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.
Recently, comrades held in Administrative Segregation Units (ASU) at Folsom State Prison stepped up the battle against long-term isolation. On 25 May they began a hunger strike to protest the extreme social isolation faced there. ASU is just one more form of control unit, or long-term isolation in California prisons. At Folsom prisoners protested the lack of TVs, pull up bars, education, and social and rehabilitative programs. Outside supporters held a rally in Sacramento.
CDCR responded to the strike by transferring a number of perceived leaders of this campaign a few days in. On 19 June 2017 the strike was suspended.(1) But comrades remain steadfast and call on anyone in an ASU in California to file 602 grievances if they are facing similar conditions of extreme isolation to continue to push this campaign forward.
The various categorizations of long-term isolation units in California are a legal loophole that limited the scope of recent reforms related to Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay, which were already weak to begin with.(2) Meanwhile, at Pelican Bay on 24 May 2017 a fight between prisoners and guards was reported that ended with guards shooting five prisoners.(3) We do not have updated information on their conditions.
On 12 August 2015, Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell was murdered on the yard at California State Prison — Sacramento in Represa, also known as New Folsom Prison. Yogi was in solitary confinement a week prior to his murder, having spent 46 years in solitary confinement. Yet somehow someone on the yard had enough beef with him to murder the 71-year-old man in cold blood? Not possible. Yogi's blood is on the hands of the state officials in charge of CSP-Sacramento.
Memorializing Yogi, his comrade David Johnson called him an "educator" and the "spirit of the prison movement."(1) Former Black Panther and long-term friend Kiilu Nyasha said the word that came to her mind was "love."(2) Most of the information in this article comes from Kiilu as well as Yogi's fellow San Quentin 6 comrades David Johnson and Sundiata Tate.(3) All recounted stories of his immense love, his prominent leadership, his indomitable spirit, his dedication to creating and becoming the "new man" and his role in educating others.
The state of California attacked Hugo Pinell for 50 years, from the time of his imprisonment on a phony charge of raping and kidnapping a white womyn, through to his death this week. He was one of a number of comrades involved in an incident on 21 August 1971, in which George Jackson was killed along with three prison guards and two prisoner trustees. Hugo Pinell was charged and convicted with slashing the throats of two prison guards during this incident, though neither was killed. One of these guards was known to have murdered a New Afrikan prisoner in Soledad and had gone unpunished. Those prisoners charged with crimes for the events of 21 August 1971 became known as the San Quentin 6. It was this incident, and the murder of George Jackson in particular, that triggered the takeover of the Attica Correctional Facility in New York by prisoners of all nationalities in response to the oppressive conditions they had faced there for years. Beginning on 9 September 1971, the prisoners controlled the prison for four days, setting up kitchens, medical support, and communications via collective organizing. Prison guards were treated with respect and given proper food and medical care like everyone else. It all ended on 13 September 1971 when the National Guard invaded the yard, killed 29 prisoners and 9 staff, and tortured hundreds after they regained control. It is the collective organizing for positive change that occurred during those four days that we celebrate on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity in prisons across the United $tates.
The prisoners in Attica acted in the ideals of men like George Jackson and Hugo Pinell who were well-respected leaders of the first wave of the prison movement. Jackson, Pinell and their comrades, many who are still alive and mourning and commemorating Yogi's death(1, 3), always promoted unity and the interests of all prisoners as a group. The Attica brothers took this same philosophy to a more spectacular level, where they flipped the power structure so that the oppressed were in control. Not long afterward, prisoners at Walpole in Massachusetts won control of that facility as a result of the events at Attica. In both cases prisoners worked together collectively to meet the needs of all, peace prevailed, and spirits rose. Like a dictatorship of the proletariat on a smaller scale, these prisoners proved that when the oppressed are in power conditions for all improve. And it is historicaly examples like these that lead us to believe that is the way to end oppression.
Following the incidents of August and September 1971, the Black Panther Party printed a feature article on Hugo Pinell, who they upheld as "a member in good standing of the Black Panther Party." It read in part:
"[Prisoners across the United States] began to realize as Comrade George Jackson would say, that they were all a part of the prisoner class. They began to realize that there was no way to survive that special brand of fascism particular to California prison camps, except by beginning to work and struggle together. Divisions, such as this one, like family feuds, often take time to resolve. The common goal of liberation and the desire for freedom helps to make the division itself disappear, and the reason for its existence become clearer and clearer. The prisoner class, especially in California, began to understand the age-old fascist principle: if you can divide, you can conquer.
"There are two men who were chiefly responsible for bringing this idea to the forefront. They helped other comrade inmates to transform the ideas of self-hatred and division into unity and love common to all people fighting to survive and retain dignity. These two Brothers not only set this example in words, but in practice. Comrade George Jackson and Comrade Hugo Pinell, one Black and one Latino, were the living examples of the unity that can and must exist among the prisoner class. These two men were well-known to other inmates as strong defenders of their people. Everyone knew of their love for the people; a love that astounded especially the prison officials of the State. It astounded them so thoroughly that these pigs had to try and portray them as animals, perverts, madmen and criminals, in order to justify their plans to eventually get rid of such men. For when Comrades George and Hugo walked and talked together, the prisoners began to get the message too well."(4)
Today the prison movement is in another phase of coming together, realizing their common class interests. It is amazing that it is in this new era of coming together that the pigs finally murder Yogi, on the three year anniversary of the announcement of the plans to end all hostilities across the California prisons system to unite for common interests. This timing should be lost on no one.
As a Nicaraguan, Yogi became hated by certain influential Mexicans in the prison system for ignoring their orders not to hang with New Afrikans. While the prison movement over the last half-century has chipped away at such racism, we also know that racism is an idea that is the product of imperialism. Until we eliminate the oppression of nations by other nations, we will not eliminate racism completely. But we work hard to fight it within the oppressed and in particular among prisoners, as Yogi, George and others did 50 years ago.
In the 1950s and 1960s the racism was brutal, with nazis openly working with correctional staff. The state used poor, uneducated whites as the foot soldiers of their brutal system of oppression that is the U.$. injustice system. Tate and Johnson tell stories of being terrorized with the chants of "nigger, nigger, nigger" all night long when they first entered the California prison system as youth.(1, 3) While we don't agree with George Jackson's use of the term "fascist" to describe the United $tates in his day, we do see a kernel of truth in that description in the prison system, and the white prisoners were often lining up on the side of the state. But the efforts of courageous leaders broke down that alliance, and leaders of white lumpen organizations joined with the oppressed nation prisoners for their common interests as prisoners at the height of the prison movement in California.
We recognize the national contradiction, between the historically and predominantly white Amerikan nation and the oppressed internal semi-colonies, to be the principal contradiction in the United $tates today. Yet, this is often dampened and more nuanced in the prison system. Our white readership is proportional to the white population in prisons, and we have many strong white supporters. So while we give particular attention to the struggles of prisoners as it relates to national liberation movements, we support the prison movement as a whole to the extent that it aligns itself with the oppressed people of the world against imperialism.
The biggest complaint among would-be prison organizers is usually the "lack of unity." Any potential unity is deliberately broken down through means of threats, torture and even murder by the state. Control Units exist to keep people like Yogi locked down for four and a half decades. Yet another wave of the prison movement is here. It is embodied in the 30,000 prisoners who acted together on 8 July 2013, and in the 3 years of no hostilities between lumpen organizations in the California prison system. Right now there is nothing more important in California than pushing the continuation of this unity. In the face of threats by individuals to create cracks in that unity, in the face of the murder of an elder of the movement, in order to follow through on the campaign to end the torture of long-term isolation, in order to protect the lives of prisoners throughout the state and end unnecessary killings, there is nothing more important to be doing in California prisons right now than expanding the Agreement to End Hostilities to realize the visions of our elders like Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell.