It’s Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. I am trapped inside a Texas prison known as the Eastham Ad-Seg Unit. Eastham is the oldest maximum security prison in Texas. The water has been shut completely off for four days! We can’t shower, we can’t wash our hands, and worst of all – we can’t flush our toilets, which are full of human excrement. By Day 2, the pungent odor of human waste pervades the entire building.
In Texas, prisoner lives don’t matter, and nothing illustrates this point better than the decision by the federal government to abandon over 2,000 prisoners at the federal prison complex in Beaumont during Hurricane Harvey. My friend, journalist Candice Bernd of Truth-Out, wrote a heart-wrenching piece which detailed the horrendous living conditions prisoners were forced to contend with during and in the aftermath of Harvey.
The North American African’s visceral response to the Lone Star State, Texas, is complex, yet not complicated. If ever a geography was seeped in policies that inhibit the freedoms of Black and, more recently, Brown people, Texas is that state or should we say country? Like California, another country with a GNP reach beyond these shores means that what happens in Houston impacts the nation, whether citizens realize this or not. Hurricanes are not unusual to the region, yet Hurricane Harvey dumped more water on the region than expected and caused much displacement and damage.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is denying Texas prisoners the ability to send or receive mail in light of Tropical Storm Harvey. Although Houston is a major mail hub for Texas, this does not explain why prisoners in areas of the state unaffected by the flooding – for example, Clements Unit in Amarillo – would be denied access to mail. In a press release, TDCJ stated that five Texas prisons have been evacuated.
In an amazing and quite shocking turn of events, federal Judge Keith P. Ellison from the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, has ORDERED the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to install air conditioning at the Wallace Pack Unit, located in Navasota, Texas. The prison agency has 180 days to comply. Most of this ongoing struggle for human rights has been published right here in the San Francisco Bay View, but please allow me to refresh your memory.
As was once said to me by a fellow Muslim brother when I embraced Islam, “If you can take that same intensity that was applied to gangbanging and apply it to Islam, you will become a great Muslim.” Well, it’s the same for this fight we have on our hands induced by this modern day slavery in Texas. NOW, people, is the time to break these chains. We as a people who are aware must spread the word to the unaware and awaken society on what’s taking place in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Many courts have held that a serious medical need is “one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity of a doctor’s attention.” See Brown v. Johnson, 387 F.3d 516, 522 (7th Circuit, 2008). Being denied medical care at the Clements Unit Maximum Security Prison in remote Amarillo, Texas, is so common that the average prisoner here can expect to be denied some form of medical care during his stay.
Minister Nyle Fort starts us off with a strong quote. I am going to expand his analysis by highlighting the historical fact that slavery in the United States was and is still directly tied to capitalism! So in order for us to combat and abolish legalized slavery in Amerika we must focus our attention on dismantling the system which has allowed this institution of modern prison slavery to proliferate.
The order to ban entry to the U.S. by travelers from numerous majority-Muslim countries is subjecting not only Muslims coming here but also those already here to a reinvigorated campaign of Islamophobia. Now the state of Texas and its prison agency, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, is attempting to use a statement I made in 2012 as justification to deny me my religious right to grow a fist-length beard and wear my kuffi prayer cap throughout any TDCJ facility.
Censorship of the Bay View around the country appears to have become a habit, a way to kill the paper once and for all. We have physical evidence now that the major media can report on prison strikes and not be censored. If you are a lawyer, read these three protests from prisoners who want and need and deserve their papers and help if you can. If you are a prisoner who hasn’t received your paper, do some brainstorming with your comrades. Make a way out of no way – and tell us when you succeed.
The United States of America is presently home to 2 million active slaves and approximately 6 million documented as slaves for future use. You ask how the land of the free can be home to some 8 million slaves and why Americans know nothing about it? The answer is that Congress enacted the 13th Amendment in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It abolished slavery throughout the country but it allows all states to enslave all persons convicted of a crime.
I am writing seeking justice, help and assistance, fighting the cause for women in Texas prisons. I suffer daily for the wrongs I have or have not committed along with other women who don’t deserve “double jeopardy” punishment and abuse. Just being in prison is punishment enough. We need help! The slavery of prison must end. Women in prison face abuse by the hands of those who are supposed to screen us for security, not inflict harm.
The Texas Board of Criminal Justice, which oversees Texas Correctional Industries, the prison industry division within the state’s Department of Criminal Justice, has authority over how much compensation inmates working for the state receive for their labor. Currently, inmates working for TCI are not paid for the work done while serving their time; the only inmates who are paid anything are the small fraction who are employed by TCI’s private sector prison industries program.
I spend countless hours reading and scanning alternative newspapers, journals and magazines that provide a platform for prisoners who write. I don’t see many revolutionary essays or articles being written by female Texas prisoners. I know you all can’t be content with the conditions you are being housed under, and I know for a fact you are not being given the dignity and respect you deserve. So I must ask: “Why aren’t we hearing from you?”
In Texas we know that we are being exploited, mistreated, degraded and abused. Many prisoners in Texas are content with the modern day slave plantation system, which is managed and operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. However, many prisoners are not content; in fact they are frustrated and angry. The strategies utilized by prisoners in other states that have similar conditions to Texas don’t necessarily apply here.
In the September 2015 edition of Prison Legal News, Panagioti Tsolkas of the newly formed Prison Ecology Project wrote a scathing article that shed light on a serious problem at a prison located in Navasota, Texas. Dangerous levels of arsenic have been found at the Wallace Pack Unit. “How could the American Correctional Association continue to give Wallace Pack Unit passing marks and rave reviews if the drinking water is contaminated with poison?”
Greetings, brothers and sisters. This year in Texas we have seen a marked increase in the exposure of heinous acts of abuse and mistreatment perpetrated by state employees who work for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Behind the scenes, the prisoners responsible for this massive movement to combat injustice have become victims of retaliation and harassment at the hands of prison officials and, elected state government officials.
Comrades, after nearly two years of 23-hour lockdown in Ad-Seg here in Texas, I have recently been released to general population. I spent close to one year on one of the most notoriously abusive high security units in Texas, the Estelle High Security Unit located in Huntsville. Unknown to the fascist oppressors who held me captive on Estelle, I kept meticulous records of the abuse and mistreatment I witnessed and fell victim to.
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