Written by: Sam Orlando
Hunger Strikes, Inmate Murders, and a Demand for an Investigation
Richmond, VA – A recent Facebook Live event hosted by the Virginia Justice Alliance (VJA) has brought to the forefront the stark and troubling conditions at Red Onion State Prison. The event focused particularly on the hunger strike initiated by inmates, including Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, and the disturbing deaths of three inmates, one of which was the son of a participant in the event.
A Mother's Search for Answers
Jowell Travis Le Gendre, whose mother provided a harrowing account at the VJA event, died under mysterious circumstances at the prison. The local medical examiner reportedly informed her that the cause of death was unclear and confusing. However, upon viewing her son’s body, she discovered he had been brutally stabbed in the temple with a key. This stark contrast between the mother's findings and the medical examiner's report raises serious questions about the investigation's integrity and the prison's overall transparency.
Inmates Lead Hunger Strike at Red Onion State Prison
The VJA event also highlighted the ongoing hunger strike, which began on December 26, 2023. Led by Rashid and other inmates, the strike aims to protest the Virginia Department of Corrections' (VADOC) continued use of long-term solitary confinement. Rashid's demands include ending the censorship of his writings, proper medical care for chronic conditions, and the removal from solitary confinement and the controversial step-down program.
The situation is made more dire by the increased use of lockdowns and canceled visits, further isolating inmates from external support and family connections. This isolation is especially poignant in light of the recent deaths, including Jowell's, which have intensified calls for reform and scrutiny within the Virginia prison system.
VJA Asks for Help
Supporters and advocates, galvanized by the VJA event, are being urged to contact key Virginia officials, including VADOC representatives and Governor Glenn Youngkin, to demand an end to these controversial practices and support the hunger strikers’ demands. The event serves as a rallying cry for transparency, justice, and reform in the wake of these deeply troubling events at Red Onion State Prison.
A Crisis Which Continues
This stark situation at Red Onion has brought renewed attention to longstanding concerns about prison conditions. The hunger strike, coupled with the recent inmate deaths, has sparked a broader conversation about the need for reform and accountability in the correctional system. Advocates and families are now more determined than ever to demand action and ensure that such tragedies do not go unnoticed or unaddressed.
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