[Pnews] The Abuse Goes On: The Corrupting Dynamics of Power in a Texas Prison (2017)

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 6 10:25:37 EST 2017


http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374


  The Abuse Goes On: The Corrupting Dynamics of Power in a Texas Prison
  (2017)

March 5, 2017 | Kevin “Rashid” Johnson


      Character Split

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.”[1] <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.”[2] <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.[3] 
<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 
prisoner’s complaint.

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.


      *Persistent Abuse*

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.[4] <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.[5] 
<http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn5>

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.[6] 
<http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn6>

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 
clothing….”

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 
Louis’s view.

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 
demonstrated:

    “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.”[7]
    <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftn7>

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 
to Germany.”

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….” [8] <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 
particular relationship.

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.

*Conclusion*

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!


      Notes

[1] <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, 
38, 60.

[2] <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref2> Landman v. Peyton, 370 F.2d 
135, 140 (4th Cir. 1966).

[3] <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref3> Johnnie Cochran, /A Lawyer’s 
Life/, pp. 14-15.

[4] <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 
/rashidmod.com/.

[5] <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref5> /Ibid/., see “Texas 
Officials Try to Gas Another Asthmatic Prisoner to Death” (2017).

[6] <http://rashidmod.com/?p=2374#_ftnref6> /Op cit/, note 4, “Life’s a 
Gas in Texas Prisons.”

[7] <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.

[8] <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).



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