Free the prisoners; jail the property thieves

On Saturday, February 06, 2021, more than 100 prisoners waged a protest in response to inhumane conditions imposed on them inside a dungeon referred to as the Justice Center.

Prisoners refused to return to their 6 by 9-foot cells contained inside the jail which holds nearly 700 mostly black men and women in captivity. After months of inmate complaints that jail staff have callously exposed them to COVID-19 were met with silence and even retribution, prisoners refused to go on living in what could accurately be referred to as a ‘petri-dish of deadly coronavirus infections.’

One inmate, identified as Cortez Easterwood-Bey, expressed a long list of savage conditions imposed on these women and men, many of which are a regular feature of U.S. imprisonment.

To name just a few:

Easterwood-Bey estimates that in 48 hours, the number of COVID cases doubled in one pod as jail staff maliciously intermixed infected and uninfected inmates. Mixing infected prisoners with uninfected prisoners is genocide against the entire black community according to the United Nations definition.

Article II, subsection C of the United Nations Convention defines genocide as deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. Many inmates have languished in this camp without trial.

Easterwood-Bey cites one inmate who has been jailed for five years with no trial. Easterwood-Bey correctly poses the question: do jail staff get to act as our judge, jury, and executioner?

The U.S. has a prison system almost twice as large as China which has a billion people—a population nearly three times that of the U.S. In this massive U.S. prison-complex, 80-90% of every inmate convicted, never receives the benefit of a trial.

In fact, the popular courtroom television shows many of us grew up watching, actually constitute a national myth. Trials almost never exist in this city or in this country—if you are black or Mexican.

We, Herdosia ‘Kalambayi’ Bentum and Ticharwa Masimba, stand in unequivocal support of the right of those imprisoned in this concentration camp to resist the oppressive conditions in the jail.

Nobody should be made to live in these conditions:

● Tear-gassing and water hosing
● Subjecting to frigid temperatures while denying heat and adequate clothing 
● Denying showers
● Denying adequate food
● Denying adequate nutrition, especially to help counter COVID
● Denying adequate exercise necessary to fight COVID
● Forcing inmates into solitary confinement while refusing heat and dry clothing  
● Denying visitation from family and loved-ones  
● Destroying irreplaceable personal property such as photos, family letters, legal documents, and religious literature
● Denying the ability to conduct research necessary to fight for their freedom 
● Refusing COVID-19 testing and treatment
● Forcing infected and uninfected inmates to share cells
● Denying COVID-related PPE

We demand the immediate release of all black people imprisoned at the Justice Center and reparations must be paid to them and their families as restitution for these attacks on the African community.

Reparations to these Africans will be the first step toward a just outcome to this inhumane situation. We unite with the protestors and their just demands.

We further assert that any prison system which convicts 80-90% of those in prison without a trial, represents a dictatorship and has no legitimacy whatsoever. The black community of St. Louis is under constant attack.

A few weeks ago, the board of aldermen and St. Louis public school board announced that seven majority-black schools would close. Following that, members of the board of aldermen attempted to occupy the black community with spy planes owned by a billionaire.

As we speak an international spy agency is building a campus on 1,000 acres of land they stole from the black community while members of the board of aldermen used eminent domain to force nearly 100 families to leave their homes.

The City spends an estimated 50-60% of the entire general budget on policing the black community. This assault on our human life occurs in a city that has given nearly $700,00 in the last decade to parasitic corporations and land speculators while the black community is starved.

We have no economy except a drug economy that we didn’t create and do not control. Black people are imprisoned not because we commit crimes.

We are imprisoned because it is profitable and because this city has employed a public policy of police containment to manage a population under a permanent economic embargo. The real criminal in this city is the mayor.

The real criminals are those politicians who would give 1,000 acres of land away to a spy agency and force people out of their homes.

The real criminals reside at the LRA Land Bank- this entity which exists to assemble property stolen from the black community for the purpose of redistributing it to gentrifying real estate speculators—as part of a process of mass deconcentration of the black population by starvation (aka benign neglect).

The real criminals are those who destroy our schools by giving our tax money away to real estate speculators who buy up hundreds—even thousands—of properties and who accumulate their own personal land banks and let their properties rot; who do not develop anything in the black community; who do not create jobs; who, instead, use their money and influence to buy off politicians and influence them to pass legislation designed to gentrify the black community out of existence.

The real criminals are those who utilize police and prisons to make the black community safe—not for the black community—but for the corporations and real estate speculators who want our land and who starve our children to get it. This was not an unconscious riot but a politically conscious and righteous rebellion.

The prisoners involved are being punished for their willingness to protest to prevent their inevitable murder at the hands of malicious prison staff who intentionally subject them to conditions sure to bring about death and suffering.

We, Herdosia ‘Kalambayi’ Bentum and Ticharwa Masimba go further and declare that every black person locked-up anywhere in St. Louis City is a political prisoner.

When 80-90% of the people convicted have never received a trial, they are political prisoners. When the vast majority of those imprisoned originate from communities under economic starvation and political attack for decades, they are political prisoners.

When the city of St. Louis and its ruling class have consciously employed a long-term strategy of gentrification and black population removal; that population is a population of political prisoners.

This entire prison system, therefore, is illegitimate. We say, down with the city’s policy of police containment.

We say Black Community Control of Police.

Reparations Now!

We say, replace policing for profit with a policy of genuine economic development to the black community!


Herdosia ‘Kalambayi’ Bentum, 
Candidate for St. Louis Ward 3 Alderwoman

Ticharwa Masimba, 
Candidate for St Louis Ward 21 Alderman


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