An inmate belonging to the Prison Chapter of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP) is facing charges of "inciting or attempting to incite a riot or demonstration" after he penned a scathing letter detailing atrocities allegedly inflicted on his fellow prisoners by the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC).
In a letter entitled "Florida Prisoners Are Laying It Down" and published online, Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson details the "objectionable conditions" faced by inmates.
"Unpaid slave labor, compounded by outright price-gouging in the system's commissary and package services, and the gain-time scam that replaced parole – extreme sentencing – has created overcrowding and inhumane conditions," Johnson writes.
The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a non-profit working for prisoners' rights, says Johnson is innocent, insisting the "post was online, not to incarcerated workers. It didn't call for anyone to do anything."
The IWOC also said the FDOC tried to suppress a state-wide prisoner strike on Martin Luther King Day, January 15, which was organized by labor movement Operation Push.
The movement was founded by Jesse Jackson to promote economic advancement for Blacks. According to prison reports, some facilities shut off state phone services on the second day of the strike.
"A Security Threat Group investigator employed at a prison in the panhandle confirmed that multiple prisons across the state were placed on lockdown in preparation for the strike.
"Shakedowns have occurred where independent means of communication were confiscated and their alleged owners/users were thrown in solitary confinement," the IWOC said on its website.
A Facebook page set up for the prisoners' families posted that the "strike organizers in at least 15 prisons were placed in isolation and denied their property, including writing instruments, to forestall the strike and limit their ability to communicate.
"Some facilities have allegedly denied prisoners any access to the telephone, cutting off the only form of immediate communication available to prisoners — regardless of whether they were participating in the strike."
The FDOC said: "On January 16, a group of protestors held an event at the Department of Corrections headquarters office. During the event, protesters became increasingly disruptive and breached the doors into a secure area of the building.
"In an attempt to enter the secure area, protesters battered FDC staff. The Tallahassee Police Department responded immediately and the incident was brought quickly under control."
According to figures released by the FDOC, 428 inmates died in 2017 – up from 356 the previous year, which represents a 20 percent increase.