Keak Da Sneak Begins Prison Sentence After Lengthy Legal Battle

Rapper Keak Da Sneak says that California correctional facilities have little compassion for inmates with disabilities.
Rapper Keak Da Sneak says that California correctional facilities have little compassion for inmates with disabilities. (Joel Galvan)

Bay Area rap star Keak da Sneak began a 16-month prison sentence today after being taken into custody in Amador County.

In January, KQED first reported that the rapper faced a prison sentence for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. In a lengthy, exclusive interview, Keak, whose real name is Charles Kente Williams, went into detail about surviving two shootings which rendered him wheelchair-bound and in need of regular medical care for bed sores that could result in a life-threatening infection if left untended.

"I know they’re not gonna give me the treatment I need in prison," he told me in January. "I've been to jail before, and once you get behind these walls, they have no compassion. You have to be on your dying bed for them to give you some assistance."

Because of the extent of Williams' disabilities, his legal team had lobbied for an alternative sentence of house arrest. The judge on the case delayed his sentencing date twice as he completed several medical procedures. Though Williams and his legal team had hoped for another outcome, today, Williams went into custody to begin his sentence, Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe confirmed. He faces three years of parole once released.

"We spoke with folks from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation," Riebe said. "There are plenty of facilities that can take individuals in wheelchairs that need medical assistance on a daily basis."

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"I know the court has made orders for accommodations ahead of time, that any transportation is going to be medically complaint, that he has an adequate bed," said Chief Assistant District Attorney Robert Trudgen. "I know efforts are at least being made."

Keak da Sneak (L) speaks at Oaklandish in downtown Oakland with Tyranny of Marketing Kings (R) in March.
Keak da Sneak (L) speaks at Oaklandish in downtown Oakland with Tyranny of Marketing Kings (R) in March. (Nastia Voynovskaya)

Disability rights advocates, however, paint a different picture of the California state prison system. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's medical system has been under federal monitoring since 2006, when a federal judge ruled it unconstitutionally inadequate and in violation of the 8th Amendment.

According to the ACLU, California state prisons are overcrowded, at 136.6 percent capacity. Quality of life for inmates with disabilities varies widely from facility to facility, and they often spend lengthy periods of time in highly restrictive reception centers—where they don't have phone privileges and can only interact with visitors through glass—while the state assesses their medical needs and places them in an adequate facility. 

"We are concerned how the state system would treat him because the CDCR is under a mandate, and are being monitored for not treating the prisoners well," says Williams' lawyer, Joanne Biernacki. "I've read reports on prisoners not doing well in the state prison system. The last thing I want is for him to go in and get sicker."

"We were hoping for something better," says Williams' close collaborator Dontrell Mayfield, a.k.a. 4Rax of the production duo the Mekanix. "We talked to him yesterday and what was really the focal point was, 'I’m ready to put this behind me.' The clock is ticking and we gon’ pray for him and wait for him to come on out."

Prior to starting his sentence, Williams worked on music and a documentary set to be released sometime during his term. As he explained in January, "It got me doing a lot of recording right now, so while I'm gone I can be dropping music to take care of my family."

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