By Keith “Malik” Washington
“The pre-eminence of environmentalism in the 21st century is a novel political and historical development. Ecology is a new body of scientific description and knowledge upon which social, economic, political and ethical ideas and practices have become premised. Ecosystem science suggests that political, social, and economic arrangements must be compatible with, and ideally optimize, natural ecological processes. Harming ecosystems is considered ethically, politically, and ecologically wrong.” – Graham Purchase, Green Flame: Kropotkin and the Birth of Ecology 1)
When a persyn says that they are a “water protector”, an animal and plant lover, they more often than not identify with being classified as an environmentalist. However, if you live in the United States of Amerika, you must become an expert in biology, water analysis, and be proficient in identifying poisons and pathogens which routinely appear in your immediate environment, your food, and your water supply.
More specifically, you must actually transform yourself into a private investigator. For who is able to decipher and figure out the complex and conspiratorial relationships which currently exist between capitalist corporate entities who persistently pollute the environment, and federal and state agencies? Government departments who have been commissioned to protect the people, our land, air, and water from being corrupted and exploited by these immoral and unethical corporate capitalist entities. Our planet and our health is in peril and total jeopardy.
What I have discovered is that the State of Texas has conspired with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to downplay and cover-up toxic and contaminated water supplies in State-run prisons as well as the rural communities which have found themselves in close proximity to these toxic sites. It is not just the prisoners in Texas who are suffering the ill effects.
I have also discovered that what is happening in Texas is not unique. I’ve learned of another imprisoned environmentalist in the State of Pennsylvania who is housed at a prison known as Frackville. The prisoner’s name is Bryant Arroyo and he has uncovered the exact same custom, policy, and corrupt government practices in his state.
In a recent essay published in Socialist Viewpoint Magazine, Arroyo stated “In general, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) knows it has a water crisis on its hands. The top agencies like the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA know about this open-secret and have conspired to deliberately ignore most, if not all, of the prisoners’ official complaints. DEP has received four drinking water violations from the EPA. But the underlying problem is money, money, and more money.” 2)
Bryant Arroyo cites money as the underlying problem. I find that quite remarkable because recently I have been studying the spending habits of Scott Pruitt, the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 3) As I see it, Pruitt and his cronies have aggressively forced roll-backs of anti-pollution measures. Simultaneously, Pruitt has conspired to line the pockets of close associates and other cronies. $100,000 a month for private jet memberships, bulletproof vehicles, and bulletproof desks?
Pruitt has been so busy squandering and wasting taxpayer dollars that he has virtually ignored environmental disasters taking place in plain sight! Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island has begun to investigate Pruitt’s careless spending. My question is, when will the Environmental Protection Agency start doing some protecting of the environment?
Hog Farms & Toxic Water
I first discovered the connection between hog farms and e-coli in the water supply in the years 2015 and 2016. I was housed at the H.H. Coffield Unit. Coffield, which is located in the eastern portion of Texas, specifically Tennessee Colony, is the largest state prison in Texas. This prison, in Anderson County, is approximately an hour and a half from Dallas, Texas. There are many prisoners from the Dallas and Fort Worth areas housed there. Right across the field, you can see another large state prison, the Michaels Unit, and it shares the same water supply system with Coffield. This water system has been plagued by problems with e-coli contamination. 4)
On numerous occasions, boil notices were issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), but it has been well established that Texas prisoners have no way to boil their water. TDCJ often lies to the public about trucking in clean water when these notices are issued.
While housed at Coffield, I noticed many prisoners had these weird keloid-like growths and tumors on the side of their necks and heads. Some prisoners had recurring respiratory problems and gastrointestinal abnormalities. Then some, like Kevin Wayne Handy, TDC # 1826610, was diagnosed with throat cancer!
There are three large prisons in the Tennessee Colony/Palestine area: Coffield, Michaels, and Beto Unit, and they all have some type of industrial hog operation functioning. The prison agency TDCJ and the TCEQ know that these hog operations are contaminating our drinking water, but because we are prisoners, our health and our lives really don’t matter to these violators of the public’s trust!
It is very hard to comprehend how the medical personnel who work for the University of Texas Medical Branch and provide health care to the prisoners at these facilities have not been able to draw the correlations and connections between particular health problems and the toxic water supplies. Actually, I have observed in the past, while I was housed at Pack Unit in Navasota, Texas, that UTMB medical staff were well aware of the high levels of arsenic in the water supply for years, but they decided to keep their mouths shut!
Lawsuits have certainly been filed citing the toxic water at both Coffield and Michaels Unit, but we have discovered that the conspiracy to cover up the existence of these toxic water supplies extends far beyond the offices of TDCJ and TCEQ. Corruption, collusion, and complicity exist in the U.S. Magistrate Judge’s chambers in Tyler, Texas and in Lufkin, Texas. Something very foul is going on in the Eastern District of Texas.
I am now at the Eastham Unit, located in Lovelady, Texas, and like Coffield, the water is toxic and hog operations are located here also. We have discovered a bacteria known as h. pylori in our water supply as well as another parasitical bacteria called crypto-spiridium. This nasty parasite has effected TDCJ employees as well as prisoners at Eastham! And TDCJ employee Dr Owen Murray continues to lie to the media and the public at large about the water quality at Eastham and numerous other Texas prisons.
It won’t be until the Federal Courts issue a significant monetary award to prisoners that TDCJ will finally clean up their act and stop poisoning the water supplies.
In 2017, the Earth First! Journal published an article I wrote in their Fall issue, entitled Horrific Conditions for Livestock Animals in Texas Prisons Exposed. 5)
I not only exposed the mistreatment and abuse of chickens and hogs, I also began to scrape the surface of factory farms which raise hogs, and the connection with toxic water supplies created by toxic waste from livestock animals!
Recently, Rolling Stone Magazine published a very informative expose entitled A Crap Deal for Duplin County (How China Outsourced Pork Production), by Doug Bock Clark. 6) This article is a must-read for any serious water protectors or environmentalists. This expose serves as a case in point which clearly illustrates the high level of corruption which exists in Amerika and how capitalist corporations such as Smithfield Foods have entered into an agreement with the Chinese government to poison the environments and communities of poor black and white people. This expose will make you scream at the top of your lungs: Fire Scott Pruitt right now!
- I took the time to summarise some of the most relevant points Mr Clark made in order to educate the public and my fellow prisoners, as well as my comrades at Fight Toxic Prisons. It is time for us to take the legal and activist fight to these oppressors!
- A mature hog whose only activity is to eat, excretes around 14 pounds of manure a day. Respiratory health problems can arise from exposure to manure.
- In 2008, a Government Accountability Office Survey found 15 studies that linked animal waste from industrial livestock farms to widespread health problems.
- A North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services study found that students in middle schools up to three miles away from hog farms had higher rates of asthma. So it is not a far-fetched conclusion to state that these prison farms in Texas that raise hogs have the potential to harm children living nearby.
- Leaks through the clay bottoms of lagoons which store hog manure can spread e-coli into ground water and nearby wells. This point of contaminating the ground water with e-coli has been a major problem in Texas, because the prison agency TDCJ has been allowing this toxic hog waste to be deposited into the Trinity River for decades, and they actually just allow the waste to seep into the ground. And the EPA ignores this!
- Hog waste has not been proved to correlate with cancer, but researchers at Duke University in North Carolina are currently conducting wide-ranging studies into possible links. Texas A&M University students often come to prisons in Texas to study horses and engage in other agriculture-related projects, but for some reason the aggies won’t help discover the connections between these toxic factory farms and our contaminated water supplies! Way to go aggies!
- Shane Rogers, a professor at Clarkson University and former EPA engineer, has studied this particular issue extensively, and he says “a wide body of research shows that living near pig farms can be hazardous to people’s health.” 7)
Who is liable?
When I first began to do my own research as to who was responsible for the abuse and mistreatment of livestock animals in Texas Prisons, my focus was on uncovering what companies or individuals were buying eggs and hog meat from TDCJ. My free-world friends and I were provided misleading information and deceptive lies by a TDCJ employee named Jane Goolsby, who works for the TDCJ Manufacturing, Agribusiness, and Logistics Division, Planning and Research Department. TDCJ does not sell eggs or pork meat to anyone – it is the agency’s ‘shell corporation’, Texas Correctional Industries, that does all the for-profit business which exploits free prison labor, but of course that is another can of worms.
I have now found out exactly who is responsible for the abuse of the hogs and chickens and who is responsible for the contamination of our water supplies!
Bobby Lumpkin is the Director of TDCJ’s Manufacturing, Agribusiness, and Logistics Division.
Allow me to briefly detail a few of his responsibilities as they relate to livestock operations: “manages the commercial cow herds and stocker operations, broodmare and horse development operations, laying hen operations, farrow-to-finish swine operations, feed production facilities and meat packing plants”. 8)
If Lumpkin’s hogs are poisoning our water supplies, which in turn are causing us serious health problems which last for years, then we have found the person and the TDCJ department which is liable! It is time we re-craft and amend our list of culpable defendants to include Mr Bobby Lumpkin (remember that name).
Connecting the dots!
In the age of Trumpism, I’ve noticed that the Federal and State governments in Amerika relish the opportunity to abuse, exploit and mistreat the nation’s most vulnerable, disenfranchished and oppressed populations. Toxic prisons like Eastham in Texas and Frackville in Schuylkill County in Pennsylvania are no longer the exception, they are the norm. We, the prisoners who inhabit these institutions, are mostly black, latinx, and poor white human beings.
We have been the victims of rare diseases such as Polycythemia Vera (PV). Bryant Arroyo found this disease to be quite prevalent in Frackville. 9)
At Eastham, we are plagued by multiple problems which affect our water quality. The pipes at Eastham were installed in 1953 when lead pipes and lead base solder were used quite liberally in plumbing projects. In 1986, lead pipes and lead base solder were outlawed by the EPA. The State of Texas has refused to spend the money to completely replace these corroded and deteriorated pipes which continue to leak high levels of copper and lead into our water supply at Eastham.
And then there is the hog operation!
The Fight Toxic Prisons campaign is real, and I am one of an ever-growing number of imprisoned correspondents and environmentalists who have dedicated themselves to this fight. I end this essay with a final quote from Graham Purchase, who describes some of the work of Peter Kropotkin:
“Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) is a leading historical and philosophical figure in the early development and emergence of environmentalism. Kropotkin’s major works were all republished and discussed in the 1970s such that his late 19th century ideas and insights influenced and shaped the direction and definition of the early-modern environmental movement. Kropotkin was the first person to mould proto-ecological concepts within the then fledgling fields of economics, agricultural science, conservation- ism, ethology, criminology, city planning, geography, geology and biology into a coherent new scientific outlook combined with a radical political or social ecological program for rejuvenating society and our relationship with the Earth.”10
Few people realize that in a small solitary confinement cage inside a Texas prison dwells the spirit and legacy of the anarchist Kropotkin! Let us all continue to fight to preserve and protect our planet Earth! Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!
Keith “Malik” Washington is co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, an activist in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign and deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter. Read Malik’s work at ComradeMalik.com. Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washington, 1487958, Eastham Unit, 2665 Prison Rd 1, Lovelady TX 75851.
Green Flame: Kropotkin and the Birth of Ecology by Graham Purchase
Frackville Prison’s Systemic Water Crisis by Bryant Arroyo, published at fighttoxicprisons.org and in Socialist Viewpoint, Jan/Feb 2018.
EPA Chief Spent Millions on Security and Travel by Michael Biesecker, (Associated Press), published in El Paso Times-Newspaper, April 8 2018
Prison officials, ACA inspectors ignore contaminated water in Texas prisons by Keith “Malik” Washington, published in the San Francisco Bay View, October 21 2015.
Horrific Conditions for Live-Stock Animals in Texas Prisons Exposed by Keith “Malik” Washington, published at fighttoxicprisons.org and in the Earth First! Journal, Fall 2017.
Why Is China Treating North Carolina Like the Developing World? by Doug Bock Clark, Rolling Stone Magazine, March 22-April 5th 2018
All points ibid.
TDCJ Directory – Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Logistics Division
Frackville Prison’s Systemic Water Crisis by Bryant Arroyo
Green Flame: Kropotkin and the Birth of Ecology by Graham Purchase