by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)
April 18, 2020 – Like many of you in the free world, I have been monitoring closely the daily COVID-19 briefings broadcast from the White House. I have also been observing and analyzing the propaganda disseminated by the mainstream media in regard to the deadly pandemic.
What has been missing from the presidential daily briefings and news media platforms such as CNN and Fox News is any mention of the effect COVID-19 has had on Amerika’s world leading prison population.
There has been a glaring lack of transparency and accountability in regard to what is actually happening inside both federal prisons and immigration detention centers as well as state prisons all across the United Snakes of Amerika. With your mutual aid and solidarity, I will attempt to fill that void in reporting.
I am an older Black man who is currently incarcerated at a high security federal prison in Louisiana, USP Pollock. A few miles down the road from USP Pollock is a low security federal prison known as FCI Oakdale.
The most recent data and information coming out of FCI Oakdale reports over 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 10 deaths. I request that all of you reading this report help confirm these numbers. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees have been instructed to keep quiet in respect to the current situation at FCI Oakdale.
I have discovered that there are a number of prisoners at FCI Oakdale who have been placed on ventilators and some have been transferred to local hospitals. The prognosis for those who have been placed on ventilators is not good.
Everyone in Amerika knows that COVID-19 is killing Black people at an alarming rate. We are still awaiting the demographic statistics from the White House as they relate to COVID-19 mortality in the Black community.
I must ask: “How many of you have heard Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx or President Donald J. Trump mention the growing number of dying prisoners in Amerika?”
The U.S. federal government does not want free world people to begin to think about prisoners or detainees in ICE and DHS facilities. Their thinking is this: “Forget about prisoners’ lives. They deserve what they get! They are animals! Save yourselves – and let the prisoners die.”
Perhaps Trump and his sycophants don’t come right out and say this, but their actions and inactions speak volumes.
To CNN, Fox and other mainstream media outlets I say this: “Prisoners and detainees are people too! Our lives have meaning and we hurt and feel just like you hurt and feel.” But they don’t hear me!
I have friends here at USP Pollock who are from New York City. In fact, my cellmate, Tasheem Carter, is from New York City – Far Rockaway Queens to be exact. Tasheem has beloved family members who have recently contracted the deadly COVID-19 virus and they are literally fighting for their lives.
Can any of you imagine the frustration, hopelessness and pain felt by a human being trapped in federal prison while their loved ones perish during this national pandemic? The pain is real and has long term effects.
. . . see the hypocrisy and lies emanating from these so-called public servants and health care professionals in the White House!
This is the reality for many Black and Latinx prisoners. The Trump White House refuses to acknowledge the horrible impact this pandemic is having on communities of color.
To add insult to injury, the Trump administration refuses to order ICE and DHS to test detainees for COVID-19! All that talk about testing and the U.S. government returning numerous COVID-19 infected detainees to Guatemala – it sounds shocking but is absolutely true.
I recommend that you read the expose by Molly O’Toole of the Los Angeles Times. Please read it and see the hypocrisy and lies emanating from these so-called public servants and health care professionals in the White House!
I’d like to know whether or not presidential candidate Joe Biden will comment on these glaring contradictions. We shall see. In the past neo-liberals like Hillary Clinton have labeled us as “superpredators.” Let’s hope that liberals and progressives in Amerika will view prisoners as people in 2020 and 2021.
In the state of Texas, we have seen a pattern where state officials refuse to provide detailed reports on the status of their nation leading prisoner population during the COVID-19 crisis.
I recently received a report from Austin, Texas, based activist Dr. John S. Dolley Jr. of Central Texas ABC. Dr. Dolley reported that one prison guard who worked at the Estelle Unit located in Huntsville, Texas, has died of COVID-19.
Dr. Dolley and I both questioned whether or not the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice conducted contact tracing in order to ascertain how many other employees and prisoners may have been infected by the deceased prison guard?
I do not expect full disclosure from this unscrupulous prison agency. TDCJ spokesperson Jeremy Desel and TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier have established a pattern of violating the public’s trust on many issues.
One of the main responsibilities of the media is to report on issues of public concern. We rarely see rigorous reporting or detailed accounts of what is happening inside of Texas prisons.
The families of prisoners all over the United States deserve transparency and accountability in regard to the treatment and the condition of their imprisoned loved ones. We must demand that TDCJ reveal how many prisoners have died because of COVID-19.
Let us demand that Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott tell us the truth. FREE ALL VULNERABLE AND ELDERLY PRISONERS FROM THE TEXAS DEATH KKKAMPS! Free Alvaro Luna Hernandez! Free Jason Renard Walker!
LET OUR PEOPLE GO!
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.