Comrade Malik: Free our elders now!

Comrade Malik was still in the Texas system when this photo was taken in 2019. He was paroled from Texas last summer and sent to federal prison to complete a short term there. The Bay View can’t wait to welcome him to the Bay, his new forever home, in October.

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)

Revolutionary greetings, comrades!

On April 7, the entire prison population here at USP Pollock was screened for Covid-19 and issued protective masks. I asked the registered nurse on the screening team, Mr. Pennison, two important questions: First, are there any confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the entire federal correctional complex here at Pollock? He answered, “No.” Second, have there been any suspected cases of Covid-19 on the complex? His answer was: “Yes, but they have been ruled out.”

This morning a prisoner on my housing unit reported Covid-19 symptoms. He has been placed in quarantine. Please pray for the best!

The complex at Pollock includes a satellite camp, a medium security facility and a penitentiary, where I am currently housed.

Thus far I attribute USP Pollock’s coronavirus-free status to the thorough screening and aggressive protective measures implemented by the complex warden here at Pollock. His name is Chris McConnell.

I was able to conduct an informal interview with Warden McConnell on April 2, asking whether he would have his medical staff conduct screening of prisoners again for Covid-19? He said that screening was being planned for all prisoners at USP Pollock.

All Bureau of Prisons employees are screened for Covid-19 symptoms every day before entering the Pollock complex. These measures along with increased cleaning and sanitizing by the prison population have proven to be effective, thus far, and should, in my opinion, be followed throughout the BOP.

I asked Warden McConnell would he consider having BOP correctional officers stay on prison complex property rather than leaving daily to return to their homes during Louisiana’s statewide lockdown? He responded that the BOP has made provisions for this very real possibility, should the conditions deteriorate and those actions be necessary for the safety and health of all BOP employees and prisoners.

Lastly, when I asked Warden McConnell whether, since I am an older prisoner who is nearing release, would the BOP consider me for early release to home confinement in San Francisco, he stated that the BOP is not looking to release any high security prisoners anywhere in the United States, only prisoners who are low security and low risk.

I found Warden McConnell to be straightforward and candid during this informal interview. He said he was familiar with the journalism and activism of the infamous “Comrade Malik.”

Sisters and brothers, in light of the information provided to us by Warden McConnell, I must take this opportunity to issue a national call for action now. I want all of you to consider the lives of our longsuffering elderly and infirm freedom fighters and servants of the people who have languished in these federal and state prisons for decades!

Many of our respected elders are still housed at high security facilities despite excellent behavior and clear disciplinary records. They are extremely vulnerable to contracting and succumbing to the coronavirus!

We must demand that the U.S. Congress as well as U.S. Attorney General William Barr create some flexibility and include language in the law, the CARES Act, that will allow the immediate release of our elder and infirm comrades! We must not let them die in prison from Covid-19!

Many of our respected elders are still housed at high security facilities despite excellent behavior and clear disciplinary records. They are extremely vulnerable to contracting and succumbing to the coronavirus! We must not let them die in prison from Covid-19!

They must be freed now! Allow me to name just a few of our respected elders who are housed in federal prison: Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Veronzo Bowers, Larry Hoover and Jeffrey Fort aka King Malik.

In state prisons are Jalil Muntaqim and David Gilbert in New York; Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, Ruchell “Cinque” Magee, Bobby Dixon, Chip Fitzgerald, Michael Zaharibu Dorrough and James Baridi Williamson in California; and Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore in Louisiana. Last but certainly not least our shining princes Mumia Abu Jamal and Russell “Maroon” Shoatz in Pennsylvania.

With your collective solidarity, mutual aid, and direct action on social media and by other means, we can free our imprisoned comrades now! On May 7, we must add this demand to our North Carolina Grievance Campaign, but we can’t wait to act! The time for action is now, not tomorrow!

As the future editor of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, this is the type of advocacy you can expect from our newspaper and me! I am only following the instructions of Dr. Willie Ratcliff, our publisher, who has told me to do the following: “Free the prisoners, house the homeless, stop the wars, save the planet and love the children!”

I can’t do this by myself! Anarchists of the world, this is our time to rise!

Today, April 9, I am still safe and healthy and coronavirus-free as are most of the prisoners here at USP Pollock. We are grateful for the social distancing and other precautionary measures the warden has implemented. To be alive is good!

The BOP has instituted a new policy allowing prisoners to make free phone calls to our loved ones during this pandemic.

Also, I was informed yesterday that I will be recommended for nine months halfway house time in San Francisco, California! This will put me in the Bay Area around October 2020, and I am so excited to be able to help Mary Ratcliff with the Bay View. Our time is coming! I need y’all’s support as I prepare to re-enter society.

Right now, though, I must ask that all of you increase your requests to free our incarcerated elders throughout the United States. This Covid-19 is affecting Black and Latinx people disproportionately and it is KILLING US! We must advocate zealously for the release of our elderly and infirm comrades!

For so many years poor people and minorities have gotten the short end of the stick in regard to medical care. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease have plagued us as a people. As a result, we are being ravaged by Covid-19!

Please, Sisters and Brothers, continue to pursue the facts! Let us not get caught up in any false narratives being put forth by those in power. Please continue to stay safe and healthy. I’ll do my best to keep all of you informed with the facts and the truth.

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, All Power to the People! I love y’all!

In solidarity and respect,

Comrade Malik

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.