[Pnews] The Abuse Goes On: The Corrupting Dynamics of Power in a Texas Prison (2017)
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 6 10:25:37 EST 2017
The Abuse Goes On: The Corrupting Dynamics of Power in a Texas Prison
March 5, 2017 | Kevin “Rashid” Johnson
It’s a truism that power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts
absolutely. But that’s not the end of the story.
In Amerika, prisons constitute the most absolute exercise of state
power. Within their confines, officials control the lives, means of
survival, and quality of life of their captives, and use that power to
control, manipulate, and compel submission of the prisoners to various ends.
In my 27 years of imprisonment I have witnessed that some people are
more susceptible to the corrupting influences of such power than others,
but none are immune.
I have found too that many people in society disbelieve how completely
these environments transform and deform the characters of “normal”
people when they pass through the prison gates as employees. Most seem
to believe they bring with them the same morals, sense of social
responsibility and consideration toward their fellow persons that they
observe in society. While initially some do or may try, their “normal”
character quickly breaks down and a different personality emerges. A
well known experiment by psychiatrist Philip Zimbardo, conducted at
Stanford University in 1973 gave powerful proof of this. In his
experiment Zimbardo selected 21 normal, intelligent, and stable students
to create a simulated prison in the university’s basement. Based on coin
flips, half were given roles of prison guards and the other half, of
prisoners. Zimbardo described the frightening results:
“At the end of only six days we had to close down our mock prison
because what we saw was frightening. It was no longer apparent to us
or most of the subjects where they ended and their roles began. The
majority had indeed become ‘prisoners’ or ‘guards,’ no longer able
to clearly differentiate between role-playing and self. There were
dramatic changes in virtually every aspect of their behavior,
thinking and feeling. In less than a week, the experience of
imprisonment undid (temporarily) a lifetime of learning; human
values were suspended, self-concepts were challenged, and the
ugliest most base, pathological side of human nature surfaced. We
were horrified, because we saw boys (‘guards’) treat other boys as
if they were despicable animals, taking pleasure in cruelty, while
other boys (‘prisoners’) became servile, dehumanized robots, who
thought only of escape, of their own survival, and of their own
mounting hatred of the guards.” <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn1>
In a similar context, U.S. courts have also recognized that, “prison
guards may be more vulnerable to the corrupting influence of unchecked
authority than most people.” <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn2> I
would add that cops are no less “vulnerable,” and the routine brutality
and killings that the poor and people of color suffer at their hands is
the product of this. And as the late attorney Johnnie Cochran once
noted, the courts have long been complicit in, condoned, and protected
cops against liability for, these behaviors.
<http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn3> But in the prison context I want to
examine these corrupting tendencies, some environmental factors that
encourage them, and base this on some specific examples (of which my own
setting affords many).
I want to do this because I’ve found that most outside people are
reluctant to challenge prison abuses, including prisoners’ own loved
ones. Which often results from their disbelief that officials actually
behave as they do.
I’ve witnessed and heard more times than I care to remember; my peers
express a lack of outside support against abuses, because those they
report abuses to (and most often it’s their own loved ones), simply
don’t believe them. Either they outright refuse to accept that officials
do what they complained of, or they defer to the lying denials or
promises to investigate and resolve the reported situation made by some
official the outside person has contacted in following up on the
Essentially, outside folks tend to blindly trust and defer to
“authority” figures, believing that those entrusted with government
power exercise it responsibly and in good faith. As the Stanford prison
experiment demonstrated, the reality is just the opposite.
I also want to show how easily everyday people can become violent
abusers in service to oppressive power, just as common Germans did
during the Nazi era.
But let’s start with some specific examples.
On December 21, 2016, on top of having a substantial amount of my
property taken, I was assaulted by guards who gassed me while I was
handcuffed from behind and locked inside a cell; whereupon they refused
to have me, the cell and my in-cell linen decontaminated. Several abuse
reports I wrote following this included some mention of misuse of gas at
the prison. <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn4> By referring to
those articles, the reader can get a sense of the prevalent abuse of gas
which has been acknowledged and strongly condemned in court proceedings
and the media, without me restating it here.
But despite those exposures and their generating a bit of public stir
and preparations for future possible litigations, the mistreatments
continue, and by many of the same officials. As testament to the
frequency of such ongoing abuses, note the close timeframe in which the
three incidents described below occurred (namely February 19, 21, and
23, 2017); and /in each case the abused prisoner is documented as
mentally ill./ All incidents described herein occurred at the Clements
Unit prison in Amarillo, Texas.
The Feb. 19th incident was instigated by lieutenant Chad Perry, the very
same guard who tried to murder another prisoner on July 2, 2016, by
gassing him, despite the fact that he was under medical “do not gas”
orders, because he suffers from a respiratory disease.
On Feb. 19th, Perry, along with several other guards dressed out in body
armor, went to cell E-116, which housed a prisoner named Neighbors, to
take all his property, because Perry alleged he was masturbating [!?].
Not only is taking a prisoner’s property for this reason absurd and
illegal, but other prisoners witnessed that Neighbors was actually only
shaking a bottle. I’ve personally witnessed Perry take prisoners’
property for no reason other than their saying something cross to him,
usually in response to his own unprovoked verbal abuse. In turn he’d lie
saying the prisoner had some item covering his cell door, then organize
a team of guards dressed out in body armor with gas, and if the
unsuspecting (and understandably outraged) prisoner hesitated to
cooperate in having his things taken for no reason, Perry would promptly
gas and send the team in to assault the prisoner and remove him and his
property from the cell by force.
In this case, however, Neighbors submitted to being handcuffed and was
brought out, legs shackled, and moved to another cell two cells down.
Perry then had the team of armored guards lay Neighbors on the floor in
back of the cell where he could not be seen on the audio-video camera
that was present and recording the incident. The leg shackles were
removed. He was left in the handcuffs and the guards began backing out
of the cell as he lay on the floor.
As the last guard backed out a sergeant Samuel Barrientos suddenly
sprayed gas into the cell like a signal, and the group of guards ran
back in yelling repeatedly, “Stop resisting,” while sounds of punches
landing and slams could be heard.
The guards then backed out the cell, closed the door, removed the cuffs.
and left Neighbors naked in the empty gas-contaminated cell.
Approximately five hours later Neighbors was met by the team again and
sprayed in the face with gas, because be understandably didn’t want to
submit to an order to be handcuffed (and possibly beaten) again. He then
allowed himself to be cuffed and was placed naked on a gurney and
wheeled out of the pod.
A white guard was later heard bragging to a white prisoner that Perry
“took care of business,” because “Neighbors’s Black ass was talkin’ shit.”
The Feb. 21st incident was led by lieutenant Crystal Turner; the same
guard who was involved in my own incident of Dec. 21st. The victim was
the same Louis Johnson who was gassed on Jan. 13, 2017, and left in a
gas saturated jumper which he gave me a piece of to share with others on
the outside as evidence of his abuse. In fact I showed the completely
saturated piece of cloth to attorneys who visited me on Jan. 25, 2017. I
described Louis’s incident in a separate article.
One of the attorneys, Benjamin Haile, described the occasion in a letter
to another attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project thusly, “When I
visited [Rashid], he showed me a piece of clothing from another prisoner
he had wrapped in plastic and saved. It was shocking. It was about a
7×10 inch square, and it was deeply discolored with the dye that is
added to the OC spray. This prisoner too had no access to decontaminated
But to return to the Feb. 21st incident, Louis was at his cell front
talking to Turner out the open handcuff slot on his cell door,
attempting to have guards deliver his commissary order to him or return
his ID card which he’d given them to place a commissary order. They were
refusing to do both.
Turner and a sergeant Joe Preciado, (along with a nurse Tammy Williams),
had apparently conspired to gas Louis, with Turner talking to him on the
right side of the slot to distract him while Preciado crept up on the
left side with a can of gas on the right side of his hip hidden out of
As Louis trained his attention on Turner, Preciado ran up to the slot
and suddenly sprayed Louis flush in the face. Turner then closed the
slot. Williams, who was standing out of view as this occurred, then came
to the cell, looked at Louis’s face and they left. The entire outside of
the slot and door was covered with gas, as was the inside of the cell
and Louis’s blanket and jumper. They refused his request for
decontamination and decontaminated linen. Instead they blushed as
several prisoners in the pod applauded and cheered, begging for an encore.
Finally, the Feb. 23rd incident was at the instigation of captain
Patricia Flowers, the same guard who instigated the Dec. 21st incident
with me. On Feb. 23rd while making rounds in E-pod, she proceeded to
beat and kick on prisoner Michael Ryan’s cell door. In turn Ryan gave
her the finger, to which she replied, “I got you.”
Flowers then had Sgt. Preciado and a team of body armored guards
confront Ryan with a threat of force to take all his property. She lied,
claiming he had his cell light covered. When Ryan was brought out of the
cell in cuffs he stated he had a razor blade hidden in the cell and
would kill himself if put back in the cell. The cell was not searched
and he was put back in with nothing but his boxer shorts.
Once the cell door was closed and the audio-video camera that was
present to record the situation was turned off, Preciado told Ryan,
“Kill yourself,” then left. Another guard then brought him a sheet to
facilitate the threatened act. Ryan used the sheet to cover his cell
door window and proceeded to cut himself up.
His window was still covered over an hour later when the next shift came
on, despite guards supposedly making rounds every 30 minutes to ensure
the safety of each prisoner. The relieving guards, Jerry Strickert and
another, discovered Ryan in his mutilated state, and eventually he was
taken to another building and placed on suicide watch. Witnessing
prisoners report there was blood all over the cell walls.
Several prisoners requested witness forms of the relieving sergeant
King, so they could submit statements about Ryan’s treatment. King
refused them stating there was no use of force on Ryan, and threatened
if anyone wrote grievances about what Preciado said to Ryan, they’d
receive a disciplinary case for lying.
It is noteworthy that nurse Tammy Williams is frequently present but out
of view, when foul acts by guards are plotted, as she was when I was
assaulted on Dec. 21st. (She is also a defendant in several pending
lawsuits concerning prisoners killed at this Clements Unit prison as a
result of staff abuses and medical neglect). She is married to a guard
at the prison.
*From Mice to Sewer Rats*
As I’ve pointed out, I’ve yet to find a guard who’s proven immune to the
corrupting influences of the prison environment. Especially those
working in segregation, where prisoners are kept locked inside secure
cells and only brought out in restraints. Thus guards are particularly
safe from potential physical harm at the hands of those they abuse.
In this situation these guards feel protected from any potential
consequences for their abuses, and feel empowered by having use of teams
of body armored guards with gas and shields to enforce their ill will
against isolated prisoners. Essentially, it’s a coward’s paradise.
Which brings me to these sorts of guards who prove most readily
corruptible by the environment and similar “gunslinger” occupations. A
common trait I’ve noticed in the most persistently abusive guards who
like to wear their petty authority on their sleeves, is they’re obvious
social misfits, and many are highly sensitive to insult and criticism.
They appear socially awkward, the types who’ve never had power in their
personal lives or over others beyond children perhaps. Many are small,
diminutive, and not particularly attractive by conventional standards.
Joe Preciado offers such an example, as does Flowers and Turner.
Preciado once boasted to me, that of all the sergeants at the prison he
has had more “uses of force and property confiscations than any other,”
as though this were a measure of his worth. And by uses of force he
meant not uses of force himself against anyone, nor on equal terms, but
rather his involvement in (often creating) situations where he deployed
gas against a defenseless prisoner or had an extraction team of five or
more guards in body armor invade a prisoner’s cell after gassing him. In
his mind and that of others like him, these are perceived as heroic
deeds and form the basis of their “manly” posturing.
If Preciado weren’t so primed to instigate such abuses, one would find
his provocative and confrontational airs outright comical. He being the
last person who’d look for a fight in any environment where he had to
face his opponent on equal terms.
A short pudgy fella, he’s clearly in no condition to do any direct
fighting. In fact he’s been a laughing stock of the prison since one of
his lower ranking colleagues blackened his eye a couple years back, when
he attempted to use his rank to compel the guy to end a relationship
with his estranged wife who also works at the prison.
As eager as he is to provoke altercations where he can speciously
justify a gas assault on a prisoner or use an extraction team to attack
a man 5-against-1, I’ve witnessed him several times take off running
when he’s found himself confronted by a situation where a prisoner he’s
provoked has pushed his way out of his cell past an extraction team of
invading guards or tried to hit him upside the head with an object or
liquid thrown from an open cuff slot.
Guards like Preciado are famous for hiding behind a team and gas, and
using the inherent safety of the environment to insult and abuse
prisoners while largely avoiding any consequences. In fact, Flowers,
Turner and Perry all have this in common, and one can see in them an
extreme sensitivity to insult or a prisoner’s refusal to defer and
submit totally to them. In fact this tendency is often what prompts them
to create a pretext to abuse force on them and/or take their property.
Both Flowers and Turner are diminutive and ‘unattractive’ women. And
clearly find in their prison jobs, roles they could never assume in
their personal lives, where they are able to insult and call down
violence against, and induce the submission of any number of men who are
themselves conditioned to surviving in physically aggressive
environments. They clearly would not, /could not/, behave as they do if
they did not have the safety of the environment and an armed support
staff to back them up.
Chad Perry is no different. A slim white guy with little to no muscle
tone, he’s quick to antagonize and set prisoners up for abuse and the
taking of their property. But in a direct confrontation with those he
targets he’d fail miserably. In fact this was proven back in 2011, when
he unexpectedly was met by one of those he’d been abusing face-to-face.
Perry, then a low ranking guard, along with a number of his peers who
enjoyed targeting prisoners, Blacks in particular, had subjected one
prisoner, Dylan Carter, to repeated abuses, denied meals, taking of his
property, and so on. They tried repeatedly to provoke him to allow them
to confront him with an extraction team, so they could assault him under
the guise of conducting a valid cell extraction on him, which they
commonly do to others. But Carter wouldn’t bite.
On August 5, 2011, the tables turned. In a security glitch, (some
believe Perry’s peers deliberately set him up), Carter’s cell door
opened just as Perry walked unawares into the cellblock right beside the
open cell. Carter admits he then stepped out of the cell in front of
Perry, and slugged Perry in the face sending Perry sliding across the
pod floor on his back, with blood streaming from his nose. Contrary to
his typical arrogance and provocative posture under circumstances where
he’d felt protected by his peers and the ‘security’ of solitary
confinement, when confronted face-to-face by Carter, Perry, like most
abusive guards, put up no resistance. Instead he fled to get medical
help and file a disciplinary infraction against Carter for “assault.”
But somehow he forgot to mention all the illegal abuses he’d subjected
Carter to before that.
*None Are Immune*
An important detail to note is that each of these chronic abusers are
ranking guards—sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. And in each of the
mentioned cases they proved to be the most deplorable, because they
targeted the most vulnerable of people—the mentally ill. Which to my
thinking is like doing the same to a child.
Obviously, each of these individuals enters the prison environment with
a particular set of deranged insecurities and a sense of
meaninglessness, powerlessness, and having something to prove from
unfulfilling personal lives, which they look to compensate for in the
absolute power they are able to wield against us when they pass through
the prison gates. An environment in which they, schizophrenic like,
transform into wholly different people.
But, they are not alone in the inclination to morph into different
people when they enter the prisons. In fact their peers all participate
in such abuses, tacitly enabling them by going along with, and remaining
silent about, them, and confirming reports to cover them up in the
official records when and as instructed.
I’ve known a tiny handful of guards who’ve expressed the desire to speak
out against the abuses that pervade all prisons, but they have no one to
go to and if they did, they’d almost certainly face retaliation. So,
they too conform and go along. In all respects, there’s a powerful drive
to conform, especially when ranking officials are leading the charge and
setting the terms for systemic abuse.
But as studies of the German Nazi experience have shown, while some
people are predetermined to extreme violence and to abuse of power,
everyday, “stable” people will also adopt the same behaviors when the
environment is conducive to such behaviors. Especially in absolute
environments, like U.S. prisons, where, as the Stanford experiment and
the courts recognize, systemic abuse is the norm. As the Nazi experience
“It makes a big difference what sort of personality structure is
confronted with what sort of situation [, but] we should not
overestimate the significance of personal difference. As the
Holocaust and the Nazi war of annihilation show, the vast majority
of civilians, as well as soldiers, SS men, and police officers,
behaved in discriminatory, violent, and inhumane fashion if the
situation at hand seemed to encourage and promote such behavior.
Only a tiny minority proved capable of humane resistance. According
to the standards of the time, humane behavior was deviant, and
brutality was conformist. For that reason, the entire collection of
events known as the ‘Third Reich’ and the violence it produced can
be seen as a gigantic experiment, showing what sane people who see
themselves as good are capable of if they consider something to be
appropriate, sensible, or correct. The proportion of people who were
/psychologically /inclined toward violence, discrimination, and
excess totaled, as it does in all other social contexts as well, 5
to 10 percent.
“In psychological terms, the inhabitants of the Third Reich were as
normal as people in all other societies at all other times. The
spectrum of perpetrators was a cross section of normal society. No
specific group of people proved immune to temptation, in Gunther
Anders’s phrase, of ‘inhumanity with impunity.’ The real-life
experiment that was the Third Reich did not reduce the variables of
personality to absolute zero. But it showed them to be of
comparatively slight, indeed often negligible, importance.”
The behavior of Germans during the Nazi heyday did not deviate in any
substantial degree from that of Amerikans, who practiced genocide,
racism, and all manner of violent extremes, which the Nazis actually
only imitated, against Natives and people of Afrikan descent. So it is
no wonder that such abuses are still practiced within and by its
absolute institutions, and especially against disadvantaged people and
people of color.
But there are likely those who’d doubt that everyday Amerikans today
could behave as the Nazis did, despite what the Stanford experiment
showed and the courts have recognized. One further experiment
demonstrated clearly that they could and would, and as my writings
demonstrate, they very well do—every day. The experiment in question was
conducted by psychology professor Stanley Milgrim, who wanted to
understand how common, everyday Germans could commit the atrocities they
did in the concentration camps and mass exterminate others without
hesitation. He intended to first test his experiment in Amerika, then to
take it to Germany, where he felt the population was conditioned to the
sort of obedience that his theories required for a scientific analysis.
The first experiment conducted in New Haven, Connecticut, however,
showed he didn’t need to go to the expense of traveling abroad. “I found
so much obedience,” he said, “I hardly saw need of taking the experiment
The experiment put random everyday people to the test of seeing how many
would, under directions of an apparent authority figure, deliver a
lethal shock to another person, as they screamed in agony. All concerned
were themselves shocked to find that over 60 percent of the test
subjects went along as instructed. Milgrim’s findings from all his
accumulated data proved conclusively, in everyday people, “the extreme
willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an
authority….”  <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn8> This accounts for
a powerful drive in these prison settings for those who might not
readily commit abuses to do so under the direction of ranking guards
like Flowers, Turner, Perry, and Preciado.
Also, the culture of prison guards is much like that of cops and
soldiers, which induces loyalty and camaraderie that serves to unite
them in a culture of abuse and a way of seeing their environment and
those in it in a light very different from that of the common citizenry.
This generates a sort of closed society and a shared perception within
it that defies the morals of everyday people. And, like with other
relationships, they assume a very different role within the prison than
they would in other settings. That role being consistent with that which
they are conditioned to believe is appropriate to the environment. Just
as people behave very differently in relationships with their boss than
they might their spouse and their children than with a customer at work.
These relationships are compartmentalized and call for a different
character in each. And in that one recognizes that behaviors engaged in
in one relationship may seem inappropriate to others, they are inclined
to keep those behaviors concealed within the circle of partners in that
In this regard, I have always recognized that guards, like soldiers,
certainly don’t share much of what they actually do to other people in
their workplace, with others in society, since they would certainly have
been judged harshly and even as pathological by their social peers. So
their behaviors remain confined to the circle of those who share their
occupation, since only they could “understand” why they behave as they
do based upon the contrived culture and the sense that they are dealing
with people they’ve been conditioned to see as less than human and as
enemies, namely prisoners.
Readers would likely doubt that they would themselves behave as the
guards described herein do, or that they would go along with and conform
to an environment where such abuses are the common practice. I would beg
to differ, given the nature of the society in which these prisons lie,
and its treatment of the mentally and socially ill as enemies and not
people to be treated with compassion and in need of healing. But,
moreover, a telling indication of whether you might conform is whether,
as those Germans who claimed not to have known of the crimes carried out
in their backyards proclaimed, if they’d have only known they would have
risen up in resistance.
Well, now you know about the abuses that pervade these prisons. So, what
are you going to do about it? Silence is acquiescence.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref1> See, Philip Zimbardo, “On
the Ethics of Intervention in Human Psychological Research: With Special
Reference to the Stanford Prison Experiment,” /Cognition/ /2/, No. 2
(1973), 243-44; Philip G. Zimbardo, et al., “A Pirandellian Prison: The
Mind is A Formidable Jailer,” /New York Times Magazine/, April 8, 1973,
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref2> Landman v. Peyton, 370 F.2d
135, 140 (4th Cir. 1966).
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref3> Johnnie Cochran, /A Lawyer’s
Life/, pp. 14-15.
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref4> See, e.g., Kevin “Rashid”
Johnson, “Bound and Gassed: My Reward for Exposing Abuses and Killings
of Texas Prisoners” (2017); “Texas Officials Try to Gas Another
Asthmatic Prisoner to Death” (2017); “Life’s A Gas in Texas Prisons: The
Frequent Abuse of Chemical Weapons” (2017), etc. All available at
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref5> /Ibid/., see “Texas
Officials Try to Gas Another Asthmatic Prisoner to Death” (2017).
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref6> /Op cit/, note 4, “Life’s a
Gas in Texas Prisons.”
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref7> Sonke Neitzel & Harald
Welzer, /Soldiers: German POWs on Fighting, Killing and Dying/ (N.Y:
Vintage Books, 2013), pp. 24-25.
 <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref8> All variations of this
experiment and several others can be read about in Milgrim’s book,
/Obedience to Authority/ (N.Y.: Harper & Rowe, 1974).
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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