Kevin Rashid Johnson and Oregon’s Isolation Torture Unit

by kersplebedeb
This is an update about Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, a prisoner activist and intellectual who is currently in a dire situation in Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon.

As was reported last week, Rashid has been in the midst of a health crisis for almost a month now, which has included periods of severe disorientation. For a time he was refusing to eat or drink; as far as our most recent information if concerned, he is currently accepting liquids but still not eating.

Rashid has spent most of his adult life in prison, and almost all of that time has been spent in various isolation units. This is a direct consequence of his actively resisting abuse from prison guards and their lackeys in the 1990s, and to his continued political writing and exposing conditions in America’s carceral nightmare ever since. A New Afrikan Communist and the founder and Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter, Rashid is also a longtime mentor to several activists (and, through his writings, other prisoners) in Virginia, and in recent years has gained national attention as the result of the publication of his book Defying the Tomb, and the use of his artwork in numerous progressive publications. Most notably, Rashid is the artist who designed the drawing used as an emblem during the historic 2011 California prisoners’ hunger strikes, in which over 12,000 participated.

Rashid is a Virginia State prisoner, yet in 2012 the situation at Red Onion State Prison (where he had been held in solitary for years) escalated, with certain guards singling him out for abuse. In one harrowing incident, he was beaten while in handcuffs, which left him with a dislocated shoulder several of his dreadlocks torn out from the roots (as reported here). This attack came shortly after he wrote an article exposing a pain-compliance technique used at Red Onion which involved twisting prisoners’ fingers back, leading in some cases to broken bones. Subsequent to this assault, he was transferred to Wallens Ridge prison where he was informed by guards that he “would not leave the prison walking” (as reported here).

It was following exposure of this set-up, and numerous phone calls and petitions from outside supporters, that Rashid was transferred across the country, to Oregon. This transfer was possible due to an American practice of some States agreeing to imprison people from other States, essentially renting out their prison cells for one another. Upon his arrival in Oregon, Rashid was placed in general population – the first time in almost twenty years that he had not been in solitary confinement. Nevertheless, after just a few months, his work educating other prisoners in revolutionary theory and the principles of solidarity led to his being transferred to Snake River’s Intensive Management Unit, a prison within a prison on the border with Idaho in Oregon’s remote south-east corner. Continue reading

The South Is Risen: Old Jim Crow Thrives Inside Oregon Prisons

Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

By Kevin Rashid Johnson, Oregon prisoner

In her book, The New Jim Crow, legal scholar Michelle Alexander did a masterful job of exposing the U.S. criminal (in)justice system for what it is: namely, an updated, more sophisticated, continuation of repression and containment, and profiting  off the misery, of New Afrikan/Black people. Her work, and that of other critical race writers like Tim Wise, counter the b.s. of those who pretend that Amerika is finally a race-neutral society.

In the eyes of most, and even of these writers, the overt old Jim Crow forms of racism and national oppression, e.g. government-enforced segregation such as “whites only” eating facilities, Blacks seated in the backs of buses, and so on, are practices of a bygone era. Even I thought as much. That is, until I found myself imprisoned within the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) Continue reading