Prison conditions

Letter citing obstruction of programming, and denial of access to courts

Greetings ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Keith “Malik” Washington, I am a fairly well known journalist, activist, and jailhouse lawyer.  I am currently serving a 24-month federal sentence which was imposed upon me for leaving a half-way house in 2007.  I am serving my sentence at the United States Penitentiary located in Pollock, Louisiana.

I have approximately 15 to 17 months left on my federal sentence. I have recently discovered some systemic problems which exist within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  These current problems obstruct and prohibit thousands of prisoners from accessing or participating in rehabilitation, education, or substance abuse treatment programs.

This obstruction and denial of access to programming is diametrically opposed to the language contained within the First Step Act of 2018. However, blocking or disrupting access to programming pales in comparison to the overt and blatant practice I’ve encountered whereby federal BOP employees purposely deny federal prisoners access to the courts. This is especially pronounced at the federal USPs, like the one I am currently housed in.

In light of recent Supreme Court rulings such as: U.S. vs Davis, U.S. vs Johnson, as well as Rehaif vs. U.S., we now have literally thousands of federal prisoners attempting to file writs of habeas corpus via §2255 as well as §2241 motions in order to persuade U.S. District Courts to vacate, correct, or set aside federal sentences which have been deemed illegal by these recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Federal prison administrators realize that these ongoing lockdowns limit access to law library materials and basically place an obstacle to freedom. Thus far since returning to federal prison, I have been housed at three federal facilities. One of which is the federal transit center located in Oklahoma City, OK. At this facility, federal prisoners have access to Corrlinks, a law library computer, along with a terminal that can print law library materials along with Corrlinks/Tru-link messages.

At USP Beaumont and USP Pollock which are located in Texas and Louisiana respectively, I’ve witnessed an unofficial policy and pattern of practice whereby federal prison officials:

  1. Obstruct or flat out deny access to programming

  2. Deny access to the courts

These violations are manifesting themselves when complex Wardens utilize lengthy lockdowns in order to address instances of violence or any disruption of operations at any USP.  These lockdowns have actually become an accepted practice throughout the BOP.

At this time I am humbly seeking your help in communicating this problem to the BOP Office of General Counsel, the U.S. Inspector General, the media, members of U.S. Congress, as well as the offices of federal BOP Executive Director Kathleek Hawk Sawyer and Assistant BOP Director Hugh Hurwitz who is in charge of overseeing and implementing the BOP’s re-entry programming as codified and described within the First Step Act.

Ladies and gentlemen, the denial of access to the courts is an especially egregious violation of U.S. Constitutional rights.  With that said, I would like to offer some suggestions which could resolve this current miscarriage of justice. Suggestions that could be implemented immediately.

My suggestion is that USP Pollock prison administrators install a computer terminal and printer on singular units that house General Population and Special Housing Unit prisoners. This computer monitor and printer would be used to access and print legal materials and/or Corrlinks and Tru-links messages.

The denial of access to the courts violation can be easily solved by providing prisoners who have active legal cases an hour or two a day to access the law library computer and printer on the Housing Unit.

This law library computer and printer access is especially crucial when we continue to see the use of lengthy lockdowns as a management tool used by federal prison Wardens. Furthermore, it has become a custom, policy, and pattern of practice for USP Wardens to prohibit prisoners from purchasing paper, legal envelopes, or even business envelopes from the Commissary during these extensive lockdowns.

Federal prison administrators have completely ignored the fact that numerous prisoners throughout BOP have active litigation, which can have a significant impact on whether or not they will ever experience life outside of a U.S. federal penitentiary. For this reason, and many more, I request your help in communicating my concerns to the proper authorities.

Respectfully,

Keith “Malik” Washington

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