Sad ending

Box of letters from Keith “Malik” Washington

In November 2021 the San Francisco Bay View reported that Keith “Malik” Washington assaulted his ex-fiance and acted at least once as an informant to the DOJ. You can read their article at the San Francisco Bay View. I applaud the work that the San Francisco Bay View has and continues to do.

It has taken me over a month to write this because I have been processing the news and reaching out to Malik.

I, justin adkins, met Keith through a pen pal program in 2012 I was looking for someone to connect with who was working to change the system, and ultimately abolish it, while living caged inside. From our very early correspondence, Malik and I hit it off. We are different in so many ways and yet we connected as comrades in the struggle for abolition.

Over the years, though we have never met, Malik became one of my closest friends. Over time, I became Malik’s voice on the outside. We did videos where I would read the information he sent and add my own 2 cents. We would disagree on issues and approaches to the work but never to the point of coming between our friendship, until now.

Malik had been up for parole a few times in the years I knew him. When he was finally released in September 2020 he had served a majority of his original sentence.

Over his many years as a caged man Malik would speak up about an issue, such as the lack of air conditioning in Texas State Prisons during the hottest year on record, and then he would get transferred. This pattern happened multiple times over the years I knew him.

I have been grieving the loss of a friendship and all it gave and meant to me over the last decade. I have been reflecting on the people I met through him and the work we did together.

For example, through Malik, in 2016 I met Erin Brokovich. Malik was researching the water quality of the prison he was in and discovered high arsenic and other chemicals. He sent me a huge packet of information he and other caged men had requested and researched and asked me to send it to Erin Brokovich. I was not always timely in my response and sat on the info for a while, which infuriated him. Then, low and behold, Erin was coming to the town just north of me to host a community meeting because PFOAs had been found in the water there. I grabbed Malik’s packet of info and drove to the community meeting intent on meeting Erin Brokovich on behalf of my incarcerated friend, Comrade Malik. I sat through the multi-hour meeting and listened to all of the stories and concerns of a struggling town in Upstate NY. I then patiently waited for the townspeople to speak one at a time with Erin as she listened to their stressors and concerns. It was finally my turn to speak with her and she gave me the same attention as I explained the situation with the water in Texas State prisons and presented her with the packet of information from Comrade Malik. Eventually, the case moved forward and the Houston Chronicle among others reported on it. I spread the word in my community about what was happening in Hoosick Falls, NY and, other surrounding small communities linked by the contaminated watershed. My connection with Malik pushed me to connect with so many people over the years.

Malik has been a Muslim for quite some time. He was raised in the Baptist faith but felt a greater connection to God through Islam. Malik had encountered various levels of support (mostly lack of support in the Texas “Bible Belt”) for his faith depending on where he was caged. In 2015 Malik went full force to make sure that Muslims caged in the TDCJ could more fully practice their faith. He and others focused on the rights of Mulsim men such as himself to wear beards and kufi. In 2016, they succeeded in changing those rules.

Every time Malik spoke out about an issue, he disappeared into administrative segregation (ad-seg/solitary) or was transferred. I would get quick calls or letters from incarcerated friends of his letting me know what had happened and cryptic messages to keep pressuring the DOJ and TDCJ on his behalf no matter what happened to him. Most of these issues are documented here on this website.

Not long before Malik was released he met Nube. I was so happy for him. Nube is an amazing woman with a long track record of standing up for inmate rights and the abolition of the prison industrial complex. He was also getting closer to Mary Ratcliff, editor of the San Francisco Bay View, a paper I had been sending his articles to for a few years. Mary, Nube, and Malik started working to get Malik free and paroled to Oakland or San Francisco so that he could apprentice under Mary with the goal of becoming the next editor of the Bay View.

Not long before Malik was paroled, he and Mary had a few months where they weren’t speaking due to a disagreement that I never understood. Malik is a strong-headed person and once he gets an idea in his head he won’t let it go. Of course, this is part of what made him so effective at organizing inside for all those years. The government doesn’t make it easy for incarcerated folx to speak up or out.

Malik had been sober for 13 years. He was proud of his sobriety. Sobriety inside. He never hid that he was an addict and that he only got clean after he entered the TDCJ 2007. When he was released in the middle of a global health pandemic he was sent to the San Francisco tenderloin district to a halfway house. Life on the outside is hard after years of solitary confinement and regulation. Malik was offered more support than most, and he was not able to keep his sobriety and flamed out in spectacular fashion.

As the Bay View reported, Malik assaulted Nube and was also discovered to have informed on a fellow man during his incarceration.

I was horrified to hear that Malik assaulted Nube. Assault on anyone is not ok. As humans, we have been blessed with the ability to communicate. We need to use our words to express our anger, frustration, and pain, not our hands or bodies. As activists and abolitionists, this is even more important. The system of incarceration is based on violence against the body, mind, and soul. The system teaches that violence and constraint is the answer to problems. Can’t communicate properly, you get constrained and separated from the general population. The prison industrial complex teaches us on the outside as well that if harm is done the answer is to lock someone away, to segregate them, violently. The prison industrial complex is violence. As abolitionists, we need to be different. We need to respond to interpersonal issues and concerns by communication and not physical, mental, or verbal violence.

The Bay View also reported that Malik informed false information to the DOJ about another caged man, Bradley Barton. In the report from the Bay View they published a letter written by Malik where he tells the DOJ that he used to be a “rock star informant” The letter is in his unique cadence and handwriting though this “rock star” line is in a penmanship that after many years I am not familiar with. The thing is, that line is not the issue. The rest of the letter, which is his writing and tone, is a letter of reporting on a fellow inmate to the DOJ.

The system of incarceration breeds this type of behavior. The tit-for-tat of the prison industrial complex is a series of mental manipulation, of promises delayed for timely information. People have pled guilty for crimes they didn’t commit just to find a resolution and not loose more of their or their family’s lives and time. The system of information, true and false, is bred into the system of incarceration.

After all of this, I am most disappointed that the man who I knew as one of my dearest friends for over a decade has not responded to me or others to speak to the conditions surrounding this horrific letter of what seems to be false information that resulted in the continued imprisonment of another human. There is nothing Malik can say about assaulting Nube he was wrong, but I would like to hear from him about the situation in which he spoke against Bradley Barton to the DOJ. I would also like to hear from him about any other informant activities he may have participated in over the years.

Until he reaches out to me or others to discuss what happened, I can no longer support Keith H. Washington, the man I knew mostly as Comrade Malik.

As noted above, he, along with many other caged activists, did years of work that changed the conditions of imprisonment for thousands. He suffered harm for his advocacy. And, he has inflicted harm as well. This is a difficult duality to sit with as an abolitionist, yet it is one that I must sit with.

This site is no longer serving its purpose and I will not renew it when it comes up for renewal (6/29/22). The Comrade Malik facebook pages that I launched and ran for many years have been turned over to Malik and I am no longer an administrator of them.

I do not know where he is now and I cannot vouch for anything having to do with him due to these circumstances. I will continue my support of incarcerated people. I will continue to fight for the abolition of all cages. No living being should live in a cage. That is the continued struggle for us to all be free. As we fight for abolition we must also build. We must build systems of support in our communities. Support for those struggling with addiction. Support for those who have experienced trauma in their lives. Build access to food and health care. Build networks of support for those leaving incarceration. The fight for abolition includes all of these struggles as they are all interlinked. There is much work for us to do, and I for one will continue in the struggle for justice.

As I have for many years, I sign off in the words of fellow trans activist Lou Sullivan.

Yours in Liberation,
justin adkins


2 thoughts on “Sad ending

  1. Pingback: In Contempt #12: New Year, Same Struggle for Abolition

  2. Pingback: Anarchist news from 300+ collectives 🏴 AnarchistFederation.net

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