Surveillance Cameras in Prison a Double-Edged Sword
Greetings to everyone at MIM. I am a prisoner held captive here at High Desert State Prison, in Susanville, California. I'm writing to inform the people of this new and improved form of repression tactic hidden behind the name of public safety and security. An investigative report came out in December 2015 by the Inspector General about the abuse and cover-ups by officers at this prison for 2 decades. Since then, the powers that be have started to install the video recording cameras in the prison, which is not a bad idea. Most prisons have cameras on the yard. However, these new high-tech cameras now have audio/voice recording which is new for CDCR.
They have also installed them just about any and everywhere, in the chowhall, gym, dayroom, yard, medical, law library, chapel, laundry, school/education, even in N.A. (Narcotic Anonymous) and A.A. (Alcoholic Anonymous), which begs the question, who're they really keeping an eye on and watching? Now don't get me wrong I'm all for holding these pigs/officers accountable for their actions. But now they're watching and listening to our conversations in the chapel during our religious services where prisoners talk freely and enjoy open discussions on religion, race, politics, without the eyes and ears of the custody staff. N.A. and A.A. is suppose to be Anonymous where prisoners can get help and talk openly and privately with each other and the sponsor about our addiction and recovery. Now the Anonymous is out the picture when custody can see and listen when they choose to.
Medical is suppose to be between the prisoner and doctor to talk and review medical issues and problems without custody knowing your business. Visiting always had cameras but if the state choses to take out the old and put in the new, then they will be able to listen to our intimate conversations with our family, friends, wives, children etc. All in the name of what? Public safety and security? Or is this just a new and improved way for CDCR to watch & now listen to everything a prisoner does? You decide.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We're glad to have this point brought up for consideration as most of what we've printed on this topic has been in favor of increased surveillance. A prime example was the campaign in North Carolina, centered around a lawsuit filed against staff for assaulting prisoners, focused on getting better camera coverage in state prisons to monitor staff. We supported this comrade in promoting eir efforts, recognizing the vulnerable situation that prisoners are in at the hands of the oppressor. Yet, for those of us outside prison, the call for more surveillance cameras gives one pause. It has come up in relation to police on the streets, but we dismissed that as not addressing the problem. The same could be said inside prisons.
The privacy struggle is one that is very relevant to us. At the same time it is mostly dominated by oppressor interests on both sides. In other words, it's hard to campaign for civil liberties in a general way that is anti-imperialist. There are engineering solutions to privacy that can be used as tools, tactically, by revolutionaries.
There have been reports on the chilling effect of surveillance in the United $tates, showing that people are less willing to visit certain websites after the Edward Snowden leaks exposing NSA spying operations. While we disagree with the Liberals who call for a freedom of speech that allows people to promote profits over humyn needs, we also propose a program for a dictatorship of the proletariat that expands freedom of speech in many ways compared to current conditions in this country. We would ban the Orwellian "smart TVs" and other technology that is recording and collecting data on people in their homes. We would guarantee not only net neutrality, but internet access to all. Below are some planks from the MIM platform on subjects related to the First Amendment:
- Restrictions on public postering will be eliminated except on residential buildings.
- Large and convenient bulletin boards will be placed on every block. Boards covered over will be evidence for the need to build more.
- There will be convenient places to leave literature along with such bulletin boards.
- There will be no arrests in any non-residential building or premise for quiet distribution of literature. The only exception will be for high government officials meeting and who face threat of assassination—the Central Committee and government officials above a certain rank.
- Arrests for vocal discussion will be limited to places where there is a need for meetings and orderly work. Cafeterias, outdoor sidewalks and most indoor hallways will be legally required to allow vocal discussion.
- Meeting halls of public buildings will be made available for meetings to the public. If necessary more will be constructed.
Government bureaucrats interfering with the "free speech" of the public will be transferred to jobs where they have no such possibility.
- Those advocating opposition to the dictatorship of the proletariat as defined at the top of the document will go to prison or re-education camp and thereby not enjoy all full public citizenship rights.
- Sale of pornography will be forbidden. Distribution of nude photographs paid for by the photographer or persyn who signed a consent form to be displayed in photographs will always be legal, but government authorities may require a registration for financial bookkeeping purposes. Those publicly distributing nude photos of children 12 and under will be sent to re-education camp, whether money spent was their own or not.
- Any non-party literature or other device for public opinion building will be paid for by individual members of the public with money from salary and no outside capitalist money or stolen sources of wealth will be used to promote any opinion of the non-party public.
- MIM will not order the government to censor the INTERNET except on questions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and party rule.
- USENET groups such as talk.rape, alt.activism.death-penalty, alt.politics.greens etc. will be permitted, partly for stimulation of the minds in imperialist countries, partly to bring to the surface bourgeois thoughts in need of professional proletarian refutation and partly because there will continue to be problems in all these areas under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The need for stimulation is especially great in the depoliticized imperialist countries. Many middle-class peoples will come under the dictatorship of the proletariat without ever knowing that the world's majority of people suffered threats to their survival on a daily basis. (1)
MIM Platform: Against prison censorship
Prison officials claim they have security reasons to act as censors. But censorship prevents prisoners from access to legal help, education, and political organization. Political and legal mail and literature are not a direct threat to the security of prisons.