Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Colorado Prisons

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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.

[Prison Labor] [Colorado]
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Stats on Colorado Corrections Industries Use of Prison Labor for Private Companies

"Colorado prisoners at the Skyline Correctional Center who start out at $.66 a day, milking about 1,000 goats...

Colorado Corrections Industries (CCI) "employs some 1,600 prisoners at 17 facilities, generating around $65 million in annual sales. Haystack Mountain is just one of many small- to mid-sized businesses that benefit from prisoner labor; the company began purchasing milk from prison goat dairies at the Skyline facility in 2007...

"Thanks to the grapes harvested by Colorado prisoners, Abbey Winery won a silver medal for its Juniper Valley Chardonnay at the 15th Annual Grand Harvest Awards in California. Haystack cheeses are sold to various high-end stores and restaurants, including Whole Foods, a national grocery chain.

"Kathy Abernathy of Arrowhead Fisheries, which breeds, packs and ships tilapia though CCI, sees the program as a way to 'help an inmate improve his life.' The CCI fish farm has been expanding and produces trout, catfish, koi and goldfish. Quixotic Farming also buys tilapia from CCI for less than a dollar a pound, which they then resell to retailers like Whole Foods, where it is sold for up to $12 a pound...

"The prisoners participating in such programs are underpaid, prohibited from unionizing and sometimes work under the threat of disciplinary action if they refuse."

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[Organizing] [Colorado]
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Much Work Still to be Done in Colorado

This is in response to ULK 52, page 18, "Building Peace and Unity in CO." This is an untrue statement. There might be individuals on peace. But that is all, the majority is still the same. Colorado lacks a gang structure to call a treaty like that. Let alone a revolutionary mindset. Colorado/the man, learned from other states how to repress gang structure. And how to ultimately control the gangs and the entire system. Through divide and conquer strategies within the gangs, the same gangs, not just different gangs against different gangs.

This is accomplished by privileges and by conforming to their standards. A lack of discipline for a group's goals. And the way they breed juveniles' minds in their juvenile facilities to show who the authority is, and snitch programs to confront one another. Brainwashing. With the exception of few, but not enough to enact any kind of movement for gang or revolution. I heard a quote "the most common way a people loses their power is by thinking they have none at all." That is the majority mindset out here in every aspect.

I became conscious recently. I have been educating myself as much as I can to politics, history and different cultures. Empires are the power through history in every culture. As a conscious man it was not my choice to be born oppressed but it is my choice to struggle against it. Knowledge is power, to change yourself and your surroundings. That is what needs to be attained and given to the people. Especially the children. So that generation changes the situation. So it becomes not a choice but the way of life, while always knowing that there will always be forces to try to destroy that life, but no matter what to continue on. I educate who I can and always will now. I find it hard to change a man's way of thought but I try. Knowing that thought was created for his destruction.

I am stuck in some of my ways also. Change takes time. Being stuck in prison is also a hindrance. Something that destroys life and choice. Always a created struggle. That is what I figured out in these studies. You need a pure mind to enact a change. And that is our children, they are pure. A sponge to gain all the knowledge needed to ultimately find the true meaning of life watch as peace of mind, happiness, love, family. To teach them what needs to be done so they can have that, along with their family and people.

I hope one day to become one of a million instead of one in a million. Ho Chi Minh said "when the prison doors are open the real dragons will fly out." I am a dragon full of rage for the oppressor, love for my people, knowledge to be spread and flames to be unleashed on our enemies. The day my wings will open to fly out and accomplish all these things. I have love for all oppressed people.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade starts off disagreeing with what someone else wrote about building unity in Colorado, but in the end argues that change is possible and that we need to educate and build for unity. We agree there is much work to be done, but we must build and educate in whatever situation we can. In the case of our comrades behind bars, this means doing the work that is often hard and slow to overcome the brainwashing of a lifetime of education and build unity against the criminal injustice system. For those who have become conscious, it is our duty to share this with others. It is not enough to just understand oppression ourselves. One good way to get started is by forming a study group where you're at. We can supply some information on how to do this along with study materials. Write to us to get started.

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[Education] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 52]
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Building Peace and Unity in Colorado

Every day we study the 5 principles, but we lack materials which is one of the reasons I'm writing, in hopes of getting what we need. As of now we are a very young group of men who have come together and are spreading peace, unity and internationalism. Here in prison we have brought two rival gangs to peace: the Sur 13 and Norteños 14 have now made a treaty with each other and have stopped killing each other. We are now speaking with some of the Muslims who may be willing to join "Black Hawk" so we are practicing growth and peace.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer provides an excellent example of building peace through a United Front organization that focuses on education. Rival organizations that fight each other behind bars or on the streets are serving the purposes of the oppressive system which seeks to keep us distracted and fighting each other rather than focusing our energy on the real oppressors. With this peace treaty we anticipate a growing powerful movement in Colorado against the criminal injustice system.

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[Homelessness] [Colorado]
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Colorado's War on the Poor

A Colorado Springs city council will vote to approve a city ordinance that will fine $2500 to all homeless who are found laying or sitting in front of a business. Many who support this claim that it provides better safety for the community and will increase the property values of stores and restaurants in the area.

A few days prior to this the town of Monument, Colorado successfully blocked the building of a methadone clinic in the area, arguing that it would cause a "decrease" in property values and bring a new "wave of crime."

For me, I see this in two ways. Number one, as the richest country on earth, we all still see that basic human needs, such as food, housing and clothing are privileges and one has to choose to engage in the so-called free market to attain these things. The very contradiction in this not withstanding, when one isn't able to have a job, is homeless, begs for food and maybe on drugs, the number one solution is to enforce their way out of it. Place the homeless in jail, that's smart. Let's not develop independent programs that view these homeless as humans that need healing to be a strong part of society.

The methadone clinic run off is a disgrace. Methadone is to help people get off heroine, the fact that a higher crime notion can be spoken of here is a joke. People act like when methadone clinics, or homeless shelters arrive in their communities that a wave of crime will suddenly appear. Why is it easier to jail us, rather than to have compassion and tolerance? Well in a capitalistic based class society, homelessness and addicts are contradictions in the system. Of course they can say that we're lazy, or choose to be this way, but according to economics, we are not choosing anything.

Lastly, social sicknesses can't be blamed upon individuals, and using jails or fines to remove a section of the population will only force that population to move elsewhere. One day these cities in Colorado will have to deal with the homeless as humans, with human and civil rights, until then the class struggle will continue.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is correct that homelessness and drug addiction are problems of capitalism. Opium (which heroin is made from) addiction was a widespread problem in China before the revolution. The Chinese Communist Party attacked this problem by eliminating the supply and offering people engaged in distribution alternative employment. This approach attacked the problem at its root. And by giving people employment and health care they had both the resources and the incentive to stop using drugs. This communist approach values all humans and sees the potential contribution everyone can make to society, rather than writing off some as the dregs who have no hope for anything better in life.

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[Education] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 45]
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Education vs. Propaganda

I am a tutor in the prison's fascist propaganda program, known as GED Preparation. In the classes the prisoners are taught the official U.$. government history line, which they are expected to parrot back when they take the GED tests.

Some of the lies the prisoners are taught are:

  1. The "valiant" Amerikan colonists fought for freedom with the help of many willing Black slaves. Of course, freedom for the slaves was never an issue, only how to secure power and control for the white masters (all male) who wrote the new rules (Bill of Rights, etc.) for the nascent Amerikan government.

  2. Once the British gave up, the new Amerikans immediately headed west to grab as much "vacant" land as possible, and with the accompanying preachers, to convert those filthy, violent heathens to the correct religion, Christianity. The religion that teaches "slaves obey your masters." They don't mention that when those pesky primitives resisted handing over the land, they were attacked, killed if possible, then once subdued, were herded off for re-settlement (to land no whites wanted because it was unlivable badland).

  3. At the end of the Civil War in 1865 Abraham Lincoln and his minions passed the 13th Amendment which, it was claimed, ended slavery. Totally ignored and denied (if questioned) by the teacher was the part saying "... except as punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted..." Then the creation of thousands of "crimes," when conviction of any of them meant to be thrown into slavery. "Put on those shackles and start hoeing that cotton, prisoner!"

I sit in the class with steam coming out of my ears as I listen to the lies. I cannot speak up if I want to keep my job. Frustration! Once out of class though, I talk to receptive people so they get the real history and its impact on the U.$. social/political system.

Comrades who write of the need for prisoners to educate themselves, using their free time for improvement, are absolutely correct. Prisoners reading the MIM publications will find truth and real knowledge. In the prison-created/mandated classes they will find only the official U.$. government line. However, we still can learn truth if we are willing to do our own research, talk to aware comrades, analyze the information, and then come to rational awareness.

In conclusion, if you want to win in your battle against the forces of capitalist fascism, then learn how to educate yourself, and spend your free time doing it. Knowledge does lead to power. Ignorance supports only slavery.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer is on point about the underlying themes of capitalist education and the importance of anti-imperialist information. We must take what we can from all sources. If you don't have a high school diploma and your prison offers GED classes, it's well worth enrolling. But we need to take this education, along with the mainstream press, with a critical eye knowing it is representing the capitalists' dishonest version of history and news. We can learn some useful facts but we have to always put them under the anti-imperialist microscope. This is why alternative press like Under Lock & Key is so important. We print the news that no one else will publish. If you are reading this, share it with others and help spread the knowledge and build the power of the oppressed.

If you need access to non-Amerikkkan history books and study materials, you can get them from MIM(Prisons) via our correspondence study courses, Free Books for Prisoners Program, or the United Struggle from Within prisoner-led study group support project. Just write in to get started! And if you're like this comrade and are trying to reach out to interested people to spread revolutionary education, write in to get some anti-imperialist propaganda to share.

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[Organizing] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 42]
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Debating Violence in Prison Battles


I am a prisoner activist within the Colorado Department of Corrections, which sees me as a difficult, dangerous individual, and isolates and represses me in a police-style unit. Within the United States there is a response to prisoner activism of repression by prison administrators. This repression may involve some type of physical clash between prison staff and/or their prisoner stooges, and a prisoner activist. I put this forth as a counter to your point explicitly discouraging prisoners from engaging in any violence, as this position is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in U.$. prisons.

Prisoner activism here typically takes the form of formal institutional advocacy. Yet white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism have never reformed themselves. And the struggle against these forms of oppression is a struggle for survival and self-defense. The prisoner activist struggle in the United States is a struggle against genocide.

MIM(Prisons) and its publications explicitly oppose the use of armed struggle at this time in the imperialist countries (including the united states). But this is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in this country, where there is an ongoing protracted intractable race and class conflict. I look to Under Lock & Key for guidance in my individual/personal prisoner activism.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer sets a good example of working with us in unity around prison struggles while debating our disagreements on questions of strategy. In this case the disagreement comes down to a question of the stage of struggle. We believe that violence will be necessary to overthrow imperialism, because, as this comrade says, "white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism have never reformed themselves." We will need to dismantle imperialism forcefully; those in power won't just step down peacefully.

But we can also see through many historic examples that revolutionaries who took up armed struggle too soon were quickly repressed, killed and/or imprisoned, and many times the movements lost more ground than they gained. We call this premature armed struggle "focoism," because it generally fails to first gain the support of the masses and build a strong revolutionary party and base. However, it is also possible for communist parties to make strategic errors in taking up armed struggle too soon before conditions are ready.

In prison we aren't really talking about taking up a military battle, but the analogy to violent engagement before conditions are ready is applicable in a general way. We see that prisoners who are quick to engage with their fists/weapons, end up in isolation, beaten, or even killed. These engagements don't generally win anything except possibly the respect of peers with whom the person no longer has contact.

This doesn't mean we tell prisoners to lie down and take abuse. Every situation is different and we can't possibly judge what each individual is facing and how they need to respond to survive. We can say that many people write to MIM(Prisons) talking about how they used to resort to their fists first and now they use their pen and voice and are much more effective with this new approach to fighting repression. It takes patience and discipline to make this change, and it's not easy when faced with both pigs and their lackeys provoking and even attacking.

Rather than debate the appropriate response to each dangerous situation, the broader point is agreement on our strategic stage of struggle, and the reality that we can't win a military/violent battle right now. We just don't have the strength yet. And so we need all of our comrades to stay alive and out of solitary to engage in education and organizing.

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[United Front] [Idealism/Religion] [Colorado State Penitentiary] [Colorado]
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Breaking the Colorado Ad-Seg Cycle of Violence

Less than a week ago I progressed from Colorado's control units (or what our lying Governor called "restrictive housing") to the new maximum custody status. For a step into progress it feels like regression. Guards not only disrespect you blatantly, but come up with ways to make slick comebacks to our most basic requests. The deal is this: we are one foot out of segregation with one foot still in. If we mess up here, we will be sent back to the hole. And the guards are creating more hostile environments to get us to combat one another. Revolutionary education has never been more needed.

A few days ago, a New Afrikan and a Chicano got into a fight. The fight really wasn't more than a two-punch-it's-over type of thing; both individuals hit each other one time. But that triggered a wave of 30+ guards to our unit that at the time only had five people there! Two guards came in with shotguns that were loaded with rubber bullets, which do penetrate skin. This is new. Pepper spray was once used to end fights.

Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Rick Raemisch implemented new measures to rid the state of administrative segregation. But what this really did was create new titles for the same program. Only now, what little comfort we had is now all gone: food items off canteen gone, all tea, kool-aid, and other comfort items are gone. TVs now will be given after 90 days. So even if you've completed your punitive time from your other facility, it doesn't count when you arrive in solitary at Colorado State Penitentiary.

Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) has effectively created one of the most intensively repressive systems Colorado has ever seen. Mr. Raemisch has instated runaway wardens to create lockdowns and other tensions at these places.

In the United States of Amerikkka there is no such thing as rights, only power struggles. I've not seen a yard in a year. I've spent this time trying to educate myself so that I will be ready to educate my people when I finally do get to a yard. Colorado isn't a place where there are very many hard followed political lines. Unlike California, nations aren't necessarily separated. It makes Colorado a prime spot to build peace among people to pave the way for better living.

It angers me how many "spiritualists" fight demons in the spiritual realm while waiting for a higher power to step in. I feel that all religion, with the exception of militant political Islam, encourages people to just accept their society as it is and do absolutely nothing to change it. These same spiritualists should invest time in changing these conditions in the physical realm to free all oppressed people now, and who knows maybe it will bring about a better world. Those who, through fear or fucked up character, embrace organized religion in prison to cop out or find some sense of self, need to find some sense of reality. These places get worse until we unite and make them better. This requires structure, discipline, leadership and hierarchy. There is no other way.

New blood must be given to this system. Education is the key to make any situation better.


MIM(Prisons) adds: To create conflict and excuses for repression we see prison workers set up conflicts between different nations. Just like this fight between a [email protected] and New Afrikan, it could be over anything but the prison has an interest in promoting division between prisoners. This is just one reason why we need a United Front for Peace in Prisons. This United Front is building peace and unity among the oppressed in prison, and then turning that unity into growth through revolutionary education. Together we can take a stand against the criminal injustice system.

While we agree with this comrade that religion is used as an excuse to wait for a higher power to bring change, we do see a role for religious groups in the United Front. Those who truly believe in putting an end to people's suffering should step up and take a role in organizing against the oppressors. The liberation theologists in that were very popular in the 1980s in Latin America provide a solid example for this revolutionary organizing. They broke with the individualism of religions that calls all outcomes "fate" and leaves people to pray for a change that will only come through action. While Maoists are scientists who do not believe in the idealism of religion, we will not force these views on others who take up the struggle on behalf of the oppressed. We expect scientific thinking to spread to all people over time once the oppressed have been liberated and given a chance to learn and think freely.

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[Organizing] [Colorado]
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Looking Squarely at Our Failures

When we jump to actions without planning, it damages future struggles. While all political protest is good and absolutely necessary, it's always important to keep in mind when we issue a statement it means we must follow through.

My failed hunger strike lasted for two days, and it can be seen as a need to re-develop a line that can be implemented successfully. We can't put a strike or any other political statement ahead of knowing what we're capable of.

By my failure I allowed the pigs to win. But you win some, you lose some, and ultimately you learn. One important factor is to define ourselves and what we stand for, and not sound off before the bullets are loaded.

My embarrassment hasn't led me to quit, only to re-strategize. Not in all circumstances are hunger strikes needed to achieve a successful point. All actions have consequences; even and most especially those that fail. A lesson I learned was, the louder you shout, the more our enemies will watch. I guess some can say that revolutionary culture develops when we learn from our failures. By using those things that don't work as lessons to learn from, these instances become pillars of resistance.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises an important point about learning from our failures as well as our successes. Many times our mistakes are the best source of learning we can get. But only if we sum up honestly, and not pretend things worked well when they did not. When we plan actions we need to lay the groundwork to gain supporters, if we need supporters. And if we don't think we need supporters we should ask ourselves what we hope to accomplish by acting alone, and what consequences we can expect. Each time we organize for an action we should have these discussions in advance, and then we should sum up and honestly criticize to determine what can be done better in the future.

It won't always be true that we need to hide our voices from our oppressors. Under different historical circumstances, when we have gained enough supporters and hold a significant amount of power ourselves, we need to be outspoken about our criticisms of our enemies. We encourage our comrades who are struggling with questions of when and how to take action to study the magazine MIM Theory 5: Diet for a Small Red Planet. We distribute it for $5 or equal work trade, and can also send you an accompanying study guide.

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[United Front] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 42]
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Brown Berets - Prison Chapter of Colorado Join United Front for Peace

The Brown Berets - Prison Chapter of Colorado would like to join on to the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). We adhere to all that is listed and we see the need for the UFPP as a major building block not only to create a better culture, but to build better people.

Peace – We stand by this principle, because within our disunity and conflict the system will always prevail.

Unity – The guards are a solid unit, and back up their own 100% of the time. It's time that all of us convicted comrades see past our internal structures when it comes to defending against mistreatment and abuse by the guards. We will back all convicted comrades 100%.

Growth – Education and deliberation, this is a way to develop revolutionary mindsets to set us on a path toward communist ideology. It only works with structure and discipline.

Internationalism – We stand with all oppressed people, their political struggles and their fights for freedom. We will learn of the historical basis for these movements and side with all nations combating U.$. intervention, occupation, exploitation and imperialism. Free Gaza!

Independence – Not only is it important to build institutions apart from the United $tates, we also need to tell the truth by showing examples as to why this is necessary. We support all secession movements and support all liberation struggles within U.$. borders. The military occupied government of this monstrosity we call the United $tates has gone for too long and we support all who wish to break free.

Long live independence!
Remember Wounded Knee!
Unite!


MIM(Prisons) replies: As this comrade writes, unity is something the guards have and we need to work on. But this doesn't mean we should back up all prisoners 100% of the time. Sometimes people who sensibly should be on our side will act in ways that are counter to the interests of the oppressed. We don't have an obligation to back them in these actions. Rather than backing people based on identity (i.e. all prisoners) we should back people based on the correctness of their political line and actions.

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[Abuse] [Gang Validation] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 41]
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Colorado Punishes "Associates" for Actions of Others

Recently a new program was launched to further erode the self-esteem and morale of captives within the bowels of neocolonial Colorado, "the violence reduction program." This program claims to target lumpen-on-lumpen violence by "group punishment." In essence, if violence breaks out between individuals or groups, the prison can punish 5 known associates of those who participated in the violence, even when those 5 had nothing to do with the incident. The administration says this will help ease tension so all "offenders can live in a safe environment and take advantage of what DOC has to offer." Right, that's bullshit.

Because of our tribal, religious, or political affiliations they will hold us as a unit responsible for one another's actions. Wouldn't isolation as a group only promote that much more strength of the group anyway? If we as individuals came in alone and will ultimately go home alone, why are the staff and administration telling us that we are responsible for the actions of people we hang out with?

I know a lot of comrades in Colorado read this, so let's get this rolling. If they will do this to us it won't be long until we all live just like we already do in segregation (Ad-Seg). What more can they take from us at all level IV places, maximum, etc.? We are only allowed two hours out a day for showers and recreation. Two hours! With 22 hours of isolation, we might as well be in Ad-Seg anyway.

I keep thinking of something I once read in MIM literature, that "people will not live under oppression forever." I can't blame my comrades who wish to resort to focoism, but we must remember violence and premature acts of resistance will no doubt set us back. If you really care and want to stop what's happening, it's time to bleed those pens. Unite — fight back.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This practice of punishment of "associates" is not unique to Colorado. In Washington a comrade sent in a copy of a memo about the Group Violence Reduction Strategy policy from Mike Obenland, Superintendent of Clallam Bay Corrections Center dated 22 October 2014. It states, in part,

"If a prohibited violent act occurs, restrictions are imposed on the offender who committed the prohibited violent act (perpetrator) and the offenders who interact with the perpetrator on a regular basis (close associates). Information provided by staff teams is used to identify perpetrators and close associates. This group of offenders is subjected to a cell search and up to six of the following restrictions for 30-days: [list of restrictions]."

This comrade from Colorado raises a good point about the contradictions inherent in the prison system and the repression against prisoners. On the one hand this new policy gives the prison the opportunity to punish and isolate anyone they want just by claiming they are affiliated with someone who engaged in violence, even if they never broke any rules themselves. But on the other hand, this repression will breed greater resistance, both by solidifying the unity of organizations that are punished as a group, and by incurring the righteous indignation of those affected by this arbitrary punishment. We can use this repression to build the revolutionary movement. As this writer says, we need to educate and write about what's going on, and we cannot be pushed into premature actions that bring down more repression.

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