Info About Work in WI: We Need to Keep Fighting

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[Organizing] [Wisconsin] [ULK Issue 8]
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Info About Work in WI: We Need to Keep Fighting

At this place there are 1050 prisoners. There are 2 dorms. Dorm B holds 55 prisoners and Dorm A holds 110. There are 2 cell halls, North and South, about 300 prisoners each. The hole holds 150 and stays packed to capacity. Intake holds about 100 and a medical unit about 40.

Approximately 300 have jobs at maintenance, yard crew, bath house, rec, school hallway janitor, rotunda janitor, dorm janitor, canteen, library, tutors, cell hall swampers, paint crew, wardens clerk, treatment center janitor, health service clerk, visiting room janitor, picture project photographers, the kitchen, and Badger $tate Industries, in which they are paid between 12 cents to 42 cents an hour plus 2 cents extra on weekends and holidays, and they work up to higher positions in wages.

Prisoners who go to school get 15 cents an hour - yea they pay them, if you can call it that, to go to school. And those who don't go to school or have a job get 5 cents an hour to sit in a cell, which adds up to about $4 every 2 weeks, not nearly enough to get a stick of deodorant and soap, especially once they take out 50% for child support or other court obligations one might have. Yes, I still have to pay child support while in prison, 50% of any earnings.

The pay ranges are: 12 cents ($9.60 every 2 weeks), 19 cents ($15.20), 24 cents ($19.20), 35 cents ($28) and 42 cents ($33.60). And Badger $tate Industries is separate from institutional jobs. 18 prisoners have those jobs and get from 79 cents to a dollar an hour. They make clothing for outside vendors and to sell to prisoners around the state. They also make the pillows and mattresses. People on the streets want this closed because BSI could provide them with jobs. Prisoners at BSI used to get minimum wage and up.

I see brothers I rotate with work around here to get basic necessities because they have no income or family support on the outs. And if I give a brother a bar of soap or something to eat it is viewed as an infraction and I will be written up for "unauthorized transfer of property" and the soap confiscated. We aren't allowed to do what is right here and help our fellow man. Divide and conquer. Just like they do with the jobs. Brothers will cut each others' throat for a higher paying job around here.

On the other hand, I hate the idea of working in a prison (or on a plantation) because it helps to fuel it. If we all protested by not working, the staff would have to cook, clean, etc. It happened during lockdowns before and staff hated it. But there are not enough brothers willing to sacrifice their only income for change. The wages have continuously gone down in the 10+ years I've been down and canteen prices have continuously gone up.

I know of brothers who made this little money to send it to their kids, etc, or pay for phone bills. So some work for their families. But if the 100 kitchen workers all stopped working that would cause a lockdown and the warden would want to know why they won't work. In 2002 I was sent from here to Supermax for inciting a riot against staff and the old warden here asked prisoners what it is that they wanted and these suckas said more rec, shoes with air bubbles, porn and cigarettes. But when they took the cigarettes in 2000 they didn't riot. They only got more rec and the staff took 1 pair of shoes (we used to be allowed 2 pair) but that 1 pair could have air bubbles if they could afford them. I got back here in 2006, 4.5 years later and realized that brothers sold us out.

So I don't put my head on the chopblock any more because I know that most won't ride for a real cause for improvement such as more law library time (we only get 30-40 minutes a week, if lucky), better wages, better medical care. If the workers did stop working they have another prisoner that will fill that spot before the day has ended. Capitalism taught them individualism so most are for self and quick to say "I came in by myself, I'm go do me."

MIM(Prisons) responds: We get a lot of letters like this one from comrades behind bars who are down for the struggle but frustrated with the lack of support from their fellow prisoners. It is true that capitalism has taught prisoners individualism well. And the reality of Amerika is that citizens in this country have a material interest in preserving the system that is benefiting them. While prisoners are in a unique position because the very system that used to benefit them is now locking them up, it will not be an overnight transformation for people to see the connections with the capitalist system and move beyond individualist thinking. We know that most prisoners are not down for the anti-imperialist struggle. But we also know that their conditions leave many prisoners with open minds hungry for education. And so it is our job, both on the streets and behind bars, to provide educational material and food for thought to as many prisoners as we can reach. This is the purpose of Under Lock and Key. And we rely on conscious brothers and sisters behind bars to circulate it and spread the word.

In addition to many letters like this one, we also get many letters from prisoners who talk about how they pursued an individualist and selfish mentality for many years before having their eyes opened by something they read or by someone on the yard talking to them.

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