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A Prisoner of Conscience

I’m writing you all this statement from Solitary Confinement where I’ve been for forty-six days. I’ve been locked in this room for nearly 2 months because I had the audacity to want humane prison conditions for me and my fellow prisoners. And because of this -- because I dared to request with a transfer to a higher security level and placed in solitary.

The conditions that we were trying to improve were medical care, water quality, law library services, general maintenance and cleanliness of the prison, visitation issues, the grievance procedure, and an end to “group punishment”.

Now I wanted to begin this statement with that description of my current circumstance, not because I want you to feel sorry for me. I started this way because I want you to know that this is what we’re up against. We’re up against a system that would rather punish prisoners than treat them humanely.

We are dealing with prison administrators who will collude to write false charges to justify illegal transfers of prisoners to supermax security prisons. We are dealing with a system that will create uncomfortable visiting experiences for families who rarely see their loved ones.

We’re dealing with a system that will copy your mail and pictures and throw the originals away. We’re dealing with a system that will lock up and mass incarcerate poor people then throw away the key. We are dealing with a cruel, wicket system driven by profit motives. Prison labor produces over $50 million dollars in profits for VADOC annually. Companies like JPAY, Keefe and Global Tel-Link make hundreds of millions of dollars a year off the exploitation of poor families. These companies then go pay your delegates and senators under the guise of campaign contributions to remain “tough on crime” We are dealing with a BEAST.

It’s critical that we understand what we’re up against so that we properly organize a formidable force for change. In order to resist an instrument of oppression, we have to create an instrument of liberation. The VADOC is organized so we cannot transform that instrument if we are not organized. VADOC has principles that govern them so we cannot be a formidable opposition if our organizations aren’t principled. VADOC works hard every sing day figuring out ways to profit off of the suffering of all of us!

They are committed to their mission. So we cannot change this miserable system unless we are even more committed to justice than they are. This is what we’re face with. We’re faced with a struggle. We’re faced with a ruthless enemy who will not give in easily. It’s very important that all of us who are speaking out know this: This Speak Out is only the first step in a long march to victory. This work will bring us wins, losses, and stand stills all of which will challenge your strength and endurance. But, if we stay focused and on the move we will make it to our destination. There are No Easy Victories. Yet, when the power of the people is harnessed, victory is inevitable.

Thank you - Askari (Note from CFJ: since this post was submitted, Askari is no longer in solitary but was, nonetheless, held 12 days beyond the 30 days he was originally given)

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