Since returning to Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison (ROSP) on October 30, 2023, I have witnessed an environment where racist abuses continue, and little has changed in this regard since the earliest days of the prison’s history when it earned national notoriety for these same conditions. (1)

The physical abuse is ever present. And it is targeted almost exclusively at Black prisoners, who, not coincidentally, make up the vast majority of the total population of the prison. A prison whose staff by contrast is almost totally white and drawn from the area’s segregated rural white communities. This demographic contradiction and cultural clash has ALWAYS served as a recipe for racist abuse at the remote prison, and its sister supermax Wallens Ridge State Prison (WRSP), which is located just a few miles away from ROSP.

The polarization of race and power is itself scandalous and repeats a feature of Amerika’s most openly racist eras of chattel slavery and Jim Crow segregation: with a staff of armed and politically empowered rural whites versus a prisoner population of unarmed, disenfranchised, powerless Blacks. But the violence inflicted on the prisoners is particularly sinister and enraging when one observes these lopsided dynamics at play.

This because the violent abuse almost always consists of white mob attacks on single defenseless Blacks, EXACTLY like a lynch mob. And this is by no means an exaggeration nor sensational description. Here are two examples taken from two assaults that occurred in the B-3 solitary confinement cellblock where I’m housed less than 3 days apart. Both of the victims were Black and the guards who assaulted them were all white. And yes, there were mobs in both cases. Indeed every stage of uses of force at the prison is racially charged and reminiscent of slave- and Jim Crow-era abuses of Blacks.


The first victim was Randy Lassiter #1490582, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and a bipolar condition. I witnessed guards antagonize and threaten him, then when they had agitated him into a state they could say was belligerent, gas and beat him.

On the morning of November 23, 2023 guards took up a list of prisoners in B-3 who wanted to either go outside in the cold and stand idle in bare cages that look like dog pens (which is what passes as “outside recreation”) or sit chained like slaves to bare steel tables in the middle of the cellblock (the alternative so-called “inside recreation”).

There was an intent to provoke Randy from the beginning. He asked to go outside. A guard Mullins refused to take him out. He complained to the building sergeant Osborne who did nothing. So he covered his cell door window in efforts to summon other ranking staff in hopes of being taken outside. Another sergeant, Fleming, came to Randy’s cell and with his body camera turned off proceeded to threaten and taunt Randy. All ranking VDOC guards are required to wear body cameras and have them turned on whenever they come into contact with prisoners. Pod surveillance cameras will show Fleming at Randy’s cell door for some time with his camera off.

Fleming proceeded to call Randy names, threatened to throw all of his property away and to beat him. Predictably Randy refused to uncover his window, so guards now had a pretext to take all of his property for “misusing” it and to use force to achieve this.

At this point another sergeant named Looney came to the cell WITH HIS BODY CAMERA ON and ordered Randy to allow himself to be handcuffed to be brought out and placed on a strip cell status. Because of Fleming’s threats Randy refused. Fleming had antagonized him just so he would refuse and force could be ‘justified.’ So Looney sprayed him repeatedly with tear gas from a 46oz canister – far in excess of the 5-6 grams which federal courts have designated to be the “estimated lethal dose” of gas when sprayed into closed in cells. (2)

After some time Randy relented and was handcuffed and brought out by a group of 5 guards in riot body armor, all of whom had body cameras on but never activated them. He was manhandled by the group, along with about 10 other guards of various ranks, into a hallway outside the cellblock, where he was slammed down onto his knees abrading them. His clothes were cut off with shears. A cloth bag (so-called “spit mask”) was put over his head. The “spit mask” is actually used to cover a prisoner’s head to conceal facial and head injuries inflicted during routine beatings (particularly from videos used after uses of force).

A nurse refused him aid and the mob brought him back into the block and took him into a steaming hot shower to be “decontaminated” of the gas. Which is a whole other layer of torture and abuse. Not only does hot water add more suffering to the effects of the gas, but water does not decontaminate one at all. Water actually spreads and activates/reactivates the gas across one’s entire body. This was revealed to me on October 30, 2023 by captains Ingram (a chemical weapons trainer for the Virginia prison system) and Johnson after I was gassed at Sussex 1 State Prison, both of whom had their body cameras on when telling me this. They revealed that milk is actually supposed to be used to decontaminate those exposed to gas and all Virginia guards are trained to know this. At ROSP and WRSP prisoners are tortured with hot water showers instead of being decontaminated with milk.

Once in the shower the mob of body armored guards slammed Randy onto his knees in a corner and proceeded to beat him. They then hustled him back into the isolated hallway where he was beaten and choked further and put into ambulatory restraints (handcuffs connected to a waist chain and made immobile by a ‘black box’ device along with leg shackles). Ambulatory restraints are designed much like the chains used to transport Black slaves. Randy’s screams could be heard throughout the building as he was beaten at length in the hallway. During the attack guards attempted to break his wrists by bending them back with their weight against the handcuffs.

He was then hustled back into the gas drenched cell by the mob of guards, several of whom had him by the throat choking him, where he was left in ambulatory restraints for over 6 hours.


Only two days later, on Nov. 25, 2023, there was another mob assault. A. Jenkins was brought into B-3 from general population by a group of guards led by a lieutenant J. Massingill. He was placed handcuffed into cell B312, which he immediately complained was filthy. We are never given cleaning supplies in B-3 so most cells remain filthy, many containing black mold.

Jenkins refused to back up to the cell door to have the cuffs removed, protesting the cell’s conditions. Massingil had him gassed repeatedly then had the cell door opened and the mob of guards rushed in and beat him. Jenkins was dragged out onto the tier as guards positioned themselves to block the view of surveillance cameras and continued the assault. Several could be seen positioning their arms during the assault so they covered their body cameras.

Jenkins wasn’t taken to the shower to be ‘decontaminated’ at all.

The assault nearly drew me into a confrontation with the guards, as I became enraged at witnessing yet another mob assault on a defenseless prisoner by a mob of these cowardly guards who parade about like arrogant and smug conquerors.


Other mob assaults were brought to my attention as I was writing this which need to be mentioned because ROSP staff are hiding the victims in completely bare isolation cells in the medical department so they cannot communicate with the outside. One victim is Demetrius Wallace (number unknown).

He was gassed by a female sergeant Smith and then beaten at length by a mob of guards while handcuffed behind his back and leg shackled. He was repeatedly called “nigger” during the assault as he was repeatedly punched, kicked in the groin, stomped and gassed further. Several others who were victimized in the same way are also being held in the medical department under the same conditions.

Not only have I remained since coming back in an illegal solitary confinement cellblock, the notorious B-3 pod which has been closed down several times since it was modified in 2010 to serve as a torture unit targeting disliked prisoners at ROSP. (3) But EVERY DAY I live in and witness an environment where guards continuously antagonize, threaten, physically abuse, and fabricate disciplinary reports against prisoners.

The number of fabricated disciplinary reports issued in this block alone is staggering. Which alone makes evident there is a calculated design at play. Particularly when one looks at the penalties that are routinely imposed; they being heavy monetary fines and long terms of telephone restriction.

The motive behind fines are obvious: they generate a large amount of money for this remote prison. Where that money is going is a question to be answered. The purpose of telephone restrictions is less obvious. ROSP exists, as does its sister supermax prison WRSP, in the mountains of Va’s remote Wise County. Since these two prisons opened in 1998 and 1999 respectively, secrecy has been cultivated to keep hidden as much as possible the abuses and racist dynamics and culture inside these prisons. Prisoners targeted with frequent disciplinary charges are typically those who defy these conditions to one degree or another. These are those most likely to expose to people on the outside what they suffer and see in here. Also separating and isolating Blacks from our families have been a mainstay of racist oppression going back to the practice of selling off slaves and our children during chattel slavery.

Since my transfer I have personally experienced the trauma of separation and isolation from loved ones and the destructive effects this has within a family and community. The Black community has suffered this experience for so long it has become normalized and we don’t even resist it. Cutting off telephone contacts makes this isolation and disconnection total.

ROSP and WRSP should have been closed down long ago. These prisons serve no public benefit except to prop up a rural economy at the expense of poor Black communities who are stripped of our loved ones and made to suffer acute trauma and racist abuse inside these remote razor wire plantations that operate far out of reach of public scrutiny and accountability.

This abuse and modern slavery needs to be abolished!

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!

All Power to the People!

_________________ Endnotes:

  1. See Jamie Fellner, “Red Onion State Prison: Super maximum Security Confinement in Virginia” Human Rights Watch, 1999 <
  2. See, Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F. 3d 756 (4th Cir. 1996)
  3. See Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Abu Ghraib Comes to Amerika: Torture Unit Under Construction at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison” (2010); Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Under New Administration Torture Unit Closes Then Reopens at Red Onion State Prison, and Abuse on the Rise” (2011)
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