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23 years Prison Radio— justice of fighting for and freedom

Dear Friends,

From the Desk of Noelle Hanrahan
December 9th, 2013

I visited Kevin “Rashid” Johnson on October 21st. He is being held in solitary at the Clements Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections (TDCJ) in Amarillo. Rashid had not had a visit in over three years. The very day after I left, Christopher Woolverton was pepper sprayed and left to die in the cell next to Rashid. Kevin Rashid Johnson is more than the Texas Department of Criminal Justice # he is given. The first impression is of a young man doing life, speaking in a urban Virginia accent. Rashid is that, but so much more. His writing and reporting from Texas, Oregon, and Virginia prisons has generated a worldwide audience. His excellent art only amplifies his ability to reach people with a profound social justice message. During the visit I asked him if he wanted to leave this brutal Texas dungeon and he said “100% yes, this is the worst brutality I have ever seen, but we need to shine a white hot spotlight on the conditions here, right now.”

© Kevin Rashid Johnson self potrait

Take a moment to send the enclosed card to Rashid. Share the enclosed action alert. Honor him for standing up and exposing the truth inside these torture chambers Texas calls prisons.

It is no secret that Texas prisons are bastions of arrogant impunity. The November 21st issue of the New York Times featured an op ed by a Texas Prison guard, noting that the prison guards were supporting the wrongful death lawsuits of Texas inmates who died of heat stroke. The guards suffer the same conditions as the prisoners where temperatures can reach 130 degrees. Texas had just allocated money for a climate controlled barn for their meat processing pens holding pigs, yet refused to address the killing heat for guards and inmates.

November 6th (before word of the Woolverton death reached us), Roots Action sent out an action alert on Rashid’s behalf. This eblast was constructed to protest solitary confinement and conditions such as Ad Seg (Administrative Segregation: housing a person away from the general population). Over 20,000 people emailed and wrote letters to the Texas Inspector General’s office. Prison Radio has initiated a campaign of support for Kevin Rashid Johnson, and he has received hundreds of personal letters of support. A world of thanks to Ben Haile of the Portland Law Collective, Karen Rudolph, and Jeffrey Blackburn’s law firm in Amarillo for key legal assistance.

When I got to Texas they shaved my head, cut off my dreadlocks, despite my protests. I was taken to the Estelle Unit where Major David Forrest, James A. McKeen and Assistant Warden James Brewer threatened me. Forrest said “Shut up nigger you in Texas now”, while punching my face and choking me. Brewer says “we will break your ass, and we will kill you.” After beating me they take me to a filthy cell, and every two hours after that I was strip searched.”
Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

Prison Radio • PO Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94141 • www.prisonradio.org • info@prisonradio.org

Prison Radio is committed to recording these voices and bringing their humanity to the airwaves. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3 showed us the importance of commitment, struggle, and freedom. Supporters were able to bring Herman home to freedom days before he died. Prison Radio was able to bring Herman’s message and voice to the airwaves. We will be airing Albert’s voice this year as he makes his way to freedom as well.

It is time to look back at a bittersweet period for us and especially prisoners. The prisoner hunger strikes that swept the nation from California to Guantanamo brought the cries for dignity and justice to the world. These often forgotten, yet brave prisoners, showed us all that powerful sacrifice is often the first step in a broader public struggle.

There is a change in the air. The human dignity of millions in American prisons cannot be repressed any longer. U.S. political prisoner’s words, art and essays will give us a deep understanding of the historic injustice embodied in the U.S. prison system.

© Paul Chan

Lynne Stewart, is a political prisoner and a renowned human rights lawyer who is currently serving a ten year sentence at FMC Carswell TX. She has stage 4 terminal cancer. Compassion demands that Lynne Stewart be released immediately from prison so she and her family can fight for her life. www.lynnestewart.org

But, really we must thank each and every one of you. We could not do it without your help, gifts, and solidarity. Our work together has been quite impressive.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, our most prolific reporter from prison, continues his bold defiance of the powers that seek to silence him and all others held by the state. We have produced his radio commentaries and brought his voice to the airwaves for over twenty years.
Bring Lynne Stewart Home! Call: Attorney General Eric Holder – 202-514-2001; 202-307-3198 ext. 3

Please explore our website for updates and resources — www.prisonradio.org.

Keith LaMar, was sentenced to death in Ohio. He was targeted for prosecution during the Lucasville Uprising. The Lucasville prisoners have staged hunger strikes and fought for contact visits. Prison Radio will soon be challenging the Ohio Dept. of Corrections’ politically motivated censorship of Keith Lamar and other prisoners involved in the Lucasville Uprising.

Your action today can make the difference. Get involved, make a call, and write a letter. Support the courageous truth telling of whistleblower, writer and renowned artist Kevin Rashid Johnson. www.rashidmod.com

© courtesy of Keith LaMar

Lynne Stewart and her husband Ralph Poynter stand as brilliant examples of the power of love and resistance to brutal state repression. Please send her the enclosed postcard. We stand with Lynne and Ralph as they continue to demand her compassionate release.

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson witnessed the incident, as did several other prisoners. For three consecutive nights medical staff were summoned to the cell of Christopher Woolverton, because he was lying on the floor barely responsive. Finally on the afternoon of October 22, a nurse came in and, seeing that he was still not moving, summoned sergeant Andrew Gratz and Lieutenant Matthew Seymour, informing them that Woolverton was scheduled to see a doctor.

The day after we issued a Roots Action Alert, we heard about a horrific incident in the Ad Seg wing of the Clements Unit prison in Amarillo, Texas.

Rashid arrived in Texas in chains in June 2013; they shaved his head, viciously beat him, and threatened to kill him if he continued writing. The threats did not stop him. He continues his reporting exposing the atrocities taking place in “the holes”, and “Ad Seg” units across Texas.

Routine beatings, frequent suicide attempts, property destruction, starvation, mold, cockroaches: it all takes place in the bowels of Texas prisons.

Prison Radio Action alert Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is courageous. His exposés are chilling, and document the violence and degradation of the most notorious prisons in America. Rashid tells the story of mentally ill inmates literally tortured by the guards, and others beaten and left in pools of blood. These are the men he lives with, men like Christopher Woolverton, gassed and left to die, Ellery Oliver, beaten while handcuffed, doused with pepper spray and left naked on the floor for over a week. Or Joe Laws, while in restraints, attacked by guards in body armor, his teeth kicked out and his jaw broken, all while defenseless.

Gratz, a notoriously abusive guard, told Woolverton to get up and come to the door and submit to handcuffs or he’d be OC-gassed (pepper spray) and forcibly removed by an extraction team. Woolverton was not responsive.

Take Action. Demand a criminal investigation. Contact the TDCJ Inspector General. Bruce Toney P.O. Box 13084, Austin, TX 78711 Telephone 1-866-372-8329 Fax: 512- 671-2129 oig@tdcj.state.tx.us

A few minutes later, reports Rashid, Woolverton “was made to stand by Gratz and the team (directly in front of my cell) with his body and legs trembling like a newborn colt. He distinctly stated, ‘I can’t breathe.’ They also had a cup mask (like construction workers wear) over his nose and mouth. He couldn’t walk, so they bodily picked him up by ankles and arms and carried him into a cell where they left him lying completely naked with no property and without his asthma inhalers. He was not decontaminated of gas.” The next time anyone checked on Woolverton, he had been dead for several hours. Prison personnel evidently feel that their uniforms entitle them to commit such crimes with impunity.

After a short interval, during which time the warden and other officials looked in, Gratz, Seymour and the nurse returned with a team of riot armored guards, with gas masks and OC gas. Gratz proceeded to spray Woolverton several times directly in the head with OC gas.

Every single dollar you send is valued, and makes it possible to stand with those inside writing, creating art, recording, and yearning for justice and freedom. Together, you and I, and the dedicated staff and volunteers at Prison Radio can amplify the voices and messages. We just can’t do it alone. We need your help.

Did you know that individuals just like you provide all of the resources that fuel this work? We are completely funded by you. Changing the world is not yet supported by the Pew Trust or National Endowment for the Arts.

Arrested on December 9th 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal has spent 32 years in prison (30 in solitary confinement).

Please use the enclosed envelope to send a gift. If you have enough food, a roof, a retirement, a job, please consider making a monthly sustaining gift. Every $35 membership, every special $1,000 gift, every house party, and each act of education means that you are joining the new Underground Railroad: bringing folks home to freedom. I have been locked by the lawless. Handcuffed by the haters. Gagged by the greedy. And, if I know anything at all, It’s that a wall is just a wall And nothing more at all. It can be broken down.

© Prison Radio/Jennifer Beach

I believe in living. I believe in birth. I believe in the sweat of love And in the fire of truth.

Freedom will depend on our independence, the depth of our courage, and our will to organize. Join us. Luchando por la justicia y la libertad,

Assata Shakur

P.S. With a gift of $35, become a 2014 member of Prison Radio. With a gift of $100, become a Prison Radio Harriet Tubman Legacy Member. With a gift of $1,000, join our Freedom Circle.
The mission of Prison Radio is to record and distribute voices from prison to over 1,000 radio stations worldwide. In 2013, we recorded over 150 essays from nearly two dozen prison correspondents. We maintain two state-of-the-art recording studios, one on the West Coast and the other on the East Coast. We place a premium on the quality of the recordings and the signal path and equipment. It is not sufficient to just record prisoners, they have to be heard clearly, and we often confront censorship. High quality recordings go a long way to eliminating initial barriers to broadcast. www.prisonradio.org

Noelle Hanrahan, Director Prison Radio Producer “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary”