Importance of Effective Communication
When it comes to organizing people in society from within a prison, we find ourselves confronted with many obstacles. Seeing as no major struggle is won without wide mass support, it becomes imperative that we (prisoners) overcome the obstacles placed in our path to cripple our efforts to reach the masses about the prison struggle. In order to gain the masses' support from behind bars we must first reach them and grab their attention. The first obstacle we face as prisoners is censorship.
Unfortunately, censorship is a reality for prisoners more than it is for anybody in society. Authorities can frustrate our efforts in so many ways that you have to admire their ingenuity. Mail can be "lost", thrown away, never delivered or delivered to the wrong person, held under investigation for weeks and so much more. With so many ploys at their disposal it seems a daunting task for us to confront. Luckily for us appearances aren't everything. True, once the letter leaves your hands there is almost nothing you can do to ensure it makes it to its destination. What you can do, though, is maintain detailed records. It's simple, and takes minimal effort, and is an effective way of holding the authorities accountable. Once you have a record established of who, what, where, why and when you mailed something, you can make a case for mail tampering.
What should your mail log have at minimum? First, who you wrote. Second, what you sent them. Third, where you sent your mail (office, school, home address, etc.). Fourth, your general (no need to go into details here) reason for contacting them. Finally, when you placed it in your facility's mail here, you want full date and time if at all possible. On my mail logs I have an additional space or two for which shift and which officer I turned my mail in to. Of course, you may decide to add more details, the above is only a basic formula. Censorship may still happen but you'll be better positioned to confront it. Don't forget, make duplicates of your records, at least two.
Following censorship, the next greatest obstacle is communication. Not just communicating our struggle, but effectively communicating it. Anybody can write a letter full of expletives, angry words and denunciations of cruelties and deprivations. Angry letters will normally push someone away from your cause, where a sensible, well-composed and measure-toned letter will at the very least garner a polite decline. Angry letters rarely garner any response. Sometime before you start reaching out to organizing the streets, you'll need to organize behind bars. My advice is to form a committee or council.
Here in Colorado, we have a small committee (just 3 members) in which we discuss, formulate, criticize and launch our ideas and efforts. Most progress in the prison struggle began with organizing behind bars, reaching out to the streets, effective communication, creating solidarity and achieving a goal together. A formula for success: A.E.H. (Agreement to End Hostilities), movements to end long-term solitary confinement, more humane treatment and so much more.
For us organizing the streets, mobilizing the masses isn't a very difficult task. Censorship and effectively communicating our plight, vision and end goal is the most difficult. Censorship is the authorities' go-to obstruction tactic and besides maintaining records, lodging complaints or lawsuits, there is not much in your control to discourage them. On the other hand, effective communication is wholly in your control. What's the point in overcoming censors if you can't present your case when the opportunity arrives? You already know the answer, but I'll still confirm it – there's no point. Organize yourself first. Mail logs, duplicates of all letters, documents, essays and such. Communicate in an intelligible manner with personality, and don't get disheartened at rejection. Often times it's only a question of pitching the right pitch to the right person.
Note: Prisoners may request Constitutional Rights of Prisoners from their facility's law library as loan material. Related information as well as litigation guidance related to disciplinary matters may be purchased from Prison Legal News, PO Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 83460: "The Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual," by Dan Manville, 2nd Edition, for $49.95 + $6 s&h.