March 18, 2013 San Francisco BayView
by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson
Things I don’t do
Even before I began my political journey in 2001, I maintained certain principles – a variety of things I just don’t do. And usually, if ever I deviated from those principles, even in error, I’d end up in a tangle of trouble.
February 2013 was an ordeal. I broke some of my rules and things got ugly. What happened is yet another experience that those who blindly trust the system – and those who don’t – need to know about.
Among my longstanding “don’t dos” are 1) I don’t do suicide and 2) I don’t do intoxicants. Suicide’s a no-brainer, since I couldn’t fathom caving in to pressure – especially not from the opposition. Which is the only way I could see taking myself out. But more important is the political principle that my life is not mine to take. It belongs to the people. And that’s not to posture nor sound “politically correct.” It’s a genuine commitment.
The intoxicant thing is a bit more complicated. For one, I don’t like not being in control of myself. Secondly, when under the influence, I go soft in the head, being what some call “chemically imbalanced” or, in other words, I literally go berserk when intoxicated. And since I don’t use, it doesn’t take much to tip me completely over.
Meet Mr. Highjinks
My troubles of February 2013 were the result of breaking these two particular “don’t dos.” Over a three day period I got intoxicated, then, under the influence, attempted suicide – twice. And the pigs and “professionals” quite blatantly watched and waited for me to die, which compelled me, once I sobered up, into yet another life and death struggle to not let that happen.
The intoxication wasn’t intentional (on my part), but the practical joke I might say of an apolitical and particularly mischievous peer. A fella who routinely makes and takes cocktails of various mind-altering prescription drugs he collects. Although he has consented to being identified by name, being remorseful and willing to confess his role in the ordeal his shenanigans caused, I’ll just call him Mr. Highjinks (for obvious reasons).
For some time he’d tried to convince me to pop some pills with him. Wanting to share his and many others’ method of escaping the maddening tedium of solitary confinement. I declined of course. But he kept at it, trying all sorts of enticements. To no avail. But what I didn’t realize was how determined he really was to get me pickled. Nor that he’d use devious methods to do it.
Mr. Highjinks spikes the spread
To give a bit of diversity to the otherwise bland prison diets, prisoners – when we can afford it – sometimes make homemade pizza-like or casserole concoctions by combining foods purchased from the prison commissary and foods taken from our prison meals. Sometimes several prisoners will contribute various food items and one person will make the “meal” that is then shared around. The concoction is called different names depending what prison system you’re in. Here in Oregon it’s called a “spread.”
Well, on Jan. 31, I “put in” with Mr. Highjinks to make a spread, contributing items left over from our special Christmas commissary purchase along with some ingredients from the meal trays. Turns out Mr. Highjinks decided to spike the spread with one of his pill concoctions that has him bouncing off the walls for days at a time. To him it was all in fun.
I didn’t consume my entire portion of the spread until Saturday, Feb. 2, and that’s when and how things went south. The result was a total loss of impulse control and an odd compulsion toward self-annihilation. In short, I lost my mind.
Outta my head
First I got into a fracas with the goon squad – about seven guards dressed out in full body armor with gas, taser and a large plexiglass shield. Then I overdosed on dozens of my own prescription anti-inflammatory medications. Followed by another clash with the goon squad, as I was being prepared to be taken to the hospital for the OD.
At the hospital – St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, Oregon – no treatment was given, except a staged blood test while I was kept hidden away in an isolated back room. Within a couple of hours of arriving, I was discharged back to the prison, where that same night – shortly after midnight, Sunday, the 3rd – I was placed on a close observation suicide (SCO) watch inside a suicide monitoring cell, where I found a razor blade. Obviously no coincidence.
The next day, Monday, the 4th, still out of my head, I broke the razor blade into three pieces and swallowed them. This was witnessed by a sergeant and captured on camera. The entire experience played before me like I was standing outside myself watching someone else.
I was again taken to the same hospital, where again no care was given. Although they went through the motions of taking x-rays – which they wouldn’t let me see – the hospital staff, who were pretty blatant about not wanting me there (apparently a skin thing), claimed the films showed definitively that no razor blades were inside me. By then I was sobering up, and, losing my suicidal compulsion, I contested that they were wrong or outright lying and should do further investigation. With a bit of attitude, the doctor – named Bean – declined and told the guards to be off with me.
To eat or not to eat
Knowing the fatal danger of a punctured intestine, I protested to prison medical and security staff upon my return that I still had three razor blade pieces inside me. They blew me off, citing the hospital report to the contrary. So I declined to eat or drink, expecting that stimulating digestion would cause the razor blades to move along and slice through my contracting entrails. Meantime I repeatedly requested medical staff to order further x-rays. They refused, indifferent to my protests.
Several admitted my concerns were valid if I actually did have razor blades inside me, but of course I didn’t, they contended, because the hospital said so. I went six days without food or liquids, and dropped 20 pounds in just as long. I requested intravenous hydration from nursing staff and the doctor – named Garth Gulick – which was also denied. I was told that I was choosing myself not to eat and drink, so they would not intervene.
The new Hippocratic Oath: ‘Do nothing’
On the fourth day without food and water, I fell unconscious in the cell and was taken by gurney to the prison’s medical center. Gulick was called and simply told them to put me back in the cell. That my severe dehydration was my own fault.
To validate refusing me medical hydration, a nurse named Folkman lyingly documented in my medical file that she witnessed me drinking water on my fifth day without food or liquids. When on the sixth day without food or liquids, Gulick assured me he’d watch me dehydrate to death, and he cited Folkman as a witness that I really wasn’t going without liquids, although my tongue was white and “furry,” my lips parched and my skin scaly, I decided to risk drinking water.
Initially, I kept vomiting the water back up, while suffering extreme stabbing pains in my abdomen. Gradually, the water stayed down. Then later that night I defecated a puddle of blood laced with bile. A nurse Fritz was alerted to the situation and ordered x-rays, taking seriously my protests that I still had razor blades inside and obviously cutting me. The next day Gulick overruled her order for x-rays.
Meantime, every day mental health staff attempted to meet with me to try and take me off SCO status. I refused to talk to them in order to remain on SCO status for as long as possible. This way I remained under documented close monitoring in case the razor blades otherwise caused serious complications. On SCO status I remained in a completely bare, cold cell, naked except for sleeveless nylon smock and nothing else but two nylon sheets. I was left to sleep and lie on a bare concrete slab.
Throughout the ordeal I endured constant severe abdominal and kidney pains, and was discharging blood in my urine daily.
Gulick made a game of it all. Being such a fanatic for denying prisoners needed care, every time I saw him he’d play a debating game with me attempting to rationalize how he knew I was faking about the razor blades and why he would give me no medical care for that, my pain, nor any of my other issues.
He accused me of everything from malingering for reporting the abdominal and kidney pain – although urine tests repeatedly confirmed blood in my urine – and “tricking” guards into thinking I’d swallowed the razor blades, to trying to “extort” x-rays just so I could look at myself on film (!?). He ultimately admitted a concern to save the state money by not giving prisoners needed care.
The uncover up
During the ordeal, several prisoner witnesses sent letters out to my supporters and comrades, only one of which actually made it out – a letter from Cory Freiberg. Cory’s letter succeeded in prompting outside protest and inquiries on my behalf. Apparently officials didn’t expect word to get out – in fact they acted at every turn to prevent it.
Although I’d had consent for release of information on my medical condition and treatments on file for several of the inquirers since February 2012, the prison’s medical staff lied to them for almost a week, claiming they had no such consents on file so they couldn’t discuss my medical situation with anyone who called. In fact the forms on record required them to alert the inquirers when I had to be sent out to the hospital or had any other serious medical problems, but they didn’t.
Each prisoner witness who sent out letters was promptly moved out of the unit with me under some pretext. Meantime my mail was withheld and denied, then ultimately a large amount of it was “confiscated” by an Assistant Superintendent Judy Gilmore, without explanation or justification.
Also, based on a completely fabricated disciplinary report from Feb. 2, 2013, that was later dismissed, I was placed on a completely unrelated status, where, once off SCO status, I could not possess any mail nor any other property – except legal papers in pending court cases – but for four hours per day.
A cutting edge discovery
After repeated documented complaints of severe abdominal and kidney pain, another nurse ordered x-rays for me. Gulick promptly overruled her, too. Only with mounting outside pressure about my situation and a lawyer, Benjamin Haile, having arranged a call with me, did Gulick finally allow the x-rays, just to “prove,” he said, that I had no razor blades in me.
On Feb. 21, the x-rays were filmed and the “independent” radiologist’s report came back confirming that pieces of metal were indeed in my intestinal tract, having passed through my system and settled in my transverse colon.
I didn’t see Gulick again nor find out about the x-ray report until Feb. 28, at which time he changed his tune. He knew word had gotten out about my actual situation and I was scheduled to speak with Mr. Haile for the second time the next day. So Gulick’s angle then became to try and interpret and “prove” the metal showing on the x-rays was something other than razor blades. He admitted consulting with other doctors to this end. Another set of x-rays was taken on that day also.
The next day, one of the more candid nurses assured me, with the Feb. 21 x-rays showing the razor blades having passed into my large intestine, they were unlikely to cause serious damage if I ate. I then accepted my first meal in 25 days. The next day I passed my first stool in 26 days, where one of the razor pieces was found and documented by the same nurse. Overall I’d lost 29 pounds since Feb. 4.
I next saw Gulick on March 5, when the Feb. 28 x-ray results couldn’t be found, and he then claimed belief that the metal showing on the Feb. 21 x-rays were staples, or something I’d swallowed since my Feb. 4 hospital visit. Yet another theory he abandoned when I pointed out that I was on a closely monitored SCO status since returning from the hospital.
He finally admitted an initial concern to protect the hospital from liability, and now himself. Once again it came down to placing monetary interests before human life and professional integrity.
On March 8 the nurse who confirmed the razor blade fragment in my stool on March 2 searched for, found and showed me the report for the Feb. 28 x-rays, and it showed at least two pieces of metal in my lower large intestine, one of which she said matched exactly the measurements and dimensions of the razor blade piece I passed and she collected on March 2. She said Gulick had not yet seen the report, and I haven’t seen Gulick again since.
This particular nurse went on to express relief that the razor blades had passed through my system without any apparent serious injury in light of Gulick’s and others’ persistence in doing nothing to help me. She compared the “miracle” to one she said she’d experienced when her young daughter swallowed an open safety pin and it passed through her without injury.
From all this I recognized that from the hospital to the prison staff, a series of events played out that showed at very least gross neglect and at worst a consistent and shared intent to see me die – no surprise to me by the way. However foolish my actions that created the predicament, their responses can’t be justified.
Now granted, I’m not exactly loved by prison officials, so they’ve some strong motives to see me out of the way once and for all. But the outright indifference and intransigence of these medical “professionals” and the doctor’s admitting to prioritize penny-pinching over needed care even in life-threatening cases demands that everyone who cares about human life – and anyone with loved ones behind these walls – raise a sustained hue and cry and mobilize resistance and awareness concerning medical “professionals” relating to us with such overtly fascistic mentalities.
Otherwise many loved ones will return to homes and others’ lives with all manner of medical disorders – even communicable ones – and expenses they didn’t leave with. As for others, we should remember that the evil people do is in knowing of abuse and turning a blind eye.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!
Send our brother some love and light: Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 19370490, Snake River Correctional Institution, 777 Stanton Blvd, Ontario OR 97914. This statement was transcribed by David Rovics.
Support Rashid by buying his book, “Defying the Tomb,” with foreword and afterwords by Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Sudiata Acoli and Tom Big Warrior. Ed Mead, former political prisoner and publisher of The Rock, a newsletter for prisoners, advises readers to “buy multiple copies of this book, read it carefully, and then get it into the hands of as many prisoners as possible. I am aware of no prisoner-written book more important than this one, at least not since George Jackson’s ‘Blood In My Eye.’”
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