By Uhuru B. Rowe
January 1, 2019
Tracy Ray is scheduled to take over as Lead Warden of Greensville Correctional Center sometime this month.
For those of us who has served time in high security prisons in Virginia, the name Tracy Ray evokes feelings of both despair, disdain, and fear. His name evokes the same feelings even among prison employees who have worked under him. That’s because at every prison Tracy Ray has presided over as Warden, he has implemented the most oppressive policies, practices, and procedures which inevitably resulted in the most deplorable and toxic working and living conditions for incarcerated people and prison staff alike.
When I arrived at Sussex 2 State Prison (S2SP) in September of 2016, Tracy Ray, as Warden, was running the prison like a modern-day concentration camp. There was so much tension between inmates and staff, and even among inmates themselves, that we could feel it the moment we stepped off the prison bus. Quite a few disgruntled guards who were opposed to Tracy Ray would tell us that he had instructed all S2SP employees, including the nurses and counselors, to treat all inmates with scorn for no other reason than to dehumanize us, aggravate our suffering, and break our spirits to the maximum extent possible. As you may have read from precious posts on my blog concerning the conditions at S2SP, Tracy Ray’s method of governance had deadly consequences.
During the two years I was housed at S2SP (2016-2018) during Tracy Ray’s reign, there were in excess of 14 (this is a conservative number) deaths of incarcerated citizens due to suicides, medical negelect, drug overdoses, and inmate-on-inmate violence which in some cases was instigated or allowed to happen like in the case of John Tran. (Read post titled “How Sussex 2 State Prison Officials Murdered John Tran”) Adding to this madness was the curtailment of outside recreation and an increase in the amount of time we spent locked down with another human being inside of a cell that’s designed for one person.
Our living conditions at S2SP got so bad that a group of us prisoners were forced to unite and challenge those conditions. We drafted a petition highlighting all the deplorable conditions we were made to endure and circulated it among our peers. It garnered over one hundred signatures which was unprecedented but not entirely surprising. Brothers were dropping dead like flies and the violence precipitated by the mistreatment from staff, the lack of outside recreation and the unavailability of meaningful programmatic activities was fast becoming the norm. And because of the corruption in the grievance department which routinely ignored and trashed our grievances, we were left with no other choice than to engage in a prohibited method of struggle in an effort to improve our living conditions in order to improve our chances of staying alive.
Tracy Ray was tipped off about the petition and retaliation was swift, but it backfired on Tracy Ray. Because the suspected ring leader of the petition, who bore the brunt of the retaliation, had the support of respected members of the community, the entire incident blew up in the media and then blew up in Tray Ray’s face. (See post titled “Life at Sussex 2 State Prison-Revisited”) Numerous concerned citizens, our loved-ones, and the media started making phone calls and asking hard questions — questions that Tracy Ray refused to answer amid public scrutiny. Amid mounting pressure from the public, Tracy Ray was relieved of his duties as Warden of S2SP around May of 2018 and reassigned to an undisclosed position within the Virginia Department of Corrections. And now that the proverbial smoke has cleared and media and community members have stopped asking questions, the Departement has decided to appoint Tracy Ray as Warden of Greensville Correctional Center (GRCC). This should be a cause for alarm! Not only for those of confined here but for our loved-ones as well.
As I have written in previous posts, the conditions here at GRCC aren’t that much different than S2SP even though this is a lower security facility. (See posts titled “They Are Trying to Kill Us” and “Transferred from Sussex 2 State Prison to Greensville Correctional Center”) Just in the last two months, there have been two deaths in Housing Unit 7 in cluster S3. A short time later, the entire Housing Unit 7 was placed on mandatory quarantine after a preventable outbreak of the shingles (chickenpox) virus. As of the date of this post, Housing Unit 7 has been locked down for over three weeks. The conditions here at GRCC will most certainly advance from bad to worse under a Tracy Ray wardenship. The number of deaths here will increase exponentially because of his method and style of governance which is rooted in his white supremacist mindset. Guards and administrative staff will start quitting, leading to critical understaffing levels which, in turn, leads to the cancellation of programs and more time spent locked down in our cells. Whatever rehabilitation we have here will take a backseat to Tracy Ray’s unquenchable desire treat us in a cruel and unusual fashion, including our loved ones when they come to visit us. So I am calling you, the People, especially the loved ones of people incarcerated at GRCC, to take an immediate and aggressive stand against the appointment of Tracy Ray as warden of this facility.
Here’s what you can do: Call Governor Ralph Northam at 804-786-2211, Secretary of Public Safety Brian P. Moran at 804-786-5351, and VDOC Director Harold Clarke at 804-674-300, and firmly express your opposition to the appointment of Tracy Ray as Lead Warden of Greensville Correctional Center because of his poor record as Warden of Sussex 2 State Prison which contributed to numerous preventable deaths of incarcerated people under his care. Thank you.