Life at Sussex 2 State Prison – Revisited

May 29th, 2018

NOTE: JPay, the app/program that is basically prisoner email that you have to pay for, indeed, pay more for then it costs to mail a letter, and the Virginia DOC censored the following.  But here it is in its entirety.


Well, it finally happened!  The harsh and overly oppressive conditions we are subjected to at Sussex 2 State Prison (S2SP), which I described in a similar-titled post back in December of 2016, made the front page of a mainstream newspaper.  But it didn’t get there without sacrifice.  Dale Lee Pughsley; also known as Askeri Danso, upon arriving at this maximum security prison in march of this year, was appalled by the level of passivity among the prisoner-class in the face of inhumane prison conditions.  And so he did what any politically active prisoner would do when confronted with similar circumstances: he organized others to peacefully challenge those conditions by filing complaints with the prison’s grievance department.  As expected, retaliation was swift.  On April 24th, while on his way back to his cell from the prison’s law library, he was accosted and shackled by guards and immediately shipped across the street to Sussex 1 State Prison – a level 5 security prison – and placed in solitary confinement.  Because he is supported by several activist and human rights groups such as – the Coalition for Justice, the Defenders of Freedom, Justice and Equality – his ordeal made headlines in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on May 7th.  The front-page article, titled “Politically Active Va. Prisoner Moved Three Times Since ’16,” allowed Askari to expose conditions like poor water quality, substandard medical care, and overcrowding.  He was quoted as saying that S2SP “is the worst prison in the state.”  I agree!

Continue reading “Life at Sussex 2 State Prison – Revisited”


Wardens at Sussex I & II are out – what does it mean?

Staff report from The Virginia Defender – May 30, 2018
As posted to the Virginia Prison Justice Network website.

In the midst of a prisoner-led campaign to win better conditions at the Sussex II state prison in Waverly, Va., the wardens at both that prison and its sister facility, Sussex I, have been replaced.

Tracy Ray, the warden at Sussex II, has been removed from his position and replaced by Beth Cabell, previously the warden at St. Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake.

The new warden at Sussex I is Israel Hamilton, previously the warden at Haynesville Correctional Center in Richmond County. Both changes seem to have occurred within the last week.

Continue reading “Wardens at Sussex I & II are out – what does it mean?”

The New Draconian Prison Mail Regulation

By Uhuru B. Rowe
December 23, 2017

“WE WANT the Abolition of any VADOc policy, practice, or procedure which violates the human/constitutional rights of incarcerated people and endangers/hinders their spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical growth and well being and rehabilitation efforts including, but not limited to: …(I) VADOc newly implemented draconian mail policy which went into effect on April 17, 2017…” — Demand #16(K) of the Free Virginia Movement

Imagine this: It is your birthday and your last year in college. And even though you’ve moved halfway across the country to attend college, your mother has unfailingly mailed you a birthday card and a picture every year since your freshman year. So you eagerly anticipate the arrival of the mailman. He finally arrives and hands you two pieces of paper. As you examine it, you come to the horrifying conclusion that the mailman just handed you black and white photocopies of the birthday card and picture your mother has mailed to you. You race behind the mailman. You finally catch up to him — your heart is raising and you’re barely out of breath. But you somehow manage to ask him, “What in the hell are these copies you have given me. Where’s my damn mail?” He turns around, with a coy grin on his face, and replies, “Oh yeah, the government implemented a new policy a few months ago to keep YOU people from mailing drugs to each other. So we’re only allowed to give you black and white photocopies of your mail now. The originals we have to destroy. Oh, by the way, tell your folks there’s a three page limit on letters now. So if they mail you a letter that’s over that limit, I’m obligated to return it.”

Continue reading “The New Draconian Prison Mail Regulation”

My Continued Efforts To Expose and Resist The Contaminated Water Problem in Virginia Prisons. Part 1.

My Continued Efforts To Expose And Resist The Contaminated Water Problem In Virginia Prisons
By Uhuru B. Rowe
December 4, 2017

“WE WANT the Abolition of any VADOc policy, practice, or procedure which violates the human/constitutional rights of incarcerated people and endangers/hinders their…physical health…including but not limited to…VADOc inhumane practice of not providing incarcerated people with access to clean drinking water. The water in Virginia prisons is discolored, foul-tasting, and foul-smelling as a result of being contaminated with high levels of rust, lead, and other contaminants. Whether free or incarcerated, having access to safe and clean drinking water is a fundamental Human Right!” — Demand #16(J) of the Free Virginia Movement

Continue reading “My Continued Efforts To Expose and Resist The Contaminated Water Problem in Virginia Prisons. Part 1.”

A Rigged System: Why Prisoners’ Grievances Are Designed To Fail

By Uhuru B. Rowe
December 31, 2016

“This operating procedure provides an administrative process for resolving offender issues and complaints through fair, prompt decisions and actions in response to complaints and grievances from offenders incarcerated in the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) institutions.”

The above is a verbatim quote of the VDOC Operating Procedure (OP) 866.1 (I), which governs the Offender Grievance Procedure in all Virginia prisons. But the offender grievance process DOES NOT operate to resolve offender complaints and grievances in a fair and prompt manner. Instead, it is designed to hinder them.
Continue reading “A Rigged System: Why Prisoners’ Grievances Are Designed To Fail”

The Visit That Never Was: The Continued Efforts To Destroy The Bonds Between Prisoners and Their Loved-Ones

By Uhuru B. Rowe
September 25, 2017

Anyone who has ever served time in a jail, prison, or a detention facility, or has been an inpatient at a hospital, knows the importance of receiving visits from loved-ones. Visits from the people we care about functions as a temporary reprieve from the drudgery of institutional life. They remind us that we are loved, valued, and cared for in a harsh and punitive environment which seeks to strip away every ounce of our humanity and self-esteem. Most importantly, they remind us that, despite being isolated away behind concrete walls, we are still part of a family unit; part of our community. So, when I was called for a visit on Sunday, September 24, 2017, here at Sussex 2 State Prison, I was overjoyed! But this feeling of being overjoyed was short-lived, and was quickly replaced with anger and frustration. Here’s why:

Continue reading “The Visit That Never Was: The Continued Efforts To Destroy The Bonds Between Prisoners and Their Loved-Ones”

The Decline of Vocational Programs in the Virginia Prison System

By Uhuru B. Rowe
April 6, 2017

According to the Virginia Dept. of Corrections’ Operating Procedure (OP) 606.6 which governs Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs for incarperated people, “It is the policy of the Division of Education to provide offenders committed to the Department of Corrections (VADOC) with the opportunity to participate in career and technical education or apprenticeship training programs that increase the opportunity for students to secure and maintain gainful employment in a chosen career field upon release.”

Continue reading “The Decline of Vocational Programs in the Virginia Prison System”

Exploiting and Extorting Prisoners in Virginia for Profit

By Uhuru B. Rowe
February 1, 2017

Imagine this: You have slaved hard on your lousy job where you are overworked, underpaid and under appreciated. But, somehow, you’ve manage to maintain your sense self-respect, self-worth, and dignity. You eagerly anticipate receiving your paycheck at the end of the week, and rightly so! Your mortgage or rent is past due. Your refrigerator is almost empty. Your children need school supplies. Your car needs fixing. And when it’s all said and done, you’ll barely have enough money to pay off your student loan and credit card debt. You make your way to your boss’s office to receive your paycheck. As you examine it to see how much of YOUR money the government (and even your boss) stiffed you out of this time, something catches your eye: Your employer– under instructions from the government, he/she explains–has deducted 10 percent from your earnings to be stored in a government-controlled personal trust account until it has a balance of $1,000 and which will be payable to you at an unattainable age (e.g. 100-years-old). Even worst, your employer invests this deductible in stocks and bonds and any increments or profits derived therefrom will be used for their own personal pleasure or benefit. Wouldn’t this obvious extortion and exploitation make you mad as hell and ready to strike?

Well, this is how incarcerated people feel in the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) when this “10 percent” is deducted from the funds sent to us by our loved-ones (many of whom are poor or working-class people) and from the slave wages we make from prison jobs which pays as little as .35 an hour.

Continue reading “Exploiting and Extorting Prisoners in Virginia for Profit”

SOS: My Appeal to Citizens of Conscience

By Uhuru B. Rowe
October 23, 2016

This past October 15th marked my 40th Birthday. But rather than talk about how old I am getting and how I’m experiencing some sort of real or imagined mid-life crisis, I want to talk about something more important.

What I write, express, and relate to you via my blog posts concerning my experiences in prison aren’t just gripes or complaints about my situation. The corporate news is prohibited from having free access inside prisons here in Virginia. So I am attempting to use this platform to educate and enlighten members of the public about what is taking place behind the walls of prisons in the U.S., especially since it is tens of billions of your tax dollars being used to construct and operate these prisons.

“All you do is complain about your situation; just remember how you got in there,” is what one person expressed to me alluding to the crime I committed that landed me in prison. Is that how most of you feel about about what I share on this blog?

Listen, none of us “on the inside” are innocent by any stretch of the imagination, except those who are truly innocent of the crime(s) for which they have been unjustly convicted. But, does that mean the Dept. of Corrections has the right to subject us to dehumanization, mistreatment, torture and abuse? Even detainees labeled as terrorists and enemies of America and held indefinitely in deplorable conditions inside concentration-like prison camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, demand humane and just treatment and often go on longterm hunger strikes until these rights are afforded them. Some detainees have been hunger striking for years and are often subjected to torture via painful force-feeding techniques.

But, how many of you remain unwilling and unmotivated to speak up and advocate on our behalf?  Even after you’ve become aware that the dehumanization, mistreatment, torture and abuse of prisoners that is taking place right here in America’s prisons. Is your silence and non-action on these issues indicative of your tacit approval and acceptance of what is happening to us?

There are well-known, influential, million dollar mainstream organizations advocating on behalf of animals like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (P.E.T.A.) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (A.S.P.C.A.). These organizations are right to exist because animals are incapable of speaking up for themselves and have a right to live peacefully without mistreatment, torture and abuse just like any human being. But where are organizations equal in size, scope, funding and mainstream appeal advocating on behalf of incarcerated people whose very lives are in the hands of those who wield ultimate power and authority with little oversight, transparency, and accountability? Do we not have a similar right to exist without mistreatment, torture and abuse just like animals do and the right to protest without fear of retribution and retaliation from those in authority over us who sadistically aggravate our suffering on a daily basis? Where are organizations like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Prisoners (P.E.T.P.) or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Prisoners (A.S.P.C.P.)?

There are numerous, much smaller grassroots organizations which advocate on behalf of, or work in solidarity with, incarcerated people that can potentially fulfill the role of an organization like P.E.T.P. or A.S.P.C.P., but these are either localized, unknown, under supported, underfunded, lack mainstream/national appeal, or have little to no influence or sway in the political arena.

Until people from every section of society come together and agitate, organize, and form organizations that have the potential to catapult prison issues to a national agenda, then the physical and mental abuse, neglect, mistreatment and dehumanization of incarcerated people will persist unabated, thereby putting your communities at risk. How so?

With the transition of the penal system away from an environment which prioritizes reform, treatment, education and rehabilitation towards a more punitive, exploitative, and dehumanizing form of imprisonment, most people are unaware that the torture, abuse, mistreatment, and dehumanization of incarcerated people exacerbates our antisocial personalities, attitudes, and behaviors, which increases the odds that we’ll commit new crimes against unsuspecting citizens and return through the ever revolving doors of incarceration.

“Man, when I go home, the first thing I’m going to do is buy me a package [drugs] and a gun so I can get money,” one young man says to another during a typical conversation in prison. This is the type of attitude and mentality which proliferates in an overly oppressive and harsh prison environment which cares little about education, treatment and the mental and moral development of those it incarcerates; but, rather, focuses on the exploitation of prisoner labor and the myriad of schemes designed to extort funds from prisoners and our loved-ones to offset the costs associated with operating prisons in the face of bloated corrections budgets.

So people in society should be concerned with and have a vested interest in how we are treated behind these prison walls. To do so is not to be considered “soft on crime” but “smart on crime,” considering that nationally, thousands of prisoners are released back into society every year to communities all across America. What type of formerly incarcerated person do you want living in your community? One who has been properly educated, humanely treated, and reformed while in prison and leaves with a renewed sense of purpose, or one who has been neglected, abused, mistreated, and dehumanized, and leaves in a defeated, broken, angry, bitter, agitated and parasitic state? Your answer will reflect if you truly care about reducing crime in your community.

The Parable of the Boiled Frog: The VA Department of Corrections’ Low-Intensity War Against In-person Contact Visits and the Privileges of a Complacent Prisoner-Class

By Uhuru B. Rowe
July 6, 2016

“Maladaptation to gradually building threats to survival is so pervasive in system studies of corporate failure that it has given rise to the parable of the ‘boiled frog‛. If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately try to scramble out. But if you place the frog in room temperature water, and don’t scare him, he’ll stay put. Now, if the pot sits on a heat source, and if you gradually turn up the temperature, something very interesting happens. As the temperature rises from 70 to 80 degrees F., the frog will do nothing. In fact, he will show every sign of enjoying himself. As the temperature gradually increases, the frog will become groggier and groggier until he is unable to climb out of the pot. Though there is nothing restraining him, the frog will sit there and boil. Why? Because the frog’s internal apparatus is geared to sudden changes in his environment, not to slow, gradual changes.”—Peter M. Senge in The Fifth Discipline.

Over time, Virginia prisoners have gradually taken on the characteristic and plight of the boiled frog and have been unable and unwilling to recognize and resist changing conditions within our environment which ultimately spells our doom! Continue reading “The Parable of the Boiled Frog: The VA Department of Corrections’ Low-Intensity War Against In-person Contact Visits and the Privileges of a Complacent Prisoner-Class”