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.
In the course of my imprisonment at this facility we've been on a perpetual lockdown induced by the administration to conserve the limited resources and money appropriated to operate the facility. We're currently in our cells 24/7 and are only afforded escorted showers every few days. We have been denied yard, dayroom, phone calls, visits, law library access, adequate and nutritious food, education, and work.
I recently came in contact with a camarada who referred me to your organization and I would like to contribute any way I can to unify peace in prisons. Over the last few months, I've organized a campaign to bring change to our conditions and have been utilizing the administrative process to seek relief, which has been otherwise unsuccessful and only brought about the "privilege" of purchasing items from their canteen and the order of items through package companies who extort our family members by making them purchase luxury items at a 500%-1000% mark up, so that their private industry of capitalist pigs can profit from our poor families. I'm moving for a boycott on such items and to not put any more money in their fat pockets.
I've also been educating those who wish to learn and build up their minds. Since coming in contact with your newsletter, I've taken the liberty to expand your mailing list by assisting a few comrades in contacting you and have shared ULK with comrades who have been interested.
Corcoran prison officials have been retaliating and harassing the prisoners. They started feeding us on small paper trays, leaving us in our cells for days without exercise yard, and openly telling us it's because of people going on hunger strike.
Institution Gang Investigations (IGI) has been harassing everybody, even me. They came and took everything out of my living cell claiming that I am a suspected BGF member. That's crazy! I'm not from any gang at all. Corcoran prison officials got me going back to court facing 10 years to life. They wrote up several false reports on me stating I assaulted staff and the Hanford County DA picked up all the cases.
They are retaliating and punishing everybody. And get this: the prisoners are running scared. They stopped filing complaints against the police, saying: "I don't want IGI fucking with me." Man! It hurts bad to see my own comrades laying down and giving up.
I have been really pushing hard to shut down the Security Housing Units. I have been telling everybody to stop taking a cellmate. Can you imagine the panic that will come over head officials if everybody with a cellmate said no, I'm not taking a cellie. Imagine that. Then ask yourselves should we push for another hunger strike and hurt our health and become too weak to fight these pigs? Or should we push for a big movement to stop all comrades from taking a cellmate? I'll give these pigs 30 days and they will shit on themselves and give up whatever we demand.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We know that the California prisons have been retaliating against prisoners who participated in the recent hunger strikes, and this comrade raises a good point in pushing forward the discussion about best tactics for next steps.
I've been reading through the past few newsletters that you sent. First I want to thank you for sharing with me. I find it interesting and enjoy hearing about the rebellions against the system. It's fucked up to hear what fellow prisoners have to deal with, but from experience I know a time comes when we must say enough is enough. So I would like to share an experience with you that I had while doing time in California Youth Authority.
In August of 1996 a counselor was killed in YTS (Youth Training School) in Chino, California. She just disappeared one day. Three days later her body was found in the Chino dumping grounds. This has repercussions throughout the whole youth authority, statewide. But it really hit hard right here in YTS. They locked the whole institution down and things didn't completely go back to normal operations for about a year. We were slammed down 24 hours a day. The only thing we came out of our cells for was a racially segregated shower for 3 minutes a day. That's it! The only thing sold on canteen was Ajax to clean our cells. They took away weights, cigarettes, magazine subscriptions, visits, phone calls, school and trade classes, packages, canteen, everything. If you had a TV, radio or shoes you were allowed to keep them, but they were no longer being sold on canteen. Cells got ransacked and a lot of electronics went straight into the trash.
Now, understand that YTS is ages 18-25. No minors are there. This place is known as gladiator school. It's the end of the road before going into CDC (California Department of Corrections). The majority of the vatos go there from the younger YAs for punishment. And the majority of these youngsters are maxed out till they're 25. So that's a 7 year stretch on top of what they've already done. There's nothing that could stop them from going home besides new charges, and a trip upstate. So most already don't give a fuck, and then the system itself took away everything that kept us calm. And they had no intentions of giving anything back. So fuck it, we kicked it off. And kept kicking it off. It was mostly racial riots, fighting amongst each other, but there were times the pigs would get smashed out, jaws broken, etc.
That's just the way it was, although I now see all our energy should've been focused against the system itself. But what we did worked to our advantage. Through years of struggles and fighting the puercos could not control us. Outside administration thought the superintendent didn't have what it takes, so they replaced him. The second superintendent wasn't trying to hear any of our demands or compromise either. So we kept doing what we did and eventually he got replaced too. The third superintendent since the killing was a little more understanding and wanted to keep his job. So in an attempt to calm us down he reformed the institution to our benefit.
They started selling TVs, radios and shoes again. We got magazine subscriptions, day long visits, necklaces, and even packages (which were only twice a year to start with, but it was a start). There were a few things we didn't get back (weights, cigarettes, playboy, tape players, etc.), and all the juvenile lifers got shot to the big joints.
Furthermore, the amount of time we were slammed down improved. YTS had a policy of locking down the whole institution for two or three months at a time for basically anything more major than a 1 on 1 fight (which is almost every incident). So while cats are sitting in their cells pissed off, they figure if they're gonna be slammed down for something they didn't do they might as well get involved and make it worth it. So, just about every incident that happened turned into a riot. The superintendent then changed the policy and only slammed down the unit involved. It still wasn't good enough, because usually not everyone on the unit is involved. Then he changed it so only the races involved are slammed down. Still not good enough. Well, after years of going through this we finally got it to where they only slammed down the people involved and only for three days of racially segregated showers. We then all came out together for day room program for 30 days. After that we were allowed to go back to school, trade, and yard. Not too bad. But it wasn't an easy path. When I got released in 2001 it was still off the hook. There was shit happening just about everyday - one unit after the next - and we were still getting shit back from the system.
So there we were, an institution that went from having it all, to having nothing overnight. It wasn't the whole prisoner population that killed that counselor, only one person was accused of it. But they retaliated on us as a whole group. So we reacted in a way that seemed justified to us. And it worked. Never once did we try any peaceful protest (food strikes, canteen strikes, phone strikes, etc.) There was no such thing in our eyes. I'm not against a peaceful resolution when dealing with the system, but as Mao said, it's up to us to analyze our own conditions of oppression and react accordingly. The institution pushed us in a corner with no reasonable way out.
I know there's many oppressed prisoners nationwide who feel hopeless, who feel there's no way things can get better. They feel lost and in the dark. Therefore, there comes a time when we must say enough is enough and make the necessary sacrifices to better our own conditions on the necessary level, peaceful or otherwise. It's better to try and fail than to have never tried at all. May honor, hope and victory be with those in the struggle.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is true that there are times when fighting repression with peaceful protests will lead to nothing more than ongoing repression. This is why revolutionaries know that the only way to achieve ultimate victory over the imperialists is through armed struggle; they will not give up their power without a fight. Even within the criminal injustice system this is true. However, engaging in armed struggle prematurely will only lead to greater oppression and deaths for the oppressed. This is what revolutionaries call focoism: revolutionary violence without the proper support and mass base and often without the correct ideological leadership.
This story about Chino appears to counter our position that we need to build the vanguard leadership and mass base of support before engaging in armed struggle. The prisoners there successfully won back many privileges that had been taken away by rioting and fighting each other. But we have to look at what they really won. As this writer notes, the privileges taken away were things that used to keep the population calm: TV, radio, canteen, etc. These are pacifying elements, not threats to the criminal injustice system.
Certainly lockdown 24 hours a day is inhumane, and we want our comrades to have access to reading material and visits and phone calls. All these things are essential to raising political consciousness and re-integrating back into society. But did the riots that forced the prisons to throw prisoners a few bones actually gain anything for the fight against the criminal injustice system? Prisoners learned that fighting each other is rewarded. They didn't learn how to fight the pigs. They didn't gain any education about the actual cause of their oppression or how to get free. And as we look at the contradictions between prisoners we also must ask what role privileges play in pacifying sectors of the imprisoned lumpen and turning them against those that rebel. This is a question United Struggle from Within is contemplating as we discuss which is the principal contradiction facing the prison movement.
The victory of a few calming privileges at YTS is an example of how little can be accomplished with focoist violence, and how an ultra-left focus on "action" is often just the other side of rightist reformism. Next time the prison takes away privileges there will be no better organization, no greater understanding and no progress towards real change. As a counter example, in Pelican Bay and elsewhere, the recent hunger strike led prisoners to study politics and organizing, and to think more systemically about how to fight the criminal injustice system and what we really want to win. This may not have resulted in many (if any) privileges won for prisoners, but the growing education and unity is a much bigger victory.
In Richard J. Donovan State Prison in San Diego Ad-Seg this place is off the hook with their green wall mentality and tactics. For starters, today I got my mail and it's your magazine dated August 9, 2011. So these people are playing with our mail. It took seven months to get my mail from you. If that ain't censoring our mail then I don't know what is. There are other items of mail I've been waiting on that I still have not received. I've written ISU (Institution Services Unit) and the mailroom to find out whats going on with my mail, they have not bothered to respond.
When I was on the line here at RJDSP I worked as a porter in the EOP (Enhanced Outpatient Program) building. I used to find 10 to 20 letters a day in the trashcan. I got to the point of just passing out mail to these guys myself, as I found it in the trash. The pigs keep whatever they want here, mags, photos out of letters, stamps, money orders, visiting apps, etc.
Mail is just the tip of the BS going on. I've eye witnessed back-to-back beatings by CDCs finest. These poor guys here have tried time and again to get outside help, all these people do is screen our mail and hold back what they don't want getting out.
The food is bland and there is no salt in our food. The amount is so small in portion that a child could barely live off it. The air conditioning is on full blast to keep us frozen in the middle of winter. The conditions are so bad - it's so dirty in here and they never give us cleaning supplies.
My neighbor got an infection on his toe, and they wouldn't treat him for it. It got so bad they had to cut it off. They got us sleeping on mattresses that are stained with piss. Or in some cases no mattress. But if we make a big deal by asking for help, we'll get the shit beat out of us, and stripped down to nothing. I've been in Ad-Seg for a minute now and still haven't got my property. But I refuse to stop the fight no matter where they put me. This is why I write, to encourage others to never let these people still your spirit.
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!