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.
Greetings Comrades. I'm reporting from the Correctional Institution for Men in Chino. The fascist pig COs (correctional officers) are trying to validate a fellow comrade because of books he had in his possession. First they attempted to get him to snitch on who gave him the books. Now Investigative Services Unit (ISU) is holding him in isolation "pending an investigation" accusing him of being a member of the Black Guerilla Family. All behind books he was reading! The books he had were on the Black Panther Party, anarchism, Che Guevara, the Symbionese Liberation Army, etc.
MIM(Prisons) adds:Recent struggles in California have focused on the so-called "gang validation" process used to put people in torture cells for years and even decades. This is just another example that the process is a thinly veiled tool of political repression. While the carrot offered to Blacks in the United $tates has gotten quite tasty for our generation, the state continues to target Blacks who are seeking political education or doing political organizing.
This missive will be brief but informative on the level of state repression being executed by the authorities down here in West Valley Detention Center. It seems that my interest in researching history by receiving your MIM Notes newsletter has rubbed the police the wrong way. On February 16, 2012 I got a visit from a federal agent who wanted to know why I was receiving such information. The agent reveled to me that they were contacted because a package had MIM material inside of it.
Although the package was given to me it was quite unusual in the manner it was presented. Being that it wasn't classified as legal mail, I was called out of my cell and instructed to bring my ID. An officer who did not work in my unit handed over the package after scrutinizing my I.D. The package was open and was obviously inspected. Now none of this I would consider misconduct on their behalf, but suspicious in how they did not give the package to me in the regular way they pass out mail, which is through the unit officers who pass out all books, mags, and first class mail after 8pm count.
The only logical conclusion that I can reach on this matter is that they were making a threat assessment of me which would be considered absurd for receiving a publication that reports on global events. But when looking past the surface of this event, it is quite obvious that our so-called rights to the press and "individual sovereignty" are denied when we are discovering the skeletons in this nation's closet. On that note I will end this missive with a message to the masses: learn the facts of everything, don't let the authorities intimidate you.
I extend my greetings to you all and want to make a few observations based upon questions posed by Loco1 in ULK 23. It is quite true that we obtained the attention of prisoncrats who have assumed that the continual promotion of division of lumpen organizations will keep us at each other throats. Prisoncrats have adapted and pursued new oppressive tactics as a result of the intensive scrutiny that the shot across the bow of battleship CDCR caused.
To retreat is not an option, as to do such only further emboldens prisoncrats to erode civil and human rights of California prisoners, actions which will be mimicked across the nation. We must use our collective brains to adapt new tactics. In war many tactics are used. You may be able to sneak up on an enemy once or twice but in due course the opposition will counter with an ambush. So as master Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War, "Those who win every battle are not really skillful. Those who render others' armies helpless without fighting are the best of all!" And that's what was done, embarrassing the prisoncrats who were ill prepared to deal with it. It's only a battle in a broader war.
I am nobody's leader or follower. My duties are to help teach independent thought, which will ensure that an individual can and will anticipate the likely reaction of prisoncrats and minimize the effect. Everyone has seen the so-called increase of privileges, some of which are still very elusive, since they mandate a year without a disciplinary, which will never be possible for a true revolutionary or resister to achieve. These privileges also encourage prisoners to lean on their families and friends to help finance their imprisonment and enrich prison profiteers who feed on the golden state's teat.
The original hunger strike strategy clearly impacted prisoncrats. It should provide a plethora of new tactical ideas. Consider that besides the so-called security concerns over prisoners possessing cell phones, the reality is that cell phones cut into prisoncrats' fiscal resources. The prison phone provider gives the CDCR a concession fee. This is why prisoners' phone privileges, canteen, packages and anything that the CDCR receives a concession fee from, are generally not taken. The income from canteen purchases pay the wages of state SEIU employees who are canteen managers II, I, supervisors and workers in addition to profits being diverted from prisoner welfare to custody welfare activities.
We should consider alternative strategies that hit them where it hurts the most: in their pocketbook. Just like one can go without eating for a week or three, people should be able to go without canteen for 3 to 6 months and empty trust accounts, which will result in more expense to the CDCR. There are numerous ways that the CDCR sticks it to prisoners' families and friends. So if, as Loco1 suggests, it is correct to re-evaluate our actions, it is my opinion that the new strategy should be a fiscal one.
I address this to all prisoners irrespective of your status, as status is given by prisoncrats. Be you general population or sensitive needs, if you choose to allow prisoncrats to manipulate and control you with privileges, you are by proxy their collaborator. As such you cause as much of the problem, rather than a solution.
I also want to point out that tactically and strategically it is never wise to call out numerous lumpen organizations as BORO/Loco1 did. Such will likely have a negative impact, since those named will have to deal with substantively more scrutiny. So while others may think that ULK is a forum to send shout outs, to me the objective is to try to encourage education and the capacity to think independently. The CDCR benefits from dumbed-down prisoners, particularly those who do not have their priorities in order.
Prisoncrats look to pacify all prisoners, particularly the segment that is weakest. So it is on us to try to encourage self-esteem, self-worth, self-sacrifice and self-deprivation, all of which builds character and the ability to endure the picklesuits' plots and conspiracies. The preparation that is most important to any struggle is the will to personally do something to encourage change. I believe that ideas and strategies of the opposition should be examined, and then we can decide on a course of action and systematically pass on the purpose and reasoning, not as leaders to followers but as men and women in concerted struggle.
The fact that there is no real accountability of prisoncrats and their subordinates has again led to the introduction of Assembly Bill 1270 on January 26, 2012 by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano to try to restore media access to prisoners. Taking away media access gave prisoncrats control over what's spoon fed to the public. Independent media access is what made it possible for the pacification privileges introduced in the 60s and 70s, since there was a lot more transparency and prisoncrats were exposed to more accountability. But since the imposition of media restrictions on pre-arranged in-person interviews with prisoners, what takes place in prison tends to be out-of-sight/out-of-mind.
I believe in a United Front, but we must recognize that the composition of that front is varied. I prefer that we always seek to encourage education which brings clarity and understanding to less knowledgeable comrades. I will say, however that ignorance and stupidity is infectious. I guess I could be equated with a silverback, only I do not take to leading. But I am not adverse to the development of consciousness so maybe we should send requests to the education department of all CDCR prisons asking for "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" that Wiawimawo provided us with a review of in August 2011, as it might help open up some minds to revolutionary concepts.
Yes I'm all for a true United Front, where we all (Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue or plaid) can stand together to regain our civil and human rights, not confusing privileges with rights. We can positively seek to cease all the senseless grudges that plague the ethnic divisions and LOs. I do not believe in violence just for amusement. My battle is not with prisoners, it's with prisoncrats. Any prisoner who sees me as a threat, I deem them an agent of the state. "Think and not hate" is what your commentator in struggle relates.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to agree with the criticism of calling out LO members by name which we already responded to elsewhere. But we do not agree with this comrade's abdication of leadership. The movement has a strong need for leaders and pretending that all people are equal in this way gives power over to the imperialists who have no problem seizing leadership. Those who are more advanced, have more education, or more will to struggle, must take up leadership positions in educating and organizing others. We can't afford to have these people step back in the name of equality as that void will be filled by reactionary leaders. The antidote to misleaders is better, more educated leaders as well as a better more educated mass that can judge, choose and reject would-be leaders. Ultimately we are working towards a society, communism, where all people are equal and all can lead, but we must deal with the current reality and uneven development of forces and individuals. USW is an organization for leaders. A vanguard party is the leader of the revolution. And the oppressed people desperately need more leaders.
I recently came across your newsletter and found it very interesting. I am in Ironwood State Prison - Administrative Segregation (ISP Ad-Seg). All should be advised that Hispanic prisoners are being targeted by Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) in ISP for validation. Many of us were told to either inform or be validated. Myself and many others are validated on informants alone, and some on cultural drawings alone. It seems the state's agents (Office of Correctional Safety) are rubber-stamping anything submitted by ISP-IGI.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Gang validation is just one of many tactics used by the prisons to divide prisoners and target activists. The threat to inform or be validated is common, and then false information is used to validate those political activists that the prison wants to isolate. This is another example of why MIM(Prisons) says that prison classifications do not define a prisoner's revolutionary potential. Many informants walk in GP freely without anyone knowing what they did while solid activists are falsely validated or retreat to SNY. We must judge our comrades by their actions, not their prison-imposed classification.
There is an ongoing issue here at Tehachapi SHU over treatment - or mistreatment - for medical and dental services. These medical/dental staff want to get paid and not uphold a minimum level of care. I am (and have been since March 1, 2011) fighting this injustice. I feel since the K-9 caused my issue, the prison medical/dental staff need to treat my medical/dental issue.
It's like this: I was unwilling to allow another man to place his hands on my person and body. So I put up a fight. Of course, being a "convict" I'm out numbered. Now, I'm not saying we should be using force on "the man" but I feel you should protect yourself when need be. In the course of this fight I was slammed by officers, then they did their thang, breaking my jaw. Of course, I got charged, being a convict.
Now herein lies the issue: Tehachapi SHU medical/dental staff have engaged in a pattern and practice of routine deliberate indifference. Care/treatment is routinely refused. Even when deemed medically necessary.
I've all but ran out of gas. The tank is on E, but the fight for justice shall go on. I've reached out to the Prison Law Office seeking assistance. These people make their rules only to change them again. All the money spent, and it seems to be ensuring the inmate appeals process becomes harder. Services and care are not given.
In this issue on release (ULK24), we are featuring United Playaz in San Francisco, California, to give our comrades inside an idea of what some formerly-imprisoned people are doing to contribute to the struggle for peace since they've been out. Many staff members and volunteers with United Playaz (UP) have spent time in the prison system. MIM(Prisons) got the opportunity to interview one such staff-persyn, Rico, who spent 25 years in the California prison system. Rico is a former-gangbanger-turned-peace-advocate; a lifestyle change that many readers of Under Lock & Key can relate to.
United Playaz provides services to youth, including after-school programs and tours inside prisons, in an attempt to pull them out of the school-to-prison pipeline and (the potential for) violent activity, helping them refocus on their education. UP's mission statement reads,
United Playaz is a violence prevention and youth leadership organization that works with San Francisco's hardest to reach youth through case management, street outreach, in-school services, recreational activities at community centers, and support to incarcerated youth. United Playaz is committed to improving the lives of young people surviving in vulnerable environments, [who] show high incidence of truancy and low academic performance, or have been involved in the juvenile justice system through direct service and community collaboration. United Playaz believes that "it takes the hood to save the hood".
Rico explains how he first got involved with United Playaz,
In 1994 I was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. And at the time Rudy [UP's Executive Director] was bringing a bunch of troubled youth and youth that are involved in the juvenile system and kind of just showed them a glimpse of what's the result of making a bad decision. And that's where I met Rudy. And Rudy saw me work with the kids, and then he found out that I lived in the neighborhood that he was serving the youth and he asked me, "When you get released I want you to check out our program and see if you want to work with United Playaz." So like in 2005 I finally got out after 25 years of incarceration and first I volunteered. And then once there was an opening, a job opening, Rudy hired me as a CRN, a community response network. It's a job that at night we go and do outreach, and drive around the city and just talk to the kids that are hanging out on the street.
MIM(Prisons) asked Rico about the importance of building a United Front for Peace in Prisons, and the challenges faced by such an endeavor.
Back in 1982 we formed a protest while I was in San Quentin. You know, prisoners used to have rights. We had the rights to see our family when they come see us. We had the right to get an education. We had a lot of rights. But slowly they took that away and now they have no rights. If you wanna get a visit, you have to work. If you don't work, you don't get a visit.
So anyway the Asian, Latino, the African American, the Caucasian, we all got together and say, "You know what? Let's all sit down. Nobody goes to work, nobody go to school, nothing." And prison really depends on prisoners. Cuz you have jobs there, that requires like maybe $35,000 a year job, they let the prisoner do that job and get paid like $18 a month. So they're saving a lot of money using prisoners to run the prison system, right? So when we sit down, when we shut down, man, they gave us what we want and everything like back to normal and everything smooth.
There's always incident in the pen, like prisoners hurting each other, but that's a good example that when, how do you say - together we stand, divided we fall. So you know if we are united man a lot of violence in here will probably diminish tremendously, right? Cuz the people inside, they'll preach peace out here. And a lot of kids that are doing bad behavior out here, they're influenced by a lot of prisoners inside the pen. But right now there's no peace. There's no peace. ...
Well, there is [organizing for peace and unity inside prisons] but you have to do it on the under because one thing administration, prison administration don't want you to do is to organize and try to bring peace. In prison they want us to be divided. You know what I mean? So there's ways that we can organize but it has to be on the under.
It is ridiculous that prisoners have to discuss how to go about not killing each other in secret, so as to not upset the prison administrators' paychecks! But this is not the only anti-people development to come from the evolution of the criminal injustice system, which is designed solely to protect capitalism and its beloved profit motive. Rico explains some of the consequences of deciding who stays in and who gets out in a capitalist society,
The more you treat a prisoner like an animal, when they come out they act like animal out here. I mean one time I was in segregation unit, in the hole. This guy he was so violent that he can't be out in the mainline, right? Anyway it was time for him to go. So when they let him out, he was handcuffed out the building, across the yard, in a van, right? And they drop him off outside. When they drop him off they just uncuffed him, "You're free." How can we help someone like that, to be out here? If he's so violent inside that he needs to be segregated, how can they let someone out like that? So if he commit a crime out here, that's gonna look bad on a lot of prisoners. And they have more power to say, "See what happens when we release these guys out?"
But there's guys in there that are doing better than I do - that they can do better than what I do out here, and yet they still locked up in the pen, because of politics. There's a lot of em, a lot of em man. I know some of em personally that should have been out you know and giving back. And they can do a lot of contribution out here to bring peace. How can we get those guys out?
Our answer to Rico's question is that the only way to get all those guys out, for good, is to organize for socialism and then communism. Any reforms we make to the prison system as it is now may let some people out, but as long as capitalism exists people will be exploited and oppressed. This leads to resistance, both direct and indirect, and prison is for those who don't play by the rules. In socialism, everyone has a role to play in society and state oppression is only used against those who try to oppress others.
When the economic system changes to value people over profit, prisons will also change. In China under Mao, Allyn and Adele Rickett were two Amerikan spies in China who wrote a book titled "Prisoners of Liberation" about their experience as prisoners of the Communist Party of China. Their experience taught them that when prisoners have completed self-criticism and are ready to contribute to society, they will be released. On the other side, when prisoners are doing harm to society (such as organizing to reinstitute a capitalist economic system) they are not allowed to be released just because their term is up. Instead they are encouraged to study, read, discuss, and do self-criticism until they become productive members of society.
Anyone with a sympathetic bone in their body can tell what was going on in China under Mao is a much more useful mode of imprisonment than what we have at present. The difference between the liberal and MIM(Prisons) is we know the only way to get there is through socialist revolution so that the prison system is in the hands of those currently oppressed by it.
Another present day challenge we discussed with UP was its goal to be financially self-sufficient in the future. Rico explains the current limitations that come with getting state funding,
If it's up to us, we're gonna go hard, and really fight for peace. But because we're fund[ed] by DCYF [San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, & Their Families], they limit our movement. We can't even participate, or like rally. If there's a Occupy rally right now, we can't go, cuz our organization are prevented from doing things like that. And I think that's important, that we're out there with the rest of the people that are trying to fight for change. Every year we do a Silence the Violence Peace March. That's okay, you know, Martin Luther King, marches like that, we're okay to do that. But when it's like budgets, and crime, and about prison, you know, rally to try to bring those those things down, we can't really participate. ...
What's going on outside the youth can affect them in the future if things don't change. And why wait til those kids get old and take em to expose them to march and fight for your rights? You know I love to take these young adults to a movement like that, cuz that gives em knowledge of life, that there's more than just hanging out on the street. But unfortunately we're not allowed to participate in that kind of movement.
We have learned from history that these limitations aren't unique to UP's financial situation. For the non-profit in the United $tates, similar to "aid" given to Third World countries, capitalists always ensure their money is working in favor of their interests. This is why one of the points of unity of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is "Independence." Money is too easy to come by in this country, while good revolutionaries are too hard to find. Liberation has always been powered by people. So we agree with Rico on the importance for striving for autonomy.
Until then, positive steps can certainly be made within these limitations. There are many levels to our movement and many roles to play in building peace and unity among the lumpen. And without groups like UP reaching the youth on the streets, efforts like the United Front for Peace in Prisons will be too one-sided to succeed.
To close, Rico shares these words with comrades preparing for release,
The only thing I can say is that as long as you're alive there's hope. And if they really want to go home, then do the right thing, regardless. And they gotta stand up for their rights man. And they have to just try to get along with each other and think about peace, because they are needed out here. The experience they have in the pen, they can save a lot of lives out here, with their younger brothers and sisters that look for real guidance from someone who's been there and done that. Good luck, I hope they get out and be out here and help our system change to a better place.
As a "free citizen" you have much greater freedom to organize on the outside compared to in prison, even on probation or parole. Your activism shouldn't end with your prison term!
I never got to read the piece on "strategic retreat" by Loco1 due to heavy censorship here, but wish to respond to the discussion in ULK24 titled Advance the California Hunger Strike through Strategic Unity and Criticism. First, the struggle spear-headed by SHU prisoners is not exclusive to SHU prisoners. This struggle includes all prisoners, not just in California but more broadly throughout Amerikkka. The dehumanizing treatment of prisoners is experienced by all prisoners at some point just as sure as Brown and Black people out in society are both hunted and rounded up, stopped and frisked by the thousands daily and shot and killed unarmed by the imperialist's first line of defense on a regular basis. Prisoners in Amerika are abused, oppressed, repressed, exploited and murdered either outright or by other means, i.e. denying medical treatment, etc. Of course some prisons are more brutal to its prisoners than others but make no mistake about it - we are all brutalized! SHUs by their very nature are torture kamps period.
This environment would thus produce more resistance just as one will find more resistance to imperialism in a Third World country than in say Amerika or England. The oppressed nations are still oppressed regardless if they are in this country or that country even if it is at a different level. So too are all prisoners oppressed whether in SHU or mainline. And I do agree that in the 2011 strike efforts SHU prisoners have been the vanguard in propelling and boldly arousing the thousands of prisoners to the call of action, our efforts were international as prisoners in other countries such as Canada and Australia even joined the strike in solidarity with Pelican Bay prisoners and thus with all prisoners in Amerika. Activists in Canada dropped a banner on the jail proclaiming its prisoners were hunger striking with Pelican Bay and so the banner read 'from Pelican Bay to Collins Bay'. So yes SHU prisoners spearheaded this mass effort but it should not become common for prisoners to rely on the "Pelican Bay vanguard" as this is dangerous.
When a movement is focused on a leader or a certain group... if these leaders are imprisoned, neutralized or corrupted the movement crumbles. One of the strengths of the current 'Occupy Wall Street Movement' is that it is a united front with no 'leader' or cadre group leading the pack. The state hates this and unleashes its propaganda machine to smut the OWS movement up as 'not being sure what they want' or 'not having leaders'. The state wants public 'leaders' to neutralize and take down as they have done for the past hundred years whenever a group rises up in Amerika.
Of course there is a role for leaders as vanguard whether they be in prison or out in society, but it's a dangerous road for the movement when people begin to rely on the "Pelican Bay vanguard" and take on the attitude of "I'm not going to strike or protest this or that because Pelican Bay isn't doing it right now" or if an injustice comes up in a prison in say North Dakota etc, and the prisoners say "well I'll wait until Pelican Bay rises up again." Some may even go so far as beginning to think that say prisoners in Hawaii are striking and they are in Alaska and they may say "well it's not the Pelican Bay prisoners I'm not partaking." This happens even here in California where if an action is not including Pelican Bay prisoners its looked at half-heartedly and many lose interest in 'rising up.' This is a real problem, one that I hope to combat in its infancy as I see the damage this brings to future struggles and it really retards the political development of prisoners into participants rather than individual leaders themselves.
What we must keep in mind is prisons today are much different than what prisons were in the days of Attica or Santa Fe, etc. Today prisoners are more controlled; prison activists are quickly targeted, separated and isolated from the prison mass. More and more control units are designed to house the revolutionary prisoners. Even on a "mainline" of level four prisons in California you only go out to yard with the roughly 200 prisoners in your block, with the other 800 or so in their cells waiting their turn. Some places only half a block goes out so 100 or less are out at a time. The state has begun to implement these methods past Attica and past Santa Fe to tighten their control on the prison population and attempt to smother any future embers of resistance. So as the state attempts to divide and conquer the prison population, prisoners often find themselves alone or with only a handful of conscious prisoners engaged in activism. It is these conscious prisoners that should be as matter - in constant motion constantly doing your thing to push the momentum.
And so although SHU prisoners have been the vanguard thus far I disagree with the writer when s/he says "The SHU prisoners are the vanguard in the struggle and it is up to them if the movement moves forward or dies a humiliating death." I believe this type of thinking is an error and incorrect. SHU prisoners, nor any prisoners who form the united front, consist as a centralized party, nor was this strike movement built with any hierarchy. And although I largely agree that the prison vanguard can be found in SHU, to say whether the movement "moves forward or dies" is up to SHU prisoners kind of reduces the larger prison masses (general population) to bystanders or frees them from responsibility should the movement die "a humiliating death" as the writer put it. SHU prisoners are extremely limited in their ability to operate, we are deprived to the point of it being torture. In some cases no mail period is allowed to or from a prisoner. In other cases any time one leaves a cell in shackles a team of guards with camcorder walk recording ones every step!
What we need to do is emphasize the responsibility of those on the general populations (mainlines) to learn from the international effort that was unleashed and begin to boldly arouse the imprisoned masses to get used to demanding human decency where it does not exist, to become familiar with refusing to be dehumanized, refusing to be exploited and refusing to be abused out on the mainlines. Small efforts and strikes, even when domestic (confined to one's prison) whether victorious or not, work to condition the imprisoned masses to the beautiful concept of resistance. A rally around lockdowns, food or educational/vocational opportunities quickly forages a footprint on the psyche and revolutionary spirit of those who participate in a grievance of some sort and teaches the priceless lesson of practice. Theory goes only so far in any struggle, at some point the baby must stand and take its own steps and this is a truly liberating and transforming experience that works to build on future efforts concerning a united front.
Every gulag in every state of Amerika is capable of injecting the movement with a second wind. It is up to every prisoner to begin to think of themselves as having the potential to move the movement forward or letting it die a humiliating death regardless of what prison or what state you dwell in! What holds any movement back is the will of the people to overcome what seems in our way. Mao said "a single spark can start a prairie fire" which has proven true time and again.
The fact that this effort included all LOs already shows that LOs comprehend the need to come together in a common effort; that hurdle has been completed. It is important that the imprisoned masses understand the concept of protracted struggle: it is a long drawn out effort in which, while practice is performed, the people are constantly studying and sharpening our ideologies. In this way we are wearing out the oppressor while building up the people politically.
I disagree with the proposal of the writer that we should focus on the debriefing process as our primary focus. I think this will work to divide the people. The problem is not all prisoners in SHU are validated for "debriefing" information, as many people's validation did not even use information from debriefing. Besides that we need to come high and see what unfolds. I do believe debriefing should be one of the demands but not the sole focus. In dealing with prison strikes and grievances I have found it more effective to make a list of demands and after its all over you may get one or two granted. I believe the demand to close the SHU needs to be at the forefront and I'm surprised it was not included in the five demands of the strikes.
Whether the state will actually comply or not should never affect our choice in a strike, but the demand to close the SHU should be at the front of our rallying cry as it generates a broader support system, it is a uniting force like no other for prisoners. Every state has a control unit whether it's called a SHU, SMU, etc. Of course we will always have other demands depending on the prison or oppressive circumstances of each facility but the primary demand, the most important should always be "Close down the control units!" Control units equal torture, this has been agreed by even the United Nations. The U.$. Supreme Court recently ruled California prisons in general amount to cruel and unusual punishment so it is a fact, let us now raise public opinion to this fact and in the process we will win "winnable" battles on meals, debriefing etc, and along the way the people will be energized by these winnable battles.
These small victories help keeping our eye, as well as the public's, on the most important aspect of our movement and that is to close the torture chambers known as SHU, SMU, etc. Whether we are victorious in this main demand in one year or twenty years is not what we should gauge our 'victory' with. Rather we should recognize conscious lifting and prison mass that is brought deeper into the struggle in the process - this is a true victory for the people.
It is true that we need to develop a strategic vision and understanding to move the movement forward and build what has already been laid down. This strategy should stem from a court analysis not only of the SHU environment but of the entire Amerikan prison system as this is what kind of movement we should be shooting for. ULK reaches many prisoners who can and will take these nutrients and flourish not just with the theory put for them in ULK but build on this and adapt it to each persyn's specific environment.
In California I see abolishing the 3 strikes law as worthy of a demand. The right to medical care is another. Contact visits for all. Access to direct sunlight. Nutritious food and access to all vitamin supplements, protein powders and other means to stay healthy. The abolishment of the use of solitary confinement. Abolish the debriefing system. Abolish censorship. Get parole dates and stop this denial for subjective reasons. The use of control units in Amerika is frowned upon by many people in society, from religious, activist, even some bourgeois liberals and actors oppose control units. The 2.4 million prisoners and their friends who oppose control units, some may not know they exist but all in all this is where we gain our most traction and support, it is precisely where we should start. I believe it is prison activists best organizing tool given to us complements of imperialism, we should not allow this opportunity to wither away.
There are crucial points that should be addressed in future efforts whether these efforts manifest in Pelican Bay or in a prison in North Dakota. The five demands were good, but as I pointed out above there are certainly more pressing issues that need to surface. The thing is to constantly improve on any effort one is involved in; move forward, not simply reproduce what occurred in Pelican Bay's torture chambers, but produce a stronger and more spectacular effort the next round. The Cultural Revolution was launched to unleash the people and have them not simply follow Mao's lead. It was to have the people themselves lead society to struggle in all different spheres, to push the "vanguard" forward, move society with all the creative energy of the masses and transform society and the vanguard.
This is what the 2011 strike movement should do to prisoners across Amerika, it should unleash the people's will to resist, uncork the desire to cast off oppression in every dungeon and every prison cell across Amerika and to teach not to just do like we do or say what we say but allow your dignity as men and wimmin to rise above your oppression and create two, three Pelican Bay movements for your humanity and become a force that awakens prison activism wherever you are no matter how many stand with you. A single street vendor in Tunisia sparked revolution in different countries! Realize your abilities, they are powerful in a concrete tomb. So take my shackled hand and I'll take yours and let's pull our way to freedom!
MIM(Prisons) responds: As we've expressed elsewhere, we do not abdicate leadership in the prison movement. We have much unity with what cipactli writes here in regards to organizing strategies that are decentralized and that protect their leaders. However, we do recognize the need for political leadership that s/he hints at. We recognize that the scientific endeavor that is revolutionary struggle produces scientific knowledge. And certain individuals and groups will possess and understand this knowledge before others. The Occupy movement is a mass movement that attempts to prevent any small group from taking control of it and defining it's politics. Such an approach can be a great learning experience in a budding mass movement. But such a movement will be very limited in what it can achieve, and just as has happened with the Occupy movement, a leadership will quickly come forth despite the claims to the contrary. That is why the scientific approach is to recognize and utilize leadership, utilizing real accountability and real democracy.
I'm writing to enlighten you of the new developments here within this oppressed segregated unit [Corcoran Ad-Seg]. For many years we have been denied our constitutional rights: our appeals process is wrongfully exercised, our appeals being lost or trashed or never making it to the appeals coordinators office. Our time constraints are being violated and surpass the time limitations they impose. But if we pass, even by a day, this administration gets very legalistic and denies our appeals on the sole basis of "time constraints."
By court order, we are allowed to possess TVs or radios, but this unit is depriving us of that right, telling us that due to "budget cuts" we cannot get our appliances. This doesn't make any sense at all, because there are so many other activities that are taking place and money being wasted on unnecessary things, but yet they claim "budget cuts."
The health care in this unit is poor, we lack the basic necessities and it takes up to two months to see the doctor and when we see him/her we get denied the rightful care. They continue to defy the court's order!
We are living under extreme conditions. It is real cold over here and yet they have the AC blowing. Our cells are super cold. We have gotten at numerous officers and the sergeant of this unit but to no avail, our environment continues to be cold.
This is just the beginning of the many violations and the torture we must endure, especially psychological. I've been filing grievances upon grievances challenging our conditions, but they just say, "we're working on it."
The rest of the comrades and I are in protest. We have begun a hunger strike. December 28, 2011 was the beginning of this peaceful protest, and we will continue this struggle till our needs are met.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We just hit the two year anniversary of the beginning of a United Struggle from Within campaign in California demanding that prisoner grievances be addressed. It continues to be a popular campaign, though many recognize its inherent limits in a system that is not interested in our grievances. Z-Unit in High Desert did utilize the campaign to achieve some temporary victories in their conditions. But it is little surprise comrades have stepped it up a notch beyond the petitions we were circulating.
While there is much to consider in strategizing and moving forward in the face of this repression, there is no doubt that conditions in California prisons continue to lead prisoners to make greater sacrifices in struggling for their common cause.
I'm doing okay here just maintaining and trying to stay positive throughout this madness that they call the SHU. Things are pretty much the same around here as they were before the hunger strikes. Basically all that's changed is the fact that we have beanies and can buy sweats and sweaters in our packages now. And also if you have a year clean then you can take a picture and buy art supplies, and we can get calendars in the mail.
So I don't know what's going on with all of the rest of the promises that were made as a result of the hunger strikes. The CDCR administration basically is keeping us in the dark and trying to shut down any and all communication that they feel is a threat.
CDCR stopped an eight-page double sided publication that was printed off of the computer back around the end of October. I appealed it and just received a response with them denying my appeal, so now I have to send it to the final level in Sacramento which I am doing tonight.
They say that since it talks about the hunger strikes and the organizers of the hunger strikers here in the SHU that it promotes gang activity. Also since there are other prisoners' letters that are reporting on what is going on in these prisons then that is prisoner correspondence and third party mail. And finally they claim that it promotes a conspiracy to disrupt prison security and that if we are allowed to receive said publication then it would be promoting the conspiracy to cause others mass disruptions of prison programs. Like I said I'm sending it to the final level of appeal and once I get it back I'll send it to you for you to see.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This report of only very small gains in response to the recent California prison food strike is consistent with what we have heard from others. The Five Core Demands of the strikers have been basically ignored with the exception of the really minor examples they provided for the fifth demand "Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates": this is where the art supplies, calendars and sweat suits were mentioned.
This is typical of the CDCR and in fact of all branches of imperialism: they give nothing to the oppressed without being forced to, and they give the minimum possible. The imperialists will concede nothing without a fight, and as we can see from the California hunger strike, even a widespread protest is not enough to accomplish significant change. This protest helped raise awareness of the struggle, and brought many people into activism. Now we must build on that experience.
I've never heard of MIM(Prisons) but enjoyed reading your newsletter and could relate to most of it. I will pass it on to others (already have!) and get more to add to your mailing list.
Please, if it's possible, beg off a little on the SNY stuff! It really turns a lot of our stomachs, to be sure. When I came into the system in the 80s there was no such thing as SNY. Everyone held their mud, even those who got hit (because if they talked, they knew they wouldn't live through the next one.) If you "locked up" you went to the hole, period! No yard, no packages, no programming of any kind, nothing! Now, they make it too easy for guys to be weak and run off to the child molesters, rapists yard!
If you really feel you absolutely must print their filth, please get all the facts correct. Such as ULK 23, p. 13, Hunger Strike First Step in Building a United Front, second paragraph "and Pleasant Valley State Prison is SNY." I know more than a few guys who're going to be none too pleased about this news, as they are still there. I got my case (SHU) off of C yard, then got sent to Tehachapi SHU 4B, which is mostly GP, same for 4A Ad-Seg.
FYI, Pleasant Valley A yard is Level IV SNY, B yard is Level III GP, C yard is Level III GP, D yard is Level III SNY, and Level I is GP! Call CDCR and verify these facts if you will. It's your newsletter, but I would seriously consider (re-consider) who and what you print.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to commend this comrade for recognizing that a few disagreements should not stop us from working together and spreading the revolutionary United Front. In that spirit we want to struggle for greater unity here.
The writer is responding to an ongoing debate in Under Lock & Key about prisoners who escape the mainline for Special Needs Yards (SNY) where they are pushed to "debrief" or snitch on fellow prisoners in return for better treatment (in particular in the context of California prisons, but there are parallel situations everywhere). Many prisoners have already testified that not all SNY prisoners must debrief, a fact that this comrade is not disputing. So the gist of his argument is that it's "too easy" for prisoners who run off to SNY. But prison is never easy, and as long as a comrade is engaging in solid and consistent political work, and not selling out his fellow prisoners, we don't care that s/he got moved to SNY to avoid persynal danger. Prisoners are constantly fighting legal battles to get moved away from dangerous prisons to places they hope will be better. Conditions are so bad in all prisons that this is rarely a significant change, but we won't tell anyone they have to stay in a situation that's dangerous to them if they have an alternative that doesn't involve endangering others.
As for the criticism of the facts in the Hunger Strike article, we take this very seriously. We rely on our comrades behind bars to report the facts about the prisons where they reside, but we do try to check facts wherever we can. In this case we should have caught this error about PVSP. It does not change the point made in that article calling for unity, but it's important we get facts correct.