Hurricane Harvey Leaves Beaumont Prisoners Stranded with Unsanitary Conditions, Limited Communication with Outside Support

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 6, 2017

Contacts:
Houston Anarchist Black Cross        Austin Anarchist Black Cross
Email: houston_abc@riseup.net     Email: atxanarchistblackcross@gmail.com
Phone: (281) 543–8148

Hurricane Harvey Leaves Beaumont Prisoners Stranded with Unsanitary Conditions, Limited Communication with Outside Support

 

Beaumont, TX— If there is one thing those doing prison advocacy learn quickly, it’s that the official statements from prison officials never provide a full account of negative conditions and abuses. Looking into the impact of Hurricane Harvey, this is especially true; but looking out for how the aftermath will be handled, this is even more daunting for those who have no voice.  Though prisoners endured Hurricane Harvey with the rest of us, aid and concern for their well-being has been slow to follow, leaving basic human needs up to the discretion of prison administrators.

 

In the immediate wake of Harvey’s landfall, official statements downplayed its impact.  On Sept. 1, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said “power has been restored to FCC Beaumont, and generator power is no longer being used. The Inmate Telephone System (ITS) is currently operational. The FCC continues to use its own reserve of water to operate the complex. There is ample food and bottled water for inmates and staff,” while the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) social media pages read “leadership visited the facilities in Dayton this afternoon talking with staff and dropping off donations. Everyone continues to work hard to ensure staff and offenders are safe” with gratuitous photos of executive director Brian Collier talking with TDCJ employees.  There’s also a donation drive and resources extended to employees impacted by the hurricane in a video featuring Collier himself, however, no direct information was provided about resources or conditions for prisoners beyond evacuations.

Five units were evacuated due to threats of flooding as the Brazos River rose to historic levels, starting on Aug. 29.  These units included Vance, Jester 3, Stringfellow, Ramsey, and Terrel.  Yet both federal and state-run prisons in the port town Beaumont—located 90 miles east of Houston—doubled down on their refusal to evacuate carceral facilities, nor have any clear plan in place to ensure the safety of their captives.

When Harvey made second landfall on the coast of Port Arthur-Beaumont on Wed. Aug. 30, the city of Beaumont (pop. 118,000) experienced a voluntary evacuation, those behind walls had no choice and remained subject to horrible living conditions, such as limited access to clean drinking water and food (in some cases, only eight ounces per day and one to two sandwiches), buckets to defecate in, and inaccessibility to proper hygiene.  Jefferson County houses three state run facilities (Gist, LeBlanc, Stiles), three federal facilities, juvenile detention centers, in addition to private prisons.

 

Within the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC), Beaumont FCI Low and Beaumont FCI Medium (housing a combined total of 1,850 prisoners) operated by UNICOR and/or FPI, a wholly owned United States government corporation created in 1934 as a prison labor program for prisoners within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (a component of the Department of Justice). BASF Agriculture plant is located less than three miles east of the Federal Correctional Complex, and down the street from  TDCJ facility, Stiles Unit. According to official statements from the Beaumont BASF plant,“water pollution from some facilities is also spiking: BASF’s Beaumont Agro plant, which produces agricultural chemicals,” and noted an “exceptional event” filing that its toxin-laden waste water “will continue to overflow to the ground until the rain stops.” Note: Kinder Morgan (gas refinery) and Sunoco Logistics are within a three mile radius of the prisons (see map below).

 

FCI Beaumont Low went on lockdown from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, when incarcerated persons were let out of their cells for about an hour. Many called outside to talk with family and friends about conditions, and said some cells were flooded, they were not getting sufficient food or water, medicines were not being distributed, and unsanitary conditions persisted due to the inability to flush toilets. During the chaos, many units remained on lockdown, meaning prisoners were not allowed to access commissary or leave their cells, and in some cases were denied phone access.

In a report conducted by Left Voice a week after Harvey hit, a woman whose husband is incarcerated at Beaumont Federal Prison said, “they are using the restroom in bags so they can save the toilet water. They all have been drinking the toilet water since they have been low on water supply. He said that even though the toilet water has bacteria, at this moment he didn’t care and the other prisoners didn’t care either. They are really thirsty. He said he would drink anything. He told me that if this water didn’t kill him, the conditions were going to kill him. That’s how bad it is.”

Communication with prisoners has slowed down significantly.  The TDCJ Mail System Coordinators Panel said mail was suspended until further notice for any units impacted by Harvey, contrary to the Ombudsman 24 hour hotline which said the suspension was state wide due to the main mail distribution hub being located in Houston.  Additionally, visitations were cancelled the weekend of Sept. 2 for 29 units, and 14 units have cancelled visitation for the weekend of Sept. 9, with 13 additional units subjected to decreased visitation time. Phone privileges have remained inconsistent, or revoked entirely.

 

Similar stories have come from state units. The TDCJ Stiles Unit also reported inadequate food and water, lack of access to medical needs and staff shortages. One incarcerated person at Stiles said water in the building was up to his knees during the worst flooding, and as of Sept. 4 leveled at mid-calf. TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark denied any flooding.

 

In the days and weeks ahead, unsanitary conditions alongside water shortages will likely continue and worsen, inevitably leading to illnesses and dehydration for many. Limited communications from inside the units will exacerbate confusion about conditions. Staff shortages will likely mean a continuation of lockdown conditions and failure to provide for medical needs such as heart and asthma medications and treatment for other chronic conditions. Prisoners will continue to lose hope as officials refuse to provide accurate information to media.

The Anarchist Black Cross calls for immediate action to take place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those imprisoned in Beaumont.

Demands:
1.  Evacuate all units in Beaumont until proper steps are made to address contamination, mold, and other health hazards, as well as accessibility to clean drinking water.
2.   Publicize all data documenting decisions regarding the Hurricane that took place between August 25, 2017 to present.
3.  Resume communications between prisoners and outside supporters, including media.
4.  Allow reporters to tour facilities to foster transparency.
5.  Cease the operation of all institutions of confinement.

 

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press release viewable here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1j0IYzcAH3HzwISCjjCTaKqRDtd05U7uwYYZSAvLlgtY/edit?usp=sharing

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Resources and Autonomous Relief in Houston after #Harvey

  • note: this map shows areas of inner-loop (within the 610 freeway) as ‘heavily affected areas’, but actually, most of those are very wealthy condos where there may have been some flood damage but most residents live up on higher floors. The map hanging at West Street Recovery tracks flood damage and notes which damaged areas are working class / poor, and which are wealthy and being supported. While this map is easier to use and will update, take it critically.
NOAA Satellite Imaging of Flooding from Harvey
https://storms.ngs.noaa.gov/storms/harvey/index.html

  • Note: this is not accurate as of today, but it was at the height of the storm. water has receded.
Crowdsourced Houston Muck Map:
https://www.texasrescuemap.com/muckmap#googleMap

Houston Poverty Map
http://houstoncommunitysustainability.org/

  • note: difficult to use, funded by shell

Where to send money to get to people directly:

Legal Resources for Homeowners from the Texas State Law Library

Understanding Houston for Out of Towners:

Anarchism and Disaster Response

  • Scott Crow (Common Ground Collective)  on Revolutionary Infrastructure
  • Gulf South Mutual Aid (Indigenous Led) – has excellent list of resources and supplies.
  • Welcome to Houston (This Is Not Katrina) – very well researched and i strongly recommend reading it no matter whether or not you’re from here
  • I Can’t Stand the Rain – analysis of why capitalists love our mutual aid efforts in Houston right now
    • https://itsgoingdown.org/cant-stand-rain-report-houston/
    • We saw a lot of volunteers out there. People just wanting to help. The State was hardly present from what we could see. It was armies of good people helping because they could. […] the State itself was doing little to help the disadvantaged people. And you can bet your ass they weren’t hitting the poor areas first.What kills us all is that as we heard businesses were opening up their property for the “new homeless.” The capitalists will get teary-eyed at the gesture. But what of the homeless prior to nature forcing the middle class out into the streets? What about the homeless after all this water dries up and insurance pays for new homes? […]

      The opening of businesses to the people is exactly what revolutionaries have been trying to do for as long as we can remember. The concept of private property kills en masse every day. But today, capitalists are abolishing private property, and everybody is loving it. The systems they fight aggressively to prohibit, they are using today and it’s sparking pride in their community and hope for people. Nothing new to those who understand revolutionary struggles though. Further, what is the State’s heavy equipment and aviation but permissions from above to open up their private property to the people. There’s no way to convey to the average person that we could all be in charge of our own lives if property was completely abolished – as they were witnessing. Would this gas station let a muddy person sit at this table if he was in need but there was no storm? Would a furniture store let in droves of homeless without a storm? Would helicopters rush people to the hospital without a storm? We all know the answers to these questions.”

  • Why Houston Floods & Will Keep Flooding and who is disposable
Prisons

Practical Skills

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Houston Anarchist Bookfair 2017

We’re proud to announce that Houston ABC will be coordinating the 2017 Houston Anarchist Bookfair! On Sunday, September 24, 2017, Houston Anarchist Black Cross will host a one-day convergence to network, grow, and celebrate anarchist and anti-authoritarian projects in Texas and the surrounding region. Join us for books, workshops, and discussion to celebrate and expand our southern radical communities of resistance!

We welcome proposals for workshops, panels, film screenings and the like, and especially encourage people from Texas, neighboring states, and the south and southwest/la frontera generally to submit proposals. Proposals are due ___ and can be submitted on the form at http://www.houstonanarchistbookfair2017.wordpress.com.

We will also have opportunities for publishers, distros, bookstores and others to table. If you’d like to volunteer, get in touch with us at htxanarchistbookfair2017@gmail.com and tell us a little bit about yourself and what aspect you’re interested in helping with.

The event is free, with no registration required. We are committed to making this a safe, welcoming space for all people who are genuinely interested in the Anarchist Bookfair, including gender diverse folks, people with disabilities, parents, children, femmes, women and people of color. If you experience harassment, abuse, assault, or any other kind of violation during the book fair, or if someone who has engaged in such behavior in the past is adversely affecting your participation at the book fair, or if you need support for any other reason, please do reach out to us at htxanarchistbookfair2017@gmail.com.

FAQ
Can I participate if I am not an anarchist?
Absolutely! Whether you are a communist or other type of radical looking to network with like-minded people, or simply curious to learn more about anarchism and radical projects going on in Houston and the region, we want to welcome everyone who is genuine in their interest in the book fair. On the other hand, fascists, cops, trolls, and others who only wish to subvert the purpose of the book fair are most decidedly not welcome.

What is anarchism anyway?
We’re sure that every anarchist at the bookfair would offer a different, and at times divergent, definition of anarchism. But here’s one quick definition!

Anarchism is a set of revolutionary political ideas which seek a fundamental transformation of society toward expansive visions of individual and social freedom. Within this is a comprehensive critique and rejection of all forms of hierarchy and structured relationships of domination–including the State, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and heterosexism–as well as visions of a free society built on human freedom, equality, solidarity, and mutual aid.

Why a book fair?
Anarchists around the world have long organized book fairs as spaces to gather, share ideas, and network. In the age of e-readers and digital, online organizing, the idea of a book fair may sound anachronistic. But we believe that much of the power that our political movements have and can build grows out of the relationships we have with one another–as individuals, organizations, and communities. And when it comes to building relationships, there is really no substitute for face to face interaction: sharing space, learning, speaking with each other and working together. We hope to facilitate that with the workshops, presentations, and discussions that are being planned, and the space that we create. There will also certainly be plenty of books, pamphlets, t-shirts, and stickers available! As the late Texas-born anarchist Lucy Parsons said, “Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals.”

Why now?
The United States has long been a terrifying landscape for many across the world–a white-supremacist, settler-colonialist, capitalist, hetero-patriarchy. The rise of the Trump regime and the grassroots fascist right has stripped away much of the old window dressing and intensified the myriad attacks on people of color, women, poor people, queer and trans people, Muslims and Jews, migrants, and others. Millions want to begin fighting back or redouble their efforts.

Those who are newer to the resistance might be looking to get plugged in, learn new skills, and sharpen their analysis. Those who have been in the game for a minute might be looking to find new inspiration, new camaraderie, new creativity, and fresh perspective. All of us are looking for ways to move forward together in dark times. Our gatherings are more important now than ever.

Why Houston?
Texas, and especially Houston, has a well-earned reputation for being the epicenter of the U.S. petrochemical industry, the locus of reactionary political movements that were laughed at until they came to power, and the home state of several war criminal presidents. Usually thought of as backward or irredeemable rather than hip, radical, or enlightened, the whole region is often overlooked by much of the U.S. left that is concentrated on either coast.

But there is–and always has been–resistance here too: from the Black soldiers at Fort Logan who went to war against the police and Jim Crowe in 1917, to the neighborhood that rebelled in 1977 when the cops who murdered Joe Campos Torres got off with a $1 fine; from hosting the first National Chicana Conference in 1971, to hosting the National Women’s Conference (and the radical feminist protests outside of it!) in 1977; from direct actions against war profiteer Halliburton and logging company Maxxam in 2004-05 to the resistance of the Tar Sands Blockade against the Keystone XL pipeline a couple years ago; from the 2003 Radical Encuentro Camp to the 2011 Houston Anarchist Bookfair; resistance in the belly of the beast has always been strong.

we do a lot with what we got, despite lacking money and the reputation as a “radical city”. In this tradition, we are proud to welcome anarchists and other radicals from across the region to the 2017 Houston Anarchist Bookfair!

Contact:

SEPTEMBER 24 2017 – HOUSTONANARCHISTBOOKFAIR2017.WORDPRESS.COM – HTXANARCHISTBOOKFAIR2017@GMAIL.COM

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June 11th 2017 – International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners

June 11 is the international day or solidarity with Marius Mason and all long-term anarchist prisoners! We will be screening If A Tree Falls (2011), writing letters and cards of support to anarchist prisoners and selling vegan tamales at a sliding scale to raise money for Marius! For more information on this see https://june11.noblogs.org/.

Children are very welcome and Solidarity Houston has a children’s corner with books, crafts, and games.

Solidarity Houston is wheelchair accessible space through the front entrance, and has one gender neutral wheelchair accessible bathroom (does not have an accessibility bar). The space is not currently scent free. Service animals always welcome, non-human animal companions are welcome as well. If you have any other accessibility needs or questions, please email us at houston_abc@riseup.net!

Parking is in the back of the space, along the train tracks. We recommend you don’t park in the Mi Charro lot, as they are known to tow people, but if you need an accessible space to park make sure you don’t park in a marked spot. Bikes can come into the space. The new green line of the metro rail has a stop right in front of the space, for those using public transportation.

RSVP on Facebook! Come through and bring friends!

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In Remembrance of Sekou Kambui

Sekou Kambui

Last night, we lost a Black revolutionary elder, a former political prisoner, a civil rights leader and a good and kind person.

Sekou Kambui was a New Afrikan political prisoner had 47 years of his life stolen from him by the carceral state. Born in Gadsden, Alabama in 1948, Sekou was involved in groups such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He got involved in the Black Panther Party while living in Chicago and New York in the late 1960s, and later joined the Republic of New Afrika and Alabama Black Liberation Front, among others. He was also a soldier in the Black Liberation Army. He was captured in Birmingham in 1975 and falsely charged with the murders of two white men in retaliation for his revolutionary political organizing. He was sentenced to two life terms, but received parole in June 2014. During his time in prison he was an accomplished jailhouse lawyer, advocating for the rights of other inmates. He suffered tremendous retaliation and abuse for his organizing and advocacy on the inside. After his release he worked with the Free Alabama Movement and continued to travel, speak, and organize against prison slavery and mass incarceration.

We were lucky enough to be part of his support team through the parole process. He was a good man, and we will miss him deeply. We honor his passing by remembering his life, his sense of humor, and the ways he changed the world for the better. Rest in power, Sekou.

 

Sekou Kambui on Life After 47 Years as a Political Prisoner: https://vimeo.com/175268039

Interview with Sekou Kambui: https://houstonabc.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/interview-with-formerly-incarcerated-political-prisoner-sekou-kambui/

Remembrance of his life from the Aboriginal Writer / Radyo Inteligenta Indigena:

https://aboriginalwriter.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/rip-bro-sekou-kambui-republic-of-new-afrika-bppbla-veteran-and-former-political-prisoner/

 

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Death Row Exoneree Ronald Keine to speak at Solidarity Houston

The US houses the biggest prison population in the world and is one of only a few “industrialized” countries that continue to implement the death penalty. Houston ABC invites you to join in the larger conversation regarding death penalty abolition in the US as we present the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement (DPAM) and death row exoneree Ronald Keine. DPAM will present problems with the death penalty from both ethical and economic perspectives, while Ronald Keine will discuss his experiences as an innocent man on Death Row. Ronald Keine will also discuss the effects of his imprisonment on his family, friends, and community.

More information on DPAM can be found here: http://www.abolitionmovement.org/

More information on Ronald Keine can be found here:
http://www.witnesstoinnocence.org/exonerees/ron-keine.html

WHEN: April 10th, 2016, 6-8PM

WHERE: Solidarity Houston, 6733 Harrisburg Blvd. Houston, TX

The event is free and open to the public.

keine_flyer_abc

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Cindy Milstein’s Taking Sides Tour

When/Where: Tuesday March 29, 6:30-9:30 PM at Solidarity Houston, 6733 Harrisburg, Houston TX 77011

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/979929825418012/

Event Description: Join Cindy Milstein for a discussion of the topics of the new anthology “Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism”. We will have a community discussion following Cindy’s talk to examine the issues raised in “Taking Sides” and how they play out in Houston.

ABOUT “TAKING SIDES”
The lines of oppression are already drawn. The only question is: which side are you on in the struggle against the violence that is white supremacy and policing? “Taking Sides” supplies an ethical compass and militant map of the terrain, arguing not for reform of structurally brutal institutions but rather for their abolition. Its thirteen essays are sharp interventions that take particular aim at the role of nonprofits, “ally” politics, and “peace police” in demobilizing rebellions against hierarchical power. The book offers tools to hone strategies and tactics of resistance, and holds out the promise of robust, tangible solidarity across racial and other lines, because in the battle for systemic transformation, there are no outside agitators.

Cindy is the editor of this collection of essays, notable partly for the dialogue it contains: many of these essays actively disagree with each other, sharpen each other’s thinking, and together, are a powerful book.
For more on the book, including its contents, see:
https://www.akpress.org/takingsides.html

this is a FREE event. Cindy will be selling copies of Taking Sides at the event for $12.

Solidarity Houston has a copy of Taking Sides in the library, for folks that would like to read it before this event.

ACCESSIBILITY / PARKING / NO COPS NO JERKS
Solidarity Houston is a wheelchair accessible space with one gender neutral bathroom. We are not currently scent free. If you have accessibility needs, please message the organizers at least a couple days before the event and we will do our best to accommodate.

Parking is in the alley behind the building, on both sides of the train tracks. Do not park in the Los Charros parking lot, YOU MIGHT BE TOWED.

Solidarity Houston is an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-racist and feminist space.

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