Prisoners Report on Conditions in

High Desert State Prison - California

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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.

We hope this information will inspire people to take action and join the fight against the criminal injustice system. While we may not be able to immediately impact this particular instance of abuse, we can work to fundamentally change the system that permits and perpetuates it. The criminal injustice system is intimately tied up with imperialism, and serves as a tool of social control on the homeland, particularly targeting oppressed nations.

[Abuse] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada]
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HDSP NV De-habilitation Program

I have served nearly 25 years prison/jail time in the United States. In fact, all but a small portion of my adult life has been spent behind bars. My California tour includes Chino, Soledad, Solano, Calipatria and Donovan. In Nevada: Southern Desert, Lovelock, Ely and, yes, Hight Desert State Prison (HDSP). As you can probably imagine, violence and drugs are common fare in most of these institutions. And while a few of these places were just plain filthy, others simply stagnate with the decay of deliberate indifference. I've done "hole-time" in all of them and certainly thought I'd seen it all.

Boy was I wrong.

Let me spell it out for you: B.M.U. (Behavioral Management Unit). Described by COs, Medical Staff and other institutional employees as the "Zombie Unit," the "Weirdo Pod," the "Freak Show," the "Psych Ward," and "Behavioral Mismanagement" and affectionately referred to by the prisoners as the "Beat-a-Motherfucker-Up" Unit at HDSP.

Absolutely and without a doubt, the worst of the worst. In the short time, 90 days, that I've been here within this restrictive unit I've witnessed unchecked violence, coercion, extortion, drug abuse, overdoses, 3 attempted suicides and "senior" officers feeding prisoners food which had fallen on the filthy unit floor before being placed on the serving trays and given to prisoners.

The most disturbing incident, by far, occurred on 24 December 2017, this past Christmas Eve, when an emotionally wrought prisoner, was locked in the shower for approximately 4 hours after stating to staff that he was having suicidal thoughts. During this time the prisoner was slamming his own head against the metal grating. I witnessed the COs laughing and encouraging the prisoner to bang his head harder and advising him to use the tiled wall at the back of the shower stating, "Bang it against the tiles, they're harder." By the time medical staff did arrive the prisoner was a bloody mess.

According to the HDSP BMU Manual: "The Behavior Modification Unit (BMU) will house inmates who have been housed in segregation for 90 days or longer, to assist in the reintegration into a lower custody level."

How I ended up here isn't much of a mystery. About 4 weeks after arriving at HDSP, while I was still in the "Fish Tank" I made the mistake of telling the case worker that I was appealing my jury conviction and needed request forms for the law library. At which point I was advised that I was being "sent to BMU." From that moment on, all access to the legal materials I require for my case have been denied despite numerous verbal and written grievances. In fact I spent the first 9 weeks in BMU confined in my cell without so much as a book to read. My only contact with the administration was the initial interview with the token mental health worker who advised me that "this rehabilitation program is the warden's baby."

Well, I'm here to tell you that as a person who struggles with PTSD, the constant and continuous confinement to a cell without any mental stimulation whatsoever can be devastating to an person's mental health and psyche. While confined in this unit I have experienced an increase in PTSD symptoms, ten times the frequency that is usual for me. Furthermore, I found it extremely unsettling that after completing the program, as a "graduation present," I was escorted into a small room filled with BMU staff members where I was threatened, berated, belittled and finally told to just "Get the Fuck Out."

I'm not sure what to expect next. The lack of access and communication with the outside, the restricted closed custody level 4 housing, the refusal on the administration's part to answer or address any grievance combined with limited family contact by phone has reduced me to an uncertain, fearful, panicky, hopeless, helpless mess. And, by the way, I have absolutely zero disciplinary history. Not a single "write up" for anything.

Fortunately another prisoner gave me your Under Lock & Key pamphlet. Hopefully you can get the word out on this de-habilitation program and the warden's dirty little secret.


MIM(Prisons) responds: These dangerous and abusive conditions at HDSP expose the Amerikan prison system for its complete lack of rehabilitation. If the criminal injustice system really believed that prisons are an effective tool to prevent crime, it would not put people in conditions that make their survival on the streets nearly impossible. It would be offering programs to help people learn and change their behavior, and prepare them for life outside. This is just one of the reasons we see the Amerikan criminal injustice system as primarily a tool of social control.

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[Campaigns] [Organizing] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 59]
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Nevada Lockdown, Build Unity

High Desert State Prison (HDSP), the largest prison in Nevada, housing some 3,500 inmates, has been on total lockdown for 4 days, and will remain so for at least two more weeks. This means that we will receive no yard, tier, phone, canteen, or access to any reading material.

Why is HDSP on lockdown? Because in a single week there was two "staff" assaults, and at least 8 fights.

But the pigs are doing nothing to investigate the cause of the violence. For example, that the temperature of the cells was reaching at least 90 degrees. While we have no cold water to drink, and are forced to be housed with individuals we do not get along with for up to 21 hours a day. And there is nothing for us to do: no programs, work, games, etc. We are literally trapped in cages like animals.

So how does HDSP deal with the violence? They enhance the inhumane and deplorable conditions by locking us down. Most of us do not have televisions, and with no access to any library we sit in a cell and twiddle our thumbs.

Violence and anger can only be expected as a result of such conditions. However, comrades, we must recognize that we do not win when we direct this anger and frustration towards each other.

Our focus must be on targeting the administrative policies which are responsible for our current state of existence. There is already a grievance campaign underway challenging OP516, the level system. And comrades from the United Struggle from Within in Nevada just started a new grievance campaign in regards to AR801.

AR801 is a programs AR that states that Ad-Seg is to receive a minimum of 3 hours out of their cell, and closed custody inmates are to get a minimum of 5 hours out of their cells per day. This same AR lists a ton of programs which are approved by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC).

The bottom line comrades, HDSP under Warden Williams has failed to implement any rehabilitative programs. The violence, anger and frustration is his and his administration's fault.

We must heed the USW call for peace and unity and challenge the administration's policies. We need all of you to file grievances challenging these policies. But even more important, we need you to have your family and friends to call the office of the director and ask why HDSP prisoners are being denied all access to rehabilitative programs, school, and work. Have them call 702-486-9938 and complain.

Until then, comrades, do not allow your anger and frustrations with the pigs to be misdirected toward one another.


MIM(Prisons) responds: The United Struggle from Within comrades in Nevada are doing solid work organizing and educating folks in that state. They have set a good example of initiating targeted campaigns that could improve the lives of many prisoners. This is a good way to get folks participating in the struggle in a concrete way. But we must remember to tie these battles to the broader struggle against the criminal injustice system, and imperialism.

If we don't make these connections, we are misleading people, letting them think that these campaigns alone are all that is needed to change the system. And we know that's not true! We know the injustice system won't be reformed into a system of justice. It is rotten to the core because it is serving imperialism, which exists off the oppression and exploitation of entire nations of people. The wealth and power of the imperialists and even the "middle classes" is not something those folks will give up without a fight.

Let's follow the example of the Nevada USW comrades, and build important campaigns relevant to each prison and state. And always keep our work in the context of the anti-imperialist struggle.

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[Campaigns] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 57]
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A Call to Action to the Prisoners of HDSP in Nevada

The Nevada Council for the United Struggle from Within (USW) is putting the call out for prisoners at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) to end all the hostilities, and to join together in the ongoing grievance campaign and ultimately the mass 1983 civil complaint campaign, that is now underway at HDSP.

The conditions of confinement at HDSP must be challenged. Over the years, our constant infighting has distracted us while our conditions of confinement have gotten progressively worse. We are now faced with a situation where we remain confined to our cells up to 22-24 hours a day, are not given proper cleaning supplies, are denied the use of our toilets, are housed with those who should be being treated for their mental illnesses rather than being overly medicated, etc.

This campaign has already begun, with many individuals having filed grievances, while the final stage of filing a civil complaint is already under way. Our main focus is and must be the lack of programs, education, and work abilities which deny prisoners housed at HDSP the credits which shorten their sentences.

We are in the position that we are in because our national groups have failed to be properly mobilized around an internationalist class consciousness. We have focused on individualistic issues. We as prisoners have allowed this to happen to ourselves. With each new restriction imposed, no action or protest was organized. We are as much to blame as anyone else. Without organized opposition, the administrators have reached new heights of repression and disregard of our needs.

But the United Struggle from Within Nevada Council has taken steps to organize this grievance campaign. We are calling on all nations within the walls of HDSP; PC, GP or otherwise, put aside your differences and conflicts. We are not enemies. We are allies, and share a common interest in fighting back against what we are faced with every day.

So, we are putting out the call. Let's stop all hostilities and join together in raising our voices as one and demanding that we be treated as humans.

Comrades within the USW in Nevada have already united with a few nations in this struggle. There are already over 30 grievances filed! Change will occur, but only if each of us do our part to fight back.

To aid you in this struggle, we have compiled examples of the grievances that have been filed. The examples cover all three grievance levels. We are also writing up an example civil complaint, which can be utilized to challenge the NDOC in court.

If you want change, fight for it. Join our campaign. Stop all hostilities, and pick up the pen!


MIM(Prisons) adds: Nevada was where the first September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity originated in 2012. It's good to see comrades in Nevada keeping it moving. Any prisoners of the state of Nevada can write us for a copy of the example grievances.

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[Gender] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 57]
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Nevada USW Fighting Gender Abuse

The USW-NV study group spent much time discussing the topic of gender, sexuality, and what our position on it must be. This discussion came about because a comrade heard SCO Franco and another officer discussing two trans women that live in another pod. SCO Franco, with a number of racial and homophobic slurs, stated that he was looking for a reason to write them up because "no fag would be on my tier prostituting themselves unless I am getting something." These pigs were making a big joke out of it. This comrade spoke up, and as a consequence his cell was searched, and he lost some items.

We have determined, through our discussions, that gender is more than simply genetic. It is not a matter of choice, nor can one be "cured" of homosexuality. We are born who we are, and any person or institution that challenges this must be struggled against.

Based upon this and many other discussions, we have reached out to the LGBTQ community both within the Nevada DOC, and the greater community, in an attempt to build solidarity, and show them that they are not alone.

The LGBTQ community, especially within prison, is a very preyed-upon community. Inmates avoid them, assault them, or simply exploit them, while the pigs ignore them. Within prisons, members of the LGBTQ community have lost any identity, and instead have become "them," "fags," or "MOs." This is unacceptable. As such, we have taken an active role in promoting a call for the organization of the LGBTQ community into statewide groups. This call was put out by a great LGBTQ group called Black and Pink.

We have aided in the formation of a NV LGBTQ group, have and will continue to associate with them openly to show our solidarity, and will, if the need arises, defend this group or its members, in whatever ways needed. Be it from the pigs, or other inmates.

We call on all to follow, stand up against all forms of oppression, exploitation and hatred. Contact Black and Pink and show your support, and reach out to the LGBTQ community at your prison. Stand with them, help them organize, and join our United Struggle from Within.

Black and Pink is an LGBTQ organization that publishes a monthly newsletter, and helps those members of the LGBTQ community who are incarcerated. The NV-USW has reached out to them in hopes of starting an open chain of communication. We have not heard back as of yet, but please contact them and call on them to join the United Struggle from Within. You can contact them at Black and Pink National Office, 614 Columbia Rd, Dorchester, MA 02125

This article referenced in:
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[Abuse] [Gender] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada]
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Sexual Harassment by COs Goes Unpunished

On 20 and 22 January 2016 I was sexually harassed by a male correctional officer. On the 20th we were on lockdown because of a fight. Right before the correctional officer was to go home for the night he came over my intercom and clowning my celly, but while laughing said "don't let me catch [X] with his boxers on backwards and [X] laying on his belly while you're (my celly) on top of him." After he went home I told my celly I felt uncomfortable as did he. After we came off of lockdown the same correctional officer called me to the bubble twice. First time he said [X] (me) that he was going to dog my celly (clown him), I told him no and walked away. The second time he called me to the bubble yet again saying "[X] ya should take your celly down through there sexually show him what it's like." I told the Correctional Officer he should not talk to me like that I'm not here to catch a PREA case. This officer knows that I'm a homosexual because it's in the computer my alternative lifestyle. My celly is Black, the officer is Black and I'm white.

On January 23rd I talked to Sargent Thompson and told her everything that happened and that I was afraid for my safety for telling on an officer, because he's going to find out if not through staff through prisoners. I also see Lieutenant McKeean told him the same thing. He asked my celly why he didn't write a grievance on him, my celly said he didn't want any problems. Come to find out my celly's uncle used to work here and his uncle is good friends with the officer. The correctional officer is Guice.

On January 29 I refused to lockdown for fear of my safety. Correctional officer Houck said Lieutenant McKeean said I wasn't going to get a bed move. So I told officer Houck I refused to lock down for my safety, as caseworker Faliszek told me I had a right to do. So Officer Houck handcuffed me and put me in the shower and locked the shower. Sargent Thompson came to the unit told me I'm not getting a bed move and told officer Houck to put me back in my cell. I told her this is bullshit, I'm afraid for my safety with everything going on with retaliation and all the sexual crap he's saying. She wouldn't hear any of it. Office Houck took me out of the shower while handcuffed with the gun drawn on me took me back to my cell, while telling me no one's going to believe you because you're a prisoner no one believes an inmate because you're all liars. Officer Houck said he doesn't believe me because he knows Officer Guice personally and knows he will never sexually harass anyone.

On 12 February 2016 my celly put his shoes on after the health and welfare count and then told me I had two options: 1. come down push the button tell the officer you're going to commit suicide, or 2. he's going to kick my ass. I told him why I had to do that he said which one was I going to pick. So I came down off my bed and pushed the button and told the officer that I was in fear of my life because I wanted to commit suicide, the officer in the bubble told me no and to wait til morning to talk to the nurse. This pissed off my celly so he tackled me like a football player. I fell and hit my head on the door he began to slap me several times in the face and then he stomped me with his feet in the face and neck. After he was done I kept hitting the call button, but the officer never answered the button. In the morning I went to chow I stepped out of line and told the officer I was in fear of my safety. He seen my face and asked what happened. I didn't say anything. The Officer Turner said me and my celly were having problems last night, Lieutenant Potter asked if my celly did that to my face and neck. I didn't answer and looked away. They knew it happened so they took me to medical then to the hole with a notice of charges for assault.

Most of the grievances I filed on sexual harassment and retaliation were locked by Associate Wardens. I then refiled in February 2016, they finally went through and went to the I.G. office and PREA. I finally saw the PREA investigator Steve LeMara on 9 June 2016 he said he believed me on everything.

I'm still missing grievances that are in the last level sent kites to the Associate Warden, Caseworker Elmor and Berrett, and to head Caseworker Russell. Still have heard nothing.

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[United Front] [Campaigns] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 35]
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Peace and Solidarity Protest in Nevada

September 9, 2013 has come and gone, and while the turn out was significantly improved over last year, there is still room for much improvement. This is, of course, reflective of the general malaise which has infected the population concerning prison conditions and prisoner solidarity. But it is also the result of an inability to reliably communicate between units and custody levels here at High Desert (HDSP).

The turn out for this unit was approximately 8% but this may or may not be representative of prison-wide participation. There appears to have been significant participation from our brothers and sisters at Ely State Prison and our utmost respect and gratitude goes out to you all for standing with us. There have been some indications here at HDSP that there is a storm on the horizon and there is currently some discussion and preparation in anticipation. But we must wait until events begin to unfold before embarking on any course of action. This includes pushing September 9, 2014 harder and longer this year.

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[Censorship] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada]
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Small Victory in Nevada Censorship Fight

We have one small victory on the censorship front on admission that ULK is not on a restricted distribution list and subscriptions will be delivered. Though this was issued in January, one issue still never arrived. That is being grieved. Aside from that a recent ULK subscriber received a Prison Legal News "survey" concerning censorship which appeared to be a precursor to litigation against the NDOC by PLN concerning censorship.

The principle problem which we encounter now is unofficial censorship, such as mail being withheld/not delivered without notice, mail being returned without notice (such as happened with ULK) and not stamping the received date on our mail, which is then not delivered on time.

In one extreme example, a kid got a letter form his family who had not been able to locate him for a couple of years because all of his incoming/outgoing mail to family had "disappeared" and they were just recently able to locate him. Apparently officials wouldn't explain why or where he was.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is on top of fighting censorship in his prison, and provides a good example for others who are experiencing similar problems. We need everyone to grieve censorship whenever it happens, pursue all administrative remedies, and attempt to contact outside organizations that might also be fighting censorship or willing to help with a lawsuit. If you have experienced censorship in your prison, write to us for a guide to fighting censorship, and be sure to report all mail (both received and rejected) to us so that we can accurate track censorship.

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[Organizing] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada]
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Nevada Prisons Repression, Call for Resistance

Since early April there have been at least three prisoners shot, all in the head/face, and other shots fired resulting in lockdowns, two institutional lockdowns, and a number of pig assaults on prisoners including one in the seg unit I was released from and two on prisoners in the unit where I am currently housed. Most recently (last week) a Black comrade was assaulted in retaliation for exercising his first amendment right to expose pig misconduct. All of these assaults have been on Black prisoners by white pigs.

Amidst the above the food issue has been revived but has met textbook excuses - all of which boil down to:

  1. A prevailing sense of hopelessness among prisoners here
  2. A prevailing attitude of complacency among prisoners here and
  3. Fear of retaliation against prisoners here

The common factor? The state of mind of prisoners.

The Texas brothers demonstrated that victories are possible even with the grievance system, and history teaches us that: "In all ages and under all circumstances there will always exist abundant reasons not to fight but that will be the only way not to obtain victory." (Fidel Castro)

History teaches us that our victories are always the result of the work of a few against the many. It teaches us that we will never be a majority so we must fight that much harder and with greater determination and not allow few numbers and temporary failures to terminate the struggle. At this moment there are a few of us here fighting for proper food, proper medical treatment, and an end to staff abuse, assaults and retaliation and theft/censorship of mail. We are simultaneously trying to bring unity within the prisoner class. This will not happen today, but there is always tomorrow, as our Texas brothers so accurately noted in ULK 32, we are all fighting for tomorrow.

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[Abuse] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada]
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Nevada CO Targets Prisoners for Abuse

On January 1 a racist pig by the name of Yates assaulted a Black prisoner in the presence of his immediate supervising officer who did nothing to prevent the assault from occurring nor to stop it once it started. He then refused to call a Lieutenant, give the prisoner an emergency grievance, or request medical attention for the prisoner after Yates attempted to grab the prisoners arm through the cuff port and upon failing that, attempted to break the prisoner's arm by kicking the cuff port flap several times.

Since November this same pig targeted two other prisoners, both Black, one who's gone elsewhere. One, still here, is a diabetic and litigant who's problems arose over his prescribed medical diet. He's been the target of repeated and persistent provocation, retaliation, threats, disciplinary action and property confiscation by this same pig to the point where he can't leave his cell for shower or yard when this pig is on duty for fear of property loss/destruction. He and the prisoner assaulted on January 1 were told that Yates would starve them, kill them, watch them die and enjoy every minute of it and make their lives a living hell. Yates has also made it clear that grievances are useless, the administration has his back and if he did kill one of us he'd get a promotion and a pay raise.

This attitude is not uncommon at High Desert State Prison (HDSP). This pig and others routinely refuse emergency grievances or throw them away (or personally deny them!), refuse to call supervisors, leave prisoners in cells without property for weeks (for my first 17 days I had no property - not even anything to eat with), refuse to answer call buttons, and leave the heat turned off to torment us.

A few of us are fighting these abuses, but it is next to impossible to organize a group effort in part due to environmental obstructions in segregation and apparent apathy on the part of captives, which is seriously disappointing. This apathy is more pronounced (it seems) during the holiday season. This has always been a point of frustration to me: These are capitalist holidays celebrating the genocide and destruction of whole cultures. The first thanksgiving was declared by William Bradford (Gov of the Massachusetts Colony) to celebrate the Pequot Massacre - the murder of 700 plus indigenous people of all ages and genders. In Nevada we get better food (and adult portions) on their capitalist holidays and everybody puts on a happy face, I assume out of some misguided notion of respect for tradition. The rest of the year we're starved and treated like herd animals.

There are no holidays for the revolution nor for those devoted to revolution. It was on one of those "holidays" that the comrade above was assaulted. In hindsight, some racist pig assaulting a Black captive on a capitalist holiday is keeping in step with imperialist history.

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[Political Repression] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 29]
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Delayed Report on September 9 Protest and Repression

This comes to you long overdue from High Desert State Prison (Nevada). September 9 has come and gone and I have no information as to how it went except for what follows below.

On September 6 I was cuffed up and put in the most isolated unit at the prison. Several others were simultaneously moved to other units. I was locked up "pending disciplinary" for write ups I'd gotten for doing legal work. However additional charges had been filed against me on 8/29 for organizing a work stoppage/disruptive demonstration. I did not know this at the time.

On 9/8 another comrade was also locked up behind a matter completely unrelated to 9/9 as well.

On 9/9 I fasted in my cell. No one else on this tier did so. It's assumed they never got word, not surprising given the security level in this unit.

On 9/9 there was little notice of my fast and I heard no radio traffic which would indicate that anything was going on elsewhere in the prison. There was no discussion concerning anything irregular occurring.

On 9/21 I was served the second notice of charges.

On 10/5 I was found not guilty of the first legal work write up.

On 10/6 I was convicted of the work stoppage/demonstration write up. I was given 180 days disciplinary segregation, a class B state time referral and referred to the parole board for revocation/rescission of parole.

A letter received informed me that, in fact, few people from my former unit participated in the fast and this evidences a successful oppressor strategy: divide and conquer. They calculated (apparently correctly), that if they removed the perceived organizer and driving force behind the action that the witnesses to that removal and the remaining parties would be dissuaded and intimidated and abandon the action. Excepting a few loyal comrades, this was apparently correct.

This is a common and timeless strategy. Unfortunately it is successful all too often. There remains a few who spoke for the many and (as far as I can tell) I was the only target of retribution. I can live with that!

2013 is not far off and I will be again one of the few speaking for the many, if that's what it takes.

For those who stood by us and our comrades country-wide, respects to all!

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