Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Florida 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.

[Abuse] [Florida State Prison] [Florida]
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Conditions in Florida State Prison

I'm currently residing at Florida State Prison (FSP). FSP is a Close Management institution for prisoners with alleged disciplinary issues. The truth is that FLDOC intends to keep the entire population on maximum lock down! I say this because there are many changes that have taken place since 2007, when I first came to DOC. Most camps now don't allow all prisoners to rec at the same time. Each dorm has specific days to go out. The same rule applies for canteen.

Youthful Offenders camp in Brevard is only allowed to purchase $10 a week on canteen. Supposedly this is to keep down extortion amongst the inmates, but if so then why do they continue to raise canteen prices? Ten dollars a week is not even enough to buy what you need in today's society. This is just DOC's way of showing who's in control.

Here at FSP we can only have 2 pairs of blue-and-whites. We trade them once a week for supposedly clean ones. Just last Monday I received a T-shirt that was damn near brown! They gave me half a towel and half a blanket! We get toilet paper every 10 days and a little motel-size bar of soap once a week. My ceiling leaks water from all the rain, and every time someone takes a shower! I've filed grievances but have yet to receive a response.

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[Campaigns] [Abuse] [Okaloosa Correctional Institution] [Florida]
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Grievance Fight in Florida

In February I was taken to Captain Schwartz's office where he confronted me about writing grievances. I was then locked up, had 5 Disciplinary Reports (DRs) falsified on me, received 210 days of confinement time and lost 150 days gain time. After having been placed in the cell with a prisoner who had written a grievance on the warden for chewing tobacco in a state building, we were illegally gassed twice, made to sleep on raw steel for three days and nights with nothing but a pair of boxer shorts on, and then placed on a loaf diet for 7 days.

This is the second time that I've been under attack at this institution for exercising my first amendment right to write grievances and both times they started with the same captain and both times the Warden, Colonel, and Central Office of Appeal have backed him up. I have been under attack at two other institutions in the past for writing grievances and both times Central Office knowingly and willfully allowed me to be illegally sent to Close Management (CM) [Editor: term for isolation/control units in Florida].

I have high blood pressure and I suffer from asthma and I am not supposed to be gassed. When he gassed us the first time, I tried to tell him about my medical condition and when he saw me throwing up blood and blood running out my nose, he immediately gassed us again. Out of fear for my life, I have not eaten but two selective meals to stay mentally alert since February 22, 2011.

During this time, I was placed in the cell with another prisoner and he was threatened to be gassed and have DRs falsified on him because he refused to take my tray in the cell so it would look as though I was eating to the camera. Finally, an officer just threw a meal tray in the cell and wrote down that I ate that meal. I am definitely not going to let them get away with what they have done to me and are still doing to me. I would appreciate any help you may be able to give me and I would also like to start receiving your newsletter. I just received notice that they are trying to send me back to CM.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Because of the failure of the grievance process in prisons across the country, we have initiated a grievance campaign. If you are in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and California write to us to get copies of the petition and letter for your state, or if you are in another state write for a generic petition that you can modify for use in your state.

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[Prison Labor] [Florida]
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Forced Labor a Part of Daily Abuse

Prisoners in America suffer at the hands of their captors; the only group of people who remain under the brutality of compelled work. Their master is the state. It is an evil and capricious master, whose goal is to break the spirit and reduce to an automaton (the better to be a wage-slave in society) a human being.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the united states, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

The reality of this in prison, is that a prisoner will be assigned a job which will be institutional drudgery - the kitchen, laundry, farm labor, etc. He will then be made to perform his job under the gun - literally, in the case of outside work squads. Something about a correctional officer with a gun is very unsettling - these are very base people who couldn't get a job with the Sheriff's Department, and who don't have to pass a psychological exam or rigorous requirements to get this job.

Even if not under the gun, officers, and sometimes civilian employees, hold tremendous power over the prisoners in their custody, which they usually abuse. What's more, they expect a fully honest days work out of you like you owe them something. If they don't like the job you're doing, or just don't like you, they can send you to the box for 60 days and take all your gain time for refusing to work. Most people get gain time, so an officer has the power to hold a prisoner in prison several months longer at his whim and subject to no real oversight.

Needless to say, you are working at no benefit to yourself. I can speak from the experience of the kitchen, where myself and my fellow prisoners serve the disgusting state food, clean up, and attempt to look busy so as not to incur the ire of the man. After we serve, we are often fed a regular tray, getting only what the compound gets. And some staff like to threaten us with throwing away the rest of the food instead of serving it to us. Also they can legally make us work 70 hours a week.

A few days ago, I was threatened for my grievances about the boots they make us wear over our shoes and all the menu changes. I'm not worried about it, and actually feel good because they ended up on the warden's desk and I got the man's attention.

The boss made a remarkable statement today, in one of his daily speeches: "You're here by choice. I've got a family to feed." First of all, I'm here by force. Second, I didn't make him work in the prison system as a guard.

The supposed compassion of our boss man is overwhelming. I was told today by a friend that he personally witnessed the boss pepper spray two people. This was not for fighting or trying to attack him, but for trying to finish their meal after they were told to throw their tray away for some bogus disciplinary reason.

Prisoners who have medical conditions or are mentally ill are still pressed into labor, with no real way out except to go to the box. The box may look like a pleasing alternative sometimes, but it is not - sensory deprivation, no property or canteen, meager state meals. It's de facto physical and psychological torture, something that surprisingly still exists in this country. Plus there is so much that goes along with it, like a later release date and transfer to a worse unit in the same prison.

I find consolation in the packet of legal material I got from the Panama City Division of the U.S. District Court tonight. Soon I will be out and able to file my 42 U.S.C. ยง1983 lawsuit against an officer and a captain who fabricated disciplinary charges against me. I encourage every prisoner not to forget this time when he reaches freedom, but to speak up for our struggle and report their crimes against us. This can often include filing a lawsuit based on something that happened in prison, because every convict has a story and many have good cases. Know that most of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) does not apply to you as a released prisoner, so you do not have to show physical injury or have filed grievances (although you always should, it establishes a paper trail and potentially incriminating responses) before filing suit. Keep that same spirit alive that made you a stronger man when you get to the streets, whatever you do. That will make you an adversary worth fearing.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's assessment of the importance of organizing and fighting back both behind the bars and on the streets. And the message of continuing the battle once you hit the streets is particularly important. But we would not call this system of prisoner labor "slavery." As we explained in our article on the prison economy, prison labor does not produce a profit for the prisons, rather it is used to offset some (but not all) of the costs of imprisonment. Prisons are primarily used as a tool of social control, with the prisoner labor only a minor aspect of this. The term slavery refers to the system that captures humyn labor for the purpose of exploiting and profiting from it. This is not the case with the Amerikan prison system today. It is important to understand the real motivations of the oppressor if we hope to change this oppressive system.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [Florida] [ULK Issue 22]
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Q-Wing


For
the alleged
criminally insane
obsessed, possessed
and repressed
so-called
most "incorrigible"
inmates
protective custody
security risks
where
death awaits
all
those whose warrants
have been signed
if not stayed...
Where
ole' sparky
(the electric chair)
resides
where men
resist
are brutalized
refuse
to be dehumanized
or
give up control
of their minds
where their
dignity and perspective
in some cases
is relegated
or impaired
to an extreme
appreciation
or acceptance
of the unjust
where some
men are broken
commit suicide
take overdoses
hang themselves

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[Control Units] [Education] [Florida] [ULK Issue 20]
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Turning Control Units Into Universities

As we already know, control units are torture chambers where prisoners spend from 22 to 24 hours a day locked up in a tiny cell for long periods of time with a blinding light burning all day, with no educational or other kinds of programs and without proper medical and mental health attention. We are forced to live in here with the pigs oppressing us every day. These conditions are meant to break prisoners' mental states and spirit. They are oppression tools. Here I've seen prisoners give up and lose all hope, lose their mental states, harm, and even kill themselves. There's no doubt that these horrifying places affect the majority of prisoner's mental health. However, we can and should turn these torture chambers into our universities, for the betterment of ourselves and our oppressed comrades.

The first time I was placed in a control unit (here in Florida they are called close management units or CM) I did 2 years locked up in a tiny cell 24 hours a day. In my first few months I was wasting my time bullshitting, fighting and reading mind-killing fiction books. I was blind about the struggle - our struggle, oppressed against oppressor. Then, one day, a comrade handed me a book called "Last Man Standing" by Geronimo Pratt, a top member of the Black Panther Party. That book alone sparked the revolutionary in me and since then I haven't looked back. Then I met George Jackson, Mao, Lenin and Che among others. That's when I started shaping and organizing my ideals. When my family asked me if I needed money for canteen, I told them no. Instead I asked them to send me books on or by the above-mentioned comrades and I started studying full time.

Along the line a comrade gave me a copy of Under Lock & Key and I loved it. That boosted me up on the prison struggle. I started corresponding with MIM and after a while I began writing articles for them. The comrades at MIM(Prisons) supplied me with good and much needed studying material and I kept working hard on behalf of the struggle - our struggle. I've learned to discipline and organize myself in a way that I never thought possible. As I grew mentally and expanded my knowledge of the struggle, I shared it with others and helped awaken their consciousness.

I had access to nothing except what MIM(Prisons) sent me and my only opportunities to get out of my cell were when I had to see medical or mental health personnel and when we had recreation in a tiny dog pen and showers 3 times a week. Nevertheless, I refused all these. I thought - and still think - that by going to these I was throwing away time that I could use to study and put in work for the cause. I exercised and took bird baths in my cell. I studied even when the lights went out. I used a little bit of light that came in through the back window from a light pole that stood outside the building.

The pigs were used to going around doing their checks and seeing prisoners cuddled up in their beds doing nothing or just staring into space while talking to themselves. In fact, they like to see this because they know that they are breaking the prisoners' minds and fighting spirit. But they hated it when they walked by my cell and saw me sitting on the floor with all kinds of books, dictionaries, papers and pens scattered around me. They couldn't crack me, let alone break me, and that chewed at their insides. I wouldn't give them a chance. I was, and still am, going to fight them until the very end. If I can't fight them physically I will fight them with pen and paper by spreading the word of struggle and helping other oppressed people wake up consciously.

When I was close to being released to open population I told myself that if I started getting off track and losing my discipline I would return to CM on purpose to start disciplining myself all over again. When I was finally released in late 2009 people who knew me before wouldn't associate with me much because they couldn't relate to my new mindset. Fortunately I was able to wake some of them up and have them join forces in the struggle.

In my first prison, after my release from CM, I quickly formed a study group of nine comrades, of which the comrade who first introduced me to MIM(Prisons) was a part. However, the prison in which we were was extremely racist and oppressive and the pigs started targeting us. For being the group's spokesperson they considered me the leader and for that alone they ransacked and destroyed my personal property every time they got a chance, threatened me, then placed me in solitary confinement on false charges. Finally they transferred me to another prison.

At my next prison the pigs already knew about me, so as soon as I got there the searches and property destruction continued, but that didn't discourage me nor did it put a dent in my confidence. In a matter of weeks I had another study group going. But then, not even a year after my release from CM, I had an altercation with another prisoner who was a snitch for the pigs and was returned to CM where I currently find myself.

I have come to the conclusion that open population is not for me. It only takes too much of my study time. Study time that I need for when I get released back into society. Besides, in CM I don't have the pigs in my face all day. In open population there's a great chance that I harm one of them badly and catch more prison time. So I've decided to do my remaining 14 years in a solitary cell. This might be helpful for me, but it is not for everyone because not everyone understands and appreciates it like I do.

If you have no choice but to be in a control unit, don't waste your time bullshitting. Don't let these damn pigs break you. Turn the torture chamber in which you find yourself into your university. Read, study, and educate yourself. Subscribe to Under Lock & Key and other MIM(Prisons) material. If you don't have much material to study, whatever you do have study it over and over. You will be surprised by how much you can learn from reading the same thing over and over. I still have the first Under Lock & Key I ever read, which was given to me by that good comrade 3 years ago, and I still read it every once in a while. And every time I read it, I learn something new.

So comrades, wake up and get to studying. Show the pigs that you won't allow them to break you and that you are willing to fight, learn, struggle, and turn their torture chambers into your university. Just don't turn it into your mental and physical graveyard.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We're glad to see our work having such an impact on comrades in prison and we agree with the recommendations given for those in isolation. But keep in mind that control units exist in order to keep those who study away from the masses. A one-man university is nothing compared to running study groups and organizing sessions with a group of people. For those who are forced into isolation, Under Lock & Key is your connection to dialogue with the larger prison movement.

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[Political Repression] [Florida] [ULK Issue 18]
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Testimony - Retaliation for writing grievances

About three months ago I started filing grievances to the Warden about the verbal abuse Sergeant Watkins was using towards me and several other prisoners. I asked two other prisoners to address this issue also and we started filing grievances on any misconduct that was happening on our housing unit.

In June as I was approaching the chow hall, I got stopped by Captain Mercer, Watkins and four other officers. Watkins said "if you and your buddies don't stop filing grievances, we gonna make y'all life hell around here." I took that threat, and did not let it affect my agenda. See, these devils will use fear as a tactic to get us to submit to their will or ultimatum. Two other prisoners and I kept on filing, and as you may assume, they came at us with bogus disciplinary infractions. They placed us on property restriction, where we have only a pair of boxer shorts to clothe ourselves, and we don't get a mattress or bed roll.

Around shift change the Captain Mercer started to give everyone in our confinement unit a lecture on prisoners abusing the grievance procedures. Comrades, these pigs will use force to break up anything they deem a threat to security. I was sprayed multiple times with chemical agents, denied meals several times, and denied my right to use the legal library. I had another prisoner write to the supreme court of Florida explaining my situation. The court treated the letter as a Writ of Habeas Corpus motion, and now I am awaiting the outcome of the court's decision.

My family was writing me, but these pigs were discarding my incoming mail, so after weeks of unanswered letters my family filed a complaint with the Secretary of the DOC, and finally I was taken off restrictions given proper hygiene products and legal papers. I still get harassed occasionally, but they don't play with my mail anymore or steal my grievances. My agenda is to get a transfer to another facility, but until then I will not let these devils stop me from utilizing my civil and constitutional rights.

Comrades we must prepare ourselves mentally to be able to persevere. The oppressor has advanced, this is a psychological war and genocide is the goal. While doing your part to unite the movement internationally you become a force in our battle to achieve freedom, justice, and equality.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This story of grievances being ignored or leading to retaliation is all too common in the Amerikan criminal injustice system. And not all of our comrades behind bars have family on the outside who are so diligent in defending the rights of their loved ones who are locked up. We need more comrades like this one, and his family, defending the legal rights of prisoners against the abusive prison staff. MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within have launched a grievance campaign to help prisoners get their grievances recognized. We have petitions specific to several states and need more comrades to step up to make them applicable to more. Prisoners whose grievances have gone unheard should help build a library of custom grievance petitions for your state by sending them to MIM(Prisons). To participate in this grievance campaign, write to us and we will send you the info.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [Florida] [ULK Issue 17]
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Self-Respect

Our history is a mystery
Four centuries in captivity
We were set free with no identity
So we adopt and adapt
Rejects living under stress
Free but oppressed
Unravel our mystery
We've been shaped by history
Four centuries of slavery
Who could blame us for being crazy?
Time is of the essence
We're dying, it's urgent
Yes, it's pressing!
At present, "how can I make a difference?"
That's the question
But no one's listening!
From calamity, we can't hide
Life's a compromise
Stages, phases and expression
We ride the tides
Along the waves we learn lessons
How does one wake up the mentally dead?
For so long we've been misled
Don't we know, we've been predisposed
To have the views we hold
My people die for the lack of knowledge
It's tragic, our struggle turned savage
Hardship makes us callous
For the rich we hold malice
And wish we could just ravage
Bring them down to average
Who can blame us for being communist?
To the few of us trying to salvage
The dignity we have left
Do your best
Remember to start off with self-respect

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[Abuse] [Florida]
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Florida use of chemical agents

In reading the May/June 2010 newsletter Under Lock & Key I have come to grips with the fact that we prisoners in Florida are not the only one subjected to and victimized by this oppression, corruption, and systematic abuse in the US prison system. As a new subscriber to ULK, and a fellow comrade, I have also come to grips with the fact that in order to change this oppressive prison system we must use litigation and the creation and maintenance of a prisoners' rights movement both inside and outside of the prison walls. At the same time we can't lose focus of the bigger picture of imperialism and must be carrying out our work as a part of a larger anti-imperialist strategy.

On March 26, 2010 I filed a 1983 Civil Rights complaint in the United States District Court of Florida's Northern District for cruel and unusual punishment against officials of Florida's Department of Organized Crimiaals (DOC). These law abiding criminals (Correction Officers) are taking advantage of a systematic "torture procedure" that was implemented as a tool of intimidation and torture to keep prisoners in check and from rebelling against this abusive and oppressive prison system. This "torture procedure" is a use of force procedure that allows prison officials to administer chemical agents into the cells of prisoners at the slightest infraction or if a prisoner does something or says something an officer does not like. You may get gassed out of retaliation or even if the officer doesn't like you.

It usually goes down with an officer coming to your cell role playing like he is counseling with you about your behavior. This role playing is continued with a sergeant and lieutenant or captain to make it appear for the cameras as if they are counseling with you about some alleged behavior that was "disruptive" or "a threat" to staff. Once the role playing is done the oppressors role your door with a chain on it and unload big cans of mace into your cell to torture and abuse you. The spraying or gassing (as the oppressors call it) usually goes on for three rounds. During each round you are left in the cell at least five minutes or longer to suffer from the effects of the mace (coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing and severe burning of the skin and eyes). Once the gassing is over you are pulled out of your cell and placed in an empty cell for 72 hours in only your boxers with no clothes, property, mattress, sheets or blanket. If you refuse to come out your cell to be subjected to this additional punishment after you have just been victimized then the oppressor (usually a captain) will assemble a good squad (extraction team) to come in to get you.

This article is written to expose the corruption and systematic abuse within Florida's Department of Organized Criminals. If we are going to abolish oppression and systematic abuse systems such as this one in Florida, it's going to have to come through litigation and a unified effort on our part and our fellow comrades on the outside to establish a prisoners' rights movement. Meanwhile, our motto should be: resistance! resistance! resistance!

MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this prisoner's call for resistance in the legal system and building a strong resistance movement. However, we have no illusions that we can abolish oppression through litigation. This comrade does mention that we can't lose sight of the larger struggle against imperialism, and it is this struggle that leads to our understanding that fighting legal battles is a strategy for this stage of the struggle but not a solution to end oppression.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [Florida] [ULK Issue 15]
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School of Hard Knocks

Welcome to the school of hard knocks,
where it seems the clock has stopped,
trapped in a prison industrial complex,
the size of city blocks,
guns cocked in gun towers,
Ever so slowly passes, years, days, months and hours,
time devours all - tempus edax rerum
And here I live in this correctional slum
I've never been dumb, but I've done dumb things
and this brings me to:
As long as I'm alive, I strive,
Sometimes striving means simply surviving,
I could have went to Penn state,
but instead I'm in the state pen
Surrounded by 1200 people, but not one friend
I sent a letter to my family, but it seems that they're mad at me,
Because they only seem to respond semi-annually,
But I still have a strategy
to increase intellectually,
they may have my body, but they don't have the best of me,
I'm 30 now, I'll be released at 41,
In the futuristic year of 2021
The sum total of my incarcerated years will be 20,
But the total of the tears of me and my family is too many,
Plenty places, all over the state they have sent me,
tortured occasionally with tear gas and electricity,
they think that they're breaking me, but they're only remaking me,
I'm taking a breath while they're trying to smother,
And brother, in this world, if you break it down statistically
you'll realize you have to do your own part individually,
and realistically, I can see, if I don't improvise, educationally,
In FL DOC, I'll never go further than GED,
So I'm striving and searching, reaching and seeking,
trying to gain more knowledge, give my life more meaning,
in this institutional, "correctional," demeaning existence,
to improve yourself, takes a lot of persistence,
and one day prove useful to communist resistance

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[Control Units] [Florida] [ULK Issue 15]
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Rolling with the punches

I'm in disciplinary confinement for 300 days. I'm informing you to let you know they are all about punishment. However, there are several benefits to confinement as opposed to general population.

First, as an analytical thinker, I have the solitude to concentrate on what's more important, instead of the normal population activities of doing what Masta says and spending my people's money on the high-priced zoom zooms and wam wams. Second, I can think of ways to further the struggle and communicate with you all from within this "think tank." Last, regardless of where on the plantation I am, the clock still ticks, so 300 days is that much closer to my max date.

I'm getting much rest and I'm preserving my mind and body for the revolution and the future. So if I can help formulate any ideas and/or literature to help enlighten and educate the masses, just let me know.

It's a shame that these people try to make the public think they're all about trying to make prisoners better people so they'll be productive members of society, yet in confinement we are not allowed any books except a bible. We can't have a dictionary or any other book to educate your mind. It's obvious that they couldn't care less about our betterment when they use education material as a punishment.

They also use hygiene products as a punishment. In confinement I can't have my soap, lotion, toothpaste, dental floss, etc. They give us half of a hotel bar of soap to last a week, and a hotel toothpaste to last a month. So I'm only able to brush my teeth once a day or it won't last for 30 days. If food gets stuck in my teeth, I have to get a piece of string out of the sheets or boxers.

Socks are also not provided so the ones I came in with have to last 300 days. With no soap to wash them, I have to take an all-water shower once a week to save the soap to wash my boxers and socks. But hey, I'm learning survival skills and I'm stronger for it!

A weak mind will take this punishment or these conditions and feel degraded, but I often think about the conditions my ancestors endured on those slave ships, and the savage, degrading and humiliating conditions of life on these plantations under forced servitude and criminal bondage. Their only crime was being born with melanin in their skin. I think of how the Masta cut up a hog and took all the lean meat for ham, pork chops, bacon, and sausage, then threw the garbage to the slaves like the intestines, the feet, ears, tails, etc. Yet they made "soul food" with it. They made swamp grass into collard greens. And everything else that was used as punishment they used to become stronger, resilient, and more hardened to whatever the enemy came up with.

MIM(Prisons) responds: Adapting to whatever challenges the oppressor throws our way is an important part of survival under imperialism, including maintaining mental health. Long-term isolation is probably one of the greatest mental health challenges the oppressed will face. So we commend this comrade's positive outlook and willingness to do work, even though it is much more limited while locked in isolation.

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