“The Public Information Office of [the] TDCJ has perfected the art of misinforming the public about the conditions inside all TDCJ facilities … Jason Clark is the chief spokesperson for TDCJ. Clark and his colleague Robert Hurst are professional liars and have even become so bold that they actually conspire with the upper-echelon TDCJ prison administrators in order to block the media’s access to prisoners such as myself who have dedicated their lives to exposing injustice.”
The above words by Keith “Malik” Washington, a writer and activist imprisoned within the Texas Department on Criminal (In)Justice (TDCJ), describes precisely the character and function of the TDCJ’s so-called Office of Public Information (OPI), more aptly called its Ministry of Propaganda.
But like any well-oiled official false propaganda machine, the OPI paints a much more appealing picture of itself. According to the official TDCJ website:
”The [OPI] works with news media throughout the world to tell the TDCJ story, and to assist reporters in covering prison events and understanding the objectives of the agency.”
Anyone with even a surface knowledge of the TDCJ’s “story”; (a good place to start is, Robert Perkinson’s Texas Tough), knows Texas officials want anything but the history and workings of this vile system exposed to the broader public, and to this end, as Malik pointed out, they work to control any media narrative of goings on within the TDCJ and to censor those prisoners who might expose the truth.
What’s interesting and most telling is the same OPI that serves as the TDCJ’s official mouthpiece is the very office that approves and denies media interviews with Texas prisoners. Not surprisingly, the OPI quickly denies media visits with those of us who might expose their lies and pull the mask off the TDCJ.
They did this to Malik when he was set to be visited by a NY reporter, Raven Rakia, on the eve of the September 9, 2016 prison work strikes/stoppage. They even went so far as colluding to have Malik thrown in solitary confinement under false pretexts to justify denying the visit and interview.
But Malik’s experience wasn’t unique.
Here at the William P. Clements Unit, in remote Amarillo, TX, where I’m confined, a number of prisoners have died as a result of abuse and medical neglect. One such prisoner, Alton Rodgers, died in Jan. 2016. In a scheme to conceal their role in his death, prison officials attempted to frame his cellmate, Joe Greggs, for murder. Jason Clark and Robert Hurst were the voice of the TDCJ spreading this hype and lie and reflexively countering anything reported in the media that contradicted their account.
But the truth came out through information unearthed as his family prepared to sue the TDCJ and medical staff for Rodgers’ wrongful death. Records revealed that he likely died from untreated active tuberculosis, that had been left to ravage his body by staff for over a year despite his and his family’s repeated efforts to get him care and their own official documentation of his steady deterioration. It also appeared that his medical records were wiped clean by medical staff for the four months preceding his death. A local reporter Creede Newton, covered the story and in a front page article in the Amarillo Globe News newspaper, announced the filing of the federal lawsuit by Rodgers’ family in early Oct. 2016.
As this was unfolding another Clements unit prisoner, Jason WaIlker and I were writing about these events from our vantage point and there being other prisoners in the unit with active TB who were being left improperly treated and free to spread this highly infectious airborne disease to us all. One such prisoner was housed in our cellblock.
Based upon our efforts Creede Newton was put into contact with us, and applied to the OPI to interview us about Rodgers’ death, the TB situation in the prison and other conditions and matters. He also applied to visit Joe Greggs. Of course he was denied the visit with all of us.
Walker grieved the denied visit as did I. I never received a reply to my grievance. Walker, however received a response to his that simply cited a TDCJ policy ED-02.40, as authorizing denial of media visits:
“when the interview would impair the rehabilitation of the offender, detract from the deterrence of crime, negatively affect a victim or victim’s family, disrupt the safety and the security of the unit, or cause serious operational problems.”
No attempt was made to show how or that any interview with Creede Newton presented any of these dangers because of course it didn’t. The actual point was to deny media access to those of us who might contradict the lies the OPI had been spreading through the media.
The Right to Remain Silent
Not only does the OPI operate in these manners to frustrate mainstream media access to Texas prisoners who can’t he muzzled, but it goes even further to block our access to other outlets they cannot control, through which we might expose them to the public, such as social media and other internet forums. It being recognized that social media is today a major source of information for the public. In fact: “[f]our in 10 U.S. adults now get their news from” Facebook alone.
In April 2016 Jason Clark announced through the media a new TDCJ rule banning Texas prisoners from having matter posted for them on social media; since we do not have direct access to the internet. Clark claimed the rule was created to prevent prisoners from harassing crime victims and their families, profiting off the notoriety of their crimes and carrying on criminal activities. In short it was supposed to protect the public.
I instantly knew the claimed reasons for the rule were bullshit, and the true purpose was to keep us from publicizing conditions in the TDCJ to the public through online forums. I wrote an article pointing this out. I knew and warned this was how the rule would be applied.
Only a few months after writing this I was targeted in this exact manner with the rule. A statement I wrote about a Dec. 21st assault on me by guards while I was handcuffed and locked inside a cell, and taking of my property, was posted online on Dec. 31st (it was posted on a website not a social media forum). On Jan. 5, 2017 I was notified that I was receiving an infraction for the posting under the new social media rule.
Upon being given a copy of the infraction I promptly sent it outside the prison to be circulated amongst various journalists, activists and civil rights folks, and wrote an article about it. On Jan. 19th I was taken for a “hearing” on the infraction and was there found guilty and had punishments imposed of loss of various privileges and time credits towards prison release.
In response to the infraction against me, outside activists contacted Jason Clark. He was asked about the infraction and the harassment of Malik for our efforts to expose abuses in the TDCJ. The OPI promptly lied, claiming no one was punished for any such work and that I specifically never received any infraction for my statement that was posted online. But, the interrogators were ready. The lie was quickly exposed when they showed Clark a copy of the infraction I’d sent out. Suddenly his story changed to claim the infraction was overturned. Another lie. In fact, I’d met with attorneys who are representing the families of two prisoners killed at this prison on Jan. 25th and gave them a copy of the guilty disposition and punishment imposed on the infraction at that time. Those attorneys being Benjamin Haile of Portland, Oregon and Kervyn Altaffer of Dallas Texas.
A PBS reporter, Kamala Kelkar, described the entire exchange in a report that aired on Jan. 29th at 5:23 pm. Here’s her account:
“A Texas Corrections spokesperson denied in an email that the facility punishes anyone based on their advocacy work, while declining to provide any information about Johnson or Washington.
“Texas Corrections also denied that Johnson received an infraction for his article in response to a public records request, but the NewsHour Weekend obtained what appeared to be a copy.
“When shown to Texas Corrections spokesperson Jason Clark, he responded in an email with, ‘The case was overturned,’ and declined to answer any further questions. But Johnson wrote a friend this week countering Clark’s claim – the letter said he was still convicted of the infraction, even though he pointed out his writing was posted to a website, not a social media account.”
This is but an example of the way so called “law enforcement” (lie enforcement) agencies act to monopolize information conveyed to the public and reflexively lie to manipulate and misinform the public concerning their illegal deeds.
But I was not the only prisoner here that was punished in this manner under the new social media rule.
On Jan. 6th Jason Walker also received an infraction, because he wrote a statement about witnessing the incident of abuse against me that occurred on Dec. 21st. His statement was also posted on the same website as mine. The same guard who wrote me the social media infraction also wrote Walker’s. This guard, a sergeant Joshua Carrillo, was involved in the Dec 21st abuse in that he refused several prisoners, including Walker, requested witness forms on which to write their accounts of the abuse of force on me as they observed it. The guard who notified him of the infraction was the same guard, sergeant Arleen Waak, who had me gassed on that day. It was clearly a conspiracy and retaliation.
In fact Carrillo stated at Walker’s hearing that they’d long followed the website on which they knew I have long posted articles about prison abuses; but, although both Walker and I had numerous such articles posted there since the social media rule went into effect, we weren’t charged under the rule until now. And Walker and I were the only prisoners who were given infractions under the rule that were graded as major (or serious) infractions. Other prisoners charged under the rule here were given infractions graded as minor.
Yet Clark claimed no prisoners have been charged under the rule for advocacy work.
Clearly one cannot believe anything coming from Clark or his office, or any TDCJ office for that matter. As Malik correctly observed, they’re professional liars. But they do it so reflexively and casually that just a little investigation of facts easily exposes their fabrications.
Prison officials, cops and government in capitalist society in general, have always played on the public’s tendency to blindly trust anything coming from those in power, trained as we are from birth to not question “authority” while on the other hand they malign prisoners in the public mind as inherently dishonest and untrustworthy. In this way they are able to operate under an umbrella of absolute power and absolute abuse, free of public oversight, concern, or accountability.
This sort of propaganda system was considered a vile evil when the German Nazis used it. It’s an evil of an even greater sort here in Amerika, as those who’ve studied its own propaganda system have observed, because the U.S. propaganda system has accomplished indoctrinating the broad public while effectively convincing them that they are free of indoctrination.
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
 Keith “Malik” Washington: “Journalist Raven Rakia Helps Female Prisoners in Texas Find Their Voice” (2016).
 See Jason Walker, “Medical Staff Passively Watch Potential Tuberculosis Outbreak: Healthcare in Prison Couldn’t be More Indifferent.” http://rashidmod.com/?p=2154, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Germ Warfare: The Deliberate Spread of Deadly Diseases Among Texas Prisoners” http://rashidmod.com/?p=2241 Another Texas Prisoner Dead Another Official coverup – Prison officials killed Alton Rodgers” http://rashidmod.com/?p=2130, “Killing Time: Lawsuit Reveals Officials Killed Prisoner, Framed Cellmate, and Lied to Media” http://rashidmod com/?p=2232
 Walker’s grievance can be obtained through a public records request from the TDCJ. The log# is 2017041020.
 David Pierson and Paresh Dave, “By Getting into the News Business: Facebook opened Itself up to a New Controversy,” Los Angeles Times May 17, 2016.
 Kamala Kelkar, Resistance Builds Against Social Media Ban in Texas Prisons.” PBS NewsHour Weekend, Jan. 29, 2017.
 Alex Carey, Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty Press, (Urbana, Univ. of Ill Press, 1997), pp. 21, 129.