They Suffocated To Death As Prison Guards Watched

empty prison cell
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
January 24, 2023

The cramped cell was dark and hot. The 12 men frantically banged on the cell walls. 

They were running out of air.

The men were incarcerated on a prison farm in Richmond, Texas. They’d been locked in the cell for not picking cotton fast enough.

With outside temperatures of 100 degrees, the cell air was thick. The only ventilation came from 4 quarter-sized holes in the pipes.

By dawn, only four men were still alive. They survived by standing for hours with their mouths pressed against the quarter-sized holes, sucking in what little air passed through the pipes. 

Throughout the night, guards ignored their pleas of “Men are dying in here.” No one was held responsible for this monstrosity. Texas’ Attorney General ruled the guards weren’t responsible because they were just doing their jobs.

The men who died in the cell were buried on the Jester State Prison Farm, which still holds incarcerated people today.

The prison system is legalized slavery, but Black people all over the world – whether incarcerated or not – are capable of pushing back against this system.

Anti-Blackness intentionally creates awful environments to trap us in. Like those who survived that cell, we must do everything to resist.

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