Readers are urged to share this story widely and write to Rashid right away; mail equals support, and the more he gets, the safer he’ll be: Kevin Johnson, O-158039, RMC, P.O. Box 628, Lake Butler FL 32054
by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson
Packed off to Florida
Following Texas prison officials planting a weapon in my cell on March 26, 2017, then stealing most of my personal property on April 6, 2017, in an ongoing pattern of retaliation for and attempts to repress my writing and involvement in litigation exposing and challenging abuses in Texas prisons, including their killing prisoners, I was unceremoniously packed off to the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) on June 22, 2017.
This transfer came as outside protests mounted against the abuses, and Texas officials became more and more entangled in a growing web of their own lies invented in their efforts to cover up and deny their reprisals against me, and also while a contempt investigation was imminent upon a motion I filed in a federal lawsuit brought by relatives of one of the prisoners they’d killed – a killing I’d witnessed and publicized.
Florida, notorious for its own extremely abusive prisons, readily signed on to take up Texas’s slack. And being an openly corrupt system unaccustomed to concealing its dirt, FDC officials shot straight from the hip in expressing and carrying on efforts to repress and act out reprisals for my exposing and challenging prison abuses.
The Welcoming Committee
Following a four-hour flight from Texas to Florida, I was driven in a sweltering prison van from an airport just outside Jacksonville, Florida, to the FDC’s Reception and Medical Center (RMC) in Lake Butler, Florida. I was forced to leave most all my personal property behind in Texas.
Upon reaching RMC, I was brought from the van, manacled hand and foot into an enclosed vehicle port, where I was met by a mob of white guards of all ranks. I was ordered to stand in a pair of painted yellow footprints on a concrete platform as the guards crowded around me.
I was ordered to stand in a pair of painted yellow footprints on a concrete platform as the guards crowded around me. “This is Florida, and we’ll beat your ass! We’ll kill you!” said the spokesman.
Their “chosen” spokesman, a tall goofy guard, R. Knight, stepped forward and launched into a speech consisting of threats and insults. He emphasized that I was “not in Virginia or wherever else” I’d been. That “this is Florida, and we’ll beat your ass! We’ll kill you!” He assured my “Black ass” that my tendency to protest “won’t be tolerated here.”
He went on and on, like an overseer explaining the plantation’s code of decorum and the “place” to a newly arrived Black slave. The analogy is apt. “You will answer us only as ‘no sir’ and ‘yes sir,’ ‘no ma’am’ and ‘yes ma’am.’ You forget this and we’ll kick your fucking teeth out,” he barked.
I was then taken through the various stages of being “processed” in: fingerprinted, examined and questioned by medical staff etc. Knight took possession of my property and stole a number of documents and all my writing supplies (five writing tablets, four ink pens, 19 envelopes, stamps), all my hygiene supplies (deodorant, shampoo, two bars of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers) and so on.
All these items that I brought with me from Texas were inventoried and logged by Texas officials. Knight logged and inventoried me as receiving from him only my watch, some legal papers, 15 envelopes and my eyeglasses.
Next, I was taken into an office and sat before a Sgt. L. Colon, RMC’s “gang (or STG, Security Threat Group) investigator.” He proceeded in the same hostile terms. He explained that he knew all about me and his displeasure with my published articles about prison abuses, and he assured that FDC would put an end to it. He admitted his purpose was to put an STG profile on me, refer it to FDC’s central office in Tallahassee to be upheld, and I would then be put on STG file, which in turn would be used to stop my writings.
He proceeded to ask about me being a “Black Panther leader” and, using a thoroughly amateur interrogation method, attempted to have me characterize myself and my party as a gang. When his efforts failed, he charged me with being a “bullshitter.” I told him only that I am a member of a constitutionally protected, non-violent communist party and whatever false stigma he wanted to try and invent against me and us was typical of fascist governments and we’d address it publicly and in court. Our “interview” was terminated.
Another nurse did my medical history check, remarking that my blood pressure reading was extremely high, 145/103. Although she had all my medications sitting there in front of her, and I told her I had not received my dose that day, she refused to provide them and did nothing.
Upon arriving in Florida, I had not received my hypertension medications since the prior morning. The sweltering heat was aggravating my condition. During the intake process a routine blood pressure check was done and my reading was around 145/103. The nurse who did the reading passed me on to another nurse who did my medical history check, remarking that my reading was extremely high. Although she had all my medications sitting there in front of her, and I told her I had not received my dose that day, she refused to provide them and did nothing.
Following completing the intake process, I was walked a substantial distance across the prison yard carrying my bag of property in handcuffs and the sweltering midday heat, dizzy from my elevated blood pressure.
I was led to K-building, the solitary confinement unit, where I was put into a cell, K-3-102, which had no bunk in it and had a commode that had to be flushed by guards from outside the cell – often they would not flush it when it needed to be and I asked them to. The commode had otherwise been obviously left unflushed for long periods, because inside the bowl was and is a thick, yellowed layer of calcium and waste residue and it reeked of fermented urine and feces.
Just before I entered the cell, it was wet-mopped, not to sanitize it, but to cover the entire floor with water that would not, and did not, dry for over a day afterward due to the extreme humidity and lack of air circulation in the cells. There is no air conditioning in the cell blocks and, unlike in Texas, FDC prisoners may not have in-cell fans.
My cell was infested with ants which would find their way into my bed as I slept on the floor. I received numerous bites from them and I believe also roaches that frequently crawled into the cell. At night, in the pitch black cells – and even when the lights were on – mice and huge, two-inch-long cockroaches, along with the “regular” smaller breed of roaches, ran into and explored the cell.
My cell was infested with ants which would find their way into my bed as I slept on the floor. I received numerous bites from them. At night, even when the lights were on, mice and huge, two-inch-long cockroaches, along with the “regular” smaller breed of roaches, ran into and explored the cell.
The K-building lieutenant, Jason Livingston, posted a special note outside my cell door stating I was on a heightened security status, that I and the cell were to be specially searched any time I exited or entered the cell, that I was to be specially restrained and the ranking guards had to accompany me to and from any destination outside the cell. The pretense was that I was an extreme physical threat.
I was denied my hypertension medications until I briefly fell unconscious on the evening of June 24, 2017.
Following sending word out to an attorney and others about my conditions and experiences, who apparently raised complaints on my behalf, I was moved to a “regular” cell, K-1-204, on June 30, 2017, with a bunk and a commode I can flush. I was repeatedly confronted by various guards who’ve commented that I’m no dangerous person and they don’t understand why I’ve been profiled or treated as though I am.
A week later FDC officials would come clean, exposing on the record their actual motives for my mistreatment, and “special” security status.
Solitary confinement for publicizing abuses
My readers and others will recall when, in January 2017, I was given a disciplinary infraction by Texas officials for a statement I wrote about suffering their abuses that was published online. When confronted about such retaliatory acts by a PBS reporter, Ms. Kamala Kelkar, TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark initially lied, denying that I received any such infractions, until Ms. Kelkar emailed him a copy of the charge I’d received. He then suddenly changed his story, lying yet again to claim the infraction had been overturned, then declined to answer any further questions.[i]
Clark knew enough to deny and try to cover up such acts of retaliation against a prisoner exercising his right to freedom of speech. Florida officials, however, have come right out admitting and exposing such actions.[ii]
On July 6, 2017, I was confronted by RMC classification officer Jeremy Brown, who notified me that I am to be formally reviewed for placement on Close Management I status, which is the FDC’s name for solitary confinement. The reason he gave for this review was the exact STG pretext Sgt. L. Colon told me on my first day was going to be created to justify suppressing my writings about prison abuses.
Brown served me written notification stating my CMI review was based upon my alleged “documented leadership in a Security Threat Group that is certified by the Threat Assessment Review Committee in Central Office.” Remember, this is the very same illegal basis upon which California prison officials were indefinitely throwing prisoners in solitary confinement which prompted three historic mass prisoner hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 and was abolished upon the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the practice in 2015.
My assignment to solitary confinement is for “documented leadership in a Security Threat Group” … This is the very same illegal basis upon which California prison officials were indefinitely throwing prisoners in solitary confinement which prompted three historic mass prisoner hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 and was abolished upon the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the practice in 2015.
But FDC officials went much further in supporting “comments” to state their true motives for devising to put me in solitary and for my mistreatment up to that point.
As Colon had threatened, an STG label was invented against the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, a party about which Colon admitted he and the FDC had no prior knowledge. The reason the party was designated an STG and gang was because (get this!) I’d written articles while in Oregon and Texas prison systems that were published online about abuses in the prisons which generated concern and perfectly legal protests from the public, which was characterized as my gang following that “caused disruption in the orderly operations” of the prisons.
The notice went on to admit, as I’ve long contended in my writings, that these writings are the actual reason I’ve been transferred from state to state – illegal retaliatory transfers – which was characterized as STG activities.
Passing mention was made that I’d received disciplinary infractions while in Oregon and Texas, but no attempt was made to show those infractions bore any connection to my party affiliation. In fact, those who have followed my writings and the series of official reprisals – which is now being admitted by FDC officials – know those infractions were fabricated retaliations, many of which I was prevented from contesting.
So, according to FDC officials, I am a confirmed gang leader because I publicize prison abuses through articles that are posted online and my gang members and followers are members of the public who read my articles and make complaints and inquiries of officials, which acts are characterized as presenting disruptions to prison operations – or in other words throwing a monkey wrench in their business-as-usual abuses.
According to FDC officials, I am a confirmed gang leader because I publicize prison abuses through articles that are posted online and my gang members and followers are members of the public who read my articles and make complaints and inquiries of officials, which acts are characterized as presenting disruptions to prison operations.
For this I am to be thrown into solitary, which means any future posting and publishing of writings by me about prison abuses will be characterized as my continuing to engage in STG or gang activities, and any legal public protests as my gang members threatening prison security.
I didn’t make this up, it’s all in writing; read it HERE (scroll down to “SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS”). This is where taxpayers’ monies are going in financing these ubiquitous gang busting units. And should you protest, you will be labelled a gangster yourself. I won’t belabor the point.
Dare to struggle, Dare to win!
All Power to the People!
[i] Kamala Kelkar, “Resistence Builds Against Social Media Ban in Texas Prisons,” PBS NewsHour Weekend, Jan. 29, 2017, 5:23 p.m. EST
[ii] “The First Amendment forbids prison officials from retaliating against prisoners for exercising the right of free speech,” Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1248 (2003)
Send our brother some love and light – and share this urgent story widely. The more people who write to him now, the safer he’ll be: Kevin Johnson, O-158039, RMC, 7765 S. Cr. 231, P.O. Box 628, Lake Butler FL 32054.
Rashid is Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter); he is a Virginia prisoner organizer and revolutionary communist. As a result of his organizing he has been repeatedly transferred out of state, under a setup called the “Interstate Compact” which is used to remove rebellious prisoners and exile them to locations where they have no friends, support, etc. For the past four years Rashid has been held in Texas, where he has been beaten, threatened, had his property confiscated, been set up on bogus infractions, and more — nonetheless, he used his time there to forge connections with other prisoners and to write a series of powerful exposés about violence, medical neglect, abuse, and murder in the Texas prison system.
He has also been targeted because of analysis and belief organizing across boundaries of race and class.