Jericho March To End Political Imprisonment
RAIL teach-in on the Criminal Injustice System Saturday March 28 Washington DC
Mass. continues prisoner deportations to Texas gulags
RAIL crazy about prisons?
Why Amerikkka with a K?
Activist forced to plea bargain
Pigs attack activists in Plymoth
RAIL builds literature racks at UMass Amherst
The Bureaucrats Verses Campus Organizing
Asian Community Mobilizes Against Pornography
Prison connections: Lots of valuable information and some misguided reformism
Censorship in Massachusetts prisons
I wish to bring these pigs into court
Baylosis speaks on struggle of Filipino people
On March 27,1998, there will be a mobilization in Washington DC of people from all around the country who reject the hypocrisy of a government that pretends to support human rights but in fact imprisons people for their political beliefs. Prisons in this country are used to incarcerate political activists, revolutionaries, oppressed nationals, and poor people. Those who speak out and organize to end oppression are special targets of criminal injustice. These include Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Linda Evans and many others. RAIL urges all supporters of prisoners and opponents of oppression to build Jericho'98 and other educational events which expose the crimes of the Amerikan bourgeoisie against the people.
Amerikan has imprisoned political leaders and continues to steadily build the Amerikan police forces and prison system as tools of social control and national oppression. Through education and mass practice, the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) builds support for all struggles against oppression. This includes supporting the release of those incarcerated because of their political beliefs and actions. RAIL is organizing contingents from various locations to attend the Jericho'98 march on Washington, D.C. and is also hosting a teach-in the following day in D.C. The teach-in will include information on specific prisoners' cases and on the Amerikan INjustice system in general. Contact us to get involved in organizing around the criminal injustice system.
Come to the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) teach-in on the criminal injustice system the day following the Jericho march. The organizing work leading up to and during the Jericho '98 march will certainly help us to aid prisoners' struggles. We are hosting this teach-in to broadly educate and mobilize activists to expose the Amerikan Injustice system as the tool of national oppression and genocide that it is.
RAIL sees that it is the entire prison system in Amerika that is a tool of oppression. It is not only the tactics of COINTELPRO and the imprisonment of political leaders and revolutionaries which have been tools to perpetuate oppression. We are committed to building support for the estimated 150-200 prisoners incarcerated specifically for political beliefs and actions. Our work more broadly covers building support for all struggles against oppression as well. And in this, we see that the disproportionate imprisonment rate of oppressed nationals alone necessitates a broad struggle against the current Amerikan prison system in its totality. Our work to organize support for prisoners' struggles has been going on for over a decade and has steadily intensified both inside and outside the prisons.
We argue that all imprisonment is political because of current inequality in Amerikan society, poor representation in the court system, disproportionate convictions and sentence lengths handed down to the oppressed and because of conditions in prisons which extend sentences as opposed to helping people to become productive members of society.
The teach-in will include sessions on the nature of the criminal injustice system as well as various organizers providing information on local and continental campaigns to build support for national liberation struggles and prisoners struggles. A preliminary agenda will be available shortly. Contact us if you or your organization is interested in presenting at the teach-in.
For more information, e-mail us at [email protected] or write to RAIL, P.O. Box 3576, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.
Another 28 inmates were sent to Texas from Massachusetts on December 3, 1997, chained into a bus that drove across the country with its hostages. The bus returned to Massachusetts with a few Massachusetts prisoners who had been in Texas. These latest 28 men were shipped to Texas so that the number of Massachusetts prisoners in Dallas County Jail will stay at 300. The return of a few of the prisoners seems to represent a concession by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to the strong public outcry against the transfers which began in 1995. The Mass. DOC is taking 300 men away from their families and friends and putting them into a prison system that has conditions even worse than those in Massachusetts. Stating that they recognize that it is not good for prisoners to be so far from friends and relatives for an extended period of time, the DOC began rotating the prisoners earlier this year.
The result of this new rotation policy means that even more men's prison stays will be disrupted as they are moved hundreds of miles from family and friends. More and more men will be subjected to the horrible conditions in the Dallas County Jail. Just recently we received a report that in addition to the unsanitary conditions, lack of heat, and lack of medical care in Dallas, at least one prisoner has had all his MIM literature siezed and is now having his mail censored. We face these same problems in Massachusetts but activists and family members have an easier time holding the prisoncrats responsible as we are close by and can take our protests directly to the people responsible. RAIL has been organizing against these transfers to Texas since 1995 and we have gathered a significant number of petition signatures while getting the word out about why we oppose these transfers. We will continue to fight these transfers until all of the prisoners in Dallas are returned to Massachusetts.
Source: Boston Globe Dec. 4, 1997 P.
To the Editor:
Last Tuesday, I sat down to eat in Franklin Dining Commons. Sometimes there are little cards on the table to inform students of happenings around the campus. That night, I saw something that made me so sick that I lost my appetite. There was a card for "Prison Awareness Week." Why in the world would we have such a thing in this country? This is an event that fights for the dregs and degenerates of society who are locked up so that they can't harm people anymore. Who in their right mind would have the nerve to stand up for a murderer or a pedophile that has destroyed people's lives? It is truly sick that this type of program advertises to get people involved. It upsets me that this entire week there will be people protesting for the rights of lowlifes like the two men who killed ten-yearPold Jeffrey Curley and then sexually molested his corpse with beer bottles. If I had it my way, these people would not only lose their rights, but they would lose their lives as well. It's called "Prison Awareness Week" -- well guess what? I'm already aware of what goes on in prison. Hell, I'm proud of what goes on. It's nice to know we live in a country where the true scum can go to a place where they will get what they deserve. I will never support this type of a program, and I hope that everyone on campus would use common sense and do the same.
We aren't sorry that our work to defend prisoners from a corrupt Amerikan judicial system cost someone their appetite. That system kills people and destroys communities in a manner more cold-blooded than any murderer currently behind bars.
In Amerika, incarceration has nothing to do with crime, but about the political, economic and military control of the Black, Latino and First Nations. The incarceration rate for Black men is 7 times higher than for white men.(1) To make a global comparison, the United Snakes imprisons 4 times as many Blacks per capita as the old apartheid South Africa.(2) RAIL targets prisons and the police in our organizing, because we recognize their role as key weapons in Amerika's war on the oppressed. You can't argue that Blacks commit more crimes, as the evidence doesn't support that. It's telling to look at drug charges, as the 58% of federal prisoners are in there for drugs. Blacks are 12% of the U.S. population, and 13% of monthly drug users, but they are 74% of the drug possession sentences given out each year.(3) Crime has nothing to do with incarceration and the whole system is just a charade to weed out most of the whites and send the Blacks and Latinos to jail.
According to a telephone poll conducted in 1996 by the UMass administration, 50% of students admit to using marijuana in the year prior, and 17% to driving while intoxicated. These are definitely considered crimes, but you don't see large numbers of students at the disproportionately white UMass heading of to jail.(4) There is no evidence that locking people up or killing them affects the crime rate. If what you want is a reduction in crime, then you will need to find another strategy to support. If you want to see the worst drug dealers punished, we suggest you target the CIA for bringing drugs into North America by the plane and boat loads to fund their dirty wars. If you want to stop murder, target the likes of Reagan, Bush and Clinton who have killed hundreds of thousands of people in invasions and attacks on Third World nations. If you want to stop rape, then organize against the U.$ military and it's legions of brothels that surround every U.$. military base in the Third World.
As for Jeffrey Curley, what apparently happened to this boy is a horrible and incorrect thing. But how will locking up these two men do anything to change the societal problem of child abuse and molestation? The great majority of child abuse occurs within the home by family members, but these cases are very rarely prosecuted. What the rabid frenzy around stranger-molestation does is distract attention from the real cause of child abuse--the patriarchal family--and end up prolonging the system that says that children are property. All that going gung-ho after the very rare stranger rape cases does is tell the rest of society that when daddy rapes daughter, that's Ok. By eliminating the patriarchy and the parental ownership of children we can stop all of this horrible crime against humanity.
While a great many Amerikans will oppose our efforts because they benefit from Amerikan apartheid, that does not make our cause any less correct or any less necessary. The struggle for true justice requires that we recognize that the Amerikan justice system is not about justice at all, but instead about maintaining an apartheid system. In February, we will be conducting a People's Tribunal to judge the Amerikan injustice system for the crimes of genocide and oppression. Defenders of the system are welcome and encouraged to assist the defense in this public event. We are confident that the facts can speak for themselves and in the long run the people will end the tyranny of Amerikan injustice.
Notes: 1. Walkin' Steel, Spring 1994, p.1. Committee to End the Marion Lockdown PO Box 578172, Chicago IL 60657-8172. 2. William Dan Perdue, Systemic Crisis: Problems in Society, Politics and World Order (NY Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1993), p. 3. The Real War On Crime: The Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, edited by Stephen R. Donziger (HarperPerennial, 1996). 4. Alcohol and Drug Use Survey (F96-H) 19 November 1996.
Thank you for printing our letter about Prison Awareness Week on Nov 7 1997. It is important to be able to defend ourselves when criticized in One comment: You inserted quotation marks around some of the words we used, notably, "Amerika". Words express ideas, and the people who control this society are the same ones that control the language via dictionaries, style guides and the sheer force of the volume of publication. Take the white people who control this country: They claim to speak for everyone within their borders, when in fact Blacks, Latinos and Indigenous peoples are not represented--but colonized by--this government. In fact, these white people call their country "America" despite the fact that people elsewhere in this hemisphere call themselves Americans. Spelling America with a k allows us to make the distinctions above, as well as linking Amerika's true objectives with the stated objectives of the KKK. We aren't post-modernists that believe we can change society merely by using different words. But when old words don't fit our needs, we create new ones. Language has never been a static thing, it's always evolving or being revolutionized to fit new circumstances and new concepts and items. Within politics, we then use these new words as part of our organizing to create a new society.
So Amerika has a specific meaning and reasoning for use. To put quotations around the word confuses people as to how and why we use the term, since it looks like we put the quotes there.
We appreciate being able to write for the Collegian and would like to do so in the future. In the past, the Collegian has sometimes allowed our spellings and other times not. Please let us know if the above constitute sufficient argument to allow us to spell words as we see fit. If not, do let us know as we would rather be forced to stick to your style guide in our original submission than to have quotation marks put around our words.
Again, thank you for printing the letter.
Richard Picariello, a long time political activist, was forced to plea bargain at his trial in mid-December after the cops came up with a number of "witnesses" who were willing to say that they saw exactly what the cops wanted them to see. Picariello was arrested in July for the crime of being in the student center at MIT and not being a student. The student center has stores that are open to the public, and Picariello was sitting in a chair outside the stores, apparently a crime if you don't look like a student. A cop out of uniform approached him, initiated a physical confrontation, and then when Picariello tried to defend himself, called for backup so that a gang of pigs could beat up Picariello. They charged Picariello with assault with a deadly weapon (the deadly weapon was Picariello's foot).
In spite of efforts by RAIL and other activists to help Picariello come up with witnesses who would testify about what really happened during the police assault, in the end the cops came up with many more witnesses (almost all of whom were police officers) willing to say whatever they needed to say to put Picariello in prison.
This case came to court just days after a big expose in the Boston Globe about police unwillingness to tell the truth when it might mean implicating one of their own. The Globe story focused on an undercover cop who was seriously beat up by another cop who mistook him for the bad guys (the undercover cop was Black). After several years of investigation no one has been able to get the pigs to tell the truth about even this case where the person who was hospitalized was another cop. Instead every cop's story is filled with lies and contradictions and no one cares.
In fact, this practice of "testilying" is common. The Mollen Commission studied the problem of pigs lying on the stand in New York and concluded that many police officers "commit falsifications to serve what they perceive to be 'legitimate' law enforcement ends. In their view, regardless of the legality of the arrest, the defendant is in fact guilty and ought to be arrested. Officers reported a litany of manufactured tales." The Christopher Commission, which studied the LA Police Department, found the same problem.(1)
Picariello was in prison for many years for the political crime of attempting to overthrow the u.s. government. He never harmed another person, and he served his entire term, but the pigs are convinced that he is a criminal who must be put away for the safety of society. RAIL considers it a great asset to the revolutionary movement that people like Picariello continue to be activists and serve the people of the world even after so many years of torture by the criminal injustice system. But the pigs are correct that it is a threat to the safety of society to have revolutionaries outside of prison, because even though we are not waging an armed struggle right now, we are fighting to overthrow the very system that props up this decadent, patriarchial imperialist society.
Fortunately, because of the weakness of the pigs case and the clear contradictions, excessive use of force, and strong public pressure, the lawyers for the cops accepted a plea that did not put Picariello in prison. Although he was forced to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit, Picariello was given a 90 day suspended sentence with a year probation during which time the only stipulation is that he not be arrested. Picariello sees it as a "rape of my dignity" to have to admit to a crime he did not commit, but when we fight on the turf of the criminal injustice system the battle will never be fair. We have to continue to build public opinion around cases such as this one to expose the crimes of the system.
Notes: 1. Boston Globe, Dec. 11, 1997. p.A27.
On what the white settler nation calls Thanksgiving Day, hundreds of First Nations members and supporters gathered around the statue of Massasoit in Plymouth Massachusetts overlooking Plymouth Rock for a Day of Mourning. Earlier in the day, a group of Amerikan settlers reenacted the alleged first Thanksgiving. This is an annual white nationalist event called Pilgrims Progress which was canceled last year in the face of First Nation protest.
But when the Day of Mourning participants, attempted to march down the same street, they were met with police violence and arrest. The pigs sprayed mace pepper spray directly into several people's eyes. Twenty to 25 people were arrested. One protester warned RAIL that the cops take any disruption of their white nationalist propaganda event very seriously. According to the Associated Press, Plymouth Police, State Police and the Plymouth County Sheriff's Department were used against the protesters.
In settler mythology, Thanksgiving is a story of cooperation between the settlers and the First Nations. The dominators and exploiters perpetuate this myth to obtain cooperation from the oppressed today and prolong the collapse of the oppressive system. Progressives must expose these imperialist fairy-tales for the snow job they are rather than perpetuate the myth that Amerikan wealth was not built off the backs of the oppressed.
Notes: CNN 28 November 1997, Springfield Union-News 28 November 1997, p. B5.
Amherst--On many college campuses, there is insufficient space for the distribution of free literature. On most campuses, this space is in fact decreasing. While the daily student newspapers and the weekly sex-funded papers have created adequate space for themselves, less frequent publications are at a disadvantage.
Friends of RAIL has spent the last year trying to get permission from the relevant student bureaucrats for us to build our own literature racks and install them at our expense in the Student Union and Campus Center. The student bureaucrats never could come to a decision, and other organizations have been making their own racks, so in January RAIL installed literature racks in the Campus Center and Student Union. These will serve as consistent places for people to find RAIL authored and distributed literature, as well as announcements of future activities. We will make the construction plans publicly available so that other organizations can build their own racks.
Starting a RAIL school group on campus is a great way to make students aware of and get students involved in radical political activism. Many college students tend to have spare time. They are in a special position because they have not yet bought into the capitalist, imperialist system of the United Snakes. Many college students are experiencing life outside of their parents house for the first time, so they are more likely to have some eye-opening experiences which could lead to activism. However, organizing on campus is not made easy.
It seems that the administrations of many schools have come to realize the potential for political activism on campus. These administrations have made organizing difficult by creating a thick cloud of bureaucracy. Since the turbulence in schools across the country in the sixties and its wave of student activism, many student life departments have grown into red tape dispensers. In the sixties we saw the police being called in to "subdue" students who were gathering in peaceful protests. Since then the administrations of many colleges have decided on a preventative method against student activism called bureaucracy.
To start a new school group at UMass Boston, one is first given a pile of paper work. Buried within this pile is a mandatory officers list and a petition for fifteen signatures to show interest in the group. These mandatory forms must be filled out before the group can be activated. The catch is that one cannot advertise or hold a meeting until the group is official. Any flyers put up on any bulletin board without the official UMass stamp on it will be torn down as soon as it's discovered. How are people to be sure they are interested in the group without a preliminary meeting of some sort? How are officers to be democratically voted in? The officers list requires a democratic election of officers by the members of this not yet existing group.
Even if this paperwork is somehow completed and turned in by the deadline, paperwork tends to get lost easily. Both the officers list and budget request form were lost for RAIL's UMass Boston group, after having been completed and turned in on time. Perhaps this has something to do with the right-wing senate at UMass Boston. There was also a mandatory meeting RAIL was not informed of. We were not informed that RAIL was to have our own mailbox and that someone must check it daily for important notices. This meeting was later made up for by our attendance at a make-up meeting, but the whole incident caused the UMass Boston RAIL group to remain inactive and unofficial for extra two weeks.
Another obstacle for organizing at this campus has been the flyering procedure. One must get the proper form from the student life office on the fourth floor. Then go to the first floor where the copying room is. once the copies are made, one must proceed back up to the fourth floor student life center and stamp each flyer. The maximum flyers allowed per event is sixty. Often these flyers will get ripped down before the day of the event, even with all the official bureaucracy being obeyed. Work with RAIL to make anti-imperialist information and activism accessible to everyone!
by a RAIL Comrade
On December 3, over 150 students and faculty members at UMass, Boston protested the pornography in Mass Media, the conduct of the student senate, and the inadequate response from the UMass administration. On November 20, the UMass, Boston student newspaper, Mass Media, ran an article exposing the UMASS student senate's use of school computers to view pornography on the Internet. The Mass Media article entitled "Senate Undresses Asian Concerns" was accompanied by three partially blacked out, but obviously pornographic pictures of Asian wimmin. The blackening did not leave much to the imagination.
Student senate president, Joe Fernandez, admitted that he knew student senators were viewing pornography on the senate computers. He claims that he asked them repeatedly to stop, but other student senate members gave conflicting reports. Senator Michael Gervais said some senators have been viewing pornography on the state funded computers since the fall of 1996. He claims he threatened the other senators and they stopped viewing the pornography at school.
An anonymous source delivered evidence to The Mass Media, who then published the pornography. The publication of this pornography, which was primarily pictures of naked Asian women, was a sensationalist stunt to get people to pay attention to The Mass Media's article. The use of pornography by the student senate and then by the student newspaper outraged many on campus.
The Asian Student Center at UMass, Boston organized the rally that was held on December 3, 1997. The rally was attended by many oppressed nationals and progressive whites standing before a banner proclaiming "Rally Against Sexism and Racism." To the side of the rally stood three representatives of The Mass Media holding signs proclaiming their right to free speech. A few other white nation youth wandered around behind the rally heckling the speakers. The rally speakers demanded the immediate resignation of all student senate members, denounced the manner in which The Mass Media exposed the situation in the senate, and asked for "an open publication of the results of Chancellor Penny's Fact-Finding Committee."(1)
A list of demands was drawn up by the Asian Student Center and has been given to the student senate, The Mass Media, and the administration. One of the demands asks that there be a student advisory committee as well as an academi>
While RAIL agrees with the protesting students, we do not consider the formation of oversight committees or administration actions an effective way to fight this gender and nation oppression. Giving any further power to the administration is just asking for an institution that is already steeped in patriarchal and imperialist ideology to take over the greater enforcement of thought control. Asking for a student advisory committee is better than suggesting that the administration should step in. But under imperialism any moves to control media are going to end up serving the powers that control them. Because the Mass Media is a university funded and controlled newspaper, the progressive students on campus would be better off forming their own alternative newspaper and demanding that the university also give them money for this project. Only by having complete control over the content can activists ensure that they are fighting patriarchy and national oppression. The local bourgeois media parroted The Mass Media's approach, displaying the pornography from the cover of the Mass Media on local television news programs. They condemned the school newspaper's use of pornography in words and then parroted The Mass Media's sensationalism by showing the same pictures they condemned.
RAIL oppose pornography. It is one of the most obvious examples of the unequal power relation between people based on gender. The incidents involving pornography at UMass, Boston clearly demonstrate the role of patriarchy and imperialism in this growing industry of oppression. The patriarchal culture of Amerikkka creates and perpetuates an environment of exploitation for wimmin, particularly oppressed nation wimmin. The UMass Student Senate members and The Mass Media staff readilyparticipate in this imperialist patriarchal system. The writers at the Mass Media used a typical imperialist approach in their article, instead of giving a clear political analysis. They sensationalized the incident as an isolated one, while at the same time claiming "pornography is here to stay"(2) The Mass Media was right to expose the senate for viewing pornography on state funded school computers, but the manner in which they exposed the senate was completely wrong. The use of pornography to get the people's attention is nothing more than the extension of gender oppression.
RAIL disagrees with the Mass Media when they say "what is clear is that pornography, whether in print or on the Internet, is here to stay."(2) Pornography may be here to stay under patriarchy, but under communism patriarchy and all of its vices will be ended. RAIL conclude that patriarchy is alive and kicking in Amerikkkan society. We support the Asian community at UMass, Boston for organizing against the recent events at UMass but we must remember that patriarchy is built into this oppressive imperialist system. Therefore the only way to fully rid wimmin and all oppressed nationals of oppression is to overthrow this imperialist patriarchal system. Under a Socialist revolution all wimmin will free themselves from oppression.
Notes: 1. List of demands by UMass, Boston Asian Student Center. 2. The Mass Media volume 32, number 13.
http://persephone.hampshire.edu/wmpig/prisoncon.html [email protected]@hampshire.edu PO Box 9606 North Amherst MA 01059-9096
Prison Connections is both a print and online publication of the Western Mass Prison Issues Group. It contains articles about prison struggles in Massachusetts and elsewhere, as well as information about political prisoners and prisoners of war. The publication's purpose is to "inform and connect people, while offering points of view on prisons from people not usually heard from. We are interested in printing material which actively combats the forces of oppression keeping us separated and offers life-affirming alternatives. In the most recent issue, there are articles about sentencing disparities for cocaine and crack, the struggle of Massachusetts prisoners to establish a political action committee, and book reviews. The current issue of Prison Connections was among the first to bring to RAIL's attention a new postage policy at Walpole Prison that greatly reduced the ability of prisoners to write letters. The web page is continually updated with action alerts and events around North America, including a number of prison and POW-related events led by RAIL. Their link page is an extensively put together list of many different resources on prisons, from activist groups to the Department of Corrections in most states. There is also a search engine to search engine to search the site.
RAIL and Prison Connections have a lot of practical unity in recognizing that the current incarceration craze doesn't affect the crime rate, and that the current system targets Blacks and Latinos. Our disagreements, however, are shown the most clearly in the article "Volunteers Sought: Alternatives to Violence Program."
Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP) (not associated with the Western Mass Prison Issues Group) started in 1975 when some prisoners in New York "working with youth gangs and teenagers at risk were having difficulty communicating their message about the consequences of violence," contacted the Quakers to conduct a workshop. Out of that organizing, a movement was born. Now AVP needs more volunteers from the outside to assist in the anti- violence workshops.
Masses-on-masses violence, as well as unfocused violence against the oppressor, sets back the people's struggle and so RAIL opposes it. But the problem with the AVP approach is that it puts the focus on prisoners' individual actions. Instead, they should focus on the larger society that encourages violence among the oppressed for the sake of keeping the oppressed nations down through internal strife and selective prosecution.
Some of the other articles in Prison Connections support the formation of prison Political Action Committees as an effective way to make social change. In one book review, Prison Connections correctly criticizes a book for focusing only on the illogical Amerikan practice of incarcerating large numbers of people for non-violent drug offenses, but ignoring violent crime. However, Prison Connections also criticizes the book for not discussing "cost effective alternatives to incarceration for violent offenders," such as so- called "community-based" intervention programs or other forms of state surveillance.
RAIL thinks the corporate and Amerikan government leaders are among the most violent criminals offenders in the world. As such, these pigs have no moral authority to condemn the perpetrators of smaller crimes as "criminals." Violent crimes amongst the people exist because we live in a violent society and there is nothing we can do within this society to change that. This is why RAIL is organizing for a revolution to eliminate the roots of injustice and crime: capitalism, imperialism and patriarchy. The system's rules have proven themselves incapable of curing the ills of this system.
We publish this review to alert others to this useful web site, and in the hopes of opening a dialogue with Prison Connections about the most effective ways to aid prisoners and to stop crime.
Back in 1995 MIM received a letter from the Deputy Superintendent of Operations at the Old Colony Correctional Center prison in Bridgewater Massachusetts. This letter stated that MIM Notes was being rejected because it "poses a threat to security and good order of the institution." The reasons given:
"Commonwealth of Massachusetts Inmate Mail Regul ation 481.15 (1) (e) Depicts, describes or encourages activities that may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption. Commonwealth of Massachusetts Inmate Mail Regulation 481.15 (1) (f) Encourages, facilitates or instructs in the commission of criminal activity."
The inmate who had been sent the publication received another notification of censorship which stated that the publication "has gang related material in it."
The inmate, Anthony-Sekou Saia, was unusual only in that he has trained himself in the law so that he could fight legal battles like this one which infringe on his so-called rights. He challenged the censorship insisting that the prison follow its own rules and allow him to review the publication. Upon review he wrote a letter detailing the article about gangs, pointing out that this article was a political commentary on the police repression of youth. The prison rejected this appeal without further explanation. The inmate wrote to the Superintendent of the Prison:
"Be advised that this publication was rejected under the banner of threat to the security of the facility, however, after I spoke to your right hand gestapo Al Saucier he indicated to me as I stated in the appeal that because MIM publication used the word "pig(s)" which he claimed referred to state and government officials as well as the fact that it was a Communist publication who believes in the overthrow of the current government that was the reason it was rejected and would not be allowed; the fact of the matter is the word pig(s) were properly used and for your information allow me to give you a proper definition as I see it: A pig is of course a filthy animal that wallows in mud and the like and will eat all sorts of filth, so when that word is applied to people it represents those people are filthy in their thoughts and actions, and further, a pig (in that context) is usually one who uses his/her power or authority to hold others down, and that's putting it in a few words.
"In closing, I hope you don't take offense when I say that because my MIM publication was rejected for using the word pig(s) which is in direct violation of your very own policy (103 CMR 481.15 (2) (a): The Deputy Superintendent may not reject a publication solely because its content is religious, philosophical, political, social or sexual or because its content is unpopular or repugnant."), your actions are exactly fitting the definition of pig, so, since the term fits I have no other choice than to say you certainly are one defiant pig because you've got the balls of a brass Monkey in simply ignoring your own written policy which was handed down by the courts decades and decades ago, so ride on with your baaad pig self and I shall see you at the courthouse door."
Anthony-Sekou Saia filed a suit in federal court in 1996 challenging this illegal censorship of MIM Notes.
Another inmate wrote to us in January of 1997:
"In 1994 Sekou was transferred to the corrupt Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sekou is more knowledgeable than I of the various political struggles going on in this country and he began to receive MIM Notes, that was until corrupt officials here in Massachusetts arbitrarily stopped him from receiving any MIM publications. The fight against this blatant censorship came to my attention when Sekou and I discussed the matter at length in 1995. Ever since May of 1995 I have been working the legal side of the censorship issue. I have, in concert with Sekou, who did much of the brilliant legwork on the administrative side of the censhoship issue, completed a motion for summary judgment and a memorandum of law that is sure to make the corrupt prisoncrats of Old Colony Corruption Center squeal in pain!
"The total arrogance of the defendant prisoncrats is quite complete here in this New England state. Sekou is going to break ground with this motion and I am hoping that you will do all that is possible to support him in his efforts. Saia followed up his court case with a motion for summary judgment that was submitted to the court on January 3, 1997. The defendants which included all the involved prison bureaucrats, filed a motion to dismiss the case. On October 3 a judge ordered the defendants to provide copies of the censored items of mail and allowed the case to proceed. This court case has not yet been settled."
A few copies of MIM Notes did get in to Saia over the course of the 3 years of this battle, but more often than not the paper was censored. On January 29, 1997 Saia was transferred to Walpole prison (for political reasons). And Walpole continued the tradition of censoring MIM Notes for Anthony-Sekou Saia. In response to his request that we send copies of back issues that had been censored for his use in the court case, we sent in a priority mail pack of old issues of MIM Notes. On August 12, 1997 Saia received a notice saying that the papers sent were rejected because "newspapers not from publisher." Sergeant MacKinnon wrote a note "notice a Boston post mark and an LA return address" implying that this proved th the papers were somehow illegal.
MIM responded to this challenge by writing a letter verifying that the newspapers did come from the publisher: "MIM is the publisher of MIM Notes and MIM has several distributors, including one here in Boston." Several back and forth letters followed in which MIM demanded that the prison cease its censorship and the prisoncrats squirmed and attempted to justify their censorship based on the fact that they could not "verify your company". On October 23, 1997, prison Sgt. MacKinnon wrote the following:
"Let this letter serve as notice that inmate Anthony Saia will not be allowed to retain items sent to him from you. Questionable items sent to this institution are only delivered to an inmate at the discretion of the property sergeant, via the superintendent. I cannot verify your company as I cannot obtain a phone number, nor does a post office box allow me the opportunity to locate any information."
In response we wrote the following:
"You stated that you cannot "verify your company." We would like to know what is required for you to verify our company. What regulation states that a company must be "verified" by the property department before it can send in literature to inmates? What criteria are used to "verify" a company? Below you will find our phone number, e-mail number and address. Since the only criteria you offered us was the lack of a phone number, we will assume that this satisfies your requirement.
Our organization produces literature which we send in free to prisoners. We are as legitimate an organization as any and your so-called policy that you must "verify" a company in order to allow literature in to prisoners is nothing more than an excuse to prevent Anthony Saia from receiving literature from us. There is no basis for this in the Massachusetts CMR. As was stated in Anthony Saia's motion for summary judgment (1-3-97, Civil ac. No: 96-10272-MLW) "Once an agency has seen fit to promulgate regulations, it must comply with those regulations. Kenny v. Commissioner of Correction, 393 Mass. 28 (1984), and individuals within the agency may not arbitrarily disregard agency regulations to the prejudice of a party's rights. DaLomba's Case, 352 Mass. 598, 603 (1967)." Your regulations regarding the receipt of publications in all Massachusetts correctional institutions are covered by 103 CMR 481, Inmate Mail. Court precedent does not allow for censoring of incoming mail unless it is "detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or if it might facilitate criminal activity. "(Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401 (1989)). Inability to ascertain the "validity" of an organization is NOT legitimate cause for censorship of mail.
Should you continue to refuse to allow our literature in to Anthony Saia we will not hesitate to take this to court. Be warned that we will be seeking compensation for time wasted as well as literature confiscated should we be be forced to take this further.
MIM began ccing the superintendent of Walpole, Ronald Duval, on our protest letters and we received the following response on October 30, 1997 from him:
I am writing in response to your recent correspondence concerning the denial of literature that you sent to inmate Anthony Saia.
The Property Department is responsible to ensure that materials entering this institution meet the criteria set in the Property Policy. In accordance with policy, 'an inmate may possess a maximum of ten (10) books, magazines and newspapers and all publications must come directly from the publisher'. The newspapers you sent Mr. Saia were sent in 'bulk' and we cannot confirm that you are a publisher. Every attempt has been made to verify the legitimacy of your company to no avail.
I concur with Sgt. MacKinnon's discretion in this matter. The newspapers are deemed contraband and will not be allowed into this institution. In addition, this facility will not take responsibility in compensating you for your time or for the cost of said literature. Mr. Saia has the opportunity to have these materials returned to you at his cost.
I will consider this matter closed."
We protested that the attempts to verify the existence of our organization only involved soliciting the opinions of his mail room staff in this blatantly political censorship of our publications. On November 9 we wrote:
"Your letter of October 30, 1997 continues this charade of running around in circles trying to come up with a reason to deny Anthony Saia literature from MIM Distributors. You state that 'The newspapers you sent Mr. Saia were sent in 'bulk' and we cannot confirm that you are a publisher. Every attempt has been made to verify the legitimacy of your company, to no avail.'
In fact, if we look back at the rejection notice you sent to Mr. Saia, the only complaint is "Newspapers not from publisher." The mail was sent in a priority mail envelop and included several copies of our publication requested by Mr. Saia. Nowhere does the regulation state that publications can not be sent "in bulk" or that multiple copies of a publication can not be sent in the same envelope. Further you have made NO attempt to verify that our company is legitimate. Your rejection of these publications was followed by NO research into our organization. We have offered you contact information which includes a phone number, an address and e-mail.
"You have given us no indication of what steps you take to confirm the legitimacy of a publisher and as far as we can tell this includes only soliciting the opinion of your mailroom staff. This is not at all in accordance with your policy.
"We demand that you send us a list of the measures you have taken to verify the legitimacy of our company "to no avail." We have made every attempt to satisfy your request in this regard and you have sidestepped and disregarded the law and even your own institution's regulations at every turn. We will not tolerate this continued waste of our company's time and resources. As you can see from the enclosed letter, we have taken this matter to Commissioner Maloney. The state is liable for the illegal actions of its institutions and should you continue these illegal practices we will expect Commissioner Maloney to resolve the matter or expect to join the corrections personnel as a defendant in the case currently in court for illegal censorship of Mr. Saia's mail."
Duval responded on November 14:
"I am responding to your most recent correspondence regarding the denial of literature you forwarded to inmate Anthony Saia and my decision stands.
"Your assertion that I only solicited the opinion of my mailroom staff is incorrect. My office attempted to verify the legitimacy of your company via the telephone directory, telephone operator service and the Better Business Bureau. In addition, the correspondence that you have written is not on business letterhead.
"The package in question was not denied based on censorship of the material, but on the facts noted in my most recent correspondence and I will consider this matter closed.
We responded to Superintendent Duval on November 17:
"This letter is in response to your letter of November 14th regarding your attempts to verify the legitimacy of our company. Below we have enclosed the standards of membership for the Better Business Bureau for your information. You will note that this is a membership organization to which companies must apply and pay a fee in order to join. From this information alone you should be able to surmise that many businesses throughout the country are not members and this in no way implies that these businesses are less legitimate. We have no desire to pay for membership in an organization that will not serve our work in any way.
"You also stated that you checked on our company via the telephone directory and telephone operator service. Lest anyone be misled: these two services are the same and should provide the same information. If an organization maintains an unlisted phone number neither of these services will provide information on that organization. Since we sent you our phone number in previous letters, you clearly are aware that we have a phone. This number is in fact unlisted because we are a volunteer organization with no income that is not soliciting business or seeking attention through the phone system. Having an unlisted phone number does not make a business any less legitimate.
"Finally, you stated that the correspondence that we have written was not on business letterhead. Surely you are not so foolish to believe that letterhead paper is only produced by "legitimate" organizations? We did not consider correspondence with a prison superintendent who was refusing to allow us to send in free literature to an inmate because of some bogus claim about the legitimacy of our organization a reason to use our organization letterhead. But since you state that this will convince you of our legitimacy we will send this letter to you on letterhead.
"You have yet to clarify your definition of a legitimate business and so we continue to insist that you provide us with this information along with the CMR that states that only "legitimate" businesses may send literature to prisoners. Your arbitrary decision that only businesses listed with the BBB or having listed phone numbers may send in literature is clearly an illegal violation of what limited rights prisoners in the state of Massachusetts retain with regards to mail censorship not t to mention a disagreement with the judges and prison lawyers who have already consider MIM Distributors a legitimate organization.
"We are enclosing this information in the hopes that you will learn from this mistaken assumption that all businesses will be members of the BBB and have listed phone numbers in your future investigations of the legitimacy of organizations that wish to send free literature in to your inmates. In the mean time we expect you to give Anthony Saia the literature that your prison is holding now that we have verified our legitimacy with this letter."
On November 1st we took this matter to the commissioner of corrections in Massachusetts, Commissioner Maloney and sent him copies of all relevant correspondence. We informed him that failure to mandate that his employees resolve this matter and cease censorship would lead to his name being added to the list of defendants on the court case challenging the censorship. On December 2 we received the following response from James Bender, the Assistant Deputy Commissioner:
"I have been referred your letter to Commissioner Maloney and the issue you continue to raise with regard to MIM Notes.
"As you have been already generally advised, Massachusetts Regulations provide that all publications must come directly from the publisher. 103CMR403.10(7)(d). MIM Notes is a publication but your organization, as it's name so clearly states, is a distributor and not a publisher. Therefore, MIM Notes will not be accepted as a bulk mailed publication at MCI-Cedar Junction or any other secure facility and it will not be given the deference accorded a publication.
"Should you wish to send an inmate an issue of this publication, however, you may do so by enclosing an issue in ordinary mail and it will be scrutinized accordingly."
So now we've come full circle. The prison does not care if MIM is a "legitimate" organization or not. They are just looking for ways to keep prisoners from receiving literature that might help educate them. We will continue this battle, challenging the definition of a publisher and demanding that each issue of MIM Notes be reviewed based on the promise from the Assistant Deputy Commissioner that they will be reviewed and the sent on to inmates if approved.
I've just read my first RAIL (from March, 1997) it was ON. As you can see by my address, I am a Political Prisoner, within the confines of Walpole State Prison. I am writing in hopes of being able to work with a few people in RAIL, on a legal level.
I am a jail-house lawyer, who is in dire need of assistance from law students or a lawyer. Why? I need help to put these pigs through a legal battle that's ongoing and winnable with some assistance.
I wish to bring these pigs into court for:
1. More exercise time daily (90 minutes is not enough) 2. That the pigs that past out prisoner's food wear hats and gloves and aprons and that the prisoners in the max end be fed the same as those in the minimum end (presently prisoners in max end are only allowed 1 juice/coffee and not the two they get in minimum) 3. Feeding muslims substitutes for those things that Islam forbids them to eat 4. More law library time, the 90 or 120 minutes given once a week to those in the max end is not enough, prisoners should not have to choose between recreation time and law library 5. Proper medical treatment for all prisoners and not forcing prisoners to choose between recreation time and medical treatment 6. Ending the practice of pigs challenging prisoners to physical confrontations and then giving prisoners D-Reports for accepting these challenges.
There are a number of issues that can go into court; yet, I've only named a few of them. Law students/paralegals/lawyers are needed to properly deal with the bogus motions filed by the department of corrections staff. Plus, in some of these issues, it could be resolved with a motion for summary judgment.
We could break the dept. of corrections budget that they use to hire attorneys to violate the rights of prisoners.
Hopefully you can put me in contact with those who wish to put these issues out in the open. We'll be in a fight that we can win; yet, this struggle must start. We prisoners need any assistance we can get.
In constant struggle,
Walpole prisoner May, 1997
We don't currently have the resources to address all the very legitimate and winnable legal claims that are brought to us by our comrades on the inside. We need the help of progressive lawyers, paralegals and law students. Please get in touch with us if you can help in the legal battle to improve conditions and gain some basic rights for Massachusetts prisoners.
Over the last two months, RAIL helped organize a continent-wide speaking tour for radical Filipino activist Rafael Baylosis to bring a deeper understanding of the national democratic struggle in the Philippines to a broad audience. BAYAN International USA, a legal, multi- sectoral national democratic organization based inside u.$. borders, initiated and co-sponsored the tour.
Rafael Baylosis is an experienced activist in the national democratic struggle in the Philippines. He participated in the "First Quarter Storm" of 1970 which mobilized thousands of Filipino young people against the Marcos regime, and he later joined the revolutionary movement in the countryside.
He was arrested and imprisoned twice for his revolutionary political conviction and activities, for a total of more than eight years. First, in 1973-76 during the Marcos regime, and second, from 1988 to 1992 during the Aquino administration. Released temporarily on bail July 1992 with an inconclusive case in court for alleged "illegal possession of firearms and explosives in furtherance of rebellion."
Since his release, Baylosis has been giving political and theoretical education to mass leaders and members of progressive people's organizations. He is currently a consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippine (NDFP) panel for socio-economic reforms in the NDFP-Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace talks and a consultant to BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), a legal, multi-sectoral national democratic organization.
Philippine society is semi-colonial because it is politically and economically dominated by foreign powers, even though the Philippines is nominally an independent country. The dominant foreign power in the Philippines is u.$. imperialism, but Japanese, Australian, and European imperialism all participate in the exploitation of the Philippines.
Philippine society is semi-feudal because the main mode of production in the Philippines remains agrarian and backwards, and because the problems of landlessness and severe exploitation of the peasantry by a handful of big landlords persist. 75% of the people in the Philippines are peasants and 70% are landless. Because Philippine society is semi-colonial and semi-feudal, the majority of people of the Philippines face poverty, unemployment, lack of heath care, and exploitation. In general, the current political and economic situation denies the people of the Philippines their right to self- determination.
The economy of the Philippines is an import dependent, export-oriented economy. The Philippines exports raw materials and semi-finished products. The products which are produced in the Philippines are heavily dependent on foreign inputs, such as steel and capital goods. The Philippines does not have a steel industry, chemical industry, or petroleum industry, all of which are essential to any modern economy. No steel means that the people cannot develop capital goods.
One of the clearest examples of u.$ imperialism's political dominance in the Philippines is the u.$. military's continued occupation of Philippine territory. Despite the fact that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) terminated the u.$. military's lease on Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base in the early 1990s in response to a mass movement to kick the bases out of the Philippines, several current and proposed treaties give the u.$. military free rein in the Philippines.
RAIL considers this leg of the speaking tour a success because it contributed to a greater understanding of the national democratic movement in the Philippines among activists and potential activists who have an important role to play in the United States as well as in the Philippines. The event also demonstrated the solidarity that exists between RAIL and the revolutionary movement in the Philippines, and provided RAIL with an opportunity to do its internationalist duty in support of Third World movements against U.S imperialism and its puppet regimes. Exposing the atrocities of U.S. imperialism, in the Philippines and elsewhere, is an important part of RAIL's educational and organizing work in this country.
Boston Area RAIL calendar
Tuesday, February 3, 1:30pm: All Power to the People. University of Mass., Boston, room TBA.
The video documents specific examples of the repression of political activists in this country.
Wednesday February 4, 7pm: RAIL meeting. Conference Room B, Usdan, Brandeis University.
(General meetings every Wednesday, same location at Brandeis)
Thursday, February 5, 7pm: Through the Wire. Boston University in College of Arts and Sciences(CAS) building.
Movie about three wimmin imprisoned for their political activism in a wimmin's maximum security prison at Lexington, KY. The video documents the inhumane conditions of this type of confinement and details the repression targeted at these activists which is the state's attempt to crush their political will.
Tuesday, February 17, 2:15 pm: FBI's War on Black America. University of Mass., Boston, room TBA.
Film about the FBI's COINTELPRO progrma to destroy Black nationalist leaders and organizations.
Tuesday, February 17, 7pm: Through the Wire. Central Square Public Library, 45 Pearl St. Cambridge (Near Central Square T stop)
Thursday February 19, 7pm: All Power to the People. Boston University University in College of Arts and Sciences(CAS) building.
Documentary about repression of political activists.
Friday, February 27, 7pm: Critical Mass benefit concert for Jericho. Boston University Alley in basement of GSU
Saturday, February 28: Critical Mass benefit concert for Jericho. Spontaneous Celebrations, 45 Danforth St. Jamaica Plain
(Organized by the Jericho Organizing Committee, Boston)
Tuesday, March 3, 2:15 pm: Framed: Geronimo Pratt. University of Mass., Boston, room TBA.
Film about Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, a former Black Panther framed for murder and imprisoned for the crime of being a leader of a revolutionary Black nationalist party.
Tuesday, March 3, 7pm: Framed: Geronimo Pratt. Boston University in College of Arts and Sciences(CAS) building.
Thursday, March 5, 7pm: Framed: Geronimo Pratt. Central Square Public Library, 45 Pearl St. Cambridge (Near Central Square T stop)
Thursday, March 12, 7pm: Incident at Oglala. Central Square Public Library, 45 Pearl St. Cambridge (Near Central Square T stop)
Documentary about the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, an activist with the American Indian Movement, by the Amerikan injustice system.
Thursday, March 12, 2:15pm: Incident at Oglala. University of Mass., Boston, room TBA.
Tuesday, March 24, 7pm: Forum political prisoners and repression in Amerika. Boston University.
This forum will address the use of prisons as a political tool of oppression and will include speakers from a number of local and continental activist organizations including several former prisoners.
Thursday, March 26: Busses leave Boston in evening for Washington DC
(Contact us to reserve a space. Cost will be approximately $50 per person)
Friday, March 27: Jericho March to free people incarcerated for political activism, Washington DC
Saturday, March 28: RAIL teach-in on the criminal injustice system in Washington DC (busses return to Boston after teach-in)
Thursday, April 2, 2:15pm: Through the Wire. University of Mass., Boston, room TBA.
A film about three wimmin locked down in a maximum security prison becuase of their political beliefs.
Thursday, April 9: Incident at Oglala. Boston University in College of Arts and Sciences(CAS) building.
Tuesday, April 14, 2:15: From Death Row This Is Mumia Abu-Jamal. University of Mass., Boston, room TBA.
n this film Mumia Abu-Jamal offers insightful comments about the role of the media in shaping public perception of events and the effects of racial oppression in his trial, in the Amerikan Injustice system, and in the death penalty.
April/May: Books for Prisoners book drive at local colleges. Contact us to find out how you can help out or donate books.
RAIL, P.O. Box 559, Cambridge MA 02140 [email protected] 617-499-6997 RAIL Events schedule for Western Massachusetts
Amherst Area RAIL Calender
Monday, Feb 9, 4pm Date With Death (Mumia Abu-Jamal) Bangs Community Center, Amherst
Thursday Feb 12, 7pm Fascism in the USA. Behind the Burning Cross: Racism USA Bangs Community Unitarian Society of Northampton, social room A brief video history of the Ku Klux Klan and the violence used by such fascist groups. Examines the packaging of fascism as "American Values" and touches on the relationship between the FBI and the Klan. UMass Campus Center.
Sunday Feb 22 - Saturday March 28 Amerikan Prisons on Trial Conference
Sunday, Feb 22, 7pm. Hampshire College. Franklin Patterson Hall A discussion & video about control units torture and the need for students to become revolutionaries. Video contains short interview with Hampshire College alumni and former political prisoner Timothy Blunk.
Monday, Feb 23, 7pm. UMass Campus Center 101 All Power to the People: The Black Panther Party and Beyond, a 1997 video about revolutionary movements and the genocidal Amerikan government from the 1960s to the present.
Tuesday, Feb 24, 7pm. UMass Campus Center 101 Repression in Massachusetts Prisons: The Inside Story. Panel discussion of former Mass prisoners, their families, friends, and activist supporters
Wednesday, Feb 25, 7pm. UMass Campus Center 905 Forum on Political Prisoners. Representatives of various national liberation movements speak on their incarcerated revolutionary leaders
Thursday, Feb 26, 7pm. UMass Campus Center 168c People Us Tribunal on the Amerikan Justice System. A trial will be held, with the event goers as jury, to judge the Justice system for the crimes of genocide and national oppression.
Wednesday March 4, 7pm. UMass Campus Center Video: Date With Death (Mumia Abu-Jamal)
Friday, March 6,7pm Commonwealth Room (Earthfoods) UMass, Benefit Concert to send area activists to Jericho March. Headline act: Hip Hop band Critical Mass. Contact RAIL to perform or help organize benefit concert.
Monday March 9, 4pm Bangs Community Center, Amherst Video: Framed: The Gerinomo Pratt Story
Wednesday March 11, 7pm. UMass Campus Center. Video: Passin' It On: The Dhruba Bin Wahad Story
Thursday March 12, 7pm Unitarian Society of Northampton, Lilly room All Power to the People: The Black Panther Party and Beyond, a 1997 video about revolutionary movements and the genocidal Amerikan government from the 1960s to the present;
Monday March 23, 7pm, UMass Campus Ctr Invited Speaker: RBig BlackS, a leader of the Attica prison rebellion and advocate for prisoners
Friday March 27. White House, Washington D.C. Bus trip for Jericho March on the White House for Political Prisoners. Buses Leaving from UMass Haigis Mall, March 26(midnight)
Saturday March 28. Washington D.C. Location TBA Prisons Teach-in.(Buses leave for UMass After Teach-in)
Thursday April 9, 7pm Unitarian Society of Northampton, Lilly room Event TBA
Monday April 13, 4pm The True Malcolm X Speaks, Bangs Community Center, Amherst.
Film documenting Malcolm X speaches and movement to bring liberation to Black nation.
Thursday May 7, 7pm Unitarian Society of Northhampton, Lily room, TBA
Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) [email protected] PO Box 712 Amherst MA 01004-0712 voicemail:(413) 582-393