Shout out to mi hermano Mumia Abu-Jamal. My brothers and beautiful sisters and comrades, it is with great pleasure and honor. I would humbly like to share with everyone gathered here today, how Mumu and I met within the entrails of this beast after being released from death row.
Mu, being the journalist that he is, took a peculiar interest about my plight as to how I managed to mobilize and organize over 902 inmates at SCI Mahanoy and protest against the coal-to-diesel gasification plant—which was going to be built directly adjacent, 300 feet from center point of the prison yard.
During our initial conversation, Mumu didn’t realize that at the time he was speaking with a bilingual Hispanic man he would be writing about in the piece entitled, “What’s a jailhouse environmentalist.” Believe it or not, the award-winning journalist and eight-time author and counting never fathom to meet the first jailhouse environmentalist. In fact, didn’t ever think such a thing existed on the face of this planet. This, in part, is how the hand of destiny had us meet.
By now, many of you have heard about the frequency with the water crisis which has become palpable and a systemic reoccurring problem throughout the Pennsylvania State Department of Correctional Facilities, Mahanoy, Frackville, Graterford, amongst many others. It should be no surprise that Graterford’s water supply has been found to have chromium six toxins. Chromium six is a cancer-causing contaminant when ingested by any human being.
It is outright perverse and unconscionable to think that those who are in charge of our care, custody, and control are responsible for the Machievallian treatment, depriving prisoners from access to safe drinking water. Nonetheless, it is our constitutional right to clean, safe drinking water, especially when the tax-paying citizens are paying for it.
In spite of a studied history with evidence of the instances of neglect towards inmates’ problems, I would like to think that this is one of those instances given the seriousness of this matter. Contaminated water poses a real threat to the health of prisoners, especially those with poor health who ingested due to the high amounts of bacteria and other contaminants that thrive in it. Many amongst the captive audience personally have found it hard to accept that the water is safe to drink when it is dirty in color.
In light of the fact that during those times when the water is dirty, staff walks around carrying bottled water and are ordered by their higher-ups to refrain from drinking from the inmate’s water supply fountains that we prisoners are forced to drink—because there is an alternative means by which we can hydrate our bodies, sometimes for an entire week as experienced frequently, two to three times in a month at Frackville.
Recently on November 15th, 2016, I forwarded a proposal to Centralized Commissary Committee, to place bottled spring water as a product suggestion to be included in our catalog of items for us prisoners to be able to have access to purchase bottle spring water just like the guards do.
Although it is clear prisoners shouldn’t have to purchase bottled spring water if our water supply wasn’t contaminated. As I’ve often laid in my bed, I’ve often pondered what’s the legal definition of cruel and unusual treatment. Like a recurring nightmare, it didn’t take much but for me to look into the mirror for me to realize that we are the definition of deliberate indifference. Obviously what is being conveyed is that this is the treatment we are constantly faced with by the hands of our catheters. Dirty water is a witch’s brew not for human consumption.
As we’ve come together today, look around. We are many. As many, we are great. In unity, we win. Remember every one of us is respected by what we know and what we do, so what are all of you going to do about our catheters doing nothing to protect us from the systemic contaminated water supply we are forced to drink every waking and day and night while the COs and staff members have access to bottled spring water. If not you, then who?
Take action and flood the Centralized Commissary Committee with calls for us to be able to purchase bottled spring water throughout the 26 Pennsylvania correctional institutions. In the struggle we fight for what is right and against what is wrong, be strong and do what is right, fight, fight, fight with your voices as one to tackle our existing contaminated water crisis throughout the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
The face and voice inside the nation of prisoners, Bryant Arroyo for prisonradio.org.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.