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.
As I laid there on my prison issued bunk, nursing my wounds and pains, I thought back to the very day I was sentenced to prison. Did my sentence also include occasional excessive force? Did the judge also pronounce contrived rule violations as part of my sentence? Were all my constitutional rights relinquished that day? I don't recall the judge asserting anything to that fact. But evidently, brutality perpetuated Under the Color of State Law is an inherited trait of prison.
The term "Under Color of State Law" means that civil rights were violated by an individual or individuals who at the time of the violation were employed by the local, State, or Federal government.
Since brutality under Color of State Law is so prevalent, it would be appropriate if the sentencing Judge would state the obvious during the sentencing phase of whatever crime a person was convicted of. The Judge could say something to the fact, "I'm sentencing you to 10 years in prison, plus some occasional excessive force, which will be administrated by various rogue Correctional Officers throughout the course of your confinement. In addition, you will also be subjected to several contrived rule violations. The frequency of these false rule reports will depend on the utter lack of integrity and the psychopathy of each rogue Officer." At least this information would give a person facing incarceration a heads up. Time to mentally prepare themselves for the Guantanamo Bay-style treatment that will be visited upon them.
During the course of Correctional Officer B. Johnson's assault on me, I felt as if I were somehow transported to a Third World country where human rights and regulation did not exist. Apparently, my assailant felt the same. How else could he feel so at ease with openly violating my civil rights, right there in front of two other officers, who evidently concurred with B. Johnson's views on civil rights? Maybe the three officers forgot they were in Amerika? That they were correctional officers employed to uphold the law in a system governed by the U.S. Constitution? Or just maybe they forgot that I am a human being? Officer B. Johnson did call me a "Jungle Bunny." But if that were the case, shouldn't animal rights have protected me that night? Here in America, if you harm an animal, you will go to jail. Who knows what the three officer's were or were not thinking. Whatever it was, the shear, sadism of it all was revealed that night.
The assault was witnessed by two prisoners. Both were housed in a cell that gave them a direct view of the incident as it took place. One prisoner, who initially claimed that he witnessed the assault, later recanted his story. He became a confidential informant. He had alleged to the investigating Officers that I conspired to falsely write up B. Johnson for assault. He was originally placed in the hole for a cell fight, whereupon he threw hot boiling water on his cellmate. His cellmate received 3rd degree burns on his face and chest area. At that time he was facing a segregated program (SHU term) for assault on a prisoner with a weapon (hot water), causing serious injury. Also a possible DA referral. But all that disappeared after he provided false confidential information concerning B. Johnson's role in the assault. This prisoner was released from the hole and placed on Corcoran's SNY yard, which is a protective custody yard, equivalent to Disneyland.
Officer B. Jonson, has a history of assaulting prisoners in handcuffs. Now I have a permanent shoulder injury. I will need surgery at some point. I have received physical therapy treatment.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's assessment that prison sentences in Amerika come with implicit brutality and both physical and mental abuse. These go well beyond the legal punishments supposedly a part of criminal "justice" in this country. As this abuse is standard in Amerikan prisons, we disagree that the perpetrators are "rogue officers." We need to expose this systematic brutality and organize towards a level of unity that will make it very difficult for individuals to turn against their fellow prisoners, and where the guards know that we have the numbers to fight back and prevent this violence.
On 19 January 2011 High Desert State Prison (HDSP) was visited by administrators from the headquarters of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in Sacramento, as well as the inspector general. These administrators finally listened to the many complaints from prisoners and outside advocacy groups and started an investigation into the corrupt policies and actions in place here at HDSP. In this struggle, MIM(Prisons) was instrumental in sending us petitions to submit regarding the appeals process.
This investigation had two parts. It was carried out by several administrators and started in the morning and continued into the early evening. Several prisoners were interviewed, some once, while others twice. I was one of those who was interviewed twice, first by a Correctional Counselor II from headquarters. We discussed the appeals process here at HDSP. During this interview we mostly talked about how our appeals are continuously screened out, denied, lost or simply ignored. The interviewer asked meaningful and intelligent questions and took detailed notes, and he appeared surprised by the lack of meaningful access to the appeals process. This interview only lasted between 10 and 15 minutes.
Later that same day, at around 5:45 p.m., I was again taken from my cell for an interview. This time it was with a captain from headquarters (Sacramento) and the inspector general. During this interview I was told that they, Sacramento CDCR Headquarters, were doing these interviews due to the pressure and complaints coming into Sacramento from prisoners, advocacy groups, and prisoners' families. They said they were simply conducting fact-finding interviews. This interview was more in-depth than the morning interview. We discussed a wide range of topics during the interview from the mass validations of the northern Hispanics on 4 August 2009, the poor conditions here in Z-unit (administrative segregation), to the many violations of our constitutional rights. Again the interviewers asked many valid questions and took notes, giving the appearance of taking things seriously. I did not buy into the act.
During this meeting they showed me copies of petitions I had mailed out which included the MIM(Prisons) grievance petition. I don't know if this is going to make any difference because I think (and hopefully I'm wrong) this was only a smoke and mirror show to attempt to pacify those of us who are fighting against these corrupt and unjust policies. But only time will tell how big a victory this truly was, because it was a victory!
I seriously doubt anything comes of this so-called investigation that is a significant improvement to the quality of life for us here in the zoo (Z-Unit). The reason I think this is the day after the Sacramento officials left HDSP, staff on Z-Unit started their retaliation. They cut our food portions almost in half, and the law library was denied to those of us who are Priority Library Users and have court deadlines. So I expect things will go back to normal in a week or two. Its the same every time anyone visits up here. One of the Sgts did say that they are totally redesigning the entire appeals process and we did get beanies (to protect us from the cold on the yard).
However this is not enough, we cannot afford to be satisfied with this token gesture of a beanie and some promises. No, we must continue to fight and put the pressure on HDSP until we are given all of our rights as well as everything we are entitled to by law and common human decency.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Contact us for more information about the campaign to end the Z-Unit Zoo, and the grievance campaign which is active in multiple states. If there are problems with the grievance system where you're at, spread it to yours!
I just completed my fourth reading of a pamphlet I received from you titled "Shut Down Control Units in Prison," and I found it in step with my own thoughts on the subject.
Your interpretation on how prisoners are validated is right on point and I'm living proof of it, my validation was based on my being in possession of written materials and an image of a dragon. But the inept way in which I was validated isn't what made me go into a state of frenzy, it was the fact that after being in the prison system for 12 years, prior to my being validated, I had no idea of what the validation process was. As one who spent a great deal of his time studying the rules and regulations of the prison system, I can only guess that the reason I overlooked the validation process is because I became too busy fighting to make a difference in other areas of the prison system, but now that I'm in the grasp of the demon I'm going to alter the hell he has pulled so many into.
After spending about a year in the SHU trying to figure out how the hell I was validated, I rolled up my sleeves and started working on how to not only get myself out of the SHU, but the multitude of others around me. But I soon found out that a large number of prisoners in the SHU feel so defeated that they have given up hope and become content with being in the SHU. Some have even become proud of being validated and don't want to hear anything from me about what we can do to get out of the SHU.
One of the first cases that I started studying about the validation process is a case you wrote about in the pamphlet you sent to me which is the Castillo case. Now don't get me wrong the case knocked on the door of change, but it should have kicked down the door. An example of what I'm referring to is the rule change requiring that a prisoner has to be in possession of items such as written materials or symbols on their body before they are placed in the SHU. But what the attorneys who represented Castillo didn't ask the court to make a requirement of is that the CDCR must list the names of which written materials, tattoos and symbols are "gang related," because as we now know the CDCR can say anything that they want is a gang related item.
I've written to the attorneys who represented Castillo, and one told me that they no longer work on prison cases and the other one who you wrote about in the article told me that he wanted $5000 to answer my questions about the Castillo ruling. So I filed a 602-appeal, and to make a long story short my appeal was shot down due to my filing it too late, and although that door was closed another one has opened and I'll keep you updated on the outcome.
Another thing you wrote about prisoners being in the SHU that I agree with is how atrocious it is that a prisoner can be put in the SHU for a determinate term for committing a violent act, but a prisoner who has a tattoo, symbol or certain written materials in their possession will be put in the SHU without committing any violent action for an indeterminate term for a minimum of 6 years (this also is a stipulation that the attorneys for Castillo could have changed). In conversations that I've had with some Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI), they have agreed with me about the flaws in the validation process, but also said that it isn't their responsibility to correct it. I can understand why they would say it, so myself and other prisoners must pick up the baton and run with it towards the finish line of change. It's time for me to step down from my podium speaking about subjects you already have a full understanding of, so in closing I thank you for all that you are doing for those of us behind prison walls and I look forward to hearing from you again.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Check out our campaign against control units for more information on the fight against these torture chambers filled with people on false gang validations.
I am currently in an Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) for nothing. I guess you can call it mistaken identity or racial profiling. A group of about eight prisoners (Blacks) got into a fist fight. The pigs rounded up 21 of us and placed us in ASU for participation in a riot. The people who were actually involved fessed up to it like men in order to get the rest of us cut loose who had nothing to do with the incident. But the pigs didn't want to hear the truth. They placed us in ASU and two days later sent three pigs to interview us one at a time and again the parties involved tried to accept the blame and the pigs told them they were lying. Since no one wanted to tell them what the issue was that started the fight, they decided to issue us all a CDC-115 Rule Violation Report, which is punishable by a 90 day time add and up to six months in the SHU.
These pigs had all 21 of us sitting on the hard asphalt handcuffed for nine hours. After which they put us in ASU and didn't give us a blanket to sleep under. We were handcuffed for so long without being allowed to drink water, one guy actually passed out and hit his head on the concrete. The pigs and the medical staff did nothing. Two of the brothers went on a hunger strike in protest. One guy lasted eight days. The other guy went for 19 days before they came and took him to the medical facility.
Incidents like this are prerequisites to gang validation. By participating in group disturbances you are being labeled by the administration as an "associate" of a particular group/gang. Three CDC-115 Rule Violation Reports for participation in a riot is grounds for an indeterminate SHU placement. This alone makes you a potential candidate for gang validation. Another way they get you is by the group you congregate with. In this territorial, tribal environment of the prison yard a person has no choice but to hang around the people they know and are comfortable around. You don't have to be a gang member but the pigs are going to label you an "associate" and as such if those people from that group get into something and get locked down, the "associate" gets lockdown too. The same goes for your cellmate.
Here in CDCR you can't choose your cell mate. You have to go where they put you or get a 115 and go to ASU. Now if they house you with a gang member then you get the label of being an "associate" of that gang. Then you have to go through a whole gauntlet of stuff to get that label removed. After they tie you in with a certain amount of "misconduct" with a group they label you as being a "member" of then you'll end up spending the duration of your prison sentence in the SHU unless you "Debrief." And once you debrief you're headed to an SNY. A lot of guys get labeled just based on where you live.
To avoid this process a lot of guys are opting to go to a SNY straight off the fish bus, only to find the same stuff going on on the SNY. Once you go SNY, for whatever reason, you can never go back to GP. All the stuff going on at High Desert is nothing but a divide and conquer strategy. Some of those guys are going to break rank and tell pigs whatever they want to hear, even if it's a lie, to get out of that situation. You see these pigs are playing chess and they're aggressively attacking the pawns in order to get the king. And if they have to lock us all up until all they have is whole prisons full of snitches, then that's what they're going to do.
We as prisoners in this imperialist u.s. prison system need to stop pointing fingers. There's nothing wrong with constructive criticism. If the criticism is not aimed at uplifting the person or people being criticized then it does no good. Stop calling out names and singling out groups. Instead reach one teach one. Don't be a commentator, be an inspirator and a motivator. The revolution will not happen overnight. We're up against a powerful enemy. It took Blacks four hundred years to break the chains of slavery only to become slaves to capitalism. Now we have to figure out a way to break these chains. It's going to take a group effort. You push me, I'll pull you. Push, Pull, Strive! And together we'll rise!
Determining who to write to regarding a specific issue is a tactical question. One day it may be most important to write to the Director of Corrections, the other it may be the Office of the Inspector General. We make tactical decisions based on our conditions at the time. In this circumstance, participants in the campaign to end the Z-Unit Zoo were bringing this issue to many government bodies, including the Director of Corrections and the Inspector General.
In this response from the office of the Division of Adult Institutions, A. Redding advises the participant to exhaust the appeals process. Clearly in the petition, it says that many grievances have been filed and none have been answered. This response is a good example of how inhumane conditions and abuse can hide behind the bureaucracy of the state under capitalism.
The above letter is a response from a Corrections Counselor II Specialist (CCII) of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to a prisoner in California who submitted to h the grievance for the proper handling of grievances. Even though a CCII is in a position to influence whether grievances are handled in a legal or illegal manner, at least within h institution, in this letter A. Redding advises the prisoner to file a lawsuit or contact the Inspector General on the matter.
In this response to a grievance petition from California sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ), they minimize the widespread scale of corruption of the grievance system in the California state prison system. Instead they are asking for facts and dates related to single incidents or perpetrators.
In "Bad Apples" in the Pig Pen we explained why a focus on targeting individual pigs is incorrect in most cases in our struggle because the problems we address are societal. Although societal problems manifest in individual pigs, focusing all of our energy trying to get one or two pigs fired from our facility doesn't significantly impact society as a whole.
One may argue that the DOJ just needs a place to begin their investigation. However, the petition makes it clear that this problem is widespread throughout the system. Realistically they could interview prisoners at random for details and receive enough information to begin an investigation. Their narrow and sterile approach to "justice" is just a cover for their interests in maintaining the status quo.
The pigs at CCI Tehachapi SHU are monitoring revolutionary correspondence and materials coming through the mail; not censoring but delaying them by as much as three to four weeks. This specific instance was a personal experience, but it can be concluded that if one individual's revolutionary activity is being monitored, then all revolutionaries may be monitored.
Due to a medical condition, I must be taken out of my cell and to medical for a weekly injection which I use as an opportunity to butter up loose-mouth pigs and gather intelligence, catching a general idea of the internal condition of the pigs' camp. Never at any time have I mentioned or alluded to my revolutionary standpoint or activities in any way.
While going to medical this past week a pig made a very revealing statement inadvertently, immediately tipping me off that my mail was being monitored, specifically what I'd mailed to MIM(Prisons) the previous week. The pig's statement could not have been reaching because it contained the word "revolution" and related content of a letter to MIM(Prisons).
Let this be a warning to revolutionary activists and comrades across the U.$. injustice system, and California concentration camps in particular, that even if there is no censorship at your facility, if you participate in any serious revolutionary activities, then it's sure to be monitored.
Practical steps may be taken to combat this issue, such as working with and notifying MIM(Prisons) of censorship issues while going through the grievance and court system, if able to do so. Keeping eyes and ears open to detect if you are being monitored is not difficult to do.
If it feels like you are being watched, then you are. Remember, paranoia can be the better part of prudence in the control unit.
Sergeant S. S. Crandell, Yega, S. Motto, S. Byers, and Fish victimized me on 15 October. They stole my television and lied, saying it had wires sticking out.
Guard Yega handcuffed me and took me to the program office over a 602 [grievance] for indigent envelopes I never received. When I returned to the cell, all my legal materials were in a large pile on the floor, covered with shampoo, coffee, hair styling gel and baby powder. My television was gone. Officer S. Motto threatened to kick my ass if I 602ed it.
Can you please help? My aunt has cancer, and my family is sick living on a fixed income.
The November 2 elections promise some shuffling of the imperialist representatives in government, but as usual with elections where the choices are limited to different flavors of imperialist leaders, there will be no real change. One ballot initiative that did catch our attention is Proposition 19 in California which would legalize and regulate marijuana.
In an attempt to reduce support for Prop 19, on 30 September 2010 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that changes the punishment for possession of less than an ounce of pot to just a fine. This reduces the potential impact of Prop 19 and should cut down on the number of people in prison for marijuana possession. But even arrests and convictions without a prison sentence have negative repercussions, so Prop 19 goes farther in limiting the reach of the state in terms of possession laws.
MIM(Prisons) supports any laws that will cut back on the number of people locked up in prison or otherwise controlled by the imperialist state. We know that drug laws (like other laws) are disproportionately prosecuted against oppressed nations within U.$. borders, resulting in huge numbers of Blacks and Latinos behind bars. For this reason we would support legalizing all drugs to take power away from the imperialist government and its criminal injustice system.
In 2009, just over half of the drug arrests were for marijuana (848,408 out of 1,663,583).(1) Marijuana arrests are growing as a proportion of total drug arrests in the U.$., up to 52.6% in 2009 from 39.9% in 1995. This is driven by arrests for simple possession, the percentage of arrests for marijuana trafficking has not changed much over time.(2)
Adding to these statistics on marijuana arrests is compelling information on the disproportionate use of marijuana laws against Black men in California. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reports:
"African Americans, just 6% of the state's population...comprise a staggering 45% of the 1,600 Californians imprisoned for marijuana, including more than half of those locked up for marijuana felonies. Blacks are nearly 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than other races, a racial gap only slightly wider than for other crimes. But after African Americans enter California's 'Black marijuana system,' disparities multiply more than for any other offense. Seven in 10 Black marijuana arrestees are charged with felonies, compared to one-fifth for other races. Blacks convicted of marijuana felonies are 3 times more likely to be sent to prison than Nonblack marijuana felons. The upshot of these accumulating discriminations is that Blacks wind up being imprisoned for marijuana at 8 times the rate of Hispanics and 18 times the rate of Whites. At older ages, the Black-Nonblack marijuana imprisonment gap soars to nearly 4,000%... No other offense (including violent, property, and other crimes) and no other drug (including heroin, methamphetamine, and crack) even remotely displays the huge racial discrepancies in imprisonment for marijuana."(3)
The new law would not completely eliminate marijuana arrests and prosecutions, primarily because it restricts the legal age to 21 and only allows possession of small quantities, but they would be greatly reduced. In addition, the federal government has promised to challenge the constitutionality of Prop 19 if it passes, and to enforce the federal laws in California regardless. Of course we can't look at these laws in a vacuum, the criminal injustice system will not cut back on the police force or shrink the prisons simply because one law changes. Cops will just find other reasons to arrest people, and those people will continue to be disproportionately Black and Latino.
Even worse, cities like Oakland will likely be using the new tax revenues to restore its recently cut back police force. The city stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries if the law passes, as it is home to Oaksterdam University, which will be licensing large growing and distribution centers under the new law. The financial interests behind Oaksterdam University bankrolled the introduction of Prop 19 to the November ballot. Los Angeles campus chancellor Jeff Jones pointed out that support has come primarily from the jobs and tax revenue angle. He says that focusing on imprisonment rates gets little support from Californians.
While the imperialists run the global drug trade, here the state is partnering with corporate interests to take over the local industry, which has been the domain of the lumpen class. Following the national liberation movements of the sixties many in the ghetto who didn't see the Amerikan dream through integration were able to find an income through the drug economy. By the 1970s, Italians, Jews and others who dominated black markets, in particular drugs, had long been integrated into white Amerika. Whites left the inner cities for the suburbs where they could become richer more easily by joining a growing financial sector, allowing for Black and Latino gangs to take over profitable street crime in their own areas. Organized crime, led by the CIA, backed the most individualistic and destructive emerging groups, while repressing Black and Brown power movements and flooding these neighborhoods with cocaine.(4)
Faced with economic crisis today, white Amerika wants these jobs back. And the state is leading the charge, hoping to reach a new tax source to close huge shortfalls in paying their bureaucrat employees - especially their pigs, who account for 85% of city spending in Oakland (police & fire combined).(5) But whites aren't forming a new mafia (at least not exactly). Instead they formed a new university to train and certify workers in the industry and they have joined labor unions to ensure wages of $25.75 an hour with pensions, paid vacations and health insurance.(6) In contrast, reports from the 1990s showed that most in the drug game in the inner cities made around minimum wage and worked long hours (needless to say with no benefits).(7) So the state hopes to shrink the workforce in drug sales and production, pay a few trained workers a nice sum, and increase their share of profits from the sale of marijuana to pay cops and other state employees. In the process, the economic crisis will be passed along to the lumpen who will become ever more desperate to make ends meet. This will lead to more violence and problems, and make the need for self-determination more dire in oppressed nation communities that lack legal job markets.
While MIM(Prisons) supports the passage of laws that result in fewer people in prison, we are under no illusions that even full legalization of drugs in Amerika will solve the drug problems here. As we have seen with alcohol, legalization of a drug does not make for safe use. Amerikan culture is alienating and leads to rampant legal and illegal drug abuse. According to a World Health Organization survey of 17 countries across the globe, the U.$ leads the world in users of both legal and illegal drugs. Drug use is correlated with wealth of a country with the richer countries having a higher percentage of drug users.(8)
It will take a revolution to create a culture that allows people to feel valuable, safe and empowered and not in need of the easy escape that can be found in drugs. After the revolution in China, the Maoist-led country basically eliminated drug addiction through community-based campaigns. Drug addiction, particularly to opium, was a widespread problem imported by the British. But after the revolution there was a strong focus on helping drug addicts get clean, and on giving everyone useful work and education as well as health care. This campaign, combined with a strategy of wiping out opium growing and distribution in favor of much needed food crops, virtually eliminated the drug problems in China by the early 1950s. Only with a government that serves the people rather than working to enrich its imperialist masters will we be able to eliminate drug abuse and the criminal injustice system. As we work towards such a system we will support laws that result in fewer people in prison, but we know the impact of these laws will be minimal at best.