Critical support needed: Prison officials retaliate against Red Onion prisoners’ hunger strike!

On January 5, Free Shaka Shakur received an update that the prison guards are increasing their retaliatory measures, placing the entire facility on lock-down, shaking down cells, depriving inmates of their possessions, and other forms of retaliation. We stand in full solidarity with the hunger strikers and urge everyone with a conscience to protest this violation of international law by the Virginia Department of Corrections and the U.S. in general.

Since December 26, 2023, an organized group of prisoners at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, including Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, have been on a hunger strike to expose and protest Virginia’s ongoing practice of using long-term solitary confinement. Of course, mainstream news outlets in the U.S. remain silent on the issue.

Long-term solitary confinement is widely recognized as a violation of basic human rights and the U.S. is, unsurprisingly, the world’s biggest offender. For example, in 2020, Nils Melzer, a UN Special Rapporteur on torture, concluded:

“The severe and often irreparable psychological and physical consequences of solitary confinement and social exclusion are well documented and can range from progressively severe forms of anxiety, stress, and depression to cognitive impairment and suicidal tendencies.”

Melzer also noted the routine and arbitrary use of a variety of systems of torture, including in-cell restraints and lock-downs, are deliberately used across the U.S. These practices are in violation of international law.

Many of the prisoners on hunger strike, including Rashid, already have severe health issues, but continue participating because they believe in and are willing to fight for this issue. The prisoners involved are: 

  1. Kevin “Rashid” Johnson (1007485)
  2. Jason Barrett (1092874)
  3. Rodney Lester (1429887)
  4. Charles Cousino (2213403)
  5. Eric Thompson (1208012)
  6. Joe Thomas (1193196)
  7. Nguyen Tuan (1098070)

During the strike, it is being asked that supporters contact the Virginia Department of Corrections as well as the governor of VA to demand an end to this controversial practice. We also need to let them know that the hunger strikers have our full support. The contact info is as follows:

VADOC Central Administration
USPS—P.O. Box 26963
Richmond, VA 23261

David Robinson
Phone: 804-887-8078

Virginia DOC Director Chadwick S. Dotson
Phone: (804) 674-3081

VADOC Central Administration
Rose L. Durbin

Beth Cabell, Division of Institutions
Phone: 804-834-9967
Email: beth.cabell@vadoc

Governor Glenn Youngkin
Phone: 804-786-2211

For more information visit the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper article here.

Featured photo: Artwork by Kevin “Rashid” Johnson.