[Pnews] Prison officials, ACA inspectors ignore contaminated water in Texas prisons

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 21 17:01:15 EDT 2015


    Prison officials, ACA inspectors ignore contaminated water in Texas
    prisons
    <http://sfbayview.com/2015/10/prison-officials-aca-inspectors-ignore-contaminated-water-in-texas-prisons/>

October 21, 2015
*http://sfbayview.com/2015/10/prison-officials-aca-inspectors-ignore-contaminated-water-in-texas-prisons/*

*/by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington/*

/“Multi-racial unity among and across oppressed and exploited groups is 
necessary for re­volutionary alliance that can win but must be built 
upon the basis of independent strength within the Black revolutionary 
movement itself (and in the other oppressed groups as well), not by 
ceding leadership to others outside that community.”/ – Assata Shakur, 
in Joseph G. Ramsey’s “Revolutionary Relatability: Assata: An 
Autobiography as a Site of Radical Teaching and Learning,” Socialism & 
Democracy, 2014, Vol. 28, No. 3

Revolutionary greetings to all!

In the September 2015 edition of Prison Legal News, Panagioti Tsolkas of 
the newly formed Prison Ecology Project wrote a scathing article that 
shed light on a serious problem at a prison located in Navasota, Texas. 
Dangerous levels of arsenic have been found at the Wallace Pack Unit.

Arsenic is a heavy metal that is poison to human beings! I actually was 
housed at the Wallace Pack Unit at the time the article was released. In 
fact, I had been sounding the alarm about high levels of arsenic in 
Wallace Pack’s water supply.

I was very pleased and quite surprised to see the article. Many people 
don’t understand that in Texas prisons we live in a virtual 
informational “black hole.” It is extremely hard to get authentic 
information about our conditions in or out of these modem day gulags. 
After reading Mr. Tsolkas’ article, I and many other prisoners 
discovered high levels of arsenic have been a problem at Wallance Pack 
Unit for well over seven years!

On Aug. 19, 2015, the Wallace Pack Unit was being audited by the 
American Correctional Association, commonly known as the ACA. The ACA 
sets standards, policies and best practices for prisons across Amerika. 
ACA even issues a coveted accreditation to those Amerikan prisons that 
meet their “strict” standards.

During the audit, one of the inspectors spoke to me personally and the 
first thing I mentioned to her was the presence of high levels of 
Arsenic in our water supply. ACA gave Wallace Pack Unit its stamp of 
approval. However, one question has been haunting me and keeping me up 
at night:

“How could the American Correctional Association continue to give 
Wallace Pack Unit passing marks and rave reviews if the drinking water 
is contaminated with poison?”

An intelligent person could surmise that in order to receive 
accreditation from the “esteemed” ACA, clean water would definitely 
factor in heavily, wouldn’t you think? However, this is not the case at 
all. In fact, I have discovered that there are numerous facilities 
operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice which have 
contaminated water supplies!

So what we have here is some type of conspiratorial relationship between 
TDCJ and the ACA. Another question has presented itself: Does the ACA 
have the integrity to contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
and file a complaint against Texas and TDCJ for violations of the 
federal Save Drinking Water Act (Public Law 95-523)?

I do not think they have the integrity to go the extra mile to ensure 
prisoners consume safe and clean water. You see there is a symbiotic 
relationship between TDCJ, the state of Texas and the ACA – a 
relationship based on mutual benefits, corruption, secrecy and lies!


      “How could the American Correctional Association continue to give
      Wallace Pack Unit passing marks and rave reviews if the drinking
      water is contaminated with poison?”

The ACA receives generous donations from TDCJ and from Texans who have a 
vested interest in the smooth running of TDCJ’s corporate enterprise – 
an enterprise based on a slave plantation work model. The donations ACA 
receives act as bribes, buying silence when ACA auditors discover 
serious violations that could shut down prison operations.

Arsenic in the water, black mold in prisoners’ living areas, excessive 
amounts of bacteria in water, roach and rodent infestation and serious 
building code violations are all ignored and covered up by our “good 
friends” at the ACA.


      *The Empire strikes back*

As a result of my on-going revolutionary investigative journalism, I was 
suddenly awakened in the early hours of the morning on Thursday, Sept. 
17, 2015, and told by a correctional officer: “Pack your shit, 
Washington. You are leaving and you ain’t coming back!” What was 
remarkable and quite interesting, I was being transferred along with 
another prisoner named Mark Schwarzer, 1433741.

Mark Schwarzer has contracted skin cancer, which he attributes to his 
consumption of arsenic contami­nated water at the Wallace Pack Unit. 
Mark had been housed at Wallace Pack for approximately six years. 
Recently, Mark had been filing grievances and requesting that the 
University of Texas Medical Branch personnel test his blood for the 
presence of arsenic. They refused to do so.

Like me, Mark also was suddenly awakened out of his sleep and told he 
was being “gotten rid of.” When people in power conspire to silence the 
voices of those who dissent or cry out for justice, that gives us cause 
to believe the oppressors have something to hide. The problem of 
retaliation smacks of an elaborate cover-up, but it is much deeper and 
more complex than you realize.

For the record, let me say I was not a disciplinary problem while housed 
at the Wallace Pack Unit. I did file administrative grievances and write 
articles which exposed abuse and injustice at the unit.


      As a result of my on-going revolutionary investigative journalism,
      I was suddenly awakened in the early hours of the morning on
      Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015, and told by a correctional officer:
      “Pack your shit, Washington. You are leaving and you ain’t coming
      back!”

In August 2015 the San Francisco Bay View newspaper published my piece 
entitled, “TDCJ placed me in harm’s way because I spoke out in reference 
to the extreme heat 
<http://sfbayview.com/2015/07/tdcj-placed-me-in-harms-way-because-i-spoke-out-in-reference-to-the-extreme-heat/>.” 
This piece created a ripple effect that was felt at the Texas Attorney 
General’s Office in the state Capitol located in Austin, Texas. As a 
result, TDCJ prison officials actually threatened to transfer me to a 
unit with harder conditions than those of Wallace Pack Unit.

On Sept. 18, 2015, TDCJ made good on their threat. I was sent to the 
H.H. Coffield Unit located in Tennessee Colony, Texas. The Coffield Unit 
is the largest prison in Texas. It is a maximum security prison, whereas 
Wallace Pack Unit is a minimum security prison. Coffield houses 
approximately 4,500 men.

I noticed immediately that, like many TDCJ facilities, the Coffield Unit 
is in a gross state of decay and the state of Texas certainly is not 
providing adequate material or resources to keep up with maintenance or 
the increasing deterioration of the infrastructure. The demographics of 
the two prisons , Wallace and Coffield, are completely different.

It was very noticeable. At Wallace Pack, there were many white and 
Latino men; they were elderly, disabled and suffering from a wide array 
of chronic medical conditions. Correctional officers were beating and 
mistreating many prisoners housed there.

At the Coffield Unit, we have many New Afrikans – Black – men, some 
young, some older. Most have a ton of prison time.

The common thread which binds all of us is that we all are being 
oppressed by a system which not only profits from us but a system which 
ignores our fundamental rights to be treated with dignity and respect.


      *More poison water!*

It took only one day on Coffield Unit for me to find out that 
contaminated drinking water exists there also. In June 2015, a public 
water notice was posted at the Coffield Unit. The notice stated that a 
higher than normal level of coliform bacteria was found to be in the 
water systems that supply the Coffield and Michaels units. Micheals Unit 
is right across the road from Coffield. It houses approximately 2,500 men.

Coliform is a form of bacteria that is naturally present in the 
environment. However, high levels of coliform can mean that other 
potentially harmful bacteria may be present in the water system.

This is not the first time Coffield Unit has had a serious threat to the 
safety of its water supply. In fact, on April 28, 2014, a hazardous 
toxic chemical storage dump was partially destroyed during an excavation 
project. The ground at the site was said to be saturated with a 
substance that smelled similar to paint thinner or paint.

The hazardous toxic chemical storage is said to have been in the ground 
for an unknown number of decades. The dump was believed to contain 
discarded lead-based alkaloid paint, paint thinner and paint solvents. 
TDCJ and the administrators at the Coffield Unit never have taken proper 
action to clean up this hazmat site.


      It took only one day on Coffield Unit for me to find out that
      contaminated drinking water exists there also.

As I proceeded to investigate, I discovered many prisoners were having 
health issues that they assoc­iated with the contaminated water at the 
unit. Their symptoms include rashes, swollen lower extremities, chronic 
fatigue, asthma and CANCER!

I interviewed a prisoner named Kevin Wayne Handy, 1826610. He was 
diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. He was given chemotherapy in order 
to treat his condition and, as a result, his kidneys suffered damage. 
Mr. Handy said, “Prior to me being locked up, I didn’t smoke cigarettes, 
use drugs or drink heavily.

“I remember they posted a boil notice here in January 2014. I never took 
the warning serious – and we can’t even boil our water up in here! Then 
the medical staff here tried to say I contracted cancer because I may 
have engaged in oral sex! I was insulted because I never have done that.”

Mr. Hardy continued: “The University of Texas Medical Branch provides 
health care for us down here. They know something is very wrong with the 
water here, but like many they just go along to get along. I’m gonna 
file a lawsuit against these folks! I know they may retaliate against me 
but I don’t care. I came in here healthy and now I’m all messed up. I’m 
not going to be quiet any more.”

The contaminated and poisoned water at the Coffield Unit is a 
state-created danger. TDCJ prison officials like Assistant Warden Donald 
Bilnosk love to say things like “bottled water is available for purchase 
through the commissary for those with concerns about the tap water.” 
Bilnosk is assistant warden at Wallace Pack Unit, where super high 
arsenic levels have been found.

I want to ask all of you something: What happens to the prisoners who 
can’t afford to buy bottled water off the commissary?


      What happens to the prisoners who can’t afford to buy bottled
      water off the commissary?


      *Connally and McConnell Units*

In 2012 there was a contaminated water disaster that brought three full 
busloads and a couple hundred prisoners to Coffield Unit from the 
Connally Unit, which is located in Kennedy, Texas. I interviewed a 
prisoner who was housed at Connally Unit during the prison water disaster.

Charles Turnbull, 1207399, was transferred to Coffield from Connally 
Unit in 2012. Mr. Turnbull said: “A few years ago, oil was found on the 
property the Connally Unit was built on. I think TDCJ owns the lease to 
the land. I heard the oil company may have been Penzoil, but I’m not sure.

“What I am sure about is this: You know to drill for oil you need water, 
so the city of Kennedy, Texas, started allowing this oil company to use 
their water well, the same water source Connally Unit uses. Everything 
went fine until the water pump broke.

“Then we were told there was too much bacteria in the water. The water 
was unsafe to drink or shower in. It got real bad. We were literally 
urinating and defecating in plastic bags and throwing them out the 
window!” Mr. Turnbull continued: “We could not use the toilet. I had to 
get into straight survival mode and rig my hot pot to boil because these 
TDCJ employees weren’t giving us enough water to live!

“TDCJ knew something serious was wrong, but they didn’t make it a 
priority to move us until the media and our families started asking 
questions. Corporate greed and the inhumane treatment of prisoners is 
the most downplayed and under-covered stories in Texas. I hope this 
exposé changes that.”

Not too far down the road from Connally Unit is the McConnell Unit, 
located in Beeville, Texas. McConnell Unit is one of the most 
dilapidated and understaffed prison units in Texas; the conditions are 
horrible. Prisoner Keith Cole, 728748, filed a lawsuit against the 
Wallace Pack Unit with three other prisoners citing unconstitutional 
conditions related to the deadly extreme heat.

In retaliation for filing a civil lawsuit, the senior warden of Wallace 
Pack Unit, Robert Hererra, conspired with the TDCJ Classification 
Department and had Mr. Cole sent to the William G. McConnell Unit. This 
was in or around February 2015. In June 2015, Mr. Cole was returned to 
the Wallace Pack Unit.

I interviewed Mr. Cole in reference to the conditions at the McConnell 
Unit. Here is an excerpt of that interview, verbatim. Mr. Cole said: 
“Offenders are exposed to bio-hazards such as black mold in showers and 
in their individuals cells. McConnell’s water supply comes from the city 
of Beeville, Texas, where arsenic levels are unsafe.

The city of Beeville warns all consumers to boil their drinking water. 
However, the offenders have no way to comply because there is no way for 
us to boil water. In addition, the city and TDCJ refuses or fails to 
provide bottled water to offenders during these crises, thus exposing us 
to dangerous levels of arsenic.”

This interview that Mr. Cole granted me was much more extensive and 
detailed; however, our focus is the pervasive and systemic problem with 
contaminated water inside Texas prisons. I do feel compelled to mention 
that Mr. Cole has very serious chronic heart problems. Mr. Cole takes 
the highest dosage of nitroglycerin tablets a person can be prescribed.

Mr. Cole’s medical problems are well documented. TDCJ’s Classification 
Department knew this prior to transferring Mr. Cole to McConnell Unit, 
and Senior Warden Robert Hererra knew this fact also. McDonnell Unit is 
grossly understaffed and the cells are not equipped with any call buttons.

What do you think would have happened if Mr. Cole would have had a 
serious cardiac event while housed at McConnell Unit? In my opinion, 
TDCJ attempted to harm Mr. Cole for engaging in peaceful, legal activities.


      *Texas won’t protect the babies *

One of the most regrettable legacies left behind by former Texas Gov. 
Rick Perry is the pattern of practice in which Texas allows corporate 
entities to damage the environment, harm Texas citizens and then get 
away scot-free as if no harm was caused.

In early September 2015, journalist Susan Carroll of the Houston 
Chronicle reported how “experts” in Texas refused to launch an in-depth 
study of the San Jacinto River. The study would have determined if 
toxins and poisons in the river caused higher instances of brain and eye 
cancer in children who live in close proximity to the toxic waterway. 
The panel of experts included representatives from the Texas Commission 
on Environmental Quality, the US. Environmental Protection Agency, and 
the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry.

Now I want you to think about something: If these so called 
environmental health professionals don’t care enough about our children 
to launch a study that could save the lives of babies, what makes anyone 
think for a moment the state of Texas – TDCJ – has a vested interest to 
ensure Texas prisoners have access to clean and safe water supplies?

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been charged with securities fraud 
in Collin County, Texas. Paxton, a master at deceptive business 
practices, recently filed an 88-page court document, which, if 
successful, would block enforcement of a new federal rule that expands 
federal authority over the water bodies the government can regulate.


      If these so called environmental health professionals don’t care
      enough about our children to launch a study that could save the
      lives of babies, what makes anyone think for a moment the state of
      Texas – TDCJ – has a vested interest to ensure Texas prisoners
      have access to clean and safe water supplies?

Texas is working overtime to cover up its dirty deeds. I am requesting 
that “free world” activists and investigative journalists take a long 
hard look at the contaminated water epidemic. I request that you send 
emails to federal legislators such as Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green 
and Beto O’Rourke. I ask that you contact the U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency and request an investigation be launched immediately 
at the Coffield Unit.

Please help amplify my voice. Access to clean drinking water is a human 
right! Dare to struggle, dare to win! All power to the people!

/Send our brother some love and light: Keith “Malik” Washingtion, 
1487958, Coffield Unit, 2661 FM 2054, Tennessee Colony, Texas 75884. /

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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