Cops, Courts & Prisons


Originally published in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 58, printed November 8. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2018 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post (pending). For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

Trying to exercise your rights in prison is like being stopped by a cop late at night on a lonely country road. Sure, you have rights, but exercising them can get you in a world of trouble. 

Just ask Askari Danso, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson and Uhuru Rowe. 

Askari Danso is a co-founder of Virginia Prisoner of Conscience and the Virginia Prison Justice Network. He’s been in prison for 20 years, with a release date in another 20. 

Since he began speaking out for prisoner rights, Askari has been transferred from Buckingham Correctional Center (security level 3-4) to Augusta (level 3), to Sussex II (level 4), to Sussex I (level 4-5) and now to the Level S “Super Max” Red Onion state prison in southwestern Wise County. He is currently in long term segregation. 

VAPJN members are in touch with Department of Corrections officials about Askari’s situation and hope to convince prison authorities to transfer him to a lower-security facility. 

You can follow his case at the “Free Askari Danso Movement” Facebook page.  

Photograph of people holding a banner emblazoned with the phrase "Free all political prisoners in the USA," a short list of such prisoners, and an image of a black panther.
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY WITH U.S. PRISONERS: Thousands gathered July 7 in Brussels, Belgium, to protest the NATO Summit being held in that city. Among the many organizations was this one, holding a banner in solidarity with U.S. political prisoners. The first name listed is that of Kevin Rashid Johnson, incarcerated by the Virginia Department of Corrections. Photo by Phil Wilayto.

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is an artist, founding member of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party and member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. He is serving a life sentence. Officially a Virginia prisoner, in 2012 he was transferred first to Oregon, then to Texas and Florida before being sent back to Virginia. As of the Defender’s presstime, he is being held in an “interstate” facility and will likely be transferred out of state. 

Rashid maintains a website at

Uhuru B. Rowe, now in Greensville, is a native of Richmond who has been incarcerated since 1995. His release date is Aug. 27, 2076. Along with Askari Danso, he was sent to solitary confinement while at Sussex II for allegedly being involved in a petition campaign designed to expose unjust conditions in that prison.

Uhuru’s blog is available here.  

Yes, there are plenty of problems to keep everyone busy on the outside. But paying attention to what is happening behind the walls of the prison-industrial complex is one of the best ways of providing some measure of protection to our sisters and brothers who struggle for justice under much more challenging circumstances.

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