portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article announcements united states

actions & protests | prisons & prisoners

Support Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

Urgent appeal to write letters on behalf of a prison organizer in Virgina's Red Onion State Prison
A letter writing campaign is being launched to lend support to Kevin Rashid Johnson. Rashid is incarcerated in Red Onion State Prison which is located in southwest Virginia. He is a member of the New Black African Panther Party, prison chapter. (To clarify, this group has nothing to do with the racist group, the New Black Panthers). He became political during his time at Red Onion. He is very outspoken and a active organizer. Because of this there has been virtually continual retaliation against him.
Housed at a super max facility which entails being locked in a cell 23/7, more or less continual isolation, all inmates undergo trauma. But because of his revolutionary politics, Rashid is under exceptional pressure. He regularly has his mail withheld. Mail is a lifeline for these folks and to have it confiscated is psychologically damaging. He is denied food and medical attention. On occasions too numerous to recount he has been beaten and tortured by correction officers. He often is put in 5 point restraint. This entails strapping a naked prisoner to a bare steel frame bed with their hands and feet shackled. Prisoners are left for days in this condition.
If inmates have no support on the outside these abuses go unchecked. Rashid has asked that some action be taken on his behalf. If you could please send a letter of support to Rashid and to Warden Tracy Ray informing him that you have heard of Rashid's situation and you demand he be given his mail. Receiving mail is a major concern for Rashid.
Virginia has a reputation as the worst state prison system in the nation. It is notorious for the abuses that occur. Super max institutions are the absolute worst. In southwest VA we have Wallen's Ridge and Red Onion. Folks who used to work in the coal fields now have the prisons to work in. The restructuring of the coal industry killed their jobs and their area. Prisons were built on blown up mountains. Tensions between the economically deprived white rural prison employees and the mostly Black urban inmates runs very high. Racism is overt. These places are powder kegs.
Rashid and the other Panthers at these institutions believe it is the capitalist system which oppresses us all. They know the root of gangs was to unite communities to "police" themselves. With this in mind they educate fellow prisoners to come together and end gang related fighting. The system seeks to divide the prisoners so any show of unity is a great threat to them.
We can vouch for Rashid. He is a committed and honest person . You may send one letter of support or end up with a relationship of letter writing. Rashid is a consummate debater. Your support is urgently needed. I will point out that writing to a political prisoner, who is actively monitored by the FBI and assaulted on their behalf, will alert the "authorities" to your identity. You could use an alias or a PO box. We use our names and address, but you have to ascertain your own comfort level.

Write to any or all of the following:

Kevin Rashid Johnson #1002485
Red Onion State Prison
P.O. Box 1900
Pound, VA 24279

Tracy S. Ray, Chief Warden
Red Onion State Prison
P. O. Box 970
Pound, VA 24279

Gene M. Johnson, Director
Virginia Department of Corrections
P.O. Box 26963
Richmond, VA 23261-6963