Incarceration Nation

Tropical Storm Imelda Hits USP Beaumont

By Keith “Malik” Washington

As a nationally known prison abolitionist and human rights activist, I am very passionate and dedicated to the causes and the people my comrades and I support.

However, as a journalist I am duty-bound to put aside my subjective feelings and report the objective facts about the things I personally experience and witness.

On September 19, 2019 tropical storm Imelda bombarded the city of Beaumont, Texas and the surrounding areas with a deluge of torrential rain.

Here at USP Beaumont, the federal prison where I am currently housed, we had no electricity whatsoever. That meant—no lights, no air-conditioning. Our toilets could not be flushed. It was really bad.

At the time that the storm reached its height we had been locked in our cells since the evening of September 18th. The federal correctional officer working our housing unit was a bald-headed white man with a thick goatee who we call “Big Heath.” Mr. Heath is a big guy and kind of looks like a biker dude.

Like many officers working that night shift Mr. Heath was trapped like all of us. The non-stop rain had flooded all the highways and local roads leading to and away from USP Beaumont. The federal prison is built on a natural flood plane and not only was the compound flooded but our emergency generator of Building #1 was submerged in water.

“Big Heath” may not win any congeniality contests but he didn’t abandon us! He stayed the course of the Storm.  Mr. Heath worked about 30 hours straight and made sure we had food as well as bottled drinking water. Other than that, we were on our own.

The concrete cells at USP Beaumont were not made to sustain human life without the aid of the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System. As the sun set on September 19, 2019 we lacked adequate oxygen and fresh air in our cell. My cellmate who we call “D” has asthma and the lack of proper ventilation in our cell brought on a vicious asthma attack!

“D” first started coughing profusely. His breathing became labored. As he wheezed and gasped for breath, he staggered to his locker and grabbed his inhalers. It was very dark by then—no lights, no air and the asthma attack persisted. I began to worry and think of how to help my cellmate.

As if on cue, and just in the nick of time, we heard voices and saw flashlight beams. It was two Lieutenants from the day shift, a Lieutenant Franks and Lieutenant Feazicus. They were yelling loudly to all of us who were trapped in these cells saying: “Hey Fellas! We are going to pop open your food tray slots so you can get some fresh air!” Both “D” and I smiled and let out a sigh of relief. Regardless of any of the situations that I have found myself in I always acknowledge that God is always in control!

Lt. Feazicus, Lt. Franks as well as Mr. Heath and other Federal Officers provided us with red plastic HAZMAT bags to defecate in. Yes, you heard me correctly—this was our reality here. Believe it.

These officers also brought large barrels of water so we could manually flush our toilets by pouring water on top of the large amounts of human waste, which had accumulated in our toilets.

This is a short essay, which tells a story of people helping people during a natural disaster. Many people in Amerikan society are brainwashed in such a manner that many despise incarcerated human beings.

Please remember that eighty five percent of all current prisoners in the United States will eventually be released. Are not all human beings deserving to be treated with dignity, respected, and housed in humane settings?

One observation that I must highlight is this: Two years after Hurricane Harvey and the Federal Bureau of Prisons still has not crafted a realistic emergency evacuation plan for USP Beaumont.

Locking human beings down in concrete cages and then sitting on your hands until the natural disaster takes its course, is not an effective plan! As I said before, USP Beaumont is built on top of a flood plane. Tropical storms and hurricanes in this geographical location are only going to get more severe and intense.

End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, September 23, 2019

Write to Malik at:

Keith H. Washington #34481037

USP Beaumont

U.S. Penitentiary

P.O. Box 26030

Beaumont, TX  77720

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