The battle to free San Francisco Bayview Editor Malik Washington

‘Shut-down-GEO-rally-outside-GEO-Group-headquarters-0720-1400x933, The battle to free San Francisco Bayview Editor Malik Washington, Local News & Views
On June 17, The Intercept published an article titled “GEO Group’s Blundering Response to the Pandemic Helped Spread Coronavirus in Halfway Houses.” Immediately, GEO Group’s share price dropped 7 percent. Bowing to public pressure, Wall Street banks have agreed to stop financing private prisons.

Transcript from Flashpoints Radio Jan. 14

Dennis Bernstein: From Pacific Radio in San Francisco, this is Flashpoints. I’m Dennis Bernstein. Today on the show … the battle to free Malik Washington, the newly minted editor of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper from a GEO Group halfway house infested with COVID-19 while there’s a lawsuit on the way. All this coming up straight ahead on Flashpoints. Stay tuned.

We broadcast from San Francisco tonight, and we are continuing our battle to support the freeing of the new editor of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper. And we are honored to have with us the former editor, the editor emeritus we could say, of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, and a hero of mine. So, welcome to this Flashpoints show, Mary Ratcliff. Glad to have you.

Mary Ratcliff: Well, thank you very much, Dennis Bernstein, one of my heroes. 

Dennis: I want to say something about your background. Mary Ratcliff has been the editor of the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper for the past 29 years – I’ve been doing this show 30 – growing its coverage of the Black community from the neighborhood to the nation, to Haiti and Africa and beyond, telling the truth no matter the consequences, seeking and even winning justice on issues from police terrorism to environmental racism, prison abolition and economic exclusion. 

She has now proudly passed the torch to Malik Washington. That’s the Bay View’s new editor. And we are joined by Mary, as I said, and also joining us is the managing editor of the newspaper, Nube Brown. Nube, welcome to Flashpoints. 

Mary, there’s just a minor glitch in terms of the new editor. He seems to be locked down in a halfway house in the Tenderloin by a group, a private prison system, that is notorious for brutalizing and squeezing the dollars out of the government by abusing its prisoners in private care. There is, I understand now, a lawsuit in the making. Could you sort of give us the thumbnail sketch of the latest version of “let’s try and suppress the new editor of the San Francisco Bay View”?

We pay a lot of attention to what’s happening in the prisons – and Malik just has a beautiful attitude toward how to make change in this country without violence, without hate, without – well, with love.

Mary: Well, in my mind the villain here is the prison industrial complex, the habit of mass incarceration that the U.S. must break. It’s insane to have so many people locked up. And the people who are locked up are some of the most brilliant people in the country. I remember Randall Robinson saying one time, “There’s genius in jail cells.” What happens is that the police watch young people in a neighborhood, particularly a Black neighborhood, and when they see leadership emerge in any of those kids, they will harass the heck out of them until they figure out how to send them to prison. 

And those young men, young women, grow up and some of them get very studious and they become – some of them even become activists, that’s what Malik did. He became a very well-known journalist and change maker in Texas by cultivating relationships with journalists, mainstream journalists, and also with legislators. And he got a lot of changes made to the prison system in Texas. So, he was the logical person to take over the Bay View, and because we do a lot of – we pay a lot of attention to what’s happening in the prisons – and he just has a beautiful attitude toward how to make change in this country without violence, without hate, without – well, with love. 

And so, anyway, when you do prison work, you get used to this sort of thing. It never makes any sense whatsoever, and the prison officials more than anybody else break their own rules all the time. And so, in this case there was a memo put out by the Taylor Center, this GEO Group halfway house, and by the way, GEO Group is not only notorious, but it also was banned from the state of California, and how in the world this halfway house is even open under GEO Group I don’t know, and we’ve got to fix that. 

But anyway, they issued a memo saying that there had been a COVID outbreak. That memo got posted to Twitter and Tim Redmond of 48 Hills, formerly of the Bay Guardian, the Bay Guardian’s long-time executive editor, he saw the memo and he was very interested. 

Somehow Malik got blamed; it was all his fault that the memo became public. My favorite line in the incident report that GEO Group wrote is that he is being punished for contacting the public. What else is a newspaper editor supposed to do?

Dennis: He’s a journalist. He’s the editor of – yeah, I got a kick out of that, and I want to let people know that we’re going to rebroadcast. After we’re done speaking with you and Nube Brown, we’re going to rebroadcast that interview where Tim really lays it out block by block. But I want to talk to you. Mary, you’re 88 now?

Mary: My husband is 88. I’m almost 82.

Dennis: You’re almost 82. You’re a cancer survivor, and you –

Mary: Well, I’m not a cancer survivor. I have incurable cancer.

Dennis: OK. And you both have been struggling to make sure that this incredibly beautiful, important newspaper keeps going, and here comes really a manna from Heaven. 

Mary: Yes.

Dennis: Could you talk a little bit about how Malik has made a difference arriving and what he’s meant to the paper?

Mary: Oh my God. Well, I had been a staff of one for years. We just didn’t have the money to hire anybody, and we were blessed with many, many, many volunteers, and that’s how we were able to keep going, and we had small contributions come in from people, and thank God for them. But I knew – I’ve known for quite a while, that my days are numbered, and I can’t – I just can’t do the work anymore; it’s just too much. And I never was the right person to be the editor of the Bay View. The Bay View is a Black paper, and I’m not Black, and I had taken on the role initially temporarily until we found somebody, but just because we never had any money to hire anybody, we never found them. 

Malik hit the ground running, literally. It was absolutely amazing. He didn’t walk straight into the office when he came to the door. He stood around and talked to the guys on the corner, and he knows how to talk to the guys on the corner. I can’t talk to the guys on the corner, but he sure can. And very soon he was taken into the bosom of the people of this community. They were so thrilled to see somebody who looked smart and capable and could be a leader, and we’re very leaderless right now, and that was something that people embraced. 

Very soon he had gotten acquainted with our District Supervisor Shamann Walton. They now text each other all the time. Malik is immediately taken in by everybody he meets. He is so charismatic, and he’s a truth teller, so people know they can trust him. And he’s got a nose for news. He’s absolutely terrific at finding good feature stories, good news stories, and angling them as you always do, Dennis, toward justice. In other words, how can the news media tell this story in a way that will make people want to work toward justice.

Dennis: Could you say a little bit more about the need that the newspaper fills locally and nationally as a national Black newspaper, an important institution here in the Bay Area. Just talk a little bit about why it’s so important to keep it going.

Mary: Well, we’re a Black paper, but we’re different from the other Black papers because we’ve taken on an awful lot of controversy. And I think that’s been a good choice. It certainly hasn’t been a choice that enriched us. We live below the poverty level. But it’s a choice that has brought so many issues to light that would not otherwise – did not otherwise – get any coverage. 

For example, police terrorism or police murders: No newspaper, no Black paper, no daily paper, no any kind of paper covered that. And when we started right around 2000 covering those cases, all the ones that we heard about, it started the movement. Then we were very, very involved as you well remember with the Oscar Grant movement. 

And what that movement taught the country was that you have to keep coming out. You can’t just have a press conference. You can’t just have a demonstration or a rally. You’ve got to keep hitting the streets over and over again. And that’s exactly what happened in Ferguson, and they said that they got it from Oakland, so it’s that kind of thing that we’ve been able to do. 

We’ve had a tremendous influence on the prison movement. We’ve had a tremendous influence on environmental racism, especially around the Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island, both of which are heavily impacted by radiation from the post-World War II attempt to test nuclear weapons. And we’re living with that, and that’s where my cancer came from. So it’s very important to us to take on that issue, and we often have to differ with elected officials who we like a lot and who are still assuming that big developers need to always have their way and that the Navy needs to always have its way and so, you know, we’ve tilted with some giants.

The CARES Act that came out after the beginning of the COVID epidemic specifies that prisoners who are on parole – supervised release is the way the feds talk about it – who have a place to go, who have a home, should go there if they’re on parole, if they’re no longer actually in the prison. 

Dennis: Let me ask you now – clearly there’s a battle to get Malik out. There’s every reason for the system to let him go. In a moment we’re going to speak with his partner who’s also the managing editor as you mentioned of the San Francisco Bay View. But first, there is now a lawsuit that you are joining, that you’re a part of in terms of trying to free Malik Washington. Can you just give us the thumbnail sketch?

Mary: Well, I can’t talk a lot about it. It hasn’t actually been written yet. But we talked to the lawyer for a long time today and strategized, and what our objectives are is to get Malik out of the Taylor Center and, of course, beyond that we’d love to get the Taylor Center out of San Francisco. But immediately the goal is to bring Malik to his own home. He has a home with his partner that is only two and a half blocks from here, a little three-minute walk. It’s a beautiful place, and they deserve to be there. 

And the CARES Act that came out after the beginning of the COVID epidemic specifies that prisoners who are on parole – supervised release is the way the feds talk about it – who have a place to go, who have a home, should go there if they’re on parole, if they’re no longer actually in the prison. 

And unless there are compelling and extraordinary circumstances, they should be able to go home, and there’s also a very important issue for me and for my husband, and that is that having Malik come in every single day from a congregate setting, a congregate prison-style setting where there’s a COVID outbreak, is certainly jeopardizing our safety. And why in the world the GEO Group won’t just let him go I don’t know. But that’s exactly what we’re going to try to compel them to do.

Dennis: One reason is that the more bodies they keep in there the more money they make. Nube Brown, managing editor of the San Francisco Bay View, welcome to Flashpoints. It’s good to have you with us. 

You wrote a letter calling for the release of your partner both at the Bay View and in life. It’s very powerful. You want to read it? Just give us a little background and then share it.

Nube: Yes, I would love to, and thank you so much to get this opportunity because, you know, part of the dehumanization is not being able to hear from the family members. And Malik is clearly such a dynamic, engaging, intelligent person, and the work that he is doing with the San Francisco Bay View is really unparalleled and it’s wonderful to be able to work with him. 

But, first and foremost, he is a human being. And the simple fact of denying him home confinement – and I don’t like the word “confinement” – but that’s the inhumanity. That’s part of the dehumanizing aspect of all of this and really just a vestige of slavery that’s taking place within our prisons and how prisoners are treated. They are dehumanized. 

And Mary also alluded to the fact that. yes, he’s coming from a congregate setting and during this pandemic and it puts people at risk. We do testing on a regular basis, something that’s not happening within that setting there, so it’s a responsibility that we’re taking on upon ourselves as responsible community members, but that also speaks to the inhumanity of how they are allowing things to happen. But with all of that said: I will read this letter and you will hear me using my legal name.

“Dear Michael Carvajal,

“My name is Tracy Brown. Within the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of welcoming into my world the life-changing event of becoming a friend, a partner and a fiancée. When Keith ‘Malik’ Washington returned after 13 years of confinement, we had anticipated the necessary transition time at the halfway house, knowing that there is a process for re-entry, but that it would include support for the building of a family sooner rather than later. It is disheartening to think that the BOP does not see the importance of allowing a recently returned loved one to start as quickly as possible towards that end. 

“To my mind, the most basic aspect of securing a happy, fulfilling and successful life starts at home. As Keith’s fiancée, I imagined being able to prepare and eat meals together, providing physical nourishment and growth, being able to share thoughts and ideas at the beginning and end of our days, providing mental nourishment and growth, and being able to care, pray and dream together, providing spiritual nourishment and growth, sooner rather than later. 

“I don’t see how the BOP can claim to support the people in their care and truly wish for their success if they hinder one of the most important tenets of a successful return: the building and maintaining of family ties.”

“And what about my son? Why must he be deprived of a mentor, a male with principles and a man of faith who represents resilience, gratitude and a reason for second chances? My son is away at college in Santa Barbara and while he may come home infrequently, how can he develop a relationship with the man he will call stepfather if he is deprived of access to him? This also deprives Keith of the opportunity to develop those tools that will be so necessary when he begins to re-establish his relationships with his own estranged son. 

“I don’t see how the BOP can claim to support the people in their care and truly wish for their success if they hinder one of the most important tenets of a successful return: the building and maintaining of family ties. Here’s another point, Mr. Carvajal. Keith has employment, and after May 2021 has no federal supervision, and he is sober. So why at the end of a long, productive day must he go back to you while I am at home alone? Keith and I are both left without the benefit of each other. This can’t be what the BOP intends when they speak of rehabilitation and successful re-entry, is it? 

“Lastly, do I really need to mention the health consequences of having Keith go back and forth between a congregate setting and work during this COVID-19 pandemic? We work in the same place, along with two elderly people in their 80s. And now it’s come to my attention that you have released 18,000 people to home confinement. Is there a reason you’ve singled out my fiancé for denial? I ask that you grant him home confinement without delay. 

“Respectfully, Tracy Brown.” 

But I really didn’t feel very respectfully. 

Dennis: Yes, I understand, I understand. Well, no, actually it was a very respectful ask. There’s no question about that, and the situation and the context highlight everything that is wrong about this brutal prison system, this prison industrial complex. This country locks up its people. And it’s all about poverty and they’re debtors’ prisons. You may know that I spent at least five years teaching at Rikers Island Prison in New York. And when I walked through those gates, those were my gates of perception. That’s where I learned a lot about the society. And you know, they say that how you treat your prisoners has everything to do with who you are, what you are as a society. 

And look, oh my God, look who this country elected as president of the United States. What a lesson, huh. Talking about the chickens that come home to roost. Nube Brown, it really is an honor to talk to you – Mary, of course, always all my love to you and Willie. If there is a lawsuit, we will follow up when it comes out, no doubt about it. But we want to play, replay, that interview we did with Tim Redmond, one of the best journalists around, former editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian – as you said, Mary.

We want to play that interview we did with him a couple of days ago about this because he really went at them, broke it open and they were a little bit more hesitant to push him around in their process of locking down Malik. I’m thinking about truth to power, and it’s always interesting to me when you see somebody in their power speaking to somebody in a position of power, everybody knows who’s telling the truth. Of course, the person in the position of power can lock down, shoot, murder, torture the person in their power. But everybody knows who’s telling the truth, and we’re sure here that Keith is telling the truth. 

Mary, Nube, both of you: I honor your work. We’re in this battle, and I should mention that now would be the time that Keith would be doing his regular weekly segment with Flashpoints. It’s a new segment on the show. The San Francisco Bay View on Flashpoints, and we kick it around every week for 15 or 20 minutes, very important to our listeners. Thank you both. You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Please be peaceful and stay safe, both of you. We’re going to take a short musical break and then we’re going to come right in with Tim Redmond.

Dennis: Tim Redmond is the founder and editor of 48 Hills, former editor of the legendary San Francisco Bay Guardian. Tim Redmond, welcome back to Flashpoints.

Tim: Dennis, I’m just so happy to be on your show.

Dennis: Well, it’s good to have you with us. We want to talk about what’s going on in terms of this halfway house, which has essentially punished the new editor of the San Francisco Bay View news because he did his job, and as a journalist and as somebody being subjected to the outbreak he told the truth about what was going on. Could you set up the story? 

Tim: Sure. So, as some of your listeners probably know, Malik Washington was a prison journalist – an incarcerated journalist – for many years. He was released from the federal Bureau of Prisons into this private halfway house in the Tenderloin in September. And he’s been hired as the new editor of the San Francisco Bay View, which is a Black community newspaper in San Francisco.

And you know, it was important that he got hired: important because the two people who ran the paper before that, Willie and Mary Ratcliff, are in their 80s and suffering from health issues and they really can’t keep doing it anymore. And it’s an important community asset so they brought on Malik to do it. And the deal was he’s living in this halfway house, but he can go to work, and he can have a cell phone, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s how supposed rehabilitation process works, right? 

Now, let me give a little bit of backstory here before we get into it. This is in essence a private prison. It’s called a halfway house, but it’s a private prison in the sense that it’s run by a private multi-billion-dollar international prison company, the GEO Group, which runs private prisons. That’s what they do. They have 129 private prisons in the United States and the United Kingdom. They grossed $2.4 billion last year, up $600 million since 2015, since under Trump private prisons are a good business, and they make money on the number of inmates they have.

Malik-speaks-at-POORs-rally-protesting-UC-Hastings-homeless-harassment-1220, The battle to free San Francisco Bayview Editor Malik Washington, Local News & Views
In front of Hastings College of the Law, UCSF’s law school located in the Tenderloin, San Francisco Bay View Editor Keith “Malik” Washington speaks out against Hastings’ initiative to “sweep” all homeless people out of the poorest neighborhood in San Francisco. Because 37 percent of homeless people in San Francisco are Black, this is a crucial issue for Washington’s Black newspaper.

And the people who live there are allowed to leave to go to work, but they’re only allowed to leave to go to work with a permission slip, and that can be revoked at any time. And they’re allowed to have a cell phone and communicate but apparently that can be revoked at any time too. I had learned a few days ago that there had been a COVID outbreak in this congregate setting where everybody has roommates, they all eat together, the staff were coming in and out. A lot of people who live there come in and out to go to jobs. 

And I actually learned about this from a press release that was put out, and then there was a letter sent to the people who lived there that was posted on Twitter. I didn’t post the letter on Twitter. I didn’t get it from anyone. I just saw it on Twitter. But I did get a message from Malik Washington, and he texted me – I had already found out about this, but he texted me, and I called him, we had a conversation about it, which is perfectly legit, and in fact the press spokesperson for GEO Group admitted to me that people who live there are allowed to have cell phones, they’re allowed to communicate with the community, and he didn’t do anything wrong. He talked to me about what was going on.

But then I pursued the story, and I got the letter – again, Malik didn’t leak the letter. It was posted on Twitter. I don’t know where the guy – somebody from DSA who posted it on Twitter – I don’t know where he got it from, but it was already public. And I reported on this, and I contacted the person who runs the facility, and then I contacted the public relations person in charge of communications for the GEO Group and I raised this question with them. 

And I also raised the question – which I think is a legitimate one – Malik Washington has only a few months to go before he’s all done with the Bureau of Prisons, and he will be released. His fiancé already has an apartment in the Bayview about two blocks from his office at the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper. He is working every day with two very older people who are obviously at high risk for COVID. Why don’t they just release him early? Why don’t they just release him three months early? 

Let him go and live in an apartment where he can shelter in place with his family and let him go to work in a safer environment than possibly bringing COVID into this newspaper office where you have two senior citizens, right? So, having raised all these questions I started getting responses. At first kind of, I must admit, kind of hostile responses, and then when they realized who I was, more direct responses from the GEO Group Press Office. And I did a story based on this in 48 Hills.

But as I was preparing the story, I found out that the night before my story was to run an employee of the GEO Group went into Malik’s room and confiscated his cell phone. And then they obviously searched the cell phone because they discovered the texts between him and me – which were nothing, by the way. The texts were, “Hey, Tim, did you hear about this?” Me, “I’ll give you a call.” That was it, all right. There was no like secret information. I think he texted me later and said, “Hey, do you want to talk?” And I said, “Yeah, I’ll give you a call.” That was it. 

From the beginning of the pandemic everyone pretty much at the federal, state, and local level has agreed that journalists are essential workers. 

Because of that specifically he was cited, and they confiscated his cell phone and took it away for a month because he had unauthorized communication with the press. Now, again, let it be said for the record, I already knew about this story, right, and I didn’t even get the staff letter that started all of this because I got it on Twitter. It was already out there. But because he dared to contact me and we had a short communication, his cell phone was confiscated and then this morning he was told that he’s not allowed to go to work. 

And he’s not allowed to go to work at the Bay View because apparently journalists, he was told, at least according to the account that I heard, are not considered essential workers. Now that’s kind of nuts because from the beginning of the pandemic everyone pretty much at the federal, state, and local level has agreed that journalists are essential workers. 

I mean we’ve got to be out there telling people what’s going on and informing the public about this pandemic and what you should do to prevent it and what the new rules are. How are people supposed to know what the quarantine rules are and what the travel rules are and what the restrictions are if you can’t report it in the newspaper? 

And of course, the San Francisco Bay View is a very important newspaper for the – particularly for the African American community, and also for the incarcerated community in California. They distribute a lot of copies in prisons. So, this is a source of information, of important public information for people. But they apparently decided that he is not an essential worker, so now he is not allowed to have his cell phone and he’s not allowed to go to work to help Willie and Mary Ratcliff in his new job as editor of the Bay View, and I think a lot of people are thinking that this was retaliatory.

Dennis: Now we’re speaking with Tim Redmond, and we’re talking about the censorship – I’d put it that way – of Keith “Malik” Washington who is now also a contributor to this radio show, and we’re very happy to have him here. He’s doing a terrific job. Now, I’m thinking that part of the problem here is that the more people that the GEO Care Group and this little private prison has locked down and unable to leave, the more money they make. Does money have anything to do with this, Tim?

Tim: Good question. Of course, you are an investigative reporter. That was the same question that I had immediately. So, I requested a copy of their contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. Good luck with that. They actually told me  I sent an FOI –

Dennis: Didn’t they tell you 12 months or something for a response?

Tim: They send me a copy of the contract, all right, nevertheless: When a previous center owned by the same operation opened in San Francisco in 2016, SF Weekly did a story on it, and they got a copy of their contract with the state, and in that contract it says they get $97,000 a month plus a $60 to $80 per diem for each inmate who’s there. So, if this is the same contract, and I don’t know, but if their contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons is similar, and I have to assume it is, then they get paid more money if they have more people in custody. 

So, this is a private corporation – for your listeners I don’t have to list the problems with private prisons, but one of them is if you get paid per diem to keep people locked up, you have every incentive to keep the prison as full as possible, not only during COVID, but just in general. You have an incentive not to let people leave until they’ve fully completed their sentences, not to let them out for good time, not to let them out for a safety reason, not to let them out for compassionate reasons, cause you’re making a buck every time you keep them in there.

Rob Bonta wrote AB32 that passed last year and bans the state from entering into any contracts with private prisons. This GEO contract runs through ‘21 or ‘22, so the contract that GEO Group has now for the Taylor Center in the Tenderloin is still in effect, but they can’t renew it when it runs out. GEO also has a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons – Malik Washington is a federal prisoner – the federal government does not have any ban on contracts with private prisons. 

Now, of course, the GEO Group will say, and they said to me, “We don’t make those decisions; those decisions are made by the federal Bureau of Prisons, by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. We don’t decide on the length of people’s sentences.” I will just say, for the record, that the GEO Group gave a significant amount of money to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and has given a lot of money to right-wing Republican causes. And in California, they’ve given money to both the Democratic and the Republican Party: $140,000 to the Democratic Party, $75,000 for the Republican Party. So, these people are politically connected. 

Dennis: They’re politically connected, but apparently that didn’t help them from being essentially – I thought they were already banned from the state because of their very questionable practices. Did I get that wrong?

Tim: Banned from the state? No, Rob Bonta that passed AB32 last year, which bans the state from entering into any contracts with private prisons. This contract, I believe, runs through ‘21 or ‘22, so this contract that they have with the GEO Group now for the Taylor Center in the Tenderloin, that contract is still in effect. They can’t renew it when it runs out. On the other hand, they also have a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. Remember, Malik Washington is a federal prisoner. He’s not under the state, and so the federal government does not have any ban on contracts with private prisons. 

Maybe that’s something that Biden and Harris and the Congress under Nancy Pelosi can take up, this question of whether the federal government should stop doing business with private prisons. But right now, they still have a contract with the state of California that hasn’t expired, and they have a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. 

They also have contracts with ICE and they actually were sued in 2017 for allegedly forcing ICE detainees to work for a dollar a day. 

Dennis: Beautiful. That’s what I was going to ask you. What’s the larger picture about GEO? Why did California – among the reasons you just named – why would they throw them out of the state, and what are some of the other problems you alluded to?

Tim: Well, the entire private prison industry has been very controversial, and in part because of the reason that we talked about, but also in part because of conditions at privately run ICE detention centers, and I think the conditions at the privately run ICE detention centers is probably what drove the state Legislature to act more than anything else. The lawsuit over allegedly forcing the immigrants to work for $1 a day, although the GEO Group said the program is entirely voluntary, the lawsuit suggests that they couldn’t get soap and toiletries unless you actually did this. 

And you know, we’ve all heard stories about the conditions in the private detention centers for ICE, and I think that, you know, I mean this is a national trend. I mean there are major banks that are now saying they will not finance private prisons. This is a, you know, an industry that’s under fire. And you know, GEO Group isn’t the only one, but they’re one of three or four of the big, private prison companies. 

So, that’s the big picture, and I didn’t even know – I must admit, Dennis, you know, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I try to pay attention – I didn’t even know there was a private prison in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. And again, it’s technically a halfway house. I’m calling it a private prison ‘cause that’s really how I think about it. I didn’t even know that there was one in San Francisco, and I think that now that more people know that this even exists, there’s going to be a lot of questions raised about that.

Dennis: Well again, some good journalism on your part, and also by Keith “Malik” Washington, who is now working with us doing a weekly prison segment that appears on Thursdays at 5:15, and we’re hoping that Keith will be back soon. I just want to circle back to the point you made about the crucial nature of the situation, how it’s important for humanity to play a part in this and how ridiculous and deadly it could very well be for the system to not allow Keith to go to work, to become an active and important member of this San Francisco journalist community. 

And let’s remember, the Bay View was also legendary. It’s a national Black newspaper. So, this is a very important person who’s come along, as you say, to really work with the editors in their late 80s to keep this paper alive. You know, it just boggles the mind why someone would want to shut this down. Do you think they don’t know the situation at GEO, or does it make it that much worse because he’s such an example of somebody who’s a success story who was going to transcend the worst of what the society has to offer?

Tim: Dennis, you’re right. There’s two big questions here, and one of them is whose idea of rehabilitation is telling someone they can’t go to work, right? I mean this guy has been a tremendous success story, Keith “Malik” Washington. He has a job, he has a place to live, he has a fiancée, he has a family to go to. This is exactly what you want, in theory, if what you believe in is rehabilitation, and you want to move people from prison into society. He’s all set. 

The idea that someone could be punished for talking to a journalist and that a person’s cell phone could be confiscated and searched and their texts to a journalist scrutinized really, really bothers me. And I think it should disturb all of us.

This is – we could just do this today, and he would be prime, better off, all right, and he would be able to shelter in place in a much smaller non-congregate setting to prevent harm to Willie and Mary Ratcliff, who are in their 80s and he’d be able to go to work and help with this community newspaper. So, that’s one question that just boggles the mind, you know. From a level of humanity and sane policy, he should have been released anyway. 

Number two: The thing that bothers me about this – and I will admit I said this directly to the communications director from GEO – the idea that someone could be punished for talking to a journalist and that a person’s cell phone could be confiscated and searched and their texts to a journalist scrutinized really, really bothers me. 

That really disturbs me. And I think it should disturb all of us. I mean this is how information gets out, and the idea that someone who has a right to a cell phone – this is not someone who’s in prison and has a contraband cell phone. He’s allowed to have it, and he’s allowed to talk to people in the community – that somehow, he could be punished for talking to a journalist. 

As I say: It’s just highly disturbing. And I don’t know – I really don’t know whether that decision came down from the Bureau of Prisons or came from the GEO Group headquarters or was done locally. You know, I don’t have that information, but wherever it is, it’s just a very disturbing policy to allow that to happen. 

Dennis: All right, Tim, I just want – first of all, thank you for that great story in 48 Hills and all the good work you do there, and before I let you go though, I – these are very, shall we say, troubling and interesting times, where now we’re expecting that there could be a second wave of these armed attacks. We saw the thing unfold in D.C. What are your thoughts about what’s going on and do you think California should be on the alert? Clearly, we’re not on the good friendship list of the current President of the United States. Any thoughts on that?

Tim: I haven’t seen, but I don’t know. Obviously, I don’t have sources in the FBI. I haven’t seen real credible threats in California. At one point they were all going to all march on Twitter a couple days ago, you know, the right wingers mad that Trump’s Twitter account got suspended. But it never happened. Nobody ever showed up. I think that the people should be – the flashpoints, the worrisome points, are going to be placed obviously D.C. on the inaugural day. I’m very nervous about what could happen. 

And I’m nervous about other states where state legislatures were under pressure not to certify the election results and did. I just saw on the news a few minutes ago that the governor of Michigan has basically said the statehouse is not secure. The attorney general of Michigan said the statehouse is not secure. You know, we are very, very nervous. So, I am very worried about this. I’m worried and, you know, I’m worried that the first time it happened it basically was allowed to happen. I mean the Capitol Police did not aggressively try to stop these folks. 

And the National Guard – the Pentagon wouldn’t authorize the National Guard to come out and help patrol the streets. And as we all know, you know, if this had been Black Lives Matter protestors, it would have been treated very, very differently. So, I’m nervous about that. I’m nervous about the response. And, you know, I’m nervous about communities of color and the violence that we could be seeing. I really hope that none of this happens. I hope that Biden is inaugurated peacefully and Trump flies off to a golf course somewhere, maybe out of the country, and you know, never heard from again. I really hope that that happens, but I think, Dennis, we all have grounds to be nervous. 

Dennis: Yeah, I think so. Well, Tim Redmond, as always, it’s really great to have you on the show. Tim Redmond, 48 Hills, old friend of the journalistic community in the Bay Area and at the top of his game. Thank you, Tim, for joining us again on Flashpoints.

Tim: Thanks, Dennis. I’m always happy to be on your show.

Flashpoints is a radio show on Pacifica Radio hosted by investigative reporter Dennis Bernstein on KPFA 94.1 in Berkeley, Calif. For more information about the show, to listen to or download archived episodes, log on to or Contact Dennis by email at