Soliloquy: Interview of a Convicted Felon- pt 3
By Prince F. Rashada
February 7, 2020~
“The degree of a civilization can be judged by entering its prisons.”
Aristotle once said that ‘punishment is a sort of medicine’, and as we look at the current state of overcrowding in the prison population nationwide, we have to infer that prisoners have already overdosed long ago and need to be psychologically resuscitated from the suffering of doing time. It is a shame that we live in a democracy that is governed by a bias constitution that basically regard blacks as three-fifths, subhuman or legal property, and expect the same law to give justice to them. This is why mass incarceration is not taken seriously, because blacks and people of color are looked upon as urban parasites, savages or predators seeking to destroy white society. But what is overlooked, hidden or intentionally disregarded is that according to the Arrest by Race in 2015, Bureau of Statistics & U.S. Dept. Of Justice, the total arrest was 8, 248, 709, in which 69.7% were whites, 26.7% were black, 2.1% were Native American, 1.2% were Asian and 18.4% were Hispanic/Latino. When it came to violent crimes, the facts were undeniable:
-Total Arrest: 69.7% whites and 26.7% black
-Violent Crimes: 60.2% white and 34.6% black
Murder- 45.9% white and 51.1% black
Rape- 68.0% white and 28.2% black
Robbery- 44.4% white and 53.5% black
Aggravated Assault: 64.0% white and 32.1% black
-Property Crime: 69.2% white and 27.8% black
Burglary- 68.1% white and 29.5% black
Larceny-Theft- 69.6% white and 27.4% black
Motor Vehicle Theft- 67.2% white and 29.4% black
Arson- 73.1% white and 22.5% black
Sex Offenses- 73.1% white and 23.1% black
Drug Abuse Violations- 70.7% white and 27.0% black
Source: 2019 World Almanac
So who has the courage and moral fortitude to address these extremely starling statistical facts, when it is actually whites who dominate the majority of crime committed across America but aren’t the majority locked up in U.S. prison systems? This is purely racism at its finest! Apparently to the white political leadership, the white collective congressional representatives, the collective white presidency and the collective white ruling class, black lives doesn’t matter!!! Therefore, mass incarceration is planned racial genocide according to the Bureau of Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Justice and the F.B.I. Then the real question should be, is American capable of changing the so-called criminal justice system when the core of the issue is rooted in white privilege and white supremacy?
- As a prisoner, from your own direct experience and perspective from being inside, what would you say is needed to reform the broken criminal justice system?
Answer: For something to be broken, it implies that it was previously fixed. I don’t believe U.S. prisons were ever fixed or established on the premise of any real justice when it came to blacks or people of color in general. Furthermore, we can’t begin to address mass incarceration until we first identify and label the issue for what it really is, which has nothing to do with criminal justice. It is a racial justice issue, and shouldn’t be camouflaged with broad connotations as criminal justice. It is a blatant civil rights violation, especially when court systems abuse their discretion by massively depriving minority defendants of equal protection under the law and railroading them into an already overcrowded prison population. This is racial discrimination. Like I said before, mass incarceration is legalized genocide, especially when 2015 statistics from the Dept. Of Justice shows that the total violent crimes were at 386, 467. Whites were at 60.1% and blacks were at 36.4%, meaning whites were committing more crimes but not imprisoned. Which is why the Sentencing Project asserts that African-Americans are more than five times more likely than whites to be imprisoned, and this is an obvious illustration of racial injustice.
So the only way to fix a problem of this magnitude is to reconstruct the current trends in the way blacks and people of color are treated by the courts, which means judges, prosecutors and law enforcement must be liable and legally accountable for their racial discrimination, prejudices and discretionary abuses. It is said you can’t change systems without changing the very individuals that make up those systems, in order to build a better systems by installing better people. Racism is eradicated when racists are removed from positions of power, since their thinking and behavior are cancerous and detrimental to the whole system in general. To deal with mass incarceration, you have to deal with racism! Until our political leadership in Wisconsin and nationwide begins to tackle racism head on, then there could never be any serious resolution on so-called criminal justice. It would just be another campaign strategy to generate votes, while remaining neutral or politically inert to the existing status quo.
As a prisoner, I believe that the current prison system in Wisconsin is over saturated with nonviolent offenders, who really shouldn’t be in prison. The courts had the discretionary powers to recommend several alternative to incarceration such as supervision, fines or restitution, community service, treatment, residents confinement, GPS monitoring or other non-prison commitments. But they ignored these options because of the hidden agenda in mass incarcerating of an entire race of people, sort of like what Adolf Hitler did in Germany to Jews. The Jews unjustly were forced into concentration camps and ghettos by the ruling class, and now blacks and people of color are forced into prison concentration camps and ghettos by the ruling class that dominate the political, social and economical systems all across America. To change the dynamics of this situation, the current ideologies, plans and leadership must be destroyed and replaced with the resolutions outlined in the International Human Rights Standards and found in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners.
- How are you protecting yourself against the lead water crisis in Fox Lake Correctional Institution?
This is really a horrific nightmare, when prisoners are forced to drink contaminated water, thus ingesting toxic poisons on a daily basis. Since blacks and people of color make up the majority here, then this is a direct issue of ‘environmental racism’. Especially when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the past Governor failed to step in and do away with the rusted, dirty and molded water pipes and outdated wells, in which inmates are forced to drink water that contains manganese, arsenic, barium, fluoride, nickel, nitrate, sodium, thallium, copper, lead, radium and uranium. All of these are basically microbial contaminants, inorganic contaminants, pesticides/herbicides, organic contaminants and radioactive contaminants. Yet we are told by staff who bring jugs and bottled water to work- to drink the facility water because its safe to drink, which is further from the truth. All inmates are placed at risk by bring exposed to a dangerous atmosphere surrounded by environmental toxic, which had created serious short-term and long-term health problems.
Inmates are forced to take showers in water and ingest water containing arsenic, which according to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency causes cancer in humans at high concentration and is linked to other health effects such as skin damage and circulatory problems. So its hard to protect yourself against a system that the higher ups fail, refuse and unwilling to correct. There is no protection. This is seen in the example of the Flint water crisis, when a federal judge approved a settlement in which the state will pay $87 million to identify and replace at least 18,000 unsafe water lines by 2020. We in Wisconsin are experiencing the same or similar water crisis, especially when a ,2014 Report on Childhood Lead Poisoning in Wisconsin, Department of Health Services shows the highest rates of lead poisoning are concentrated in the city of Milwaukee, in areas that are predominantly African-American.
According to the Northern Health Center, when a person is exposed to lead, it can build up in the body, which is commonly referred to as lead poisoning or an elevated blood lead level. THERE IS NO SAFE LEVEL OF LEAD IN THE HUMAN BODY. So being in prison is no exception, for we are direct victims of environmental poisoning. We are now being told that the effects of lead poisoning, which are permanent, can reduce mental development, increase behavioral problems, decrease intelligence or ability to learn, impair school performance, increase juvenile delinquency, stunt growth, produce brain damage and increase childhood health problems such as speech and language delays, hearing problems, kidney damage, seizures, and in rare cases, death. This is because lead is a neurotoxin, and ingesting this over a long period of time causes irreparable harm. Those responsible for causing this pain and suffering are passing the buck and lying to the public, even in their attempt to dispute the science of the careless pollution that continue to plague the prison population in the Fox Lake and Waupun Facilities.
The Governor needs to include the prisons in his proposed Safe Water bill to correct this situation of prisoners drinking contaminated yellow-brown water, and require the DOC to: (1) provide each inmate with a case of bottled water per month, (2) replacement of their lead or galvanized steel water lines, (3) provide elevated blood level case management and medical coverage for inmates, (4) provide extensive water monitoring following the line replacement to ensure the water is safe to drink, including the use of a third-party independent monitor, (5) provide medical testing to all inmates to measure their blood levels, to determine the level of lead poisoning, (6) provide restitution or reparation to all inmates for illegally exposing them to environmental toxics, and (7) connect the prison water supply to the main community water supply to ensure safe drinking water without the present contaminants. If the Governor fails to protect all citizens in Wisconsin, then the Fox Lake and Waupun facilities need to be sued for a $100 million by all inmates in a class action suit represented by toxic tort lawyers.
- You created a National Action Plan, what inspired this and who did you present this to for consideration?
Answer: This is a document that I initially wrote in 2016 when I was sitting in Milwaukee County Jail awaiting trial from a wrongful conviction, and it dawned on me that everywhere I looked around the compound were black faces. So I knew systems were never changed from the outside, they started from the inside. Inside the minds of those who suffered and not from the minds of those who benefit from the corrupt system. I sat up in the late hours of the night under dim cell light creating what was to become a solution to mass incarceration in Wisconsin but serve as a model to be implemented nationwide, which I also titled ‘Operation Shut-Down’. It was 34 sections dealing with various issues plaguing the criminal justice system as a whole, which were actually 34 solutions. I never did anything with this document until years later after we were appointed a new Governor, and then I pulled this document out, retyped it, revised a few things, wrote the Governor and sent him, the Lt. Governor, Senator Lena Taylor, Kevin Carr, David L. (Wisdom), Peg Swan and others so that they could use this as a blueprint or starting point to assist in reducing the prison population by 50-60% by 2019-2029.
I’m still hopeful that this would help them to help us that’s locked down. This actual document could be found online on a website called the Second Chance Wisconsin Blog dated April 3, 2019. Their website is: www.secondchancewi.blogspot.com. There is a lot of work to be done and I believe that the prisoners play a major role in this so-called criminal justice reform, since we are the square root to this complex issue. Like I explained in my letter to the Governor, in 2014, more than 22,234 inmates were housed in Wisconsin prisons which were designed to only hold 17,148 in capacity. This budget thus grew from $9,992,000 to $12,947,000 by 2015. So jails and out-of-state facilities were used under contract to ease some of this overcrowding, despite the fact that this was a mass Exodus of black males being incarcerated at an alarming rate here in Wisconsin. While we are told that the United States accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population and about 25% of its incarcerated population, and what’s even more horrific is the fact that African-Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population and 38% of the prison population. So this National Action Plan is needed, and I pray it’s utilized soon. Thanks for your time. End of interview.
Prince F. Rashada
Fox Lake Correctional Inst.