News Article
February 24, 2024


Update on Kevin Rashid Johnson!


Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, 52, originally from Richmond, Va., has been serving a life sentence since 1990. While doing his time, he has developed into a writer, author, poet, artist and political activist. Because of his exposure of abuses in various prison systems, he has been transferred numerous times to other states, most recently back to Virginia, where he has been held at the Red Onion Supermax prison in Wise County.

On Dec. 26, 2023, a group of men incarcerated at Red Onion began a hunger strike to protest the continued use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons, something many people thought had been ended by a bill passed in the 2023 General Assembly.

Eight weeks later, one of those men, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, is still refusing to eat. In addition to the general demand to end solitary confinement, Rashid is demanding to be kept at a prison near Richmond so that he can continue to see the doctors that had treated him for prostate cancer. He also has serious heart issues that were discovered in the course of his cancer treatment but have not yet been addressed.

The health care Rashid needs is not available at Red Onion, and his cancer was not treated until it had advanced to a dangerous stage.

For the first month of the hunger strike, Rashid was kept in a cell with no running water. He was denied bottled water, along with soap, toothpaste and other hygiene items. The only water he had to drink was from the toilet, which he was not able to clean.

The Virginia Department of Corrections has gone to court to try and get permission to force feed Rashid, but the court ruled that he was competent and so had the right to continue his hunger strike.

About two weeks ago, Rashid was moved to the Powhatan Medical Unit, about 45 minutes west of Richmond. There he was told that, if and when he agreed to resume eating, he would be moved back to Red Onion.

Last week he was admitted to the VCU Medical Center in Richmond after experiencing chest pains, along with severe dehydration.

Rashid’s attorney says he had been unable to retain water, and his situation is becoming desperate. On Feb. 14 he was moved back to Powhatan, but the Department of Corrections isn’t saying where they plan to keep him. They are not releasing any formation about his condition and have even removed his name and prison number from the department’s Offender Locator web page.

Rashid is being given a choice: Starve himself to death, or agree to end the hunger strike and be kept at Red Onion, where he risks dying from inadequate health care for his heart condition and cancer.

The hunger strike has received some media attention, in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a few smaller newspapers and Virginia Public Media’s Radio IQ, but Rashid’s condition has not yet been reported on.

We are asking that every member of the media contact Mr. Chadwick Dotson, Director of the Department of Corrections, ask about Rashid’s present medical condition and if he will be kept close to Richmond so he can receive the medical care he needs.

Carrying out a hunger strike for nearly eight weeks is either an act of insanity or extreme desperation. A Virginia court has already ruled that Rashid is competent to make his own decisions. This must mean that he believes he is already facing a life-or-death situation by not receiving necessary medical care.

Please contact Director Dotson. It may save a courageous man’s life.

Chadwick Dotson

Director, Virginia Department of Corrections


Phone: 804-674-3000

(Not his direct line. Call this number and ask to be connected with his office.)

This Fact Sheet was prepared by the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, an all-volunteer community organization founded in 2002 to work for the survival of our communities through education and social justice projects. It is a founding member of the Virginia Prison Justice Network.

Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality

PO Box 23202, Richmond, VA 23223 - Ph/Text: 804.644.5834 -

The Virginia Defender newspaper -

Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

On Feb. 23, 2024, Rashid's legal team filed an emergency motion on his behalf that highlights the retaliation he has recently faced in VADOC and asks for an order that he not be sent back to harmful prisons in the western region of the state. Here is the motion, a brief in support, and a declaration from an expert, Dr. David Milzman. They've also asked the Court to expedite the standard briefing and hearing timeline in this case, so Rashid can get relief as soon as possible. He's nearing day 60 of his hunger strike. Please feel free to share this information from Rights Behind Bars widely.