Texas prisoner, Rashid Johnson, framed and punished for exposing torture
Note: The information in this article is from an article entitled “Planted Weapons and Stolen Property: Mounting Retribution for Continued Exposures of Abuses in Texas Prisons (2017)” by Kevin Rashid Johnson.1
Kevin Rashid Johnson, a Texas prisoner, author, and artist whose work we have been regularly publishing in Socialist Viewpoint has been framed on a weapons charge at the Clement Unit prison where he has been serving a lengthy sentence originating in Virginia. The title of his most recent article, “Planted Weapons and Stolen Property: Mounting Retribution for Continued Exposures of Abuses in Texas Prisons (2017),” is a succinct summary of what happened and why.
Rashid has been exposing the torture and murder of Texas prisoners by the sadistic guards and racist prison authorities, to public media outlets in Texas and nationally, and those he has accused announced they would seek revenge, and they have—this time with the serious charge of secreting a dangerous weapon in his cell. Prisoner witnesses to the frame up have written statements backing up what Rashid has written about this frame up.
The prison authorities have unleashed a series of punishments involving the taking of nearly all of Rashid’s property, including his legal materials. These included his Prisoners Self Help Litigation Manual, rules and statutes from Virginia and Oregon (where he was previously incarcerated); correspondence with attorneys involving pending cases of theirs in which Rashid is a witness; addresses, emails, and phone numbers of supporters, editors and publishers; pending court files; legal documents; witness statements and affidavits; discovery materials; medical files related to medical claims and injuries sustained; and much more, all related to active, pending, and anticipated litigation—especially concerning illegal abuses—and disciplinary files, and all his mail. His art supplies and typewriter have also been taken.
Rashid has been writing and producing art for many years at all the different prisons where he was caged. His transfers from Virginia, to Oregon, then to Texas were all related to his writings and art that exposed violations of basic human rights and provoked storms of protest from human rights supporters who learned about these abuses from his work.
The recent chronology includes: the murder of Alton Rodgers and the lies told to explain Mr. Rodgers death by ranking Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials. (See “Another Texas Prisoner Dead,” By Kevin “Rashid” Johnson in the, September/October issue of Socialist Viewpoint, Volume 16, Number 5.) In writing about how the prison guards only talked to media about Mr. Rodgers’ murder when guaranteed anonymity, Rashid explained: “This is how real official corruption and abuse is in U.S. prisons. And if employees fear retribution for exposing what really goes on in these places, you can just imagine what sorts of mistreatments face prisoners who dare to speak out.” What has happened to Rashid shows this mistreatment in a stark way.
Threats carried out
In early December 2016, Rashid was threatened by ranking officials to have his property taken in revenge for exposing the abuses and killings of prisoners by Texas officials. Then, on December 21, 2016, the same officials took a large amount of his property and sprayed him with gas while he stood handcuffed from behind and locked inside a cell. He was left for several days with gas-contaminated laundry, bedding, and cell surfaces in violation of law and policy. (See “Bound and Gassed,” Socialist Viewpoint January/February 2017, Volume 17, Number 1.)
These abuses were carried out by captain Patricia Flowers, lieutenant Crystal Turner, guard Andrew Leonard, and sergeant Arleen Waak. All of these officials were later involved in subsequent acts of revenge after Rashid reported on these abuses. Protests by Rashid’s supporters led to the return of his property on January 25, 2017, but he also received a retaliatory discipline infraction for having written about the December 21st abuses, and its posting online by supporters. The day after his property was returned he was compelled to dispose of much of it as a condition for retaining some of it. His lines of communication with publishers, media correspondents, and editors were illegally severed to obstruct his writings.
A PBS journalist, Kamala Kelkar, questioned Texas prison administrators about the disciplinary measures against Rashid and other TDCJ prisoners for exposing abuses. They denied having charged Rashid with infractions, but changed their story when she presented a copy of the infraction, but they continued to lie, claiming it had been overturned and declined any further comment. (See Kamala Kelkar, “Resistance Builds Against Social Media Ban in Texas Prisons,” PBS News Hour, January 29, 2017)
He received five more degrading infractions, but was not allowed to attend the hearings, which resulted in automatic guilty convictions.
After Ms. Kelkar’s article was published and there was much public protest, all six infractions were overturned and the conviction records erased. But when Rashid persisted in writing about abuses, four of the most disparaging cases were refiled and he was re-convicted, again denied the right to be present at the hearings and was not even notified that he faced charges and that hearings were being held.
Following these events Rashid wrote, “The Abuse Goes On,” about the corrupting influences of the prison environment on employees, citing the conduct of several ranking Clements Unit guards as examples, including the ones responsible for the gassing and confiscation of his property in December. (See “The Abuse Goes On: The Corrupting Dynamics of Power in A Texas Prison,” (2017) available at www.rashidmod.com.) In response, the wheels of retribution were set in motion.
On March 25, 2017, officials threatened that Rashid would be targeted again. And, after denying him outside exercise for three months, on March 26th the guards took him outside. While he was outside, the sergeant and guard who participated in taking his property on December 21st, staged a cell search as other officials and guards stood outside watching and blocking the view of a surveillance camera positioned in front of the cell.
When Rashid returned, he was told that a shank was found in his cell. He responded that it was obviously planted by them.
After that, Rashid learned from other prisoners that a weapon had been recovered from another prisoner, but not reported. This happened before a weapon was “found” in Rashid’s cell. How convenient! Several guards admitted knowing that the “found” weapon was the same one that had been taken from another prisoner.
On that same day guards took Rashid to a holding cell and confiscated nearly all of his property—most of it was legal materials. Besides the art supplies, were manuscripts of several books Rashid is currently working on including an autobiography, articles, and a newsletter called Main Line.
On April 7th, Rashid attended the disciplinary hearing on the weapon charge illegally presided over by Captain Patricia Flowers, but was kicked out of the hearing when he protested the hearing officer’s refusal to allow him to call witnesses. Captain Flowers is the same person who taunted Rashid while he was in the holding cell. She is the same person who threatened to take Rashid’s property in December, and then took them and set him up to be gassed. Following the hearing Rashid was placed in a small holding cell for over three hours and more property was taken from his cell, including his typewriter, all books (including law books), eating utensils, legal supplies like carbon paper, ink pens, and more, and he was returned to an essentially bare cell.
While in the holding cell, he was subjected to taunting by a guard: “Are you still in there? I told you I’d get you. I’ve got all your shit now! You won’t be doing much writing and suing for awhile!”
Through all of this, Rashid has stood firm on his commitment to continue shining a light into the dark corridors of these corrupt and oppressive institutions where multitudes suffer as bad and even worse than he. These prisoners need help and a voice to the outside. Rashid’s expressed hope is to “render them a service that will ultimately see an end to this vengeful criminal injustice.”
Writings and art by Rashid can be seen at www.rashidmod.com
To write to Rashid:
Kevin Johnson #1859887
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, TX 79107