In my articles I identify prisoners who’ve suffered or witnessed abuses by name only when they’ve consented and this with their being cautioned about the possibility of retaliation and harassment by officials. My only exception is when he is mentally ill to the point I believe him incapable of giving or declining consent intelligently, and/or he is suffering such severe abuse that it warrants immediate outside attention and intervention.
To those who’ve read my prior article, Prison Assisted Suicide – the Texas Way, the name Jason Renard Walker (#1532092) may ring familiar. There I quoted him, with his consent, as a fellow witness to two incidents of abuse here at Texas’ Bill Clements Unit Prison. One occurred on September 14, 2014 when guards and medical staff attempted to ‘allow’ a mentally ill prisoner to die from multiple deep wounds cut into his neck and face in a suicide attempt. The second occurred during the prior month when a Sergeant Dustin Anderson gassed another mentally ill prisoner under false claims that he was attempting to hang himself.
As a result of these exposures and his own complaints of abuse and efforts to publicize them, Jason has been targeted with a series of threats and harassments by officials.
Prison Assisted Suicide was posted online and published in several media.1 Prison officials, including administrators, have frequently stated to others in my presence, and to me, that they follow my articles online, especially those that report abuses. Largely because I identify involved officials by name and my articles have often generated outside protest and legal action.
Shortly after Prison Assisted Suicide was posted and circulated, the very Sergeant Anderson whose abuse I wrote about there, came into the pod where I and Jason are housed and, specifically targeting us, made a cursory examination of the locking mechanisms on the handcuff ports on both our cell doors. Jason was/is housed in cell H210 and I in H232. Anderson then instructed a guard Scotty Henderson to write us both a disciplinary charge claiming we’d placed foreign matter behind the locks so the ports wouldn’t lock properly.
A few minutes later I addressed a Lieutenant Antonius Flanagan about Anderson’s actions. Flanagan stated the charges were invalid per se, even if the hatch locks were obstructed, because staff had not documented that the locks had been inspected and found unobstructed and operating properly when we were first moved into the cells nor since.
As the segregation unit supervisor whose responsibility it was to sign approval for any disciplinary charges written during his shift, Flanagan specifically instructed Henderson to not write the charges Henderson told Anderson.
To subvert his ranking officer’s directions, Anderson had Henderson write the charge none-the-less and got a fellow Sergeant Tiffany Carlile to forge Flanagan’s signature of approval on Henderson’s report, so the charges would be processed.
Jason was found guilty of his charge, however, mine was ‘disappeared’ when I promptly grieved the entire situation including the forgery of Flanagan’s signature to circumvent his directions.
Prior to this incident Jason made efforts to write about abuses he’d witnessed and suffered at the prison and sent them out to various publishers, including Bonnie Weinstein editor of Socialist Viewpoint magazine. His mail containing those writings were read by officials who then began mishandling his mail.
One incident involved his receipt of a mailing envelope sent to him by a friend, from which the mailed contents had been removed by officials and in their place he found a note written in the name of another Clements Unit prisoner, “Dock Murray” and addressed to a guard Dustin Owens. The note (an informant note) requested to meet with Owens to inform on prisoner and guard misdeeds, including contraband being allegedly brought into the prison. The note demanded in exchange for information, that a disciplinary charge written against Murray be dismissed and that commissary items confiscated from his cellmate, “Donald Bronson”, be returned.
On the back of the note in a different handwriting, and blue ink (which prisoners have no access to), was a written acknowledgment that both of Murray’s requests were honored, there was a seven digit phone number and a further notation indicating the guards by implication who were identified as bringing in “dip” (chewing tobacco) and others by nickname who were identified as mules.
Jason sent me the note and mailing envelope – the note looked authentic. He questioned how it ended up in his mail and who “Owens” was. I informed him that Owens is one of several Security Threat Group (STG) or gang investigators at the prison. STG officials routinely screen prisoners mail and often have all mail to/ from certain prisoners routed to them for ‘handling’. Often this is done as harassment, with mail routed in this manner commonly disappeared or confiscated under contrived pretexts, as was done to me for an entire year.
Jason kept the note, and filed a grievance and a request to know why gang investigators were handling his mail. Two months later the exact same thing occurred – he found another informant note in an envelope addressed to him in lieu of the mailed content. He again grieved it and this time complained to turn the notes over and find out why his mail was being tampered with.
A few days later – on January 19, 2015 – he was confronted while on the segregation exercise yard by a Lieutenant Daniel Pacheco, Sergeant Garrett Rockholt and a guard named Rodriguez. They handcuffed and took him to a supervisor’s office where a captain Gene Smith and an unidentified man in street clothes were waiting. Upon Jason’s entering the office, he reported Smith blurted out, “shut the fuck up!” or he’d get more time. “For what?” Jason asked.
In response Smith told him to stop writing grievances and added that it was none of his business how prison staff handle suicide attempt situations. An obvious reference to Jason’s being quoted as a witness in my Prison Assisted Suicide article, since he’d never otherwise written about any such situations.
I should add here that officials are aware that Jason witnessed the murder of another Black prisoner by guards several years back in Clements Unit’s 11 building, which he tried unsuccessfully to bring attention to. The prisoner was strangled to death by several guards who entered his cell, as Jason looked on and the prisoner pled for his life. The murder was covered up as a claimed suicide. A string was tied around the prisoner’s neck and a major Brian Clark staged an investigation whereupon he influenced several white supremacist prisoners in the pod to ‘confirm’ the hanging suicide, and ignored Jason’s protests to the contrary. This murder is widely known and talked about by Clements Unit prisoners.
But, returning to the office ‘meeting’, in Jason’s own words, Smith “seemed very angry and refused to elaborate on my initial complaint on the two handwritten letters and only used our meeting as a way of trying to intimidate me”. We both noted that about a week later another mentally ill prisoner whose frequent abuse I write about in Prison Assisted Suicide (namely Hoover Pugh #421307) was abruptly transferred from Clements Unit.
We both felt all of this was related, that Smith was being ‘used’ to threaten Jason directly and me indirectly in response to my articles and the attention they drew. None of Jason’s concerns were addressed by Smith. Smith is widely known for this sort of conduct and setting prisoners up to be assaulted by guards and covering up such acts, as is Major Brian Clark.
Upon being returned to his cell from the “meeting” with Smith, Jason turned the two informant notes over to Sergeant Rockholt. However, the mail tampering continued.
In fact he began receiving routine notifications that his mail was being confiscated (especially his outgoing mail) on grounds it was “unauthorized group” related. A designation that does not exist in the Texas prison system’s mail policy which indicates all bases upon which mail may be confiscated.
This exact same thing had been done to me since my assignment to Clements Unit, up until I had an attorney submit a complaint and notice of litigation to the prison system’s HQ officials, with copy to the prison’s mailroom supervisor, concerning the frequent unlawful mishandling of my mail, whereupon the almost daily confiscations of my mail instantly stopped.
Jason’s harassment persisted. During a shakedown of his cell guards slammed and broke his radio and stomped on and damaged the insert cup from his hotpot. His family photos and other property were also damaged. He grieved this and got his radio replaced – a concession that guards had indeed mishandled his belongings.
Then on March 12, 2015 during another shakedown guards confiscated over twenty of his personal books. A disciplinary charge was written claiming only two of the books were contraband because his ownership allegedly couldn’t be confirmed. As for the remaining books no justification for their confiscation was even attempted
Finally, on March 9, 2015 Jason sent a request to Sergeant Jimmy Bagby, the prison’s ranking STG guard, asking whether he is on gang file and if his mail is being viewed by STG officials. On March 11, 2015 Bagby replied, “You are not documented yet, but your (sic) well on your way”. He evaded Jason’s question about STG officials viewing his mail. Bagby’s implications are that Jason’s attempts to communicate prison abuses to the outside may see him stigmatized as a gang member, and thereupon subjected to the various harassments and monitorings by STG officials that attend that label, including permanent assignment to solitary confinement/ segregation.
As a vocal and willing witness to brutal abuses by law enforcement officials, Jason’s role is no less important than that of people in society who’ve captured and exposed beatings and murders by police on video. Indeed, his role may be more important, since prisoners have no access to recording equipment and suffer abuses and reprisals within an environment that bars public oversight and scrutiny by design.
The ongoing series of exposures of police abuses in society makes evident that so-called law enforcement officials act with lawless violent impunity, whether as direct actors or the rest who tacitly consent in conspiratorial silence. How much more so does this occur within the hidden confines of US prisons?
Jason and those like him who fearlessly bear witness to these abuses need as much outside protection and support as can be garnered. A silent majority who looks on quietly is just as culpable as supposed ‘handful’ who directly commit most of the abuses.
Dare to struggle Dare to win!
All Power to the People!