“The First amendment forbids prison officials from retaliating against prisoners for exercising the right of free speech.”
It was just a few months ago that I wrote about the new rule created by Texas prison officials to ban prisoners from having others post materials for them on social media since prisoners have no direct internet access in Texas.
Jason Clarke, the top PR man for the Texas Department of Criminal (In)Justice (TDCJ), announced to the media on April 14, 2016, that the new rule was put in place to stop prisoners from using “social media accounts to sell items over the internet based on the notoriety of their crime, harass victims or victims’ families, and continue their criminal activity.” The rule itself states, “Offenders are prohibited from maintaining active social media accounts for the purposes of soliciting, updating or engaging others, through a third party or otherwise.” Prisoner advocates protested, “The rule is written as to be so broad as to include anything.”
At the time Clark replied, “There has been no disciplinary action taken at this time against an offender.” That’s certainly no longer the case and the action taken in this instance is clearly not to deter things for which he claimed the rule was created.
In my article I refuted the specious claims for the rule, pointing out that TDCJ offered not a single example of a prisoner who’d abused social media and that the courts have ruled prisoners have a constitutional right to have materials by and about them published online by internet service providers (so on its face the rule was in direct violation of the highest law of the land), and the real purpose of the rule was to block prisoners exposing to the public through a direct media outlet the inhumane and appalling conditions and treatments we suffer in Texas prisons.
In fact the rule was created just a few days after April 4, 2016, when men at several Texas prisons began a work strike protesting compulsory unremunerated slave labor in violation of international law, abusive conditions, and poisoned (arsenic laden) drinking water, among other things. The protest and its purpose was widely publicized to the public and won broad support via social media, despite a mainstream media blackout.
Now, and in my own case, TDCJ officials have given direct proof of exactly what I described as the real purpose of the rule and the lies they publicized to falsely justify it. On January 5, 2017, the rule was invoked against me as punishment for a statement I wrote about abuses at my own place of confinement being posted online.
The statement described an assault on me on December 21, 2016, where guards at this Clements Unit prison in Amarillo, Texas took a large amount of my property (in direct violation of their own rules and the law) and sprayed and left me contaminated with a toxic caustic gas as I stood handcuffed from behind inside a locked cell. This abuse was in stated retaliation and orchestrated by a Captain Patricia Flowers, a lieutenant Crystal Turner, a sergeant Arleen Waak and others, for my previous involvement in publicizing abuses at the prison through published articles, and assisting attorneys in bringing pending federal lawsuits by surviving relatives against officials for their involvements in killing several men at the prison.
My statement was apparently widely circulated and published, prompting a number of outside complaints against my mistreatment. But instead of any consequent redress of the abuse and my property being returned, on January 5th, one of the guards, a sergeant Joshua Carrillo, who was involved in preventing witnessing prisoners from receiving and filing statements about their witnessing the theft of my my property and abuse of force on me on December 21st, yet acted as the investigator of the very same incident, wrote a disciplinary infraction against me under the social media rule. The infraction was for the posting of my statement about the December 21st incident online. He even printed out a copy of the statement off the internet and cited the URL (http://rashidmod.com/?p=2270), and a December 31, 2016, date as when it was posted online. (See, attached copy of said disciplinary report)
At the same time and date, he collaborated further with Flowers and others to have me placed on an all-round illegal and abusive “high profile” status, which is used at the prison to harass prisoners who challenge guards’ abuses among other things. In fact this status was in part the cause of the death of Arcade Joseph Comeaux, one of the men killed at the Unit, for which one of the earlier mentioned federal lawsuits was brought and remains pending.
This was all done in response to the posting of my statement online publicizing abuses at the prison.
This all flies in the face of a report issued in 2006 by the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons. The Commission was an investigative body composed of prominent professors, attorneys and former judges, mayors, prison system superintendents, etc. Their investigation and report covered a range of abusive conditions in U.S. prisons, and dedicated an entire section to the need for wide education and involvement of the public concerning conditions in U.S. prisons.
The report quoted several mainstream journalists’ frustrations with being thwarted in their efforts to investigate Amerikan prisons, due to officials (and Texas officials were specifically referenced) keeping their prisons like “the black hole of Calcutta”; places pervaded with abuse from which the public was excluded. Such efforts to block public scrutiny and accountability remains the aim of Texas prison officials, who as I recognized and pointed out previously, have now invented an illegal rule designed to deter prisoners from publicizing these abuses through media channels they cannot readily censor.
If prison officials believe themselves morally entitled to punish others for their legal infractions, then these officials should be doubly willing to be held accountable to the law for their own behavior. A good place to start in Texas is accountability for their creation of an illegal rule devised to censor prisoners’ speech that exposes them.
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
 Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1248 (2003).
 Mark Britain, “Social Media Ban Could Curb Free Speech Behind Bars.”
 The “high profile” status used at the prison requires that anytime a prisoner who is on the status requires his cell to be opened a ranking guard must be present and an audio-video record is made. Often ranking staff refuse to come to the prisoner’s cell when called by lower level guards because they are tied up elsewhere or they just don’t want to interrupt whatever they’re doing at the time This results in prisoners on this status being denied many entitlements as a routine matter, such as they almost never get to go out for outside exercise, they cannot receive timely medical care especially in emergencies, often female guards operate the cameras and view and film them during the mandatory strip and visual body cavity searches that the prisoner is compelled to undergo anytime his cell is to be opened, etc. In Comeaux’s case, he was deliberately denied renewed prescriptions of needed asthma medications by medical staff in complicity with officials resulting in his asthma becoming severe and him suffering debilitating asthma attacks. On November 13, 2013, he suffered such an attack, and was left for approximately an hour without medical help because the supervisory guards would not come to the cell so he could be brought out and treated by medical staff. As a result, the stress on his heart from lack of oxygen brought on a massive heart attack and he died. See my article on his death and the resultant lawsuit: “Who’s Lying Now? Official Records Show Texas Officials Are Murdering Prisoners,” (2016) http://rashidmod.com/?p=2128