing critique of the modern-day slave like conditions which exist inside prisons operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
In my piece, I went into detail and explained how Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott promotes, condones and supports the eugenicist theories and open bigotry of twisted pseudoscientist Charles Murray. Obviously, the exercise of my free speech rights struck a nerve with the governor and the corrupt prison agency, as I found myself in the midst of a horrible campaign of harassment, abuse and unjust treatment.
I was housed at the Ramsey I Unit for only ONE DAY. During that one day, TDCJ employee Capt. Erma Smith and her assistant, Lt. D. Wallace, made rude comments and cruel accusations about my large religious beard. They made statements saying that I looked like an “Al-Qaeda operative” that I looked “unkept” and Lt. Wallace joked that I resembled a character from the reality show “Duck Dynasty.”
I actually have an excellent sense of humor and can laugh at myself at times, but when I was unceremoniously dismissed from the transition program and returned back to long term solitary confinement for no good reason, I was not in a laughing mood.
On or around June 25, 2018, I was transferred to the High Security Unit at W.G. McConnell Unit located in Beeville, Texas. I immediately wrote a 13-page letter styled as an essay and mailed it to my mentor and friend Professor Victor Wallis Ph.D., who at the time was the managing editor for the Journal on Socialism and Democracy.
Professor Wallis has aided me and many other prisoners for decades in publishing our writings, including essays and articles which describe the horrendous conditions which exist in Amerikan prisons. I sealed the letter up and marked the outside of the envelope as containing media mail. Professor Wallis has been a media correspondent for decades. This outgoing letter was mailed around June 26, 2018, and intercepted, opened and read by McConnell Unit Mail Room Supervisor Janet Salles, who then gave the letter to STG Officer Mireles.
My 13-page outgoing letter described in full detail the unconstitutional and bigoted behavior of the employees at the Ramsey I Unit, which is located in Rosharon, Texas. Mireles shared my outgoing letter with TDCJ Director Lorie Davis, Region IV Director Miguel Martinez, Director’s Review Committee Member Jennifer Smith and the W.G. McConnell Unit Warden Phillip J. Sifuentes. All of these state employees colluded and conspired to retaliate against me for exposing the racism and bigotry that is so very pervasive in Texas and so many other prisons across the United States.
Officer Mireles proceeded to take five words from the end of my 13-page letter, or essay, and he fabricated a bogus disciplinary report in order to stop the mailing of my letter. These “infamous” words that Officer Mireles found offensive in the year 2018 were “on August 21st we rise!”
It is very important that all free-world lawyers as well as imprisoned jailhouse lawyers pay close attention to this point. The reason my case was remanded back to the U.S. District Court in Houston, Texas, was because I not only raised First Amendment violations but I also raised substantive due process violations!
The intention of the Texas prison officials was to retaliate and punish me for the exercise of my U.S. constitutional rights. They sought to “chill” or stop the exercise of my free speech rights as well as interfere with my access to the media and my association with the political party of my choice!
Many times, imprisoned freedom fighters are given bogus and fabricated disciplinary write-ups because they have filed a lawsuit or written an article, essay or exposé which sheds a discerning light on unconstitutional prison conditions. When the “state” uses unscrupulous methods to retaliate against these freedom fighters, journalists and jailhouse lawyers, this triggers a violation of the substantive due process clause contained within the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Prison officials and law enforcement agencies all across the United States of Amerika, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East have established a pattern of retaliation against anyone who exposes abuse and injustice perpetrated by the ruling elite.
Bogus disciplinary reports are just one tactic and ploy used to retaliate and to chill the exercise of free speech. The oppressor may transfer a prisoner to a facility where they know the targeted person will be assaulted or possibly killed. They also may transfer the targeted human being to a prison or jail where the conditions are horrific!
Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is a victim of this practice. And this has become a pervasive and systemic practice utilized by both federal and state prison officials. The list of the current victims is long and distinguished but the common denominator that links all of us together is that in some shape, manner or form we were engaged in First Amendment free speech activity.
What must be cited, alleged and raised in a 2254 habeas corpus writ or a Section 1983 federal civil complaint is a violation of our substantive due process rights. It is illegal to block, interfere, obstruct or retaliate against prisoners for engaging in constitutionally protected conduct.
For years I personally have attempted to defend myself from being subjected to the unethical policies, practices and customs of the administrators of these so called “correctional” facilities. I have attempted to use litigation and the U.S. courts in order to obtain relief.
Thus far many have been unsuccessful in the U.S. courts system in regard to challenging these unethical tactics by the STATE. The problem has been in the way we legally attack the wrongs. Alleging a procedural due process violation has been the usual strategy by jailhouse lawyers when attacking an act of retaliation which manifests itself as a fabricated disciplinary report or other unscrupulous act.
Because of the way that the law is written and the manner in which the courts interpret the law, citing procedural due process has not worked in regards to us gaining relief. What must be cited, alleged and raised in a 2254 habeas corpus writ or a Section 1983 federal civil complaint is a violation of our substantive due process rights. It is illegal to block, interfere, obstruct or retaliate against prisoners for engaging in constitutionally protected conduct.
Some of you may remember when former Texas prisoner and long held politicized prisoner, artist, writer and freedom fighter Kevin “Rashid” Johnson began to expose the mysterious deaths and murders of prisoners held at the Bill Clements High Security Unit in Amarillo, Texas.
First TDCJ employees planted a weapon in Rashid’s cell, then Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton conspired with the state of Florida in order to place Rashid at a facility in Florida where he would be killed. The support that was provided by IWOC and comrades from the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons helped put a protective shield around Rashid and he was able to survive the treacherous tactics by the state to execute him.
These actions by the state of Florida and Texas did in fact trigger substantive due process violations because both the states of Texas and Florida wanted to stop Rashid from exercising his First Amendment rights as well as deny and stop his access to the courts.
This national epidemic of retaliation against freedom fighters is happening right now all across the United States. It is highly illegal for federal agencies like the Bureau of Prisons or state agencies such as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to engage in such blatantly unconstitutional conduct, but that does not stop it from happening.
This campaign of retaliation aimed at silencing the voices of imprisoned activists and journalists won’t stop unless the U.S. Department of Justice acknowledges the wrong and intervenes on our behalf.
Anyone who has access to an iPhone or a computer is familiar with the tweets of Donald J. Trump. We have all witnessed Trump using his position, authority and influence to reduce the sentence of his personal friend and confidant Roger Stone. U.S. Attorney General William Barr appeared on ABC television in order to claim that the U.S. Department of Justice operates with integrity and independence.
However, integrity and independence is NOT what we have seen from William Barr or his Justice Department:
- The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division issued a scathing report about prison conditions in Alabama. Where is the action? Where is the integrity from William Barr?
- Rapper and media mogul Jay-Z had to have his attorney Alex Spiro file a lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections because the U.S. Justice Department continues to do nothing and ignore the horrendous and deadly conditions of confinement inside prisons operated by Mississippi DOC. Where is the integrity?
- Florida prisoner Anquanette Woodall was raped by prison guard Travis Hinson at the Gadsen Correctinal Facility, yet the U.S. Department of Justice did absolutely nothing to help Anquanette! Is the Prison Rape Elimination Act meaningless? Where is the integrity?
- Sundiata Acoli, 83 YEARS OLD, languishing in federal prison, given a 15-year parole set-off by the federal BOP. You call that integrity? Does compassion reside in the halls of justice in Washington, D.C.?
On May 7, 2020, I am requesting that a hashtag be created entitled #ShowUsTheIntegrity!
If U.S. Attorney General William Barr can intervene on behalf of Donald J. Trump and for his friend Roger Stone, why can’t William Barr intervene on our behalf? Are we not rich enough? Are we not white enough? Or are we not good enough? Those four assistant U.S. attorneys who were working the Roger Stone case resigned because they witnessed first hand the racism, bigotry and implicit bias exhibited by the Trump administration!
On May 7, 2020, we are requesting your collective support in order to gain the attention of U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the world! No longer will we be docile, compliant, happy slaves. It is time to rise up! This year North Carolina and your brother in struggle Comrade Malik will lead the way!
How you can help
It is imperative that I clarify exactly what we are requesting free world activists and allies to do for our imprisoned friends in North Carolina and beyond. Right away we want to create a hashtag: #ShowUsTheIntegrity. Then we want to request that we see some compassion and action from U.S. Attorney General William Barr – actions that will help address the pervasive and systemic problem of retaliation against prisoners who exercise their First Amendment constitutional rights.
Secondly, we want to help our imprisoned comrades in North Carolina and many other states deliver the formal complaint that has been crafted for U.S. Attorney William Barr and other high ranking members of the U.S. Department of Justice.
This May 7th, our solidarity actions may entail protests and demonstrations in North Carolina and Washington D.C., but I want to let everyone reading this know that these actions are a precursor to our upcoming National Solidarity Actions that will begin in August 2020. I am in strong solidarity with IWOC, Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, Fight Toxic Prisons, the National Lawyers Guild and the International collective known as the Anarchist Black Cross.
Nube said: “It’s sad that Amerika doesn’t feel the need to look in the mirror to see its shame and misery manifesting in its prisons. Amerika’s false sense of superiority and exceptionalism is a pathology. The cost is its soul and humanity.”
We the imprisoned lumpen here in the United States of Amerika demand to be treated as human beings and not as chattel slaves! We demand our grievance be heard and addressed! States such as Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana continue to implement policies which torture, oppress, isolate, censor, degrade, and dehumanize the human beings in their care. THERE ARE LIVES BEING LOST EVERY DAY!
In Texas, summertime is approaching fast and many of y’all need to know that prisoners in Texas many times choose suicide rather than be trapped inside the red brick ovens that Texas has fashioned as prison cells. I lived this harsh reality for 12 long years and lost comrades and friends. I am a witness.
Sisters and brothers, all that I am asking is that you do something to aid us in our cause. Send an email. Make a phone call. Attend a protest or demonstration. Vote for Bernie. But please do not sit and do absolutely nothing. Support our movement! END PRISON SLAVERY IN AMERIKA AND PROMOTE THE PRISONERS HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT!
I end this essay with a quote from my fiancée, soul mate and fellow activist Nube Brown: In a recent letter to me, Nube said: “It’s sad that Amerika doesn’t feel the need to look in the mirror to see its shame and misery manifesting in its prisons. Amerika’s false sense of superiority and exceptionalism is a pathology. The cost is its soul and humanity.”
Sisters and brothers, please know that nothing positive will happen without your mutual aid and solidarity!
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, All Power to the People!
Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the Bay View, studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release in 2021. He is also co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. Visit his website at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 34481-037, USP Pollock, P.O. Box 2099, Pollock LA 71467.