LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Charges of harassment and retaliation by an inmate have been lodged following a prison riot, which some inmates alleged began as a hate crime and attack on Blacks at California State Prison, Sacramento (New Folsom).
Ansar El Muhammad, coordinator of the Nation of Islam’s Study Group at New Folsom, filed a complaint after a guard shot him in the head with rubber bullets. In retaliation, he has been placed in solitary confinement, his family members charge.
“Prior to him being put in solitary confinement, the administration called him out of his cell to interview him about the incident.When he got to the interviewing room, the same officer that he identified as the shooter was standing over him with a gun,” said Ansar Stan Muhammad, a Los Angeles-based gang intervention specialist and co-founder of V2K HELPER Foundation, also Ansar El Muhammad’s brother.
Stan Muhammad continued that when his brother indicated he was uncomfortable interviewing under that circumstance, guards took him back to his cell, then moved him to solitary confinement.
He said the family plans to sue the prison for what it’s doing to his brother but for now, they have hired a private investigator to look into the incident.
“I’ve traveled to visit my brother on a regular basis and in conversations with officers in the visiting room, several of them have shared that from the administrators to the inmates, he is one of the most respected inmates.So much so, they’ve told me that they would call him out of his cell to help them mediate conflicts, so he’s not up there creating mischief.He’s a peace maker,” Stan Muhammad continued.
According to Ansar El Muhammad, a fight broke out a good distance away from where he and about six other Black inmates were, heading to their Friday prayer service.Prison guards ordered everyone down and police reinforcements arrived.
“All of a sudden 15-20 Whites jumped up off the ground and started running towards me and the handful of brothers. They were charging us,” he wrote in his complaint.
“We fought hard against the Caucasians yelling out ‘Nigger! Nigger!’ …We were right by the Gun Tower at 5-Block. The Police (C.O.s) saw the Caucasians jump up and charge us,” he continued. “The C.O. in the gun tower shot a 40 Cal. Rubber Block Gun and it hit direct in the top of my head … Then they shot me again in the back of the head!”
Ansar El Muhammad said the attack turned into a full-scale riot after involving Mexicans, Whites and Blacks, but while he received medical treatment, he noted that only Black inmates entered with wounds from rubber bullets and stab wounds. He reported he required 10-12 stitches for the first wound he received.
After hearing about the attack, his wife and other wives of inmates formed the In The Interest of Justice Committee to determine what happened to their husbands on May 20.They are galvanizing support from various civic and religious community-based organizations to help expose the attack and alleged mistreatment of inmates housed in New Folsom and other institutions throughout California .
“When I got the letter with the incident report stating what happened to my husband, I called the associate warden to ask why was he shot in the head when he was trying to defend himself,” said Mrs. Ansar El Muhammad.
Mrs. Muhammad said that according to other inside reports, prison officials reinforced their officers’ staff, which was on the scene before the riot even started. “Why would 15-20 Whites feel confident that if they jumped up and rushed the Blacks that they would not be shot with the rubber bullets. Why is that?These are some of the questions we want to know,” she told The Final Call.
According to Tony Quinn, California State Prison public information officer, approximately 150 inmates were involved in the riot, which started as a verbal disagreement and turned into a physical altercation.
At press time, The Final Call was awaiting status of the prison’s pending investigation.
“Correctional Peace Officers are trained to use force to subdue an attacker, overcome resistance, effect custody, or gain compliance with a lawful order, race plays no role in the decision to use force. There was no prior knowledge of the events that occurred on May 20th,” Mr. Quinn wrote in an e-mail to The Final Call.
Shalyn Traylor’s husband, Melvin, wasn’t injured in the riot but a shot landed next to him, she said. One of her primary concerns was another long lock down.
The last lock down stemmed from a fight between Black and Latino inmates and lasted for 13 months, committee members said. That meant no visits, no phone calls, no letters, and some inmates were relegated to their cells for 23 hours a day, according to the wives.
“I think it’s just the fact of what they mentally have to go through and knowing they were defending themselves.I don’t think we have a clue what that entails and what they have to go through to even have peace again after the long lock down before,” Ms. Traylor said.
Committee members also expressed concerns to The Final Call that prison officials and guards would retaliate against their husbands for speaking out against injustices, such as guards withholding or tampering with their mail.The punishment ranges from isolated cells to denied visitations and access to their families, to being harassed during visits, they charged.
“We have an avenue where we’re allowed to express our concerns over the ill treatment or anything we want to discuss but if a situation arises where prison officials don’t like what’s being said, we go under attack with threats of our husbands being transferred, they don’t receive their mail, our visits are cut off, suspended or limited to non-contact,” Mrs. Muhammad said.
(For more information on In The Interest of Justice Committee please contact 310-925-2071 or helperfoundation.org.)