Left to die: Indiana prison officials enable the spread of coronavirus

“Protect Our Leaders” – Art: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

Striking for our protection

On April 30, 2020, at least half of the nearly 300 prisoners in my assigned cellblock (J-housing unit) here at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility refused to accept meals in protest of our treatment, or lack thereof, related to the coronavirus pandemic and it’s spreading within PCF.

Our food strike was accompanied by several demands. 

First, we wanted everyone to receive medical monitoring for coronavirus symptoms, regular temperature checks in particular. Also that testing be provided throughout the prison.

Second, that we receive hot and nutritionally adequate meals. As I pointed out in a previous article, “Failed response to coronavirus in Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility,” since April 15, 2020, we have been receiving cold sack meals that don’t provide us even basic daily nutrition, whereas health experts recognize the need for heightened nutritional intake to strengthen the immune system as a protection against contracting and spreading coronavirus.

Third, that we be provided regular hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to sanitize our hands and cells.

Instead of responding to our concerns, that same day Pendleton officials put our cellblock on quarantine, which could only be seen as a punitive measure. 

Debating our human rights

Later that afternoon, Deputy Warden D. Reagle made rounds in the cellblock, something that otherwise never happens.

a prisoner from our cellblock had died from the virus

Several prisoners, including me, stopped him to seek resolution of our concerns related to the coronavirus situation at the prison.

Reagle’s only interest was to try and deflect our concerns, and when I pressed him further, he engaged me like a college student trying to win a debating contest.

He admitted to another prisoner, Demetrius “Ra Hodari-El” Burks, that just over 100 prisoners at Pendleton had been tested for the virus and 50 tested positive. A shocking admission that statistically, some one-half of us were infected at the prison. He also admitted to Demetrius that the day before, a prisoner from our cellblock had died from the virus.

When Reagle got to my cell, I questioned him concerning 1) the lack of basically nutritious meals at the very time that we needed added nutrition to strengthen our immune systems, 2) the need to test the entire prisoner body for the virus and 3) our need of sanitizers for our hands and cells.

As said, Reagle’s response was not to offer any resolutions, but instead to debate the issues.

First, he contended that officials have no duty to provide prisoners adequate nutrition, but instead must provide us only a 2,500 calorie-per-day diet. I responded that this was obviously absurd, since if calories alone were all we were entitled to, a lump of animal fat would be all officials would need give us. He actually said it was and proceeded to contend that the law supported this. I contested this. 

He doubled down on his position and maintained we would continue to receive the sack meals, which by now are making people sick, because of the constant daily intake of so much bread, peanut butter and processed meat, with next to no fruits and vegetables.

He dismissed the possibility of widespread testing, stating officials lacked unspecified resources, and that they’d only test prisoners who showed symptoms. I pointed out that many coronavirus carriers are asymptomatic, so such a policy was irresponsible. He went back to arguing lack of resources and dismissing me with assurances that there would be no widespread testing.

He responded much the same to my questions about providing hand sanitizer. He did say that cell cleaning supplies would be made available, however.

As recently reported in the media, Pendleton has undergone an exponential rise in the spread of the virus, while nutritionally our immune systems are being deliberately made as weak and vulnerable as possible; and officials are refusing to map the spread of it.

We need maximum public support, not only for our protection, but also in relation to those who work here and will carry the virus back out with them. And I should inform you that many staff here DO NOT keep masks on nor sanitize their hands.

The most effective and appropriate response is, as comrades and activists across Indiana have been calling for at protest rallies at prisons across the state: “Free ‘em all!”

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

Update on Rashid’s situation and more pig retaliation 

by Shupavu wa Kirima

Comrades, Friends and Supporters,

I want to first thank everyone who took time out to call and email Pendleton Correctional Facility on behalf of Rashid. We truly appreciate each and every one of you. A lot of you all answered that call and the pigs have taken notice. 

Unfortunately, they are increasing their repression and reactionary behavior in response to our calls and Rashid’s cell was shaken down again last night (two days in a row) and more property was destroyed. I was contacted earlier by the partner of someone who is there with Rashid. Here is an outline of what happened:

“Here’s what went down. First, on May 11, 2020, I was shaken down. Four pigs were in my cell. They ransacked my shit and broke my $35 headphones. The only pig whose name I got that was in my cell was Correctional Officer (CO) Parker. He came around later with the nurse. I pointed out my broken headphones. He swore they didn’t break them.

“I had him call the officer in charge of the block named Tompkins or Thompson to my cell. I showed him the phones. He told me to file a tort claim or a lawsuit. I said a few choice words to him and he left.

“Now at around 12:30 a.m. on May 13, 2020, Lt. Davis (the same pig who gassed dude that you heard and I wrote the article about) along with Lt. Ernest and CO Stuart (sp?) came and pulled me out saying they were told to search my cell but it would be quick. I was taken to a holding cell by Lt. Davis while the other two pigs were in the cell. 

“My neighbor said he heard one say, ‘Here it is.’ When I came back, I found my tablet shattered. While I was in the holding cage Lt. Davis asked if I know how things work here. I just looked at him. He said they’d gotten a lot of calls about me today and he’d responded to some. He made clear that the ‘cell search’ was in response to that. As said, they broke my tablet so I can’t make calls etc.”

We are asking that calls and emails continue to the contacts listed below. Rashid’s only means of communication with the outside world was deliberately destroyed and now he is expected to pay for what the pigs broke. This will not fly. Thank you all again for your help and solidarity. All Power to the People!

Please make calls on Rashid’s behalf to the following officials

Shupavu wa Kirima can be reached at shupavu.wa.kirima@gmail.com. Send our brother some love and light: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 264847, Pendleton Correctional Facility, G-20-2C, 4490 W. Reformatory Road, Pendleton, IN 46064.