By Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
“Hasan (Shakur) was the hardest worker I ever met. He founded organizations, sat on boards, and planned antiviolence concerts in the community. He put out a newsletter a hell of a lot more regularly than many groups on the outside. He helped numerous organizations with strategic planning. He pushed everyone around him mercilessly. And he did all this from a cell the size of a bathroom, with the held breath of murder’s stench on it.”
-Walidah Imarisha, exerpt from page 110 Angels with Dirty Faces
Hasan Shakur was the first minister of Humyn Rights for the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (prison chapter). The State of Texas murdered Hasan. They took his body from us. Recently I have been feeling Hasan’s spirit looking over my shoulder – nudging me – prodding me to do more. His legacy was to serve the People until Death overtakes us. I WILL uphold that legacy!
It’s Saturday – November 4th – 2017. I am trapped inside a Texas Prison known as the Eastham-Ad-seg unit. Eastham is the oldest maximum security prison in Texas.
The water has been shut completely off for 4 days! We can’t shower, we can’t wash our hands, and worst of all – we can’t flush our toilets which are full of feces, urine, and humyn excrement.
By day #2 the pungent odor of humyn waste pervades the entire building. I could hear my fellow prisoners and comrades screaming and banging: “Bring us some fxxxing water!” Courtesy and decorum has been thrown completely out the window. A female officer named Ms. Scott was supposed to come around in the evening of day #2 with buckets of water to pour inside our toilets. She never showed up!
These buckets of water act as a kind of “courtesy flush” providing a temporary reprieve from the ubiquitous smell of raw sewage in our living area.
By day #3 the smell is unbearable but like many I’m locked in this cell 24 hours a day. The entire unit is on lock-down undergoing a bi-annual “shakedown” which is common at all Texas prisons.
Actually it was a horrible coincidence that a major pipe burst 2 days after the lockdown began. Prison workers have been slaving around the clock attempting to locate and fix the busted pipe(s). I have a birds eye view of their work area. They have been using a jackhammer to break up the concrete on the Ad-seg-rec yard.
In July 2017 Journalist Candice Bernd of Truthout.org interviewed me about the problems we’ve been experiencing here at Eastham concerning Toxic Water. I told Candice that the service lines at Eastham are corroded and have deteriorated badly. What we are experiencing here is infrastructure decay and neglect that could have been prevented.
Around 9am on Day #3 (Friday – November 3rd) prison guards finally arrive on my housing wing in order to provide the much needed “courtesy flush.” I try to watch how the officer pours water into my toilet – I’m worried that fecal matter and urine will splash on my bunk. The cells are very small here and I did have presence of mind to fold my mattress away from the toilet. As I turn my head to try and watch a prison guard named C.O. Galloway tells me to face the wall. I half-heartedly comply – I’m handcuffed, in shower shoes and out-numbered 7 to 1. I’m a big guy but you’ll never hear anyone say: “Washington is stupid.”
When I’m placed back in my cell the smell is worse than before the so-called “courtesy flush”. I do my best to wipe up the feces and urine that has splashed on my floor.
In regards to the provision of clean drinking water, we are at the mercy of the prison guards. Now in the summertime when the heat index reached 110°F-130°F we may have received water 4 times a day, maybe!!
With the water cut completely off they showed up Twice!! There is more beating and screaming throughout the day, it’s not just my prison block, the entire prison population is angry and frustrated.
Prior to the busted pipe incident, the Ad-seg supervisors – Captain Francisco Villegas and Assistant Warden Gregory Vaughn had been walking around regularly harassing prisoners over petty violations. I haven’t seen neither of them this week! I have heard horror stories about the toxic water here and the water being cut-off for weeks at a time. The last bad incident was in 2014. Awarder Reeves was here at Eastham.
Warden Reeves lied to the media and prisoners families claiming Eastham unit was passing out bottled water to prisoners during the 3-4 week shut down of the water supply. I think the Texas Department of criminal justice has a special training course for high level administrators: Professional Lying 101. Most likely the instructor of the course is Chief TDCJ Spokespersyn Jason Clark! Clark has perfected and actually mastered the finer points of fabricating lies and misinforming the public and media about prison conditions.
Day #4 (Saturday – November 4th 2017) We have visitation today and I’m hoping prisoner rights activist Azzura Crispino shows up like she said she would. Journalist Candice Bernd was my first visitor in 6 years!! I suppose many folks think I get plenty of visitors – I don’t. Considering my current circumstances I can’t stress enough the importance of visits in order to smash the deceptions and lies being fed to the public.
At 7am on Day #4, the water is turned back on. The water pressure is very low and that is not a good sign. At 9am I ask the officer working G-Line (where I live) Officer Duke if the water in the sink is safe to drink. He says “I don’t know. I’m not going to drink it.” Around 12pm I ask another TDCJ employee, a white female named Sergeant Martin who has a reputation of being fair and a ‘straight shooter’ in other words she tries to tell the truth which is rare as hell up in here. So I ask about the water coming out the tap in my cell. Sergeant Martin said “They are saying that there is sand in the water and that there is still a broken service line they have to try and find. The main reason they turned the water on is so y’all can flush your toilets but I’m not sure if the water is safe to drink.”
Historically when the water pressure is low, high levels of bacteria are present and the Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality issues Boil Notices! However, we cannot boil our water and the TCEQ has never had a vested interest in our health, safety, or welfare.
I made a vow that if I was ever here at Eastham and they cut the water off for an extended period of time that I would ‘scream’ like hell until my friends and comrades from Fight Toxic Prisons showed up at the front gate with media correspondents and signs which Demand the Closure of Eastham NOW!!
After 4 days with no water you would think that offering us showers would be a top priority but that is not what has happened!
Candice Bernd raised a very interesting point in her recent expose about the toxic water and other inhumane living conditions at Eastham Unit. US Magistrate Judge Keith Giblin is presiding over the Civil lawsuit filed by Eastham prisoner William Wells TDC#[text appears to have been erased]. Judge Giblin doesn’t think the problems at Eastham are serious. In fact, I believe he said the problem we are experiencing were “Routine” – nothing about what is going on here at Eastham is “routine.”
We have had to contend with corroded service lines which continue to leach high levels of lead and copper into our water supply! Many of us have contracted an incurable stomach ailment caused by a bacteria in Eastham’s water known as h. pylori!!
Just a couple of months ago Dr. Owen Murray who oversees TDCJ’s Correctional Managed Health Care Division told a flat out lie to PBS Newshour Journalist Kamala Kelkar when she inquired about the presence of h. pylori in the water supply. In fact, let me quote exactly what Kamala told me: “Dr. Owen Murray, vice president for offender health services told me that they do not test for or diagnose h. pylori and also said that there has not been an issue with stomach problems at Eastham or any other unit.”
The University of Texas Medical Branch and employees working for TDCJ are lying to the media and the public!!
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey we have seen an increase contaminated water supplies in South East Texas.
Prisoners in Texas are considered less than humyn, we are mistreated, abused, dehumanized, marginalized and silenced. We desperately need media exposure and legal aid in order to combat and confront these professional liars and violators of the public’s trust.
Operating a prison system without any meaningful oversight has opened the door for the delivery of inconsistent standards which have led to humyn rights violations.
Please don’t ignore us. We are humyn beings!
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win
All Power to the People.
It is absolutely imperative that I maintain integrity and truthfulness as well as objectivity in my reporting about conditions inside these $lave kamps and gulags.
With that in mind, I report that at 6pm on Saturday November 4th 2017 the prisoners housed in Ad-seg on my line (G-Line) were offered the opportunity to take a shower. I did take a shower! I must also add some more information about the quality of the water here at Eastham. Many people do not realize that it is not just prisoners who are being affected by the contaminated water at Eastham. Recently correctional officers have come to me to report that they have been diagnosed with cryptosporidiosis!! Cryptosporidium comes from Animal-Fecal matter in the water supply!! Eastham raises chickens and hogs! This toxic run-off created by the animals is contaminating the groundwater! TDCJ, UTMB, and TCEQ are engaged in an elaborate cover-up which is harming prisoners and correctional officers. We Must Not be Silent!!
Keith ‘Malik’ Washington is a co-founder and chief spokespersyn for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and he is the 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 can write him directly at:
Keith ‘Comrade Malik’ Washington
2665 Prison Rd. #1
Lovelady, Texas 75851