What distinguishes a just and humane military force from a barbaric one is discipline and the capacity to refrain from violence against the weak and infirm – the young and elderly in particular. Amerika, however, has never lived up to these principles. It has actually always targeted the most vulnerable, with intentions of either exterminating entire populations as with its “treatment” of Native Americans or to make life so precarious, desperate, and intolerable that their victims will submit out of sheer terror (although the result is usually the opposite), as with its innumerable, direct (and proxy) wars against and invasions of Third World societies.
But for those who live within U.S. borders, life is supposed to be regulated by the principles of civil and “democratic” society, not military force. The reality, however, for the poor and especially for people of color has always been one akin to military occupation and containment – and the most vulnerable have never been spared. From urban communities occupied by increasingly militarized police to inhumane prisons, I’ve lived and witnessed it for most of my life. In fact, I’m witnessing it right now.
Here’s a snapshot.
Targeting an Elderly Man
It’s 25 degrees outside. In my segregation cellblock, here at the Clements Unit Prison in Amarillo, Texas, it is so cold that some of us remain bundled up inside blankets and/or sheets on top of being fully clothed.
Mr. Floyd Reed, #343987, is housed in the cellblock with me and lives several cells down the tier. He’s in his sixties, a New Afrikan/Black man who is respected by most others in the pod who refer to him as “Mr. Reed.”
On November 10, 2015, a group of guards threatened they were going to pull him out of his cell and beat him; “It’ll be all of us against you,” they taunted. He called them the cowards that they are and told them, “Bring it on.”
A couple of days later – November 12 – a guard, Abraham Dolleh, was assigned to work a full 12-hour shift on our pod. All day he verbally taunted and abused Mr. Reed, including walking by, kicking his cell door, calling him various names and threatening him. Dolleh once told Mr. Reed, “I’ll kill your bitch ass!”
That afternoon Dolleh served dinner in the pod and refused Mr. Reed his meal. This is the same Dolleh who took another prisoner’s meal in this cellblock, as I previously wrote about.1
In turn, Mr. Reed admittedly stopped up the commode in his cell and, repeatedly flushing it, flooded the area in and around his cell, to get ranking staff to come to the pod.
In segregation it is virtually impossible to get prompt attention of a supervising guard or medical staff to abuses by lower ranking guards or other immediate needs, unless the prisoner resorts to some form of “disruptive” behavior. When this occurs the ranking officer almost always lectures prisoners that “this is not the way to get things done,” (although in reality it is the only way to get them to come to the pod to try and have them address or resolve the situation). The ranking guard then often uses the prisoner’s “misbehavior” as justification for not resolving the problem and/or even if they do address the issue, to subject the prisoner to disciplinary action or escalate the abuse.
So, the prisoner must choose, either to passively accept the abuse, which will only encourage further abuse (which might be anything from having been beaten by guards, to denial of life-sustaining medications or needed emergency medical care, to being refused meals, etc.) or to act out – as Mr. Reed did – to summon a ranking officer in hopes of obtaining some level of relief, although knowing he’s running the risk of suffering further punishment, or added abuse, by the ranking guard who’s been angered by the prisoner having forced her/him to come to the area. Mr. Reed received no redress, only compounded abuse and torture, which continues as I write this.
He was doomed if he did and doomed if he didn’t.
Escalating the Abuse
In response to Mr. Reed’s flooding, a lieutenant, Stephen Thomas, along with a mob of other guards, came to his cell, although not to hear Mr. Reed’s complaints of Dolleh’s misconduct and his denied meal. Instead, Thomas proceeded to verbally abuse him for flooding and told Reed, “I’m gonna take all your shit!” In other words, he was going to take all of Mr. Reed’s in-cell property and leave him in a completely empty cell—a response not permitted for a prisoner’s flooding. The only appropriate response was to turn off the water to his cell and turn it on every few hours to permit him to drink and flush the commode, which meant, Thomas intended to create a situation or fabricate a scenario to speciously justify taking everything from Mr. Reed, on top of having his in-cell water turned off.
Thomas and the mob of guards then left the pod, only to return a few minutes later dressed out in helmets, gas masks, and body armor, threatening use of force. Mr. Reed was confronted by a sergeant, Julio Lucero, brandishing a large canister of gas and demanding in hostile tones that he submit to a strip search or be met with force. Mr. Reed was apparently trying to pack his belongings, obviously concerned the guards would dump them in the water on the floor under the guise of packing them for him, which was their intent.
Lucero told him to stop packing, stating, “We’ll pack your property for you,” and directed him to come to the cell door to be strip-searched or he’d be gassed. Mr. Reed complied, went through the strip-search routine, and was then handcuffed behind his back and brought out of the cell, whereupon he began protesting that he’d flooded because Dolleh refused his meal for no reason. A portable audio-video camera was trained on Mr. Reed.
I witnessed as guards, including Dolleh, dropped, dumped, and dragged his property (a large amount of which were books and documents) in and through the water on the cell and tier floor. I spoke out so I could be heard and recorded on the camera, which was not trained on Mr. Reed’s property, that Thomas was allowing the guards, including Dolleh who took his meal, to drop and drag his property in the water, and they were avoiding filming it in on camera.
After the cell was stripped completely empty, Thomas had Mr. Reed taken inside, stripped and left completely naked in the cold, wet cell. Reed protested these abuses in the only limited ways he could, which did nothing to stop them, which were calculated to demean, humiliate, and torture the elderly man, in violation of multiple fundamental laws.
Mr. Reed was left with nothing in the cold, still flooded cell. Not even basic necessities like toilet paper, utensils, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. – this, on top of being completely naked.2
A female nurse was then called to Mr. Reed’s cell to look in at him while naked, asking if he had any medical concerns, which he denied, at which point the audio-video camera was turned off. As everyone began leaving Mr. Reed’s cell area, Thomas yelled to him, “Bye bitch! You’re my bitch!” He then yelled to Dolleh, who was sitting at the pod table, to fabricate disciplinary reports against Mr. Reed stating he’d tried to throw his dinner meal at Dolleh and had misused his property – all to falsely justify Mr Reed’s recorded complaints of being denied his meal and the retaliatory taking of all his property.
Approximately an hour later, a female guard, Annie Pina, was assigned to work the pod for the next six hours, during which time she made routine rounds every 30 minutes looking in to each cell, including at the completely nude Mr. Reed.3 Around 7pm that night a female captain, April Demaroney, also made rounds and looked in on Mr. Reed. He asked her for clothing and bedding but was told by her, “No, you’re on property restriction.”
The next morning Thomas returned to work, went to Mr. Reed’s cell and ordered him to throw out boxer shorts and socks he had in the cell, stating they’d seen other prisoners send him the items on pod surveillance video footage by sliding them to him under the cell doors on lines. He was again left naked in the empty cold cell. Thomas then had a large, heavy mattress placed across the bottom of Mr. Reed’s cell door, so nothing could be passed to him under the door. Thomas also told several prisoners next to and across from Mr. Reed that if they sent him anything else, they would also have all their property taken.
Mr. Reed was without any running water until 9:26 pm on November 13, when he convinced a lieutenant Christopher Kyle to turn his in-cell water back on. He was thus without drinking water and could not flush his commode for over 24 hours.
It is now December 2, 2015, and Mr. Reed still has none of his personal property, including no hygiene supplies, no utensils, etc. Several guards have taunted him that all his belongings were thrown away by Thomas and Co.
He received a mattress several days following November 12 by a guard, who, in defiance of Thomas and others, tried to smuggle it to him by stuffing it through the slot in his cell door, which was seen on the pod surveillance camera. In turn the segregation lieutenant had the guard moved to another pod.
Following which, on November 26 a guard, Richard Spears, refused Mr. Reed his morning Thanksgiving “cold” tray. Later that day he put his arm in the door’s hatch to prevent its being locked in order to have a ranking guard come to the pod.
In response, Lucero and a lieutenant Chad Perry had Mr. Reed confronted with a team of riot armored guards, strip-searched, brought out of the cell, and all items, including Mr. Reed’s clothing, removed from the cold cell yet again and his mattress placed across the front of his cell door.
Mr. Reed has yet to be treated according to the law or prison rules. According to him, Thomas had seven misconduct reports written against him on November 12, all of which were dropped because staff were captured on video tape throwing his personal belongings away, and ranking officials did not want these facts brought out on record in a disciplinary proceeding.
I have witnessed that he is being denied his legal mail, because his identification card was taken on November 12 along with his other property and not since returned. He thus cannot “prove” his identity to mailroom clerks who bring legal mail to his cell. Also, some have told him they’ve been told not to give him his mail, but instead to put it in storage because he’s on property restriction.
Officials would have the world believe that abuse of people of color in Amerika is the work of only a handful of “dirty” cops and guards. Bullshit! As Mr. Reed’s case demonstrates, abuses are carried out by the joint cooperation of officials of all ranks. It is a daily occurrence here, and no regard is given for the vulnerability of those targeted. Actually, the vulnerable and weak are made especial targets, since bullies are typically cowards, and to cowards, weakness invites attack. Only cowards could find a sense of personal satisfaction in abusing an elderly man, and dressing up in body armor with weapons to mob attack a single man. Odds are they would be utterly terrified to face themselves.
Dare to struggle, Dare to win!
All Power to the People!
- See Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “We Cannot Live by Bread Alone: Texas Abuses Prisoners with Denied Food and Bread and Water Diets” (2015). http://rashidmod.com/?p=1167 [↩]
- Strip cells, where prisoners are denied bedding, clothing, hygiene items, etc. have been deemed unconstitutional violations of the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause for decades. See, e.g., Chandler v. Baird, 926 F. 2d 1057, 1063 (1991); Mitchell v. Maynard, 80 F. 3d 1434, 1442 (1996); McCray v. Burrell, 622 F. 2d 705, 706 (1980); O’Connor v. Keller, 510 F. Supp. 1359, 1371-74 (1980), and so on. [↩]
- Prisoners have a “constitutional right to bodily privacy because most people have a special sense of privacy in their genitals, and involuntary exposure of them in the presence of people of the other sex may be especially demeaning and humiliating.”
Also, on March 28, 2014 the Texas Department of Criminal Justice [sic!] Director, William Stephens, issued a directive to all institutions under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, standard 115.15 that places “limits on cross-gender viewing and searches.” In this directive Stephens required TDCJ officials to protect prisoners from “non-medical staff of the opposite gender viewing their breasts, buttocks or genitalia …” [↩]