Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, an inmate incarnated in Florida State Prison in Raiford and a member of Prison Chapter of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), is facing charges of “inciting a riot or demonstration” after he penned a letter detailing mistreatment of prisoners by the Florida Department of Corrections.
Rashid’s letter, entitled “Florida Prisoners Are Laying It Down”, explains the reasons for Florida prisoner strike which started on Martin Luther King Day (15th January). In it, Johnson lists numerous atrocities of Florida prison system:
During early 2018 prisoners across Florida are gonna “laydown” in nonviolent protest of the intolerable conditions in Florida’s prisons.
The objectionable conditions being protested include unpaid slave labor, compounded by outright price-gouging in the system’s commissary and package services, and the gain-time scam that replaced parole, which, coupled with extreme sentencing, has created overcrowding and inhumane conditions.
Having been confined in the Florida Department of Corruption (FDOC) for six months at the time of writing this, and being able to contrast conditions here with those in other prison systems (Florida’s is my fourth state prison system in six years), I can personally attest that conditions here are among the worst I’ve seen.
In fact, the past four months have passed without me writing any articles and during that time I have fallen behind in my own legal pursuits, because I’ve been overwhelmed trying to help others’ efforts and needs to counter and challenge the extreme levels of abuse occurring constantly around me here at Florida State Prison (FSP).
On a literal daily basis prisoners are gassed, tortured and/or brutally beaten by guards with the full complicity of medical and mental health staff. As part of this culture of abuse, grievance officials routinely trash prisoners’ attempts to grieve their mistreatment. This to eliminate any records of the abuses and to frustrate any potential attempts at litigation.
The enforced slave labor in the FDOC is a literal continuation of the old antebellum slave system, selectively enforced against people of color and the poor and based upon the 13th Amendment which only modified slavery at the end of the Civil War in 1865, to permit enslavement of these convicted of crime. It was under this reformed slavery that Blacks were targeted for re-enslavement and the FDOC was established three years later in 1868 which the FDOC proudly boasts on its seal (2).
Coupled with Florida prisoners receiving no wages, they must purchase basic hygiene supplies, seasonal clothing, shoes and supplemental foods and beverages from a grossly overpriced commissary and package system, which weighs heavily on their loved ones. Otherwise prisoners must do without.
Shortly after Rashid’s letter was published online, the State Prison warden ordered that he will be charged with “inciting a riot”. On 19th January, Johnson was placed in a cell with broken toilet, zero heating, and a window which does not fully close. The temperature in the cell is the same as outside. Florida is currently experiencing a cold snap, with recorded temperatures at or below freezing. The activists from The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons have not heard from Kevin “Rashid” Johnson since the 19th, when he wrote the letter asking for urgent action in his defence:
Need your and folks’ immediate mobilization. Am being literally tortured in retaliation for article on prison strike and conditions, by the warden. No heat. Cell like outside, temp in 30s [in Fahrenheit, equals -1 Celsius] Toilet doesn’t work. Window to outside doesn’t close and cold air blowing in cell. Copy everyone with this letter! Just put into this cell. It’s daytime and so cold can barely write. This is obvious set up. […] This is genuine emergency!
The Florida prisoners strike was organized by Operation PUSH: a labour movement funded by Jessie Jackson in 1970’s aiming to promote economic advancement of Afro-Americans. The strikers demand better living conditions, actual wages, an end to the death penalty and prison-guard brutality, increased access to parole, restoration of voting rights for former felons, and, in a long-term, an end to a criminal justice system that practically enslaves poor, mostly black people. The strike action involved laying down on the job for a full month.
According to figures released by the FDOC, 428 Florida inmates died in 2017. It is a 20% increase from previous year’s 356 deaths.
Whomever is inclined to do so, can write to Rashid at this address:
You can also contact Florida Department of Corrections to demand they stop retaliating against Kevin for his reporting on conditions in their prisons:
Warden Barry Reddish
Florida State Prison
Raiford, FL 32083
Tel: (00-1) 904-368- 2500
Feature pic: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s website