Surviving on the Streets is a Challenge after Abuse Behind Bars
It has been some time since we connected, 7 or 8 years I'd say. I was a regular subscriber and poetry/prose contributor over the years I was a fedz prisoner.
As I'm sure the question looms, "how does one find himself back inside?" Especially after having done 17 years fedz? Well, while one exited within a progressive state of mind; obtaining an AA in 15 months; doing 40 hours a week volunteering at a program benefiting those with felony backgrounds; rebuilding broken ties to my three adult children; getting into Junior University even!
What I did not get enough of was mental health treatment! All of those yard riots, overt violence and isolation took a toll it seems! After an all-out melee while attending a birthday party, i began suffering flashbacks, nightmares, and chronic insomnia. A professional diagnosed me with PTSD and recommended medication for sleep and anxiety. I refused out of ignorance, erroneously thinking it'd tamper with my brain. Shortly thereafter, an infrequent sexual partner spit on me. My response was to hit her repeatedly. An act i am ashamed of and totally out of character. While there were no bodily injuries (serious), i was convicted at a farce of a trial of multiple charges including burglary 1, assault 2, assault 4 x2, etc.
And given what is called "dangerous offender" enhancement "45 years"! More time than a murderer. My attorney deliberately aided state in suppressing my mental health files and permitted my past organizational ties/prison B.S. to be used as fear inciter. Thankfully, they were in such a rush to get the so-called "gang leader" they made a multitude of errors! Any one of which could/should get one a new trial. Picture a trial where three separate jurors have a connection to the DA or testifying witnesses. Or a defendant with documented PTSD being purposely misdiagnosed (via reading past fedz writeups) as having "personality disorder" so as to justify and legitimize the dangerous offender enhancement. The struggle continues.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We print this letter because it's a good example of what happens to comrades once they hit the streets. Even those with the best of intentions and solid connections and infrastructure on the outside can struggle to stay out of trouble after years of torture and abuse behind bars. This is something we are interested in hearing more about from released and re-admitted comrades alike: what can be done to address mental health issues, both before release and on the streets, to help people stay out of prison?
We understand this comrade's hesitation in participating with mental health programs even after eir diagnosis of PTSD. There is a long, long history of unethical medical experimentation on oppressed peoples, even those considered U.$. citizens. And the medical and psychology industries in the United $tates are so closely tied up with capitalist ventures, it's difficult to know if you're getting accurate or truthful information about treatment or drugs being prescribed.
This anecdote also paints a portrait of how prisons are used for social control even beyond the prison walls. Violent prison conditions lead to psychological traumas, there's no treatment, and then those psychological traumas carry on post-release and infect interpersynal relationships, ultimately landing people back in jail.
In general, bourgeois psychological treatment focuses on helping people adapt to the fucked up conditions of imperialism. If you are depressed about how unfair and disgusting humyn societies are, that's a valid and natural response. Bourgeois psychology would try to put you on anti-depressants and convince you it's your problem you're depressed — something wrong with your brain. MIM(Prisons) would highlight that this is a social problem, that your brain is in perfect working order, and try to rally you to channel that depression and frustration into working to change these conditions. 9 times out of 10 working on a political project you really believe in will help relieve psychological symptoms caused by the alienation of capitalism.
However, in some cases simply acting doesn't break one out of a mental health crisis. As much as we try to overcome it on our own, sometimes addressing the psychological challenge head-on is an important accompaniment to, or sometimes precursor of, political activism. We're not saying to just go along with whatever treatment plan some quack doctor recommends. But it's important to smartly tap into these resources in order to further one's ability to do political work on an as-needed basis. For example, if this comrade got treatment for their PTSD, ey may have been better able to control eir anger, and thus may have avoided catching another bid.
Eventually we aim to run our own Serve the People medical programs, like the Black Panther Party was doing in their heyday, combining much-needed services with political education against imperialism. Until then we just try to use the few helpful resources available to us to better our ability to do political work, while we build toward that future.