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.
The pigs have been up to the same old stuff around here. Three days ago they shot and killed one of the brown brothers with the mini 14 assault rifle, the same rifle type the media and congress has been trying to ban. Two guys were attacking another guy and they were on him and wouldn't stop. So the pig stopped it with the assault rifle. The official report is that the victim had a stabbing instrument in his hand. But the men who were closest to the incident said they saw no weapon.
Of course they did the routine investigation and sent out some COs to ask if anybody saw anything. And of course no one wanted to talk. The pigs have brainwashed so many of us that we believe if we report on the pigs' wrongdoing then that makes you a snitch. A lot of guys are afraid to write a grievance for fear of being labeled. The bad thing is the pigs have their compradors in place to push this point.
Some guys here on a facility organized a food strike to protest the fact the kitchen has a mice/rodent problem. It was only one building. There was no communication that it was going to take place. They did it and got some people's attention. Inspectors came out and looked at the kitchen and gave the kitchen workers a pep talk and told them they needed to tell the population that the problem was being taken care of. All they did was put some mouse traps down and nothing else.
Hopefully the population continues to stand up for themselves. If this is a sign of change I hope it continues because the pigs got nervous when those guys refused to eat.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The righteousness of opposing "snitching" is in the idea that you don't go running to the oppressor to deal with problems among the oppressed people. In other words, don't snitch to the oppressor on the oppressed. There is no such thing as snitching on the oppressor. To report abuse of the pigs, you are not bringing the oppressor into a conflict among the oppressed; the oppressor already is the source of the conflict. And if the oppressed don't have the means to resolve that conflict, then it may be tactically correct to turn to other oppressors to resolve that conflict.
It is true that the prison administration gets nervous when prisoners organize. The more we can unite around common goals, the more power we will have. If the oppressed stay quiet and disunited, there is no counterbalance to the abuse that prisoners face.
I have a habeas corpus petition in the Superior Court which challenges the "conditions of confinement" in California Department of Corrections and "Rehabilitation" (CDCR) Security Housing Units (SHUs), and the pro forma sham "periodic reviews" that CDCR purports to conduct for possible release from SHU.
My "conditions of confinement" challenge is based upon the fact that 30% of the validated "gang affiliates" in SHU are actually "gang associates," which are basically prisoners who had a social relationship with one prisoner who was a former gang "associate" [or member], or an "associate" who had been classified by CDCR as no longer "active" in the gang, i.e. a guy who has been "inactive" for a minimum of six years, or who had a social relationship with a "gang" member. How such a one-on-one social relationship constitutes "associating" with the gang is a leap of logic only a CDCR mentality could make.
It is unconstitutional for the government to find a person guilty of "association" sans any overt acts of personal misconduct. So it is very curious that prisoners are the only group of citizens who are consistently placed in SHU on the sole basis of being "guilty by association" without any charge of personal misconduct, and without any finding of guilt of any acts of personal misconduct, or of any acts of misconduct on behalf of or at the behest of a "gang."
Since Title 15, Section 3312(A) mandates that all prisoner misconduct be handled in the specific manners set forth in that section/regulation. Either CDCR is in violation of Section 3312(A), or there has been no misconduct! If there has been no misconduct, then a prisoner cannot be subjected to punitive treatment. Punitive treatment includes conditions of confinement that are historically recognized as punishment. So, it is all about identifying the conditions in SHU that are historically recognized as CDCR (or general prison) punishment, such as: loss of privileges, loss of property, solitary confinement, etc.
I know that making the SHU more comfortable is not an acceptable alternative to closing the SHU. But if you take the whip away from the CDCR, and SHU becomes just another general population facility with just a "maximum custody" designation, it then loses its value to CDCR.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Why would the government want to torture people for talking to someone? Presumably they fear this persyn. This has nothing to do with "misconduct" or "safety" and everything to do with politics; one group oppressing another. Yet, control units are still torture, no matter if the population decreases or increases by 30%. As this comrade states, there is no humane alternative to abolishing the SHU altogether.
I write this missive from the bowels of California's Death Row (DR), at San Quentin. Just wanted to give an update at what is going on and the progress we are making in regards to a wide area of issues which the condemned population has been experiencing.
Being an Indigenous person, we have been in a long struggle with the San Quentin administration and California Department of Corrections and "rehabilitation" (CDCr) in regards to DR captives being afforded access to Sweat Lodge ceremonies. Our rights are grossly violated by denying the access of Indigenous persons to the right to practice their religion/culture. In the administration's eyes, to have sweat ceremonies available to the DR population creates a serious "security risk." Each time the CDCr screams "security risk," the United Snakes courts fall into stride with the department's assumptions, allowing refusal of Sweat ceremonies, Pipe ceremonies, and access to smudging with sacred Native American medicines. "Safety & security" is an honored mantra here at San Quentin. Stripping us of our culture, religion, and traditions has been the norm for centuries for ALL oppressed nation peoples. It is obvious that no matter what we fight for, the CDCr views it as "Gang Activity/Disruptive." There are comrades that have been stuck in the infamous Adjustment Center (the Control Units) for over a life time simply because they decided to speak up and push back for what they feel they deserve and what they have a right to actually have.
In this situation, the administration dangles privileges in front of the captive, in order to make them do as they say, not as they do. Comrades are being forced to remain in cages away from other DR captives, being denied any sunlight or room to stretch their legs, because the administration feels that they are "too violent" to be placed on a programmed group yard where they can have fellowship with others, get some sunlight, and take a hot shower. This treatment is barbaric and uncalled for.
The institutional appeals office is no help. They are refusing to process any of these prisoners' 602s (grievances) by simply throwing their appeals away, or "losing" them until the time constraints to file on a certain issue have run out, preventing them from going any further with their grievances. Captives with a full program label are being subjected to disciplinary conditions, because the administration can do whatever they want. These comrades are pushing for the same fair treatment as any other DR captive who has privileges.
Due to the budget cuts, programs here have been cut in half. Education is almost non-existent, and yard days have been cut. Visits are being supervised by sergeants who violate Title 15 guidelines, and the captives as well as our families suffer. Medical is suppose to be monitored, but even that has failed to meet its mark. The treatment of DR captives is going from bad to worse.
After the Hunger Strikes here in California, the CDCr implemented a new rule, that anybody that participates in any type of strike will be placed in the SHU (Security Housing Units) for good. Those who participate will be "validated" as a member of a disruptive group, even if one is not gang related. The DR administration went crazy with that new rule. They ignore the fact that the last actual murder that took place here was almost 12 years ago. They have made comments to media that they have succeeded in finally having full control of the condemned population, and call this place "The Safest Prison in the State."
They use tactics of mental torture. They take and give back, then take and give again. It is a mental game and it has driven many good brothers to snap and completely lose their minds. I do not find that to be a weakness in them, nor is it their fault. It is the fault of the pigs here for the games they play. I fault the captives for allowing their minds to be stretched so far without assisting one another instead of sleeping with the enemy and snitching on each other. There are more snitches than crickets at midnight here, and sadly they are blind to the fact that when it is time for the needle to hit the vein, it will be done by the very pigs they blindly befriended while they were here.
So, with that said, a few other solid comrades and myself have decided to up the ante and are holding study groups. We struggle on a daily basis like the rest of our comrades around the U.$., and decided that the only way to begin to break this chain of ignorance is to teach and guide the ones who have the desire to overcome this oppression "by any means necessary." Along with the education we are receiving from MIM(Prisons)/ULK, we have formed a small movement that we hope will reach beyond the walls of this shit hole. We are the IPLF.
The IPLF (Indigenous Peoples Liberation Front) is composed of comrades from all walks of life, willing to stand firm on the front lines and fight as warriors against the (in)justice system. We are a selected few, pushing to break the chains of systematic oppression of any and all kinds. We are human beings, not animals, and not terrorists. We are a movement choosing to follow MIM theory, and assist our comrades in any way possible.
The IPLF will take part in the Day of Solidarity & Peace on September 9, 2013, and will take that day to focus on what needs to be done here on the row that will have a positive outcome. And if we end up in the hole, then fuck it! We ride or die for the cause! To all my comrades out there, to all our sisters out there - A-HO!
Recently prisoners in California received the "new" instructional memorandum for the "pilot program for security threat group identification, prevention and management plan."
This is basically the "new" step down program that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has put together. According to the memo the term "security threat group" (STG) will "replace the terms prison gang, disruptive group, and/or street gang within the CDCR." On page 3 it states "CDCR manages the most violent and sophisticated security threat group members and associates in the nation." This is bullshit and propaganda, as we know from history the FBI once called the Black Panther Party the highest threat to the national security of Amerika, when in reality the BPP helped Black people the most in this country.
According to the memo, 3,150 people are currently validated prison gang members and associates and, as a result, are in the hole in California. Meanwhile, 850 prisoners are reviewed for validation each year in California.
According to this "new" program, STG members will, once validated, go to a Security Housing Unit (SHU). STG associates will remain in general population unless staff feel they are involved in STG behavior — which we know will be abused like the current validation process. It's the same old unfettered repression regurgitated. They can still use all the "violations" as before, even saying "hi" or "good morning" can still be used as evidence of associating with a STG. Only its now called "staff information" and is described as getting you 4 points toward STG and would be considered "STG activity" instead of the old "gang activity." So it's all about semantics here.
Section 400.2, validation procedure, on page 9 states in part that once someone is validated "CDCR staff shall track their movement, monitor their conduct, and take interdiction action, as necessary." Interdiction action is code talk for getting someone off the mainline by any means necessary — the set up! They can even still use a birthday card a prisoner gave you as "STG activity."
The step down program calls for 5 steps that we are told can lead us to general population. So-called "self help" classes must be attended, with names like "victims awareness" which point at oneself as being wrong. This is classic brainwashing that must occur if you want to go back to general population, so we were tortured for years and decades in some cases but now we are told by our torturers we must attend their brainwash camps and learn that we are responsible and guilty for bringing our torture upon ourselves. Our oppression is brought on by the state and no classes will change this reality.
We are also told in the memo that we will be given a course on the book Purpose Driven Life, which is a religious book. So the state is coupling their self-help brainwash with religion to cover up repression that the internal semi-colonies face from Amerika. What we are seeing is a re-shuffling of the same deck of cards where state officials are given way too much power over prisoners, with threadbare oversight, and a sadistic history of abuse. This of course is not a positive thing for those of us held in these dungeons, it is a continuance of a long rusted chain of oppression. The reality is we have way more power than we even know. We must remember that it was our action here in these torture chambers that forced the director of corrections and other high level officials to fly out here and beg those they call the "worst of the worst" into stopping the strike. As a result of our protests they have made superficial changes to our "privileges." Many times when dealing with the imperialists people become demoralized, whether they are dealing with imperialists at a higher level or via its many apparatuses on a lower level i.e. with the courts or prisons. But Mao put it very well when he said: "all reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful."(1)
As in the case with our efforts of 2011 when thousands of prisoners across the United Snakes went on hunger strikes we found that Mao was correct that they are paper tigers. The state capitulated, but quickly devised a way to temporarily slow down our momentum via deception like lying about what changes would come. Although they stopped the strike they did not erase the reality that we saw the state as the paper tiger it really is. Like Mao said they are not so powerful and in the long term it is the people or in our case the prisoners that are really powerful. One only needs to look at the last couple of years of prisoner struggles that the new prison movement has produced, where most strikes have resulted in better conditions for prisoners across the United Snakes.
The recent changes to the state's torturing of prisoners does not change the torture that me and the other fourteen thousand plus people in California are still held. Many will continue in this way for many more years, and some for the rest of their lives. But the people will have many more victories in the years to come as prisoners begin to really grasp the oppression we face and discover different paths out of this oppression.
The author Michelle Alexander said "The 'whites only' sign may be gone, but new signs have gone up - notice placed in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare benefits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the general public that 'felons' are not wanted here."(2)
What Alexander leaves out is that there is also a new sign that says Brown, Black and Red people are to be swept up and tortured en masse across the United Snakes of Amerika in order to attempt to break the back of resistance in our respective nations. And now a newer sign is going up in the SHUs, saying that after we are tortured for years and decades that we will also be tortured or brainwashed into believing that our torture was our own fault. Those who refuse the brainwashing will remain in these torture chambers for years or decades more.
Once prisoners decide that not only won't we accept the torture but that we will resist until we actually see prisoners walking out of the SHU, not falling for the state's lies and pacification program, only then will we be victorious in our efforts wherever our torture chamber is in this country.
Humyn rights should be afforded to everyone, even prisoners. Some believe the state's propaganda and begin to think we deserve this treatment or it is normal. But this is unacceptable, and it's only normal in a capitalist country where those who do not contribute to the capitalist system are introduced to genocidal treatment. At some point people realize that change will only come from our own efforts and if we wait for our oppressor to bring change we will be waiting the rest of our lives.
On October 10 a peace accord went into place across the California prison system to end hostilities between different racial groups. The Pelican Bay State Prison - Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU) Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives issued a statement in August, and hundreds responded on October 10 with hunger strikes to continue the struggle against so-called gang validation and the SHU. The original statement calls on lumpen organizations to turn to “causes beneficial to all” instead of infighting among the oppressed. Recently leaders in Pelican Bay State Prison reasserted that this applies to all lumpen organizations in CDCR, down to the youth authority.
We share the PBSP-SHU Collective’s view that peace is key to building unity against the criminal injustice system. Prison organizations and individual prisoners across the country have pledged themselves to the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principles and are building this United Front in their prisons, communities and organizations.
We know this won’t be easy, but there is a basis for this unity and peace. As was written in the original announcement of the UFPP:
“We fully recognize that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are already ‘united’ – in our suffering and our daily repression. We face the same common enemy. We are trapped in the same oppressive conditions. We wear the same prison clothes, we go to the same hellhole box (isolation), we get brutalized by the same racist pigs. We are one people, no matter your hood, set or nationality. We know ‘we need unity’ – but unity of a different type from the unity we have at present. We want to move from a unity in oppression to unity in serving the people and striving toward national independence.”
The ending of hostilities between large lumpen organizations has sweeping implications for the possibilities for prisoner organizing. USW comrades in California should work to seize this opportunity however possible, to translate the peace agreement into meaningful organizing in the interests of all prisoners.
I am writing to follow up on the problems we've been experiencing with our appeals system as it relates to the mass complaint form that at least 85 of us sent to Sacramento. I went a step further and had my sister draft a "citizen's complaint letter" to the Warden of RJ Donvan. He's required by law to investigate and respond to this letter within 30 days. This puts more pressure on the Warden's office due to the time and resources involved to send out responses. So, if your readers have friends and family who can draft and submit the citizen's complaint en masse, I believe it can have a greater impact.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As previously reported, this comrade is making good use of the grievance petition and taking on this battle creatively through the legal and administrative system. Write to us to get involved in this campaign. We can send you a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or a generic version you can customize to create one for states that do not yet have one.
I want to bring up an issue that should be addressed and included in the struggle for positive change. Back around 2005 the Department of Corrections began installing timers on our toilets, to limit us to two flushes every five minutes. The reason given for the timers and limits on the flushes is for the purpose of water conservation. I'm all for saving the planet and conserving Earth's resources, but not at the expense of my own health and well-being.
The timer and two-flush limit has emphasized the impact of living with a toilet in the compact space where we also eat and sleep. No man should have to be forced to endure prolonged exposure to the revolting stench of human waste! To limit us to two flushes every five minutes is simply unreasonable, but what is unconscionable and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment is the so-called "penalty flush!" especially when we have no way of knowing when the toilet's timer has reset itself. Here at Calipatria State Prison if we inadvertently or purposely attempt to flush the toilet a third time before the toilet's timer has reset itself, a 15 minute penalty will incur. This means the toilet will not flush for 15 minutes and anything in the toilet will remain there throughout the duration of the 15 minute penalty.
In other prisons I hear that the penalty flush can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour! There's simply no penological justification for the penalty flush because the two-flush limit every five minutes serves the penological interest of the water conservation. It is inhumane to punish a man for simply trying to use the bathroom. So please include this stinking issue into the struggle. United in struggle we will prevail.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Actually, water conservation is not a penological interest at all. Like this correspondent says, a two-flush-per-five-minute rule would be enough to prevent any attempts to abuse toilet flushing. The penalties for attempting to flush the toilet show us clearly that this is just another method to make prisoners’ lives extra miserable, and dangerous, for no good reason.
It might be argued that flush rules are in the state's interests to save water, because water is money. But either way, the "greening" of Amerikan prisons highlights the dominant pro-imperialist slant of so-called environmentalism in this country. Water conservation can be used to improve production for California agribusiness, or it can be used to provide people with clean drinking water across the world. Which goal you choose is a political question. Really environmentalism that is not internationalist in perspective is not true environmentalism at all because it ignores most of the biggest problems humyns face interacting with our natural environment in favor of the local interests of small, privileged groups.
I want to share with you and the other ULK readers the response to the 602 petition I sent to the Secretary of CDCR, and to the Ombudsman Sarah Malone. There was no response from the Ombudsman's office. But Matthew Cates forwarded my petition to Warden Paramo who in turn delegated it down to Associate Warden Straton, who came to interview me in person.
Associate Warden Straton did not make any excuses. He said, "You're absolutely right, the 602 appeals system is severely screwed up, however, we just forced appeals coordinator Cobb to retire early, and we replaced him with Mr. Olson who is approximately 6 to 8 weeks behind in processing our 602s. Just try to be patient as we try to straighten this mess out."
I do believe Associate Warden Straton is being sincere, but only time will tell for sure. I just had a family member file a citizen's complaint on my behalf, which all ULK readers should have their family do because, by law the Warden must send a response to anyone who files a citizen's complaint, even if it's just in the form of a letter.
My plan is to create a paper trail using the Form 22 as a verification that I've placed my 602 appeals in the metal 602 box in my housing unit. Then once the Warden sends my family his response I'll have the proof I need for court to show that he was made aware of the problem but failed to correct it.
We did get 75 copies of the grievance petitions made, but the program worker who was making them got busted on the second set and lost his job. But 75 made it to Sacramento successfully.
Also I just wanted to thank you for that article in ULK about us SNYs being part of the greater whole. Just because we came to this side doesn't mean we're not fighters for the greater good. In fact, that's one of the reasons I came to this side, to avoid the petty politics and work towards better living conditions for all.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is making good use of the California grievance petition which addresses the mishandling of 602s (grievances) in California prisons. Inspired by California, this campaign has spread to many other states, with petitions now customized for Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas. We don't expect big changes to come from this petition; we know this is a battle for small reforms within a fundamentally corrupt system. But the grievance system is the primary way that prisoners can legally fight for their limited rights, and often these rights are tied up with survival and freedom to organize and educate others. We must defend these rights as a key tactical battle in building the anti-imperialist movement within the criminal injustice system.
I was glad to see petitions available concerning the grievance process here in California. Please send me one of those in the self-addressed stamped envelope I've enclosed. I'd also like to say a few words on the grievance process here in California.
The main problem with the grievance process is at the informal level, when a prisoner has to get two responses from staff on a CDCR 22 form. Unless you're challenging something out of the Title 15, the CDCR 22 must be filled out. That's very hard to do, considering most staff just throw them away. The CDCR 22 is designed so that officers can sign it at the door, verifying that it was sent, and give the prisoner a receipt. However, even with the receipt, if the prisoner does not have two staff responses, the appeals coordinator will reject the grievance. The Title 15 Section 3084.3 (b), (c), and Section 3086 (e)(2) allow them to do that.
What we should do is file a grievance on those three Title 15 sections I just listed, requesting that they be changed to state: "One or two signed CDCR 22 receipts requesting remedy or supporting documents that also show that the staff member to whom the CDCR 22 was mailed did not respond within the time limits detailed in Section 3086 (f)(4) and (h) shall be receipted in lieu of requested supporting documents pursuant to Section 3084.3." The legal argument for this is the 14th Amendment (access to courts) and Title 15 Section 3084.1 (right to appeal).
Just jump through the hoops until the grievance is exhausted. Then, write the Prison Law Office and the ACLU and tell them you'd like their help in filing a §1983 suit. Since it's a major issue, a prisoner advocate group will probably pick it up, and the petition distributed by MIM(Prisons) could be used as evidence.
Another good grievance would challenge the Title 15 Section 3123 (b), which gives CDCR the power to limit the law library hours to whatever it wants. Here at Kern Valley State Prison, the law library is open 2 days a week. The Title 15 should be amended to say: "Each law library shall remain open five days a week, for not less than six hours per day." The 14th Amendment should also be cited for that grievance.
MIM(Prisons) responds: CDCR Form 22 is a reform to the CDCR grievance system that was rolled out December 2010 in response to the campaign to End the High Desert State Prison Z-Unit Zoo.(1) Participants of this campaign sent petitions to CDCR administrators and legal protection groups such as the Prison Law Office and the U.S. Department of Justice. An investigation was conducted, prisoners were interviewed, and even some of their demands were met.(2)
But this contributor shows how our struggles for reforms, and even our victories, will be met with more and more red tape under the current power structure. Form 22 was supposedly designed "so that our requests may be answered in a timely fashion by COs, with a receipt. Now we have a clearer paper trail to use should K9s decide to implement their underground rules."(1) But still, there's nothing stopping the COs from simply throwing Form 22s away.
This contributor's suggestion to change some of the language of Title 15 may be an improvement on the current grievance system in California. But until COs and prison administrators acquire a proletarian morality that values the well-being of all people, they will figure out ways to continue to oppress those who they deem as unworthy of basic humyn necessities, and their higher-ups will cover for them. This proletarian morality doesn't develop from procedural changes in prison operations, no matter what documents we amend. Material conditions shape our worldview, and until the material conditions that support national oppression are abolished, the oppressors will continue to justify their sick behaviors.
While we fight for reforms to improve our current conditions, we must accept the necessity of total social change, namely the change from capitalism to socialism. Until then there will always be a trade-off; where one group gains, another loses. We must allow our own acquired proletarian morality to infect our political work and inform the orientation of all the battles we take on.
Greetings. The struggle is long and arduous, and sometimes we do etch out significant victories, as in the case of our brotha in In re Crawford, 206 Cal.App.4th 1259 (2012).
It's important to emphasize that this victory is a significant step in reaffirming that prisoners are entitled to a measure of First Amendment protection that cannot be ignored simply because the state dislikes the spiel. New Afrikan prisoners have a right to identify with their birthright if they so choose, as does anyone else for that matter — Black, White or Brown. ...
[California prison officials] have gone so far as to boldly proclaim that the term New Afrikan was created by the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) and that those who identify as or use the term are declaring their allegiance to the BGF, which has been declared a prison gang. They have sought to suppress its usage by validating (i.e. designating as a gang member or associate) anyone who uses the term or who dares mention the name George Jackson. ...
Our brotha's case In Re Crawford was filed June 4, 2012, and certified for publication June 13. In a brilliant piece of judicial reasoning, a panel of justices in a 3-0 decision finally reaffirmed a prisoner's First Amendment right to free speech and expression, stating:
Freedom of speech is first among the rights which form the foundation of our free society. "The First Amendment embodies our choice as a nation that, when it comes to such speech, the guiding principle is freedom — the unfettered interchange of ideas — not whatever the State may view as fair." (Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2806). "The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people ... All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests." (Roth v. United States (1957) 354 U.S. 476, 484."
The programs embodied in the New Afrikan Collective Think Tank, New Afrikan Institute of Criminology 101, the George Jackson University and the New Afrikan ideology itself are inclusive programs emphasizing a solution-based approach to carnage in the poverty stricken slums from where many of us come. The CDCR Prison Intelligence Units (PIU) have sought to suppress these initiatives simply because they do not like the message. They have marched into court after court with one standard line: New Afrikan means BGF and these initiatives are promoting the BGF. In re Crawford continues,
As recently noted by Chief Justice Roberts, "[t]he First Amendment reflects 'a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.' [Citation.] That is because 'speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.' [Citation.] ... Speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection." (Snyder v. Phelps (2011) 562 U.S. _,_ [131 S.Ct. 1207, 1215].
In re Crawford is a very important ruling because the justices said these protections apply to prisoners as well. ...
George Jackson cannot be removed from the fabric of the people's struggles in this society any more than Malcolm X can or Medger Evers or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Harriett Tubman or Sojourner Truth or Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks or Frederick Douglass, or the countless others who've fought and struggled for a brighter future for generations to come.
What CDCR and its PIU are trying to do is make a run around the First Amendment by shielding its suppression activity under the guise of preventing gang activity, just as it's done historically, which gave rise to Procunier v. Martinez (1974) 416 U.S. 396, 413.
In In re Crawford, CDCR argued for an exception to the Martinez test for validated gang members. The court declined to make such an exception, holding: "Gang related correspondence is not within the exception to the First Amendment test for censorship of outgoing inmate mail."
The fact that they even argued for such an exception shows their mindset. Their intentions are to suppress that which they believe to be repugnant, offensive and that which they believe a prisoner ought not be thinking! In their minds we have no right to think or possess ideas, concepts or vision beyond that which they believe we should possess.
Until In Re Crawford, these highly educated judges were sanctioning this nonsense with twisted, perverted rulings permitting a newspaper article or magazine layout or book to be used against a prisoner for validation purposes [to put them in torture cells - editor]. They issued twisted rulings like those in Ellis v. Cambra or Hawkins v. Russell and In Re Furnace, where the petitioner was told he has no right to his thoughts and the First Amendment only protects a prisoner's right to file a 602 [grievance form].
These kinds of fallacious rulings ought to be publicized so as to show the skillful manipulation of the law by those sworn to uphold it. In Re Crawford reestablishes that First Amendment protections apply to prisoners and that we too enjoy a measure of free speech and expression. We ought not be punished with fabricated notions of gang activity for merely a thought!
However, if we are to continue to meet with success, we need our professors, historians and intellectuals to step up and provide declarations that we can use in our litigation, defending our right to read, write and study all aspects of a people's history, like Professor James T. Campbell did in In Re Crawford. This is the only way a prisoner can challenge the opinion of a prison official. ...
Much work remains to be done, like stopping the bogus validations based on legitimate First Amendment material. We know that many individuals are falsely validated simply for reading George's books or a newspaper article, for observing Black August or for simply trying to get in touch with one's cultural identity.
These legitimate expressions should carry no penalty at all. You're not doing anything wrong, and a lot of brothas who've been validated simply shouldn't be. Nor should folks be frightened away from reading or studying any aspect of history simply because the state doesn't like its content. Judges who issue fallacious opinions permitting prisoners to be punished for reading a George Jackson book or researching your history should be exposed.
Literary content and cultural and historical materials are not the activities of a gang; they are political and social activities that we have a right to express, according to the unanimous decision in In re Crawford.
The First Amendment campaign continues to forge ahead, although we still don't have a lawyer. The campaign still exists, and we anticipate even greater successes in the future. ... We've cracked one layer of a thick wall. Now all prisoners should take advantage of this brilliant ruling and reassert your rights to study your heritage, Black, White or Brown.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The issue in this case was one that we have experienced first-hand as well. For example, in 2008 a letter from a comrade in California was censored before it could reach us because it discussed the New Afrikan Collective, which allegedly was a code word for the Black Guerrilla Family.(1) But in reality, the New Afrikan Collective was a new political organization in New York focused on bettering the conditions of New Afrikans as a nation, with no connections to any sort of criminal activity.
The first thing that strikes us about this case is a quote from the proceedings cited by the author above, "Gang related correspondence is not within the exception to the First Amendment test for censorship of outgoing inmate mail." Unfortunately this is not part of the final opinion explaining the decision of the court, and it is specific to outgoing mail from the prison. Nonetheless, it would logically follow from this statement that anything that can be connected to a gang is not automatically dangerous or illegal.
"Gang members" have long been the boogeyman of post-integration white Amerika. The pigs use "gang member" as a codeword to excuse the abuse and denial of constitutional rights to oppressed nation youth, particularly New Afrikan men. And this has been institutionalized in more recent years with "gang enhancements," "gang injunctions" and "security threat group" labels that punish people for belonging to lumpen organizations. Often our mail is censored because it mentions the name of a lumpen organization in the context of a peace initiative or organizing for prisoners' humyn rights. While criminal activity is deemed deserving more punishment with the gang label, non-criminal activity is deemed criminal as well.
As the author discusses, it becomes a question of controlling ideas to the extreme, where certain words are not permitted to be spoken or written and certain symbols and colors cannot be displayed. So the quote from the court above is just a baby step in the direction of applying the First Amendment rights of association and expression to oppressed nation youth. Those who are legally inclined should consider how this issue can be pushed further in future battles. Not only is such work important in restoring rights to people, but we can create space for these organizations to build in more positive directions.
Part of this criminalization of a specific sector of society is the use of self-created and perpetuated so-called experts on gang intelligence. Most of our readers are all too familiar with this farce of a profession that is acutely exposed by the court's opinion in this case. The final court opinion calls out CO J. Silveira for claiming that the plaintiff's letter contained an intricate code when he could provide no evidence that this was true. They also call him out for using his "training and experience" as the basis for all his arguments.
The warden's argument is flawed for two reasons. First, the argument is based solely on the unsupported assertions and speculative conclusions in Silveira's declaration. The declaration is incompetent as evidence because it contains no factual allegations supporting those assertions and conclusions. Second, even if the declaration could properly be considered, it does not establish that the letter posed a threat to prison security.
As great as this is, as the author of the article above points out, they usually get away with such baseless claims. More well thought out lawsuits like this are needed, because more favorable case law is needed. But neither alone represents any real victory in a system that exists to maintain the existing social hierarchy. These are just pieces of a long, patient struggle that has been ongoing for generations. The people must exercise the rights won here to make them real. We must popularize and contextualize the nature of this struggle.