Why independent oversight is needed right now inside Texas prisons!
Peace & Blessings, Sisters & Brothers!
I have recently collaborated with Twitch of Central Texas ABC, Prison Abolitionist Annabelle Parker in the the Netherlands, and Sloan Rucker, a free-world member of the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, in order to release documents, reports, and essays, as well as legal materials which shed light on many instances of abuse, mistreatment, and the outright murder of prisoners housed in facilities operated by the Texas Department of Criminal “Justice” (sic!).
I have actually been beating this “drum” for years, but it wasn't until 2018, when mainstream media journalist Keri Blakinger of the Houston Chronicle began exposing ongoing acts of corruption and abuse within the prison agency that the public at large began calling for an Independent Oversight Committee to monitor and conduct investigations.
What has happened in the State of Texas is that families and friends who have loved ones housed inside Texas prisons have lost confidence in this unethical agency's ability to “police itself”.
The TDCJ – Office of the Inspector General is actually supposed to investigate ALL criminal activity which takes places within the confines of these correctional facilities. However, if any of you were able to read the shocking expose by Jason Renard Walker in the November 2018 edition of the San Francisco Bay View, The Anatomy of Abusive Prison Guards, you will clearly see that the OIG is not concerned about the ongoing abuse of any prisoner at any facility.
What we have seen time and time again is that the Office of the Inspector General, along with the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, has been complicit in multiple acts of heinous abuse, and many instances of moral turpitude perpetrated by TDCJ employees.
Basically, the OIG helps provide the “mortar and cement” which has helped build and maintain the “Grey Wall of Silence” inside Texas prisons. For all of you who do not know, TDCJ prison guards' uniforms are patterned after Confederate army soldiers' uniforms – fact! When Norris “Fajr” Hicks and I came up with the slogan: “End Prison Slavery in Texas”, we were confronting every single aspect of the Prison Slavery model that Texas has perfected. The economic exploitation of free prison laborers, the dehumanization and abuse of their charges, and the sexual violence that was so very pervasive and prevalent during what conscious sisters and brothers like me call the Maafa. Yes! The Maafa is the disaster. It wasn't no slave trade! Through coercion and violence, these White Supremacists ripped us from our land and deposited us in this godforsaken place in order to build it up! So it has been said many times that Texas prisoners actually help manufacture and maintain the shackles and chains that bind us. But y'all don't hear me. Or do you?
We are not crying out for Independent Oversight based on some trivial concerns – oh no! There has been a long sordid history of abuse and criminal behavior on the part of “the law.”
For instance, in 2014 through 2015, I witnessed the abuse and mistreatment of incarcerated veterans. Veterans from numerous different branches of the service were housed at the Ramsey I Unit, located in Rosharon, Texas. The Major of Security at the time was Juan Jackson, and he had established a pattern of conduct, in which he would attempt to mistreat and degrade infirm and elderly incarcerated veterans at the Ramsey I Unit.
When I contacted Texas journalists and legislators, I only received two responses. One was from former Texas Representative Sylvester Turner. Sylvester Turner, and Alison Brock, who was his chief of staff at the time, took a personal interest in my case. Sylvester Turner is now the Mayor of Houston, and he is sorely missed by Texas prisoners and free-world prisoner advocates, because he actually believed in giving prisoners in Texas a second chance at success.
The only other response I received from from then-First Lady Michelle Obama! Yeah, that's right, Sister Michelle contacted an Attorney with the Department of Justice, a trial Attorney by the name of Brian Buehler. At the time I was told that if I had any more information about the injustices that I had written the First Lady about, that I should contact his office. Well, as you know, things have changed dramatically in Amerika since 2015! Former U.S. Attorney General Sessions certainly give a damn about incarcerated people, and that goes for incarcerated veterans too! Now the new Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is 100% Trump's man! Believe that, folks!
Another serious issues I had raised in my letter to Michelle Obama, which was addressed in the letter sent to me by Department of Justice Trial Attorney Brian Buehler, was the many mysterious deaths at the Bill Clements High Security Unit, located in Amarillo, Texas. Many of these deaths were profiled and described in articles and essays written by my comrade and friend Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. Rashid had intimate first-hand knowledge regarded these deaths, because he was housed at this Death Kamp in North Texas.
Through the years, I have watched former OIG Chiefs Michael Moriarty and Bruce Toney, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, former Attorney General Ken Paxton, and numerous Texas Legislators and “so-called” reputable journalists like the infamous Mike Ward of the Houston Chronicle and Austin American Statesman totally ignore the abuse and lost lives of Texas prisoners.
TDCJ sent me here to the McConnell Ad-Seg Unit in order to silence my voice, but I am just getting warmed up, and now I'm teaming up with the new editor of the San Francisco Bay View, Amani Sawari, and we are prepared to turn things ALL THE WAY UP!
Remarkably, even mainstream activists like Jennifer Erschabek of the Texas Inmate Families Association have begun to lift their voices and speak truth to power in order to demand an Independent Oversight Committee – now!
As we head into the next Legislative Session in Texas, which begins in January 2019, the momentum is building for change.
If we compare the three “hottest” pieces of criminal justice legislation during this session, I would have to say that the Independent Oversight Committee is #1, then I see allocation of funds for Air Conditioning as #2, and the Earned Time Credit Bill as #3. However, I can guarantee that the last thing in the world that these corrupt and unethical prisoncrats in TDCJ want is a committee of humyn beings who have no ties to this unscrupulous agency, that has the authority to come inside these facilities and conduct independent investigations and then provide evidence to Special Prosecutors. I certainly do not see Texas Senator John Whitmire or Texas Representative James White endorsing any such oversight committee.
Nevertheless, they may not have any choice in the matter! I don't think many people realize how morally bankrupt the Agency has become. Allow me to share a shocking untold story of my experience on Eastham Unit, in Lovelady, Texas.
In April 2018, a friend and comrade in North Carolina helped me release an essay entitled “#MeToo Stories from Inside Texas Prisons.” I didn't really expound at the time what actually prompted me to write such an essay. What happened is that while I was housed at the Eastham Unit, numerous female TDCJ officers began to complain to me about sexual harassment coming from ranking employees at the unit. Many of these wimmin were very hardworking and proud humyn beings that had families to raise and could not afford to lose their jobs. What I suggested was that they should make anonymous tips to a journalist I knew at the Houston Chronicle. The ranking officers who were named were: Lieutenant Octavio Rodriquez, Lieutenant Ryan Thorp, and Major Blake Norman. Just so that you know, Major Blake Norman was demoted from Major to Sergeant and transferred! Lt. Octavio Rodriquez was also demoted and transferred, and last I heard Lt. Ryan Thorp was still up to his dirty tricks! But I have a question: why don't female TDCJ employees feel comfortable using the agency's own “investigative apparatus”? I'll tell you why, because it is not effective and the OIG has lost the confidence of everyone!
I have done my part and suffered horribly for speaking out – it is now time for the families and friends who have loved ones incarcerated inside Texas prisons to do their part. We shouldn't have to fight to get an apparatus in places which truly provides transparency and accountability for an agency that taxpayers are funding!
In 2019 we shall see if the “people's will” is listened to by the Texas Legislators who have helped use your tax dollars to erect and establish this inhumane and torturous environment right under our nose! Lastly, as we observe this debacle unfolding down here on the Texas border, I will say these last two things:
No-one is illegal on stolen land!
I don't believe in borders – I cross them!
Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!
Keith “Malik” Washington is a co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter. Malik has been instrumental in calling for the abolition of legalized slavery in Amerika and is very active in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. You can view his work at comrademalik.com or you write him at Keith H. Washington, 1487958, McConnell Unit, 3001 S. Emily Drive, Beeville, TX 78102.
UPDATE: Sisters and Brothers!! It is note-worthy for me to mention that two Texas legislators, Representative Jarvis Johnson and Senator Borris Miles have pre-filed similar Bills which propose that the TDCJ-Ombudsman Office be placed under the supervision or purview of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. For your information, the respective Bills are HB-363 and SB-188. I am in the process of analyzing the actual language of the proposed Legislation. What I am concerned about is the Agency or Office will still be staffed by TDCJ-friendly employees who have totally embraced the strategy of Cronyism, Nepotism, and Obstruction of Justice tactics when it comes to the complaints filed on our behalf by Family and Friends!! Nothing is actually changing except the Building the Office will be in!! When WE as an Activist Community in Texas first called for an INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, we envisioned a Committee staffed with individuals with no historical ties to this overtly bigoted and prejudicial Prison Agency!! My gut feeling is bad but I want more of our Community to take a look at what is being proposed! Jarvis Johnson and Borris Miles really have established themselves as Legislators who do not have a vested interest in the success of all Texas Citizens!!
However, for years the Prison Activists in Texas, along with the Media, and the Civil Rights Attorneys have not given a damn about prisoners like me down here struggling against this corrupt system. I will not just go along to get along!!—period. But then again, like my friend Jennifer Erschabek would say: “IT AIN’T PERFECT MALIK BUT IT IS A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION!” So, we shall see how things go.
For right now—I am going to support these BILLS 100%. I will say this to all supporters of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter: “You cannot have a Political Party if you do not get involved in the PROCESS!!” Today I officially get involved in the PROCESS whether the Main-Stream Folks acknowledge me or not—they’ll listen to us one way or another! ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE! Solidarity Forever! Malik