Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kevin Johnson Attacked at Red Onion State Prison - VA

Kevin "Rashid" Johnson Assaulted by Red Onion Prison Guard

On December 12, Kevin "Rashid" Johnson was assaulted by Sergeant Tony Adams at Red Onion State Prison in Virginia. Rashid was accosted him as he was coming out of the exercise cage. He was handcuffed and ordered by Sgt. Tony Adams to turn his back on them, which he didn't do. Adams then ripped out a swath of Rashid's hair, extending from above his right eye all the way over to his left ear. The guards then threw him to the ground and dislocated his left collarbone.

As of December 15, Rashid still has not received adequate medical attention.

Rashid has spent the past 21 years in prison, 18 of which have been spent in segregation. Jailed as a young man, he has used his time in prison to educate himself, and, developing a political analysis of the society that condemned him and so many others to a life behind bars, Rashid founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter, a revolutionary communist organization. In his years in prison, he has honed his skills as a jailhouse lawyer, an artist, and author, writing several exposés of ongoing conditions of racism, violence, and other forms of abuse at Red Onion prison, where he has been held since __.

In 2010, several of Rashid's writings, and his clandestine correspondence with another prisoner, were published in the book Defying the Tomb. Since that time, a website has been put up making Rashid's writings more widely accessibly (, and artwork by Rashid was used prominently by supporters of the California prisoners' hungerstrike in 2011. Rashid has also continued exposing the deteriorating conditions at Red Onion prison, especially since Randy Mathena replaced Tracy S. Ray as Chief Warden in October.

Over the past year, as Rashid has brought increased attention to conditions in Virginia's prisons, he has also been increasingly targeted by prison staff. His mail has been disrupted, both incoming and outgoing. Political essays and reviews of his book have been refused on the spurious grounds that they pose a risk to the security of Red Onion prison. He has been transferred to Red Onion's new B-3 isolation unit, where he has had his cell "searched" by guards throwing his belongings on the ground and the stamping on them with their dirty boots, and where he has been kicked and threatened by guards. Rashid has pointed out that this abuse has likely been intended to provoke a response whereby the guards could "justify" violent reactions.

This is the context in which the  December 12 assault on Rashid took place. The prison guards, working for the new warden Randy Mathena, are clearly targeting Rashid for abuse as payback for his work in exposing the conditions at Red Onion.

The only means of defense that prisoners like Rashid have is outside support and attention. Letting those who run the prisons know that we are watching, and encouraging human rights and progressive organizations to speak out about such cases, can save lives.

Telephone the office of Harold Clarke, direcor of Virginia's Department of Corrections, at:

Demand that Kevin "Rashid" Johnson be provided with appropriate medical care, that Sergeant Tony Adams be suspended from duties, and that criminal proceedings be launched against him for assault. The incident apparently occurred in front of a video camera - this film footage should be secured as evidence, and made available to the public.

Telephone Warden Randy Mathena at:

Demand an end to the targeting of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson for abuse. Demand the Rashid be provided with adequate medical care, and that Sergeant Tony Adams be suspended from duties.