Soledad’s COVID-19 whistleblower hit with guard retaliation after outing officers for not wearing masks

Talib Williams and his wife Tasha, who authored this article, signal, “HANDS UP, DON’T SHOOT.”

by Tasha Williams

Talib Williams has been incarcerated at Soledad State Prison since 2014, but he’s been in the adult prison system since 2003. Needless to say, he knows his way around a correctional officer with his eyes closed and can hear them coming from a mile away.

Guards have always targeted Williams because of his ability to make other inmates listen. Talib’s scholarly, well-spoken personality attracts people of all races and generations, which makes prison guards twitch because they know they have someone in the inmates’ ears, someone informing them of their rights and abilities as incarcerated peoples.

Talib’s influence can be felt if he’s within earshot. He’s one of the few inmates who have risen above prison politics to educate himself and make a future that he can use as a foundation upon his release. Now, however, Talib’s prison departure may be pushed even further into the future after the events of April 21, 2020.

This is how it all started:

Last week, Talib wrote a piece for the San Francisco Bay View in which he detailed the goings-on behind prison walls as the coronavirus spreads into every nook of the nation. In the article, Talib said:

“Apparently, guards at Soledad State Prison didn’t get the memo from the CDC delineating the countrywide recommendation for citizens to wear ‘face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,’ which includes grocery stores, pharmacies and undoubtedly California’s notoriously overcrowded prisons.

“They couldn’t be oblivious to these recommendations because every time yard is released, Officer Woods makes an announcement over the more than 30-year-old intercom system reminding the inmate population to practice social distancing and to wear a face covering when purchasing items through the canteen window on the yard, which is operated by ‘free staff.’”

Guards have always targeted Williams because of his ability to make other inmates listen. He makes prison guards twitch because they know they have someone in the inmates’ ears, someone informing them of their rights and abilities as incarcerated peoples.

Since that article was published on April 14, 2020, Williams has been wary of the officers’ every move, expecting that it’s only a matter of time before they come for him “on some bullshit,” as he would say.

And that’s exactly what they did Tuesday night when Soledad State Prison officials decided to raid the cell of the Black Muslim activist for no other reason than because he wrote a negative story about them in the newspaper. The “goon squad,” as inmates call them, showed up in their tactical gear late Tuesday night to tear apart Talib’s cell for anything they could use to throw him in the hole.

During the raid, a cell phone belonging to Talib’s cellmate was found, but Williams was totally clean.

Anyone who read Talib’s whistleblower story knows that the guards are probably most angry over the following excerpt:

“When asked why we are required to wear masks while correctional officers and free staff aren’t – although free staff often do cover themselves – it was said that it was to protect the inmate population from being infected by someone who may have brought it into the institution. But common sense would tell you that if this virus was to spread throughout California’s prison system, as it has already in prisons in the Midwest and the East Coast, that it would likely stem from the guards coming in and out.”

Talib also said this about the backwards thinking happening in the entire CDCR system during a 100-year plague that none of us will ever likely see again in our lifetimes:

“Unfortunately, only the inmates are required to wear face coverings here at Soledad, and we can be punished for not complying, which is ironic because just weeks before the pandemic occurred, I was wearing a covering over my face to protect myself from contracting Valley Fever, which is prevalent in this area, as well as being more likely to affect African Americans, and was threatened by correctional officers who told me, ‘How many times do we have to tell you guys to not cover your face. If I have to tell you again, you’re getting a 115 (Rules Violation Report).’”

Talib needs support now more than ever. Please send him a letter at Marcelle ‘Talib’ Williams, V-69247, CTF, CW-121, P.O. Box 689, Soledad CA 93960.

Tasha Williams, an activist dedicated to bringing her husband home, can be reached at tashachildress@gmail.com.