By Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
Peace and blessings sisters and brothers!
I want to take this time to clarify some important issues regarding the recent dismissal of my lawsuit which relates to the growing of our Beards and the wearing of Kufis and Yarmulke prayer caps inside facilities operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) (reference: Keith Washington v. Bryan Collier, et al. Civil Action No: 6:16-cv-1139-RC-JDL)
First, I want to state for the record that the Albritton Law Firm located in Longview, Texas has exceeded all of my expectations in regards to this lawsuit. We won on many issues and forced policy change which promotes a more inclusive, diverse, and tolerant environment inside Texas prisons.
Allow me to describe this in more detail in order to provide a clearer picture:
#1 With regard to the beard issue, TDCJ now has a policy which permits all prisoners to grow a fist length religious beard upon request. This includes Muslims and Jewish prisoners.
#2 TDCJ no longer requires prisoners to shave our beards on an annual basis! (This policy change was a direct result of this litigation.)
#3 In reference to the Kufi and Yarmulke issue; TDCJ now has a policy which permits all Muslims and Jews to wear religious headgear throughout all TDCJ facilities. However, the Attorney General of Texas and TDCJ interjected some deceptive language!! The only Kufi and Yarmulke we can wear must be purchased from the prison commissary!! I have a serious problem with this new policy and so should you. Here’s why: 70% of the prisoners housed in facilities operated by TDCJ are indigent – they have no money and TDCJ refuses to pay or compensate
prisoners for the labor they perform.
So the question presents itself: “If we have no money, how can we purchase a Kufi or Yarmulke and enjoy the Tenets of our faith?”
Sisters and brothers, TDCJ and the state of Texas cannot craft a policy which discriminates against prisoners who are indigent or have no money!! Moreover, there are hundreds if not thousands of Muslim and Jewish prisoners in Texas who have received approved Kufis and Yarmulkes for free (no charge) from non-profit religious organizations. We have these items in our possession but Texas in trying to monetize our right to practice our faith and extorting our family members!
The new policy on religious headgear is blatantly discriminatory and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. We also may have a 1st Amendment – Free Exercise Clause Violation here. This specific issue was outside the scope of Albritton’s representation of me in this particular civil lawsuit. With that said, other prisoners are stepping up to the plate and challenging this policy as we speak! TDCJ and the Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton continue to craft policies which smack of antisemitism, islamophobia, and xenophobic tendencies.
Albritton Law Firm can’t do all the fighting alone. We desperately need help from Muslim and Jewish lawyers from organizations such as CAIR, the ACLU, the ADL. I am requesting that there be interfaith cooperation on this subject. We need your help.
Dare to struggle, Dare to win, All Power to the People!
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