www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.
I would like to comment on an article titled United in California that was printed in ULK40. I am also housed on a Special Needs Yard (SNY), and it wasn't until I dropped out of the street gang that I was able to develop the spirit of resistance on revolutionary principles. The general population deems everybody a snitch on these yards, however, that is not always the case. I simply made the choice to walk away and no longer participate. I am housed around prisoners with some shady history but not everybody here falls in that category.
As a Chicano I work to help men on the yard get sober and educate themselves, and to go back to their communities and discourage their family and friends from joining gangs or selling/using drugs. It wasn't until I started down this path that I realized the true meaning of the term Chicano. It does not mean Mexican-American as the Webster's dictionary defines. It's a political term used to redefine one's perspective historically, economically, politically, and most importantly responsibility. A responsibility to the people!
I come from a place that produces warriors, so I don't play into the finger pointing that the system uses to divide us as a people - general population vs. sensitive needs.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We stand with this comrade in the debate over whether SNY prisoners can be trusted as revolutionary activists. We judge individuals by the work they do and the political line they put forward. We know there are a lot of people in SNY who have snitched. But we also know there are plenty of people in GP who can't be trusted. We don't let the pigs define who we trust by their housing categories, instead we hold all people to the same standards and require everyone to demonstrate their trustworthiness in practice.
This is a comment on the United in California article from ULK40. It is crucial MIM(Prisons) recognizes SNYs work or have worked with the prison administration against other prisoners. While as Maoists we know no oppression is overcome until all oppression is overcome, we can't possibly ask anyone affected by their actions to turn around and work with them. Would Mao have worked with Deng Xiaoping? I don't know Saif [the author] but the idea that there are "some good strong comrades" on SNY is not a convincing argument to administer against the overwhelming evidence of SNYs helping pigs at every opportunity. Even if it's by his exposing himself as a "leader." You're a man not a "leaf" if you can't hold on to the branch and fall, I can accept that, but we'll keep climbing without you.
While I don't promote violence against SNYs and in fact wish them well in any anti-imperialist work. I would strongly advise anyone against incorporating any SNY inmate into any work that may lead to repression from any government entity.
SNYs should keep using MIM(Prisons) as a guide in their work. But in promoting unification of SNY and "mainline" convicts in general terms MIM(prisons) blurs a crucial line. SNYs can challenge their SNY status administratively. I am a General Population inmate. Do you have "sensitive needs?" I don't. I can be housed around anyone, accept people who don't want to be around me, i.e. people with "sensitive needs."
Being scientific in our assessments of individuals involves being honest. SNYs work to reinforce the stigma that all GP convicts are inherently violent by allowing the administration to use them to say "if this inmate is housed on a GP line it may jeopardize institutional security." This stigma in turn imposes harsher restrictions on GP inmates and SNY inmates reap the benefits of the distinction....jobs, rehab programs, vocation, education, conjugal visits, etc. are given priority on SNYs, especially on the level IV yards.
MIM(Prisons) should analyze the SNY/mainline distinction in the same manner as oppressed nations within the U.$. It is my personal assessment that SNYs chose to work with the administration against other prisoners. They get to the SN Yards and realize that "no, the administration is not your friend" and then want to whine about it. Their issues are distinct from ours and while there are issues with the administration that are shared on both sides, I would not risk my standing with other GP prisoners by helping someone who is likely to have hurt them.
SNY/GP unity is not possible. The promotion of this idea undermines MIM(Prisons) credibility on GP yards. UFPP doesn't rely on this theory because SNYs chose to not be housed with us. So theoretically they can continue to uphold the principals on those yards, while we do ours.
MIM(Prisons) responds: For those new to ULK, we have explained our line on SNY in the movement in more depth elsewhere. We completely understand the reactions that many have to our position on working with those in SNY after the torture that so many people in California have gone through at the hands of the state prison system, with the complicity of many who went to SNY. Yet, practice seems to be proving our line correct both in terms of the contributions that SNY comrades make to building USW, and the direction that the CA prisons system is going overall. We do not take this question lightly, nor does working with SNY comrades mean we take security lightly. If this issue is important to you, please write to us to get a more extensive discussion of this topic.
The above comrade's contribution to this long-stading debate over the role of SNY status in the pages of Under Lock & Key is a unique perspective because unlike most anti-SNY writers, s/he advocates that SNY prisoners can do good anti-imperialist work, as long as they do it separately. The argument that SNY prisoners cannot be trusted or united with is based in the idea that all SNY prisoners have debriefed and sold out comrades on GP. But we know that debriefing is not required to get SNY status. This writer is correct that the administration plays SNY against GP, but we can't let them dictate who we work with. We must make that decision ourselves based on each individual's work and political line.
The author asks if Mao would have worked with Deng Xiaoping, as an example of working with enemies. And Mao already answered this question: yes. Deng was kicked out of the Communist Party of China and readmitted under Mao's watch. Communist China's prison system was focused on re-education, not punishment and ostracization. People who betrayed the revolution or took actions that harmed others were locked up to study and learn from their mistakes. This is a revolutionary model that we should emulate, even while we don't hold power.
One of the most damaging aspects of U.S. prisons today is the control units. Control units and solitary confinement are the state's biggest guns in their torturous arsenal. Control units are called SHU, SMU, CMU and a variety of other names depending on what state one is in, but they all work to employ torture on the captives held therein.
When we look to the history of the U.S. prison system we find that the oppressed nations held within have always suffered greatly at the hands of Amerikkka. Prisoners in the United $tates have suffered unpaid labor, lynchings, beatings, floggings and assassinations to name a few. Although much of this still continues — at times more concealed and shrouded than in the past — there are other new methods of national oppression which are employed in this new era of United States domination. I suspect that post-Obama (so-called "post-racial Amerikkka") we will continue to see more of these concealed forms of oppression which inflict the same harm, but which slip through under the radar of the average First World citizen. This makes liberals feel warm and cozy and allows them to believe "progress" is obtainable in the imperialist center.
One such method employed on prisoners in dungeons within the United Snakes is the use of the control unit. The control unit is a modern-day torture chamber, but it cannot be advertised as a lethal killer of mostly Brown or Black minds because the liberals might even turn their noses up at such a revelation. Instead the public must be told that control units are only used on incorrigibles, savages, foreigners, gang members or the sensationalized terrorists.
Who is Locked in Control Units?
Like our ancestors who may have been asked what got the shackle around their ankle, what got them branded with their owner's name on their face, or what got that noose wrapped around their necks, our answer, like theirs, is that it is the nature of our oppressor to seek to eliminate all rebels and revolutionaries who oppose the oppressor nation. This is ultimately what places one in a control unit.
Of course we are up against a sophisticated oppressor nation and the placement of prisoners in control units is wrapped in flowery language. We are told it is for "gang activity" or a "threat to the safety and security of the institution." I am sometimes given a chrono stating I'm "actively engaged in a criminal conspiracy that threatens the institution, staff and other prisoners." This to the untrained mind may sound like justification for torture. Not only is this character assassination not true, but nothing justifies torture, absolutely nothing!
It was only after I began to write articles that spoke up for prisoners, and began filing appeals and lawsuits on behalf of all prisoners, that I was targeted for placement in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU). In short, when I began to resist state repression was when I was isolated in solitary confinement. I was allowed by the state to commit minor crimes and fight other prisoners, until I started to become politically conscious. I am not alone.
Most who work to advance and organize their nation, speak up on behalf of others, or engage in jailhouse lawyering will end up in a control unit. This is a common practice in colonized society: those who resist and who are politically influential are imprisoned under a colonial oppressor.
Why Does the State Have a Validation Process?
Our oppressor must devise ways of placing us in control units, and in California it uses the validation process. The validation process attempts to lend a legal aura to torture and national oppression by claiming to undergo a fair and unbiased process to validate someone as a "gang affiliate." This process is about as unbiased as asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
The fact that the validation process continues to use things as ridiculous as a birthday card, an Aztec drawing, or a book written by George Jackson as evidence of gang activity proves that there is nothing unbiased about this validation process. The kourt cases which supposedly stopped the prison from using these items show how much of a joke the injustice system is and how much it really is an extension of an oppressive state. Our victories will never come from massa's kourthouse.
The validation system helps pacify prisoners into thinking that there is a legitimate process they are undergoing to end the torture. That somehow if we are patient and do as we are told that we might get out of the SHU. This of course is ludicrous. We will stay in SHU until our oppressor feels we no longer resist, until they feel we are broken. Sometimes they want to train their agents and attempt to capture all who associate with us out on the mainline, as if we were live bait. But so long as we remain resistant to their oppression, we will not be allowed to freely associate with others. The validation process only works to uphold our national oppression.
The Step Down Program is More Repression
When we go to committee in California SHUs we are given a form called the "CDCR Advisement of Expectations." This form gives a list of supposed STG behavior which includes "participating in STG group exercise, using gestures, handshakes, possession of artwork with STG symbols." Note that we are not informed what STG symbols are.
We basically cannot socialize with anyone, or we might be accused of STG behavior. We are not told who is validated as part of a STG or given any information about STG behavior. We are simply told we better not associate with STGs or engage in their behavior. The state will decide if we are behaving properly and allowed to proceed in the Step Down Program. They claim they are the experts.
I have heard of some being put on this "Step Down" Program, but the state is picking and choosing who they put in the program. In my opinion it is a pacification program and I am not going to participate in it. Participation masks the oppression of the state while also allowing them to attempt to coerce me and any participants of being guilty, of confessing guilt, even if only guilty of what they deem to be incorrect thoughts.
Recent news of a federal class action lawsuit challenging policies and conditions at the Pelican Bay SHU is welcome and something we all should be following. Ashker et al. v. Governor of California et al., No. C 09-05796 claims that being held for more than ten years in SHU is cruel and unusual punishment and that the validation process is a violation of due process.(1) But here's the kicker: if you have joined the Step Down Program you are not included in this class action. So already we see how the new Step Down Program is serving the state by making it more difficult for prisoners to challenge their conditions.
My behavior is no more incorrect today than it was the first day I was captured and housed in the SHU. The state will not be let off the hook and I refuse to step down from resisting oppression. The Step Down Program continues the same oppression that the validation process started: it attempts to justify what the state is doing to the oppressed nations.
What will End the Validation/Step Down Program?
The Step Down Program is not only similar to the validation process, but here in California many prisons are still using both methods, so we need to end them both.
From the beginning I saw the need to struggle for closing the SHU. From the first hunger strike I knew that if we don't close the SHU altogether, the state will just have us fighting the same problem under new names for decades via strikes/lawsuits. This will never accomplish our goal. We need to keep all justifications for the use of solitary confinement in our scope. No matter why someone is held in solitary confinement, it is always torture and it should always be opposed.
At the same time we have made improvements in many prisoners' lives and some have gotten out of SHU, and I am happy for this. However validation and Step Down Programs will keep us locked in the SHUs until we can make resistance to oppression a hip and common thing. When hunger strikes occur more often than once every ten years, and peaceful protests are as frequent as spring cleaning, then maybe we will finally end validation/step down programs.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Most civilians would say that controlling gang violence is a good thing, and that perspective is exactly what the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is relying on for its gang validation and Step Down Programs. The assumption is that all groups classified as gangs are engaged in criminal activity, and anyone in contact with the gang must be a member.
Let's put aside for now the reality that the U.$. military and police force is the biggest gang in world history. If anyone is organized in criminal activity and terrorism, it's them. That any U.$. government agency claims to be against gang activity without being critical of itself is just a joke.
Lumpen organizations that are not necessarily revolutionary are also targeted as gangs, whether or not they break U.$. laws. The real threat is not the activities that the lumpen are engaged in, but that they have any level of unity and organization. STG labels and Step Down Programs criminialize the association, not actual crime.
The U.$. government will do everything it can to protect its international hegemony. Controlling any potentially subversive population within its borders, especially the internal semi-colonies, is a high priority, no matter how much they dress it up with fancy titles and administrative process.
Things have been pretty rough here at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). A prisoncrat-orchestrated racial riot has put me in administrative segregation since July. KVSP's "A" yard (the only general population, non-honor yard) has been, more or less, on a constant lock-down since the beginning of the year. This lock-down is due to racial tensions that have been exacerbated by the prison's state-sponsored security threat group, also known as the goon squad, or simply the gooners.
The best way for the prison oligarchy to remain in power and thwart any organizing or political dissent is to keep us all fighting amongst ourselves. Of course this is nothing new for many of us, but for some reason we all find ourselves locked down time and again, pointing fingers (and unfortunately, knives) at one another instead of using our minds of reason to see that clearly this whole war/mess has been instigated by the very pigs that always have the most to gain. It's extremely frustrating to sit here watching the same pattern of senseless fighting and rioting occur while the pigs laugh, crack jokes, and generally play us against each other for their sick jollies and political agenda.
This madness on "A" yard at KVSP and elsewhere in the state is definitely part of a much bigger political agenda. One of the results of the 2013 general hunger strike is that, slowly but surely, a lot of those guys have been returning to the main lines after spending ten, fifteen, or twenty years back there in the SHU. Well, CDCR can't just let those beds remain empty so we've been seeing the gooners dropping fallacious gang validation packets on people for all kinds of erroneous reasons. And the best way to "prove" gang conspiracy or activity is to run us all into these stupid racial riots. The fucked up thing about it is that it's working. Every time we all go out to the yard and fight each other is another victory for the pigs, and another bus load of "gang members" heading to the SHU torture units and thus, the very "evidence" CDCR points to as justification in keeping those control units open and full.
This white vs. Black violence needs to stop for the benefit and health of both our people. Let's stop and remember that it should always be blue vs. green! It's time for peace on these yards. Don't forget who the real enemy is.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's call for peace on the yards underscores the importance of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We need organizations to come together behind bars to stop the pigs and the imperialist system in general. A United Front is comprised of groups with different views and goals, that have a common enemy. It doesn't require everyone to agree on everything, and in the case of the UFPP there are just five key principles around which groups have unity: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism and Independence. If your organization is interested in putting an end to the fighting amongst the oppressed and ready to take a stand against the oppressor get in touch for more information about the UFPP.
On 9 September 2014 I was the sole participant in my facility in the day of remembrance of the Attica uprising. I attempted to get another dude to participate who I've been been chatting up lately on limited and general political issues. He agreed at first, then pulled out at the last minute. This did not offend me or make me look at him differently. He is 36 years old and even tho he's older than me, I understand that he's not as strong. So it is what it is. Maybe next time.
As I dumped my tray in the morning and again at dinner (lunches are passed out at breakfast), I informed the pigs that I was fasting "in memory of my people." I caught curious glances only, but no comments. The morning meal was hash browns, fried eggs, sausage, and cold cereal, which is one of the best breakfasts here at California State Prison - Los Angeles County.
Wen I dumped it I knew someone somewhere around me didn't appreciate that I chose to do that instead of giving it to them. I didn't receive any questions or comments about it, and I didn't make a scene about it. But as the fast ended I ate some cookies first and I guess the sugar was too much of a rush because I got all sick. But it was nothin'.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Even solo protests like this one can get the attention of potential allies and put enemies on notice. No doubt some people wanted the food this comrade dumped, and this means he got their attention.
We have to make sure we take advantage of this attention and explain the philosophy behind our actions. We can use the opportunity to make clear to everyone, friends and enemies, the reasons behind our protests so that we maximize the educational value. Anti-imperialism will not be obvious without explanation. It is this explanation and discussion that is the most time consuming, and also most important part of our work at this stage of the struggle.
We hope this comrade's actions help trigger conversations with others in h facility, which will lead to organizing for peace within prisons. In a broad sense, we recommend starting organizing in your facility now for the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity 2015.
I have initiated a lawsuit alleging that Officer Mary Brockett at California State Prison-Sacramento (CSP-Sac) subjected me to sexual harassment. This occurred in the Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP) which is part of the mental "health" services in the California Deparment of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). When I reported Brockett's predatory acts to other top ranking prison officials, they did not believe me because I'm Black, and Brockett is a white amerikan. They also did not understand why a prisoner would file a staff sexual misconduct complaint against an officer. As a direct result of Brockett's sexual misconduct against me she was terminated, but CDCR top ranking officials refused to have her arrested and identified as a sexual offender.
I requested an Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) investigation against Brockett for her predatory behavior towards me. In December 2003, I was interviewed by Special Agent Jill Chapman of OIA, and I agreed to assist her with an investigation against Brockett in order to prove my sexual harassment allegations. During said investigation, the OIA dropped the ball, and OIA agents allowed Brockett to sexually assault me four times after the start of the investigation.
On 15 January 2014, Judge Hunley of the United States District Court, ruled that officer Brockett's conduct violated clearly established law of which Brockett should have been aware. The court found that Brockett is not entitled to qualified immunity on my Eighth Amendment sexual misconduct claim.
My investigation has revealed that many other prisoners who reported rape and other forms of sexual assaults by CDCR personnel are sent to SHU as a form of retaliation and/or intimidation. My defense team and I have been able to identify many other cases of corrections, medical and mental health staff sexually abusing the mentally ill prisoners, plus many coverups by supervisors, at several California state prisons.
I had to hire a private investigator to assist me in light of the fact that going to ranking officials kept getting me put in lock-up units. Instead of charging Brockett with sexual assaults, the CDCR prison officials in Sacramento allowed me to be subjected to a series of retaliatory transfers attempting to intimidate me. On 8 September 2009, prison officials were informed about my lawsuit and that same day I was placed in administrative segregation (ASU) on false allegations of fighting. In December 2009 I was ordered placed in ASU pending a false prison gang validation. Retaliatory transfers are a violation of CDCR policy.
The evidence will show that correctional and medical and mental health staff sexual harassment and sexual assaults were not isolated incidents within CDCR's EOP. I would ask you to help me and my defense team to spread the word. Other victims are out there. My purpose of the lawsuit is to shed light on sexual abuse against the mentally ill in California, including torturing tactics through criminal activities and criminal organized crime within CDCR.
MIM(Prisons) responds: People usually conceptualize patriarchy as those biologically categorized as male oppressing those biologically categorized as female. But sexual assault of bio-male prisoners by bio-female guards is an example of how gender oppression is not necessarily linked to one's biological sex category. In the first issue of Under Lock & Key we wrote about prison rape, and using the best statistics available, we suggested that Black bio-men might be gendered female in the United $tates, largely due to imprisonment rates and the sexual abuse that comes with imprisonment. The abusing bio-female guards are certainly gendered male, and are part of what we call the gender aristocracy.(1) Amerikan (and especially white) bio-wimmin enjoy benefits in leisure time based on their national ties to white bio-men, based on a long history of lynchings, suffrage, and Third World oppression.(2)
Fighting sexual abuse through the courts can be difficult for anyone, and especially for prisoners. As this correspondent writes, white Brockett was not even charged for the sexual assault. When sexual assault cases do go to court, the judge/jury, like much of U.$. society, get hung up on the debate of whether the sex was "really rape," a subjective measure of whether the victim gave consent to the sexual activity or not. Prisoners are assumed by the courts and society to have a low moral standing, and this subjectivity bleeds into the judgement of whether they were "really raped," and whether they should be protected even if they are considered to have been raped. People have debated for decades about where to draw the line with consent, and this debate has recently resurfaced in First World Maoist circles.(3)
When deciding whether a sexual encounter was a rape, a tendency is to focus on whether the victim of sexual assault verbally said they did or did not want to have the sexual encounter, what words they used, in what tone, how many times they said it, if they were intoxicated, how intoxicated, their sexual history, what they were wearing, etc. Others even draw the line where "Most victims themselves intuitively recognize the difference between consensual sex and rape."(3) But all these criteria are based on subjective social standards at the time. Many people don't start calling a sexual incident a rape until months or even years afterward, because they have since learned more about sexuality and social norms, or the social norms have changed. The courts change their definition of rape depending on public opinion as well. When mini skirts were racy, it was considered by many an invitation for sex. Now that mini skirts are normalized as pants in our society, almost no one would make this argument. Social norms and subjective feelings are untrustworthy as measures of gender oppression. They focus too much on individuals' actions and feelings, ignoring the relationship between the group and the individual.
Rather than falling into this subjectivist trap, MIM(Prisons) upholds the line that all sex under patriarchy is rape. Among the general public, living in a highly sexualized culture with a long history of material consequences for granting and withholding access to one's sexuality, no "yes" can be granted independent of group relationships. This is especially true for a captive population; saying "yes" to sex as a trade for privileges, or to a guard who quite literally has your life in their hands, cannot be consensual, even if everyone involved "liked" it or "wanted" it. Power play is very tied up in leisure time to the point that a coercive sex act can feel pleasurable to all involved. Granting consent in a society with gender oppression is a moot point. People always behave in a way that is determined by group relationships, and this is no different for the gender oppressed under patriarchy.
While Liberals are concerned with how we define rapists so that we can lock them up and ostracize them, we look at the systematic problem rather than essentializing individuals. We don't adhere to the bourgeois standard of criminality for theft, so why would we follow their standard for rape? Instead we want to build a socialist society that allows jobs for everyone, separate from the sex industry. We would then ban all sex for profit, all pornography for profit, and all sex trafficking. We wouldn't criminalize sex slaves or people choosing to have sex for their own subjective pleasure, but we would criminalize anyone making a profit off of sex work, especially the multi-billion dollar porn and abduction rackets. Low-level pimps and "self-employed" sex workers would at least need to go through self-criticism and reeducation and take a cold, hard look at how their activities are impacting others. Anyone who wanted to leave these anti-people industries would have other viable options, something we can't say for the vast majority of sex workers in the world today who were either kidnapped, or subject to manifestations of national oppression such as homelessness and drug addiction.
As with any form of oppression under imperialism, we encourage people to use the courts when we think we can win material advantages, set a useful precendent for other cases, or make a political point to mobilize the masses. But kicking Brockett out of the facility will just replace her with another gender oppressing officer. Ultimately we need to change the economic conditions that underly the coercive gender relations in our society and attack the system of patriarchy itself.
Guard One was implemented in the middle of June per mandate of a court-appointed mental health expert in Sacramento. The device resembles a pipe about the size of a closet pole cut to an 8" length. It either flashes or beeps to indicate a welfare check has been recorded. Similar devices are in use throughout selected prisons, especially in the Security Housing Units (SHUs) where statistics reveal most prison suicides occur.
While it is being promoted as a high-tech device able to create an electronic record that prison guards are actually performing their assigned duty of half-hourly welfare checks at each cell, it is also supposed to be showing how much CDCr cares about reducing the number of suicides on its four death row SHUs at San Quentin.
In San Quentin's SHU II D.R. the sensor which the beeping pipe must make contact with is attached to each cell's food port. That's a small metal door on hinges which is padlocked closed unless the cell has no occupant, the prisoner is attending some other program, the cleaning bucket is being used, or there is a phone in use. When the food port is open, for whatever reason, it must be lifted to the closed position so contact can be made with the beeping pipe. Normally, upwards of 100 food ports are left open every day between the hours of 9am and 1pm as various programs are in session. During that time there is continuous banging, clanging and beeping. That's hardly conducive to anyone's mental health!
At around 9pm the beeping pipes are traded in for a non-beeping Guard One device. So between the hours of 9pm and 5am the padlocked metal food port doors continue clanging each time a contact is made. The banging of food ports on empty cells as they're lifted and dropped also echoes throughout the night while the prison guard flashlights would probably remind you of a prison break scene from an old movie as the spotlights search up and down for prisoners crawling the walls. Sleep deprivation can lead to a number of mental and physical health issues.
By 5:30am the beeping starts up like a small brood of electronic rooster chicks fighting for dominance in a cast iron coop and a few cocks get to crowing about the "easy money overtime" coming from the taxpayers.
Many prisoners have died in their cells due to heart attacks, cooking, or other things which might not have been fatal if they had received timely medical attention. So these must be some of the factors considered by the "expert" who armed prison guards with these devices seemingly designed to preserve prisoners and create jobs. I hope I separated the truth from fiction for you.
We call for the elimination of the Guard One device because it is causing more torture and anguish for prisoners.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the criminal injustice system implementing new costly practices in response to serious problems, but the new practices do nothing to help prisoners. In this case, it is a real problem that prisoners die due to medical neglect. But spending lots of money creating more jobs for guards and increasing sensory torture for prisoners is not a solution to this problem. We can never expect the injustice system to reform itself or address its problems fundamentally. We must continue to demand an end to torture like long-term isolation and these new devices, while we build a broader movement that can attack the fundamental injustice of a system that uses prisons as a tool of social control.
In August 2014, United Struggle from Within launched a petition campaign against the I$raeli settler state and to support the people of Palestine against the recent violent attacks. A petition was circulated to prisoners in many states and this is a report back from one persyn's efforts to collect signatures.
I was surprised to get as many signatures as I did, and most prisoners didn't have to hear much more than the basic thrust of the document to know that they wanted to sign. I offered everyone the petition to read for themselves so that they could be sure of what they were signing. For most people I broke the document down into three points. The first was simple opposition to the purposeful targeting of civilians by I$rael. Indeed most of the people who signed had very strong feelings about seeing wimmin and children being killed. The second point was our agreement that Israel's bombing of Gaza had to stop. The third was that even as so-called "thugs and criminalsm," even we know there are lines to be drawn in combat, and civilian deaths are a big no no. Therefore all signatories were united on one basic premise: no to the killing of wimmin and children.
Most prisoners quickly signed after hearing what I had to say, while two people just refused to sign. I was actually surprised since they were both "born again Christians" and part of the social base I'd thought would've been easiest to organize. One of them said he was currently in the process of reading something on that topic and would get back at me once he was thoroughly informed. I told him that I had already outlined everything he needed to know, but still he was hesitant. I then went into explaining the basics of the document but still he was unsure. He also seemed nervous for some reason at which point I thanked him and walked away.
The second "Christian" is a Vietnam veteran so I anticipated his hesitance but thought his so-called spiritually would transcend the political. Instead he quickly put on a look of disgust and kindly declined. I tried pushing him some based on his religious beliefs but still looking annoyed he once again declined, instead telling me that he would pray for the wimmin and children of Gaza but would not sign the petition. Of course I had some choice words for his bombastic air of superiority as he is one of those Christians who walks around with bible in hand, head to the sky as if he's superior or has reached some type of Nirvana to which none of us are privy; yet he cannot sign the petition.
Then there was someone else, another older gentleman who expressed something of shock and irritability at what I was proposing. Who was I to organize a petition for Palestine? And why should he sign it if no Amerikan lives where involved? I recited my script and basic points of unity to which he was still "confused." At this point I began to sense something of a chauvinist attitude emanating from his line of questioning. Finally I told him that if he didn't want to sign then that was fine as he was beginning to take up too much of my time.
But now he was the one who didn't want to let me go. He said he was only trying to understand my motivations. He said that during Hurricane Katrina he saw no petitions to help the people of New Orleans, that America has its own problems and that we should focus on that first instead of organizing for Palestine. Finally, he caught me off guard when he cited the many wars in Africa currently taking place and why wasn't I organizing for that? I was left speechless for about a second or two but then quickly recovered by telling him that he was right and that was a good point he made about Africa. I told him that if he wanted we could both put something together and start a petition. He quickly refused and then retreated to his second line of defense. He didn't understand the point of the petition. He said it wasn't gonna solve anything, therefore what was the point? I told him that he was wrong and that the purpose of the petition was to help build public awareness of the atrocities and to help build public opinion so as to hopefully put additional pressure on Israel. Furthermore if people on the streets who have the freedom and liberty to organize for Palestine saw that prisoners were circulating and signing a petition for Palestine then perhaps they'd be moved to do more.
He disagreed and instead proposed that I initiate a fundraiser/food drive here in which we can get a outside vendor to sponsor us and all money collected from prisoners could go to Palestine. (Various self-help groups here such as AA, NA, Anger Management, etc. have raised funds in the past thru these fundraisers with proceeds going to Locks of Love, cancer research, etc). I told him that we needed the administration's permission for such a drive and that they would never sanction us sending money to Palestine since they were a tool of the state. He vehemently disagreed.
He then went back to his point about Africa, and why did I choose Palestine over Africa? He said the only reason I chose Palestine was because I too was Middle-Eastern. I told him I was not, and he was more confused. I then told him that Palestine is a flash point on an international level compared to the civil wars in Africa and thereby more people would be easier to organize around this platform. I once again offered to work with him on an Africa project. He again refused. By this time I again offered to take my petition somewhere else but after a little more struggle he begrudgingly signed. I told him that if he was still pessimistic about it that I didn't need his signature as I wanted everyone's signature to be sincere, but he said he was good and I accepted.
As the day went on I got more signatures and had a couple interesting political conversations as a result. You can be sure that everyone who signed did so out of a sense of injustice in Palestine. My small petition drive was a good learning experience and helped me exercise my political speaking abilities.
A recent study concluded that even a moderate deficiency of vitamin D results in a 53% increased chance of developing dementia. The most abundant source of vitamin D on earth comes from a chemical reaction that occurs naturally when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight.
Sunny California's torture units feature dog run style walk-in closets called "walk alone" or "small management yards" (SMY). These usually consist of four solid walls and a plexiglass or metal grating for a roof, both of which obstruct sunlight. Depending on the time of day, a prisoner may not get any direct sunlight at all.
The SMY torture cages designed for Grade A and B death row prisoners warehoused in San Quentin's East Block (SHU II D.R.) are especially cruel and unusual. Unlike the torture cages in the SHU III D.R. (The Adjustment Center) which are completely exposed to the elements with no protection whatsoever, the SHU II D.R. torture cages have a corrugated steel cover over 1/4 of its top and every one of these 40 or so cages are under a gigantic modified metal pavilion which could be comparable to a rusted metal circus tent. The only direct sunlight penetrating this bizarre big top of the CDCr circus pierces through rust holes in the massive metal canopy.
True to form, California's mad scientists conducting the world's most infamous death penalty experiment in numerous SHUs across the sunshine state prefer their own blend of pharmaceutical cocktails to solve the problems they themselves are mass producing. CDCr's "chemical solution" aims to obscure and/or delay known side effects of this particular experiment which subjects humans to sunlight deprivation torture indefinitely. CDCr prescribes Vitamin D/Calcium supplements and "psych meds."
Who will dare to fathom the impact this state-sanctioned torture has on prisoners in the United $tates, and on the prison system's medical and mental health costs. This is a system already overloaded and still under federal receivership.
The bottom line is this is where getting involved in the grievance campaign would be a wise choice. Also keep in mind that no matter what your current classification is, it's always subject to change. Just being in a California control unit is all it takes to become a test subject in this already out of control experiment. Don't think you are somehow immune to this twisted chemical warfare.
There are plenty of mentally challenged prisoners in this system who exhibit immature coping skills, poor impulse control, and difficulty in managing their behavior. Many of those who harbor personal biases and prejudices, but have a higher intellectual understanding, often will turn these unwitted souls into their own personal "crash dummies" to amuse themselves as well as do their dirty work. When I see or become aware of such abuses I typically will let my view about such be known, and sometimes it may help the situation. But when people are bored due to lack of reading material or other constructive activities, they tend to look for other ways to garner entertainment resulting in the fabrication of "crash dummies."
A "crash dummy" is a person who, as a result of their developmental impediments, tends to look to others to tell them what to do, and it never ceases to amaze me how easily cats who are craven will dupe a "crash dummy" into doing their dirty work for amusement or other nefarious purposes. Typically you will find that it is the gutless ones who will espouse to the high heavens that they are guileless and courageous. But when it comes to a chickenshit prison job that only provides an extra sack lunch, or the fear of losing visiting, canteen or other punk privileges, he will recruit a "crash dummy" to do his bidding.
I recently noted a sad example of this phenomenon, where the target of one character's biases and prejudices was a Cuban comrade who is of African ethnicity. He speaks fluent Spanish and has a knack for practicing his footwork with a soccer ball, and would typically play soccer with the B-Dog's when they opted to play a game. Well this one African son had a problem with that.
So this agent provocateur saw the Cuban addressing a matter to the pigs. This had nothing to do with a couple youngsters who thought the Cuban talked funny, because of his Spanish accent, but they said to the Cuban "take your ass into your cell" laughing and clowning as kids sometimes do. However the issue the Cuban was trying to address with the pigs was important to him and he said to the youngsters "mind your own business you black mutha-fuc's." This statement with a pronounced Spanish accent was what the agent provocateur was looking for, and he took those few words and twisted them into "disrespecting the Black race." The story kept getting blown out of proportion with each retelling. Well, with just a slight goading, all of a sudden the Cuban is deemed a pariah now by the petty tribalist who initially tried to convince another Cuban to act on such drivel, claiming that otherwise "we" will do it!
Sensible minds, your commentator's included, did verbally interject. However the monotony of the environment somehow won out and while it was believed that the matter was squashed, I later came to find out that the agent provocateur had somehow reignited the matter and this particular morning. While I was discussing some legal issues and procedures with a comrade the agitator all of a sudden came and sat at the table with a Cheshire cat's toothy smirk on his face saying "those two youngsters are going to get him watch" and lo and behold it went down close to the table where I, a comrade, and the provocateur had been seated.
The booth pig pointed the block gun in our general vicinity and the provocateur dove 15 feet away under a staircase against the wall displaying his cowardliness for all who had paid attention. The provocateur got the results he desired and has subsequently bragged to me that he has not had a CDC-115 disciplinary in years. He just gets a dimwit to do his dirty work for him.
I personally have spent too much time in segregation for being true to the way I was taught to jail decades ago, being a true stand-up resistor activist. Experience has consistently demonstrated that those quickest to suggest a violent solution will be the first to duck dodge run and hide leaving others to deal with their mess.
I simply hope that the youngsters are not permanently mentally challenged and that the penalties that they suffer are not criminal proceedings that add to their confinement, but instead simply a sad learning experience that will open their eyes to the actual motivations of some of those they mistakenly try to emulate and befriend. I am simply disappointed in myself and those who know better.
The cat that started the nonsense basically was not willing to do something to the Cuban, for he did not want to get in trouble himself. When I think about it, it's like he was leading fools from the rear in such a way that guaranteed his personal safety. In many cases in prison leadership is only a facade that is full of contradictions. One must recognize that those who claim to be leaders but will not get their hands dirty are simply manipulators.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This story about prisoners using others for petty attacks and retaliation is a good example of the importance of building true unity, across national lines, among prisoners. Our common enemy, the criminal injustice system, should be the focus of our energies. And for this purpose we call on all individuals and organizations to join with the United Front for Peace in Prisons, in particular promoting the UFPP principle of unity: "We strive to unite with those facing the same struggles as us for our common interests. To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts. This is needed because of how the pigs utilize tactics such as rumors, snitches and fake communications to divide and keep division among the oppressed. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity."