by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, Assistant Editor, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper
“I feel that we’ve spent a lot of time trying to reform things that should be completely reimagined, completely transformed. I’m almost getting allergic to the word ‘reform’ because we’re just tinkering with a broken system.” – Dallas Attorney Brittany K. Barnett, Buried Alive Project
Today is Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. Approximately two weeks ago, the US Marshal Service brought two men from Dallas, Texas, who were infected with COVID-19 to USP Pollock, which is located in Louisiana.
The federal prisoners should have been tested for COVID-19 before the US Marshals brought them here. The prisoners were placed immediately on unit B-3. B-3 is the quarantine unit on USP Pollock. All new arrivals and all individuals preparing to be released or transferred must go through a 14-25 day quarantine period to ensure that they are virus free.
I am currently housed on unit B-3 here at USP Pollock as I await my upcoming release on Sept. 3, 2020. I am pleased to report that the two infected prisoners have tested NEGATIVE for COVID-19, and this morning they were placed in a general population housing assignment. Let’s hope the precautionary measures were adequate.
It is very important that both the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the US Marshal Service work together in order to combat this potentially deadly virus.
I must mention that USP Pollock continues to be a COVID-free facility. One mistake by the US Marshals could have resulted in a spike in coronavirus here. Attention to detail saves lives.
Every prison warden across the United States has their own unique management style. From the onset of this pandemic at USP Pollock, Complex Warden Chris McConnell gave the following instructions to his staff: “If you feel sick, do not come in. I’d rather pay overtime than risk the lives of prisoners or staff.”
From the very beginning, Warden McConnell understood that the prisoners here at Pollock did not have COVID-19. It would have to be introduced by a staff member or transferring prisoner.
Although USP Pollock has experienced numerous acts of violence, McConnell did his best to open the compound. We have been given opportunities to walk to the commissary, go to outside recreation, and I was one of the prisoners chosen to participate in a new program: Seven Habits on the Inside, taught by Mr. Barkdull. Not one time during my stay at USP Pollock was I threatened for speaking out.
Now let’s compare Warden McConnell’s management style to that of the warden at FMC Carswell, located in the Dallas Metroplex. FMC Carswell is a federal prison that houses women. FMC means Federal Medical Center. Most of the women housed at Carswell have some type of medical condition that requires special attention or treatment.
In the past month COVID-19 cases at FMC Carswell have spiked to over 500. NSA whistleblower Reality Winner has tested positive for COVID-19. Ms. Winner has been harassed and retaliated against for speaking out about the horrid conditions of FMC Carswell. Ms. Winner has advocated for herself as well as for her fellow prisoners.
What troubles me in regard to Ms. Winner’s situation is the inability or refusal of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to grant Ms. Winner’s request for compassionate release and home confinement. I also have a serious issue with what appears to be retaliation because she chose to exercise her First Amendment US constitutional rights.
This certainly appears to be a pattern by the Trump administration. Allow me to present some FACTS, quite interesting FACTS:
- FMC Carswell is being ravaged by COVID-19
- Reality Winner has served over half of her 63-month sentence
- The Bureau of Prisons granted disgraced Philadelphia mayor Chakka Fattah’s home confinement request – he hadn’t finished half his sentence
- The BOP granted Paul Manafort’s home confinement request and there were not any COVID-19 cases at his location
- After a retaliatory stunt by the BOP, Micheal Cohen was returned to home confinement
- Donald Trump’s friend Roger Stone didn’t have to serve one day in federal prison!
Why the disparity? What makes Reality Winner any different from these men?
Ah-ha! Perhaps that’s it. Ms. Winner is not a man.
I want to highlight and expose the existence of highly discriminatory, patriarchal and misogynistic practices by the BOP and the US Department of Justice. These hateful attitudes and behaviors continue to be perpetuated and embraced by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Think deeply about the conditions inside these federal prisons. Think about qualified immunity and the death of George Floyd. These topics intersect and contribute to a broader picture which sheds a strobe light on the cracks and fissures of this broken and morally bankrupt system.
I am thankful for the selection of the FIRST Black-Asian woman who has the potential of being the next vice-president of the United States. I am hopeful that Kamala Harris’ criminal justice perspectives have evolved. I foresee her becoming a champion and advocating for women’s rights. ALL women! For far too long, prisoners in Amerika have been relegated to the status of sub-humans.
Federal prisoner Andrea Circle Bear should not have died while pregnant in BOP custody at FMC Carswell in Texas this year.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has clearly established a pattern and policy of ignoring the health issues and endangering the lives of women. In order to illuminate this point, I would like to briefly recount the case of former federal prisoner Angela Beck.
Ms. Beck was housed at FCI Aliceville and granted compassionate release last year. Here I quote information gleaned from an article which appeared in the June 30, 2020, edition of Reason Magazine: “US District Judge Catharine Eagles found that the BOP made Angela Beck wait two months for imaging after she found lumps in her left breast. Then she had to wait eight months for a biopsy, which confirmed cancer, and then she had to wait two more months for surgery. By that time, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, requiring a radical mastectomy. Five more months passed before her appointment with an oncologist, who determined it was too late for chemotherapy.”
I want you to think deeply about the conditions inside these federal prisons. Think about qualified immunity and the death of George Floyd. These topics intersect and contribute to a broader picture which sheds a strobe light on the cracks and fissures of this broken and morally bankrupt system.
When you visit the polls or fill out your absentee ballots in November 2020, I would like you to remember Andrea Circle Bear, Angela Beck and Reality Winner as well as all of our sisters at FMC Carswell. Kamala Harris has some work to do. I don’t believe she will let us down.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, All Power to the People!
Quote from Brittany K. Barnett appeared in Texas Monthly Magazine August 2020 edition. Article by Christopher Hooks entitled “After the Protests, a Changing of the Guard?“
“COVID-19 cases at Carswell spike to more than 500 as Reality Winner tests positive, faces retaliation“ by Kevin Gosztola, The Dissenter Newsletter, weekly podcast called “Unauthorized Disclosure”
Reason Magazine (June 30, 2020) “These women received a death sentence for being sick in prison.” Taken from LISA (Legal Information Services Associates LLC) newsletter
Keith “Malik” Washington is assistant editor of the Bay View, studying and preparing to serve as editor after his release in September 2020. 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 and Liberate the Caged Voices. 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. He is, however, expected to arrive in San Francisco on Sept. 3, 2020.