In the grainy cell phone video, the prison block is dim and the shouting muffled—but the sight of wafting, gray smoke is unmistakable.
“It’s a nonviolent protest going on right now because the officers, in the middle of the coronavirus, have refused us electricity for several hours, no showers or anything,” a man says in the recording, apparently made last week.
The smoke, he explains, is from fires set by Texas prisoners desperately hoping to attract attention from higher-ups because they couldn’t turn on their cell fans or clean themselves during the pandemic.
The Marshall Project is not publishing the video or naming the prison out of concern for the man’s safety.
Afterward, a prison spokesman said he had no record of the incident or its resolution. But some worry this sort of unrest could escalate in lock-ups across the country, especially as restrictions tighten. The federal Bureau of Prisons, for example, announced Tuesday a 14-day lockdown at all its facilities to slow down the virus.
Prisoners and guards nationwide are fretting, and some say fears will skyrocket as more people inside begin testing positive.