During early January 2018 my article “Florida Prisoners Are Laying It Down” was published online, which discussed the prevalence of enforced slave labor in the Florida Department of Corruption (FDOC), the brutally inhumane conditions under which its prisoners live, and a planned nonviolent protest they were staging in efforts to bring attention and redress to these conditions.
Upon discovering my article online, Barry Reddish, the warden of Florida State Prison (FSP) where I am confined, unleashed swift retaliation against me.
One January 10, 2018 Reddish had his lieutenant Martin Sanders, fabricate a disciplinary report (DR) against me, claiming my article was, “Inciting a riot” in the prisons. A facially bogus charge as anyone who reads my article can see, since it contains no language direction or encouraging prisoners to do anything, and furthermore FDOC prisoners have no access to the internet where it was published.
What obviously incensed FDOC officials was my bearing witness to and publishing their abuses and giving a voice to their victims. Which amounts to nothing but constitutionally protected journalism. Free Press and Speech at a Cost.
Which is why the FDOC has made no such accusations against the Miami Herald for publishing similar articles. Take for example the Herald’s August 17, 2017 report on a statewide lockdown of Florida prisons, imposed for several days in anticipation of prisoners protesting inhumane conditions.
The newspaper even quoted a former warden Ron McAndrews denouncing the lockdown as likely to exacerbate tensions because of the intense Florida heat and its prisons having no air conditioning. He made clear that these conditions would be tantamount to torture, and invited readers to try it themselves, “you would not be able to sleep,” he warned.
Was the Herald inciting a riot? Of course not.
What I and this paper were engaged in was conveying information about public officials and institutions that it is the public’s fundamental right to know, and that we have a fundamental right to communicate. Which are what the U.S. Constitution embodies in the rights of free press and speech. As to free press the Supreme Court has stated:
“The Constitutional guarantees of a free press assures the maintenance of our political system and an open society and secures the paramount public interest in a free flow of information to the public concerning public officials.
“[T]he First and Fourteenth Amendments also protect the right of the public to receive such information and ideas as are published.”
And as to free speech:
“[T]he right of free speech includes the right to communicate a person’s view to any willing listener.”
“The First Amendment forbids prison officials from retaliating against prisoners for exercising the right of free speech.”
Guards Incite Violence Against Herald
But as warden Reddish’s actions demonstrate, the notoriously corrupt FDOC doesn’t recognize nor respect any such rights. It’s deeply ingrained culture of corruption, racism, and abuse compels secrecy, and engenders retaliatory impulses against those who seek to expose it.
In fact FDOC officials were just caught inciting retaliatory violence and expressing such urges against the Miami Herald for its exposing prison abuses.
This exposure came when posts from a closed facebook page shared by hundreds of FDOC guards was leaked to the Herald. Incensed because the paper broke a story about an asthmatic prisoner who was sadistically gassed to death by FDOC guards, they posted such remarks as, “I would like to slap everybody associated with the Miami Herald in the mouth.” Followed by their posting a map with directions to the Herald’s office. Furthermore, like a lynch mob they mocked and made jokes about the prisoner, who died lying with his face pressed to a crack at the bottom of a solid steel cell door searching desperately for air, with a Bible in his hand.
Lying DRs – Just Doing Their Jobs
But this isn’t the first time Reddish and his staff have retaliated against me for publicizing abusive prison conditions. My last article, “Lynching Culture,” brought a similar response, because I wrote about the frequent killings of prisoners by FDOC officials, and quoted a ranking FSP guard, Sergeant Alvin Cazee, who in a veiled threat boasted to me about many such killings targeted at prisoners who create problems, and their being covered up as suicides.
Right after that article was published and Cazee read it online, he fabricated a DR claiming that a note was intercepted that I supposedly attempted to pass another prisoner, which contained threats to send my “connections” after his family and the family of an FSP mental health worker. He even had a note forged stating this, in a handwriting and grammar nothing like my own.
Filing false DRs is a common practice in the FDOC. Actually it is part of a “code” that guards are trained into. As a former FDOC guard revealed to the Herald:
“‘First, they teach you how to write a false DR [disciplinary report] against and inmate. They tell you you have to write it to ‘make it stick,’ to use certain language.
“Disciplinary reports result in a loss of privileges and can also lead to delays in an inmate’s release.
“‘Sometimes they will even write it for you – all filled with lies so they can say they beat or gassed someone because they deserved it,’ he said.
“Sometimes those reports written by corrections officers have a familiar cadence and wording.”
But the retaliation goes deeper still. Although prior prison systems denied as much, Florida admitted that I’ve been bounced from state to state and am now in Florida in retaliation for and with intentions to repress my publicizing prison abuses. They further admitted in writing that I’ve been thrown into solitary confinement for these reasons.
Florida not only retaliates against prisoners who dare expose its abuses, however, but those who are persistent outright disappeared.
It was done to Harold Hempstead, the prisoners who witnessed and exposed the death of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill man who was killed in 2012 by FDOC guards who scalded him to death in a rigged shower at Dade Correctional Institution.
Rainey’s killing was swept under the rug for two years, until the Herald investigated and publicized it, based on Hempstead’s persistent letters and complaints about Rainey’s medieval torture.
A staged official investigation was then re-opened in 2014 following the Herald’s exposé, which concluded with a March 2017 report exonerating Rainey’s killers and attempting to undermine Hempstead’s credibility. To complete the clean up, on the same day the report was issued the FDOC transferred Hempstead out of state to an undisclosed location making him “unavailable” for any furhter comments to the media.
On June 22, 2017 the FDOC accepted me with similar designs to its treatment of Hempstead. Namely to silence and disappear a persistent witness to prison abuses.
On that first day in Florida I was threatened by officials with physical harm and death if I persisted with my publicizing prison conditions. It was in this vein that the FSP guard Cazee made his veiled threat to me that prison officials in Florida “disappear” and kill prisoners who create problems.
By using the term “disappear” he was literally describing my illegal status in Florida, which is one of “enforced disappearance” – a criminal violation of international law.
A Status Invented By Nazis
On December 7, 1941 Adolf Hitler issued his Night and Fog Decree ordering that those “‘endangering German security’ who were not to be immediately executed” would be made to “vanish without a trace into the unknown in Germany.”
In 1946 Hitler’s Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel was convicted in Nuremberg War Crimes trials for his role in enforcing the Decree. Since that judgment, enforced disappearance, which includes secret incommunicado detention, has been maintained as a crime under international law, and is binding on all countries whether they are party or not to a similar treaty.
Such confinement is also banned under the November 2010 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which states under Article 17 that, “No one shall be held in secret detention.”
My Secret Detention in Florida
As sinister as it sounds, and is, the FDOC has me formally confined under secret detention. It has only been through the persistent efforts and sacrifices of attorneys and media contacts that I have been able to communicate to the outside and make my whereabouts known. And it’s been an uphill battle every step of the way.
Under this secret detention status (or more notoriously known as “secret rendition”), I am being held in an officially undisclosed location and am being denied the means and ability to pursue my legal rights and unlawful custody in my home state of Virginia. I can be secretly moved around the state of Florida at any time.
The FDOC has tried to keep my location hidden, even lying to those who’ve inquired telling them I’m not at FSP or am at other FDOC prisons that I’ve never been to, like the Northwest Florida Reception Center. In fact FDOC headquarters has FSP officials under strict orders to disclose no information about me to anyone, and to tell anyone who contacts the prison about me that I’m not here, and they should contact headquarters who, as said, will divulge nothing. Any outside reader is free to test any of this.
In fact in my referral to solitary confinement FDOC officials claimed that having my location publicized online presented a “security threat.” So I’m the only person confined FDOC custody for whom there is no public accountability or scrutiny.
I’ve grieved this treatment and bogus “special status” repeatedly, but have been told emphatically that “IT WILL NOT CHANGE.” (Some of these efforts and responses will be posted with this article).
If any reader goes to the FDOC website and look me up on the inmate locator you will find that I’m the only person confined in the FDOC whose name and location are not in the prisoner database.
I’ve been blocked from making phone calls unlike other FDOC prisoners. I’ve had my mail blocked, and have been repeatedly obstructed, censored and harassed in my communications with attorneys, courts and the media.
All of which is in violation of the most basic U.S. Constitutional and international laws.
All of which is in response to my involvement in exposing to the public the inhumane abuses occurring behind the hidden walls of U.S. prisons.
These are the lawless extremes to which a lawless power structure will go to conceal its true criminal nature from public scrutiny, in efforts to preserve its mask of legality, legitimacy and public accountability.
What dictatorship that preys on the powerless has ever willingly shown its true face to the masses who have the power in numbers to overthrow it, or has not acted to repress those who dare to expose it and open the people’s eyes?
I will never waiver in speaking truth to the people, because there is no power like the awakened masses!
Dare to struggle Dare to win!
All Power to the People!
“Because I accepted my lifestyle and all of its consequences, I was always reluctant to involve my family or others on the outside of prison in my conflicts with the pigs. I dealt with my own problems–directly.”
The included image art is by the author Kevin “Rashid” Johnson who is a political prisoner, activist and artist. More about him can be found at RASHIDMOD.COM.