Death row là gì

I may be locked up in solitary confinement, but I stvà with the men and women rejecting modern slavery in America


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‘Though I’ve always refused to lớn engage in this modern slavery myself, I’ve sầu witnessed plenty of examples of it.’ Photograph: Kevin Rashid Johnson
‘Though I’ve always refused to engage in this modern slavery myself, I’ve witnessed plenty of examples of it.’ Photograph: Kevin Rashid Johnson

This week, a nationwide strike was launched across US prisons that has the potential khổng lồ become the largest prodemo of incarcerated men và women in the history of this country.

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It’s a move sầu that is of personal interest lớn me, as I sit in my solitary cell in a maximum security prison in Virginia. I’ve been in touch with several of the strike organisers in other prisons, and though my communications are limited under the restrictions of my confinement, I’m doing all I can to open the American public’s eyes khổng lồ the abuses that go on behind bars.

Until the strike ends on 9 September I will be joining a boycott of the commissary – I will not be parting with any money so that prison companies can make profit out of me. I’ll also be supporting fellow inmates here và across the nation who will be refusing lớn work in what amounts to a modern size of slavery.


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On 10 July I was moved to Sussex state prison in Waverly, Virginia, and placed in a cell in death row. I have sầu never been sentenced khổng lồ the death penalty, so there can be only one reason they have put me here – to shut me up & prsự kiện me fraternising with other prisoners as they fear I will radicalise them & encourage them lớn resist their oppression.

Three death row prisoners – the last in the state of Virginia – occupy cells near mine. The prison authorities have ordered them specifically not to lớn talk khổng lồ me, but I’m heartened that the other guys don’t seem minded lớn pay any attention to that injunction.

That’s been the pattern of my incarceration for the past many years. I resist, they retaliate.

I have always refused to perkhung labor inside prison, ever since I was convicted of murder in 1990 when I was 18 years old. (I have consistently challenged my conviction on grounds that I was subjected to a misidentification & am innocent.)

I see prison labor as slave labor that still exists in the United States in 2018. In fact, slavery never ended in this country.

At the kết thúc of the civil war in 1865 the 13th amendment of the US constitution was introduced. Under its terms, slavery was not abolished, it was merely reformed.


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‘Slavery never ended in this country.’ Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesAnybody convicted of a crime after 1865 could be leased out by the state to lớn private corporations who would extract their labor for little or no pay. In some ways that created worse conditions than under the days of slavery, as private corporations were under no obligation lớn care for their forced laborers – they provided no healthcare, nutritious food or clothing khổng lồ the individuals they were exploiting.

Though I’ve always refused to engage in this modern slavery myself, I’ve sầu witnessed plenty of examples of it. The most extreme were in Texas và Florida, where prisoners are forced to work in the fields for miễn phí, entirely unremunerated.

They are cajoled inlớn chain gangs & taken out khổng lồ the fields where they are made khổng lồ grow all the food that inmates eat: squash, greens, peas, okra. They are given primitive hand-held tools lượt thích wooden sticks and hoes & forced khổng lồ till the soil, plant and harvest cotton.

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Under the 13th amendment slavery was not abolished, it was merely reformedThey are watched over all day by guards on horseback carrying shotguns. Elite posses of prisoners are used khổng lồ keep other prisoners in line, through open coercion & violence.

Prisoners who vì chưng not agree to lớn such abject slavery are put in solitary confinement. I know from personal experience.

Apart from six months when I was in general population in Oregon, I have sầu been held in isolation cells without pause since 1994.

That hasn’t prevented me speaking out about the appalling conditions inside US prisons. I’ve helped other inmates tệp tin wrongful death lawsuits after prisoners were killed by guards. I’ve seen prisoners beaten by guards, starved, having their property systematically destroyed.

Racial animus is always present. The state that now incarcerates me, Virginia, has a general population that is 19% African American, but 58% of its prison population is blachồng.


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An all-female chain gang works in 40C heat in Arizomãng cầu. Photograph: Jyên Lo Scalzo/EPAA few years ago I was held in Florida prisons at a time when current and former guards were found to be card-carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan. On a personal màn chơi, I’ve been called a “rebellious nigger” too many times khổng lồ mention.

Because of my refusal to lớn work, và the efforts I’ve made to organise strikes và publicise the horrors that go on behind bars, I have faced regular reprisals. In recent years I’ve been bounced around from state to lớn state in an attempt khổng lồ silence me: they sent me from Virginia lớn Oregon, from there to lớn Texas and Floridomain authority, then baông chồng again to Virginia.


Now I’m on death row, even though I’m not a death row prisoner, which is about as total a condition of isolation you can get. Yet I still found a way to lớn get this article khổng lồ the Guardian.

Will I face reprisals for writing this column? Sure I will. Do I fear such reprisals? I am far past the point where threats concern me.

In the past three decades I have sầu been endured every cấp độ of abuse they have sầu to offer: I have been starved, beaten, dehydrated, put in freezing cold cells, attacked with attaông xã dogs, rendered unconscious, chained khổng lồ a wall for weeks. There’s nothing left to fear.

Kevin Rashid Johnson is co-founder of the New African Black Panther Party. He is serving a life sentence