Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Illinois Prisons

We're out of Additional Ounce Stamps - donate U.S. Postage Stamps to POB 40799 SF, CA 94140 help out

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.

[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Camp Hill] [Bill Clements Unit] [Santa Rosa Correctional Institution] [Florida State Prison] [Jefferson Correctional Institution] [Coyote Ridge Corrections Center] [Richard A Handlon Correctional Facility] [Stateville Correctional Center] [Virginia] [Pennsylvania] [Texas] [Florida] [Washington] [Missouri] [Michigan] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 59]
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Censors in Their Own Words - November 2017

U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in the United $tates free speech is reserved for those with money and power.

In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.

Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.

We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.

Virginia DOC

The Chair of the publications review committee for the VA DOC, Melissa Welch, sent MIM(Prisons) a letter denying ULK 56, and then the next month the same letter denying ULK 57. Both letters cite the same reasons:

"D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.

"F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."

Pennsylvania DOC

Last issue of ULK we reported on the censorship of ULK57 in Pennsylvania. After sending a protest letter to appeal the decision we had a rare victory! From the Policy Office, PA Department of Corrections:
"This is to notify you that the publication in issue does not violate Department Policy. As such, the decision of the correctional institution is reversed and the inmates in the PA Department of Corrections will be permitted to receive the publication. The correctional institutions will be notified by the Policy Office of the decision."

If anyone in PA hasn't received ULK 57 yet, let us know and we will send another copy to you.

Pennsylvania SCI-Camp Hill

From a prisoner we were forwarded a notice of incoming publication denial for ULK 57: "create a danger within the context of the correctional facility" p.21, 24

The description quotes sentences that can't be found within ULK including: "PREA system strip searches for harassment in PA", "Black prisoners deserve to retaliate against predominantly white ran system", and "This is a excellent reminder of PA importance of fighting." They are making up text as reasons for censorship in Pennsylvania.

Texas - Bill Clemens Unit

A prisoner forwarded us a denial for ULK 57 "Page 11 contains information that could cause a prison disruption."

In March 2017, our study pack Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party was censored for

"Reason C. Page 9 contains information that could cause a strike or prison disruption."
This adds to the growing list of our most important literature that is banned in the state forever, including Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat and [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlan. We need someone with legal expertise to challenge Texas's policies that allow for publications to be banned forever in the state.

Florida - Santa Rosa Correctional Institution

A prisoner forwarded us a notice of impoundment of ULK 57. The reason cited: "Pages 1, 11, 14, 15, & 17 advocates insurgency and disruption of institutional operations."

We appealed this denial and got a response from Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC, reiterating the reasons for impoundment and upholding the denial: "In their regularly scheduled meeting of August 30, 2017 the Literature Review Committee of the Florida Department of Corrections upheld the institution's impoundment and rejected the publication for the grounds stated. This means that issue will not be allowed into our correctional institutions."

Florida DOC

Following up on a case printed in ULK 57 regarding Florida's denial of the MIM(Prisons) censorship pack, for no specific reasons. We received a response to our appeal of this case from the same Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator, named above.

"From the number of the FDC form you reference and your description of what happened it is apparent the institutional mailroom did not handle the Censorship Guide as a publication, but instead handled it in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code rule for routine mail. As such, the item was not impounded, was not posted to the list of impounded publications for any other institution to see, was not referred to the Literature Review Committee for review, and thus does not appear on the list of rejected publications. That means that if the exact same Guide came to any other inmate mailroom staff would look at it afresh. In theory, it could even be allowed into the institution. ... "The Florida Administrative Code makes no provision for further review."

Florida - Florida State Prison

ULK 58 was rejected for what appears to just be a list of titles of articles, some not even complete:

PGS 6 Liberation schools to organize through the wall (talk about the hunger strikes)
PGS 8 DPRK; White Supremacy's Global Agenda
PGS 11 Case law to help those facing
PGS 19 White and gaining consciousness

Florida - Jefferson Correctional Institution

Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles was denied to a prisoner at Jefferson Correctional Institution because "inmate has received a second copy of the same edition of this publication violating chapter 33-501.401 (16)(b) and procedure 501.401(7)(d)."

Washington state - Coyote Ridge CC

The invitation to and first assignment for our correspondence introductory study group was rejected by Mailroom Employee April Long for the following reasons:

"Advocates violence against others and/or the overthrow of authority.
Advocates that a protected class or group of individuals is inferior and/or makes such class/group the object of ridicule and/or scorn, and may reasonably be thought to precipitate a violent confrontation between the recipient and a member(s) of the target group. Rejected incoming mailing from MIM. Mailing contains working that appears to be referring to law enforcement as 'pigs' it appears to be ridiculing and scornful. There is also a section in mailing labeled solutions that calls prisoners to take actions against prison industries and gives specific ideas/suggestions. Nothing to forward onto offender."

A recent study assignment for the University of Maoist Thought was also censored at Coyote Ridge. MIM(Prisons) has not yet been informed of this censorship incident by the facility. The study group participant wrote and told us it was censored for being a "copy of copyrighted material." The material in question was published in 1972 in the People's Republic of China. Not only did that government actively work against capitalist concepts such as copyright, we believe that even by the United $tates' own standards this book should not be subject to censorship.

Washington state

Clallam Bay CF rejected ULK 58 because: "Newsletter is being rejected as it talks about September 9 events including offenders commencing a hunger strike until equal treatment, retaliation and legal rights issues are resolved."

Coyote Ridge CC rejected ULK 58 for a different set of reasons: "Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy and/or local facet/rules. Contains correspondence, information, or other items relating to another offender(s) without prior approval from the Superintendent/designee: or attempts or conveys unauthorized offender to offender correspondence."

Canada

We received the following report from a Canadian prisoner who had sent us some stamps to pay for a few issues of ULK to be mailed to Canada.

"A few months ago, on July 18, I received notice from the V&C department informing that five issues of ULK had arrived here for me. The notice also explained that the issues had been seized because of a Commissioner's Directive (764.6) which states that '[t]he institutional head may prohibit entry into the institution of material that portrays excessive violence and aggression, or prison violence; or if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the material would incite inmates to commit similar acts.' I grieved the seizure, among other things, citing the sections on page 2 of ULK, which 'explicitly discourage[s prisoners] from engaging in any violence or illegal acts,' and citing too the UFPP statement of peace on page 3, which speaks of the organizational aim to end needless conflicts and violence within prisons.

"Well, I can now report that my grievance was upheld and that all copies of ULK were released to me, but not without the censorship of drawings deemed to portray or promote the kind of violence described in the above-cited Commissioner's Directive. It's a decision I can live with for now."

Missouri

We got reports from two people that the blanket ban on ULK in Missouri was removed and ULK 58 was received. If you're in Missouri and still not getting your ULK, be sure to let us know.

Michigan - Richard A Handlon CF

ULK 58 was rejected because "Articles in Under Lock & Key contains information about criminal activity that might entice criminal activity within the prison facility - threat to security."

Illinois - Stateville CC

ULK 58 was rejected because: "The publication appears to: Advocate or encourage violence, hatred, or group disruption or it poses an intolerable risk of violence or disruption. Be otherwise detrimental to security, good order, rehabilitation, or discipline or it might facilitate criminal activity or be detrimental to mental health. Detrimental to safety and security of the facility. Disrupts order. Promotes organization and leadership."


Read More Censorship Reports
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[Campaigns] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 58]
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Illinois Budget Doesn't Include Due Process

My main issue right now is that I cannot get grievance forms to complain and grieve my issues. The 30 days are over on some, and on others I'll still have a chance to grieve my issues "if" I get some grievances! The counselor for my cell house, Ms. Hill, says to ask the gallery officer, but when I do ask the gallery officer I'm told there is none and/or it's due to the no budget in the state! Grievances are like gold and inmates hoard them and sell them 1 grievance for $1! What can I do, do you have some guidance for me on this issue? I'm attaching the response from the warden and I still haven't heard back from the Acting Director for IDOC.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade created a grievance petition for Illinois, which prisoners can use to demand grievances be addressed in that state. So when ey asks "what can I do," ey is already leading by example, building a campaign to address this problem. We would suggest that the Illinois petition should be updated to include this problem of the prison not providing grievance forms. This is a most basic issue that of course needs to be addressed before grievances can even be answered.

And this is also a very good example of the completely unjust nature of the criminal injustice system. Setting up rules that can't be followed (like submitting grievance forms that are impossible to obtain), so that the prisons never have to abide by their own regulations. This is an example of why we don't expect to put an end to the injustice system by working within the system. They will continue to make it impossible for us to win using their process. But we can use the grievance petition to expose these problems and build a united movement demanding our rights. This movement will build the basis of the unity necessary to ultimately overthrow this unjust system.

If you want to work on this campaign in Illinois, send us a stamped envelope for a copy of the Illinois grievance petition.

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[Censorship] [Western IL Correctional Center] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 53]
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Another Subscriber Harassed

I'm writing in regards to the letter you received from a Florida prisoner in January 2016, published in ULK 49 as "Prison Scares off Subscribers." The prisoner was placed in segregation under investigation, which ey believes was due to receiving your publication Under Lock & Key. Well I'm from Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling, Illinois. I had received ULK 49 with no problem and yet on 15 June 2016 I received a notification from the mailroom that my recent publication of Under Lock & Key, I believe it's probably the May/June 2016 No. 50 issue, was sent to the Publication Review Committee (PRC) for "proper handling," with notification to follow. And yet here it is 22 June 2016, a week later, and I haven't received the notification from the PRC and/or the May/June 2016 issue of ULK. Amazingly 2 days after receiving the notification they came and did a shake down on my cell and messed with all my material in my correspondence box and yet nothing was found. So I ask please remove me from your subscription list.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We are always disappointed to learn that prison harassment has scared a subscriber away from receiving Under Lock & Key. But these stories help to show the potential power of independent media of the oppressed. Prison administrators are afraid of this educational tool. So it is very important that everyone who is able fight back when faced with censorship of ULK, and all subscribers should be sharing their copy of the publication. You can write to us for extras if you want to share them with others. In this way we can spread the power of one copy of the publication to reach many people and help compensate for the widespread censorship we face.

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[Abuse] [Menard Correctional Center] [Illinois]
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Orange Crush, Sexual Abuse at Menard

Our voices are often suppressed by retaliation. Write a grievance addressing the crimes correctional officers are committing behind these concrete walls and you will find yourself on the wrong end of a bogus disciplinary ticket or a cell search that ends with your personal property (family photos, legal mail, etc.) being destroyed and your commissary both stolen and dumped out all over your cell. Have you ever seen what it's like when you dump multiple bags of instant coffee over your bed, clothes, TV and then pour soda over it? I have. The message was clear - what happens in Menard Correctional Center stays in Menard CC. And for ten years thereafter, I have kept my mouth shut. But you can only rape a man of his dignity for so long; for, eventually, fear be erased by disgrace.

So now I write these words for the world to read because what happened these last two days the world needs to see.

In my life, my well-being has never been more threatened or in greater jeopardy than when being beaten and battered by hundreds of men, wearing orange and donned in full riot gear. Yes, I am talking about the Illinois Orange Crush during prison shakedowns.

The Orange Crush (OC) are guards in riot gear, tinted face-masks, no name tags - concealed identities armed with powerful wooden riot batons, mace, handcuffs, leather gloves, Kevlar vests, and military boots. As if their identities weren't already secret enough, we are also told, "Don't look at me, don't look up, put your head down, keep your head down." Even when our heads are down, straining our necks to bend as far as they can possibly go, these words are still yelled directly into our ears.

And this time they brought dogs! These large German Shepherds were loud, snapping their teeth with blood lust in their bark. They lined these dogs up and made us "walk the line." As if the intimidation of a few hundred militarized men busting us with their batons wasn't enough, as if being cuffed behind our backs and having our heads shoved down into our chests wasn't enough, as if their constant screaming into our ears wasn't enough, they also made us feel the fear of ferocious dogs as we were pushed past their blood-curdling cries to do us harm.

Yes, I was violently pushed, prodded, and poked with their wooden batons - riot batons that look like wooden ax handles. Yes, I was yelled at, directly into my ear canal at a level loud enough to cause physical pain. Yes, I was cuffed behind my back and forced to stand "nut-to-butt" in a highly stressed position with my head down for hours on end. Yes, I went two days without running water. Yes, the cell I live in was demolished and my property was both stolen and destroyed. But I can handle that. That is a part of doing time in Menard. We prisoners down here go through OC shakedowns once a year, sometimes more. However, what I cannot handle and what I refuse to keep my mouth shut about is the sexual abuse and molestation that took place this last go around.

On Friday, 15 April 2016, the OC came running onto my gallery, hooting and hollering like a bunch of hooligans and banging their riot batons on our cell bars as they went by. They were there to shakedown our cells. Every OC shakedown starts with a full blown strip search: lift the penis, lift the scrotum, turn around and spread the cheeks, then squat and cough. It's routine. But this time it was different. It started out normal: strip naked, lift the penis, lift the scrotum, but instead of "turn around, spread the cheeks, squat and cough," this OC officer told me, "split 'em." I asked if he meant for me to turn around and spread my cheeks. "No," he said, "split your balls." I looked at him to see if he was joking - eleven years of OC shakedowns and I'd never head of this before. He didn't flinch. So I grabbed my balls - one in each hand - and pulled them apart.

"No! Split them," he yelled. I looked at him confused. It was embarrassing. I was standing there naked, at his mercy, and being belittled. I mean, I already let him view my body underneath my penis and scrotum. Now he's telling me to split my nuts. I did not understand what he was saying, but I did know that my well being depended on my ability to comply. The more I tried to "split my nuts" (whatever that means, I still don't know), the less he was able to contain his laughter. That's when it hit me. He was playing games, entertaining himself with my nudity and getting a kick outta my shame. Then he told me to lift one nut up and pull the other one down. It made me sick. Under the threat of violence I was still being forced to molest myself. And still I had to turn around and spread my cheeks for this guy; still, I had to squat and cough for this guy.

After his heinous abuse of power, making me molest myself, I almost refused spreading my butt cheeks for him. Again, it made me sick to think what was going through his mind. But I did not refuse, because anyone in an Illinois maximum security prison, whose been through an OC shakedown before, knows that refusing to follow the orders of the OC leads to excruciating beat downs by multiple men. And in my case (I was naked and if refusing to let him look between my cheeks) it would have been a naked beat down that ended with the OC holding me down, spreading me open, and physically exploring my orifice for contraband. They would have said I was refusing to comply because I was hiding something in there and didn't want them to find it. These guys are brutal and in the name of "security" they get away with murder. Think of all the videos you've seen of cops beating, even killing, civilians out there, in the public's view. Now imagine how much worse it is in here, for us, when they are never held accountable. Perpetual abuse hidden from the public behind the very walls that keep us in.

So I did what I had to do to survive. I let that pervert look inside of me. After this long nauseating moment of naked and forced self-molestation, I was cuffed behind my back, and again, under the threat of physical punishment, I was forced to strain my neck down, and herded to the chow hall. In the chow hall I, along with other prisoners, stood for hours, subject to the constant violence of being shoved into the backs of other prisoners. We were literally and physically forced to stand with our penises pushed into the butts and the behind-the-back cuffed hands of the men in front of us. Every time we pulled our penis off of the man in front of us, we were shoved back into him and yelled at, "If your cock's not in his ass, you're not close enough."

I cannot, will not, keep my mouth shut about this, lest I become a shell of the man I am today. These words are for the thousands that were abused in the same way. The OC should stand for "Outta Control" for this Orange Crush needs to be prosecuted and punished.

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[Education] [Organizing] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 49]
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Illinois Prisoners Build Communist Study Materials

Hammer Sickle Unite

The Soldiers of Bondage (S.O.B.) is a revolutionary communist organization with its members consisting of political prisoners within the Illinois Department of Corrections. The party was founded on 2 July 2011 in Pontiac Correctional Center Segregation. Current membership is very small, but, with the publishing of this study guide, it is hoped that the party will grow nationally in both numbers and resources. A Manifesto of S.O.B. will be completed soon and it will hopefully be made available to prisoners across Amerika.

The "Communist Manifesto" is the most important piece of political literature to the communist. However, due to the many oppressive conditions that plague the lumpen proletariat within the United $tates, many prisoners have problems with comprehending the "Communist Manifesto." For this reason S.O.B. felt it necessary to create a study guide that would assist prisoners in obtaining as much information as possible from the "Communist Manifesto." This study guide contains 184 questions as well as answers from the text.

After creating the study guide the next question to be answered was how to make the study guide easily available to prisoners. After some debate it was decided that the only real option was to go through MIM(Prisons). We are not sure if MIM(Prisons) will just send this out to prisoners who request it or if they will make it one of their official study group programs. Either way it will assist prisoners in the development of their political consciousness.

Remember that the only way to combat the oppressive conditions we are subjugated to is to become aware of the cause and solution of our oppression. It is the hope of S.O.B. that this study guide will help many become aware of these elements. As Karl Marx and Frederick Engels articulated within the "Communist Manifesto," the proletariat must emancipate itself. Amerika does not have a proletariat. However, Marx and Engels's edict is just as true for the lumpen proletariat: the lumpen proletariat must emancipate itself. You must liberate yourself from the oppression you suffer. Begin your journey to become the New Man by educating yourself. Education is power. Resist! Rebel! Defy!

In strength and solidarity,
Cadre (on behalf of S.O.B.)


MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to commend this group for their hard work focusing on communist education amongst the lumpen. The extensive study guide they created took a lot of work. And their decision to undertake a project that is focused on bringing up the level of theoretical understanding of the lumpen suggests that we have a lot of unity around our principal tasks at this time. MIM(Prisons) knows little about the S.O.B. organization so we cannot comment on our relative level of theoretical unity, and until they publish a manifesto we can only say that the "Communist Manifesto" questions suggest we agree on the bought-off nature of the vast majority of the imperialist-country workers who now constitute a petty-bourgeoisie. This is particularly important as we read a book like the "Communist Manifesto," which was written so many years ago when the labor aristocracy was just a very small segment of the working class, and the workers in First World countries were still a part of the proletariat.

We look forward to work and political discussion with S.O.B. We hope these comrades in Illinois serve as an example for other USW study groups across the country. If you want this study pack, write in to MIM(Prisons). Tell us if you already have the "Communist Manifesto" or if you need a copy

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[Legal] [Campaigns] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 49]
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Advancing the Illinois Grievance Campaign

Upon reading ULK 46 I was once again reminded of the difficulties that us prisoners face trying to have our grievances heard. I would like to share with ULK readers a remedy for this issue that I have discovered.

Pursuant to Powe v. Ennis, 177 F.3d 393 (5th Circuit 1999); and Lewis v. Washington, 300 F.3d 829 (7th Cir. 2002), if prison officials refuse to hear your grievance, your administrative remedies are exhausted. You do not need a response to your grievance to pursue your issue in the courts. You need only prove that you filed the respective grievance.

This can easily be done. First, after you have written your grievance fill out a Proof of Service form stating that on such-and-such date you sent so-and-so a grievance regarding such-and-such issue. After you have filled out the Proof of Service form get it notarized at your facility's law library. Secondly make sure to make copies of both your grievance and the Proof of Service form to keep in your files. Finally, repeat this process at every level of your state's grievance system.

For example: In Illinois there is a three-step grievance system. I have personally used this method in the past (successfully). First, I filed my grievance with my counselor; next I filed it with my institution's grievance office; then I filed it with the Administrative Review Board. Each time I filed my grievance I also filed a Proof of Service form. By doing so I was able to show the Court that I had attempted to resolve my claims through the grievance process. This resulted in the court siding with me and denying the State's Motion for Summary Judgement. I am enclosing proof of this method's success for MIM(Prisons) to verify.

Although this is not the ideal solution it is one that will allow prisoners to pursue their legal matters without being obstructed by the Capitalist swine.


Example Proof Of Service

Hereby comes [your name] to swear under penalty of perjury that on the date signed below I sent the [prison name] Grievance Officer a grievance dated [date] concerning the misplacement of my TV and Norelco Razor by prison authorities through the institutional level mail service.

Executed this ___ day of _____ [month] ________ [year]

_________________________________ [signature]

[get this stamped and signed by a notary public.]


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a helpful update to the country-wide grievance campaign and likely is a tactic that can be used in states other than Illinois. How "easily" this tactic can be employed depends on the conditions of one's confinement. As some prisoners are held in 24-hour lockdown, with no access to a law library, and the only receipt offered for filing a grievance is another beating from prison guards, they might not be able to easily employ this tactic. But for many prisoners, this might be a stepping stone from having one's grievances altogether ignored, to getting one's foot in the door in the courts.

Many people have requested copies of our state-specific petitions to demand grievances be addressed after running into problems with the grievance system. From all the petitions we have sent out, we've heard few updates about the progress on this campaign. It's important that we sum up our political practice and learn from it. And through this summing up we can determine how to best modify our practice to improve it. We call this ongoing summing up and improving of our practice "dialectical materialism." This is a scientific approach to our political work that enables us to learn from doing, and when we do this summing up publicly, through a newspaper like Under Lock & Key, we can apply these lessons across a broad base of organizers and be far more effective in the work that we are all doing.

So if you use, or have used, the above tactic, be sure to tell ULK if it helped you, or what you did to improve it. That way we can all learn from each others' practice to improve our own.

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[Control Units] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 47]
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Support the Illinois Fight Against Solitary Confinement

I was recently made aware of the settlement agreement in the California solitary confinement case. I agree with Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) in the article in ULK 46 "Torture Continues: CDCR Settlement Screws Prisoners". The agreement that was reached is not worth a grain of salt. It still permits the use of solitary confinement within California. The fact that the agreement seems to eliminate indefinite terms of solitary confinement is not a real accomplishment at all. It is merely camouflage. This "concession" hides the fact that no real victory has been made. A prisoner can still spend up to 5 years at a time in solitary confinement within California prisons. We must continue to fight back.

Earlier this year three prisoners within the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) filed a class action lawsuit challenging the use of solitary confinement within IDOC. In mid-2013 approximately 2,500 prisoners were being held in solitary confinement within IDOC. These numbers may seem small compared to the situation in California but Illinois has a significantly smaller prison population.

This lawsuit creates another chance for prisoners to combat the oppressive conditions of solitary confinement. I am asking that prisoners across the United $tates send any information that they can to Uptown Peoples Law Center, 4413 N. Sherridan, Chicago, IL 60640. Address your letters to Allan Mills. He is the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the Illinois lawsuit. If this lawsuit is successful it could be the beginning of the end of solitary confinement everywhere.

Let us practice unity and show that state lines do not alienate us from each other. There are several prisoners who were directly involved in the struggle against solitary confinement in California and elsewhere, who have access to resources and support groups that could be useful in the Illinois struggle. Unite and fight against imperialist oppression. Dare to struggle! Dare to win!


MIM(Prisons) adds: The fight against long-term isolation in Illinois is definitely part of the broader fight against control units everywhere. Even if it's hard to win in the imperialist courts, this doesn't mean we stop fighting, especially when we have the legal resources to take on the fight.

But we still need to be clear that even if we could shut down all of the solitary confinement cells in the United $tates, this would still be only a small part of the criminal injustice system. We need to approach this battle as a part of the larger struggle to take down the imperialists more broadly so that they don't just come up with a different way or a different population to torture and oppress.

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[United Front] [Will County Adult Detention Facility] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 42]
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Declaration of Unity for the United Front for Peace in Prisons

We, the members of GBW & Associates, and the residents of the Will County Adult Detention Facility who shall this day, and henceforth, willingly pledge their allegiance to this Declaration of Unity, and consequently to the United Front for Peace in Prisons, state that:

  1. The imperialist oppressors, having dominated over the poor, the impoverished, the weak, and the innocent, all to their great harm and injury, are deserving of no loyalty or fealty, and must be fought against utilizing every tool available;
  2. The principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, to wit, Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism, and Independence, provide a core of unity among the oppressed masses in prisons in the United States; and
  3. These principles shall be adhered to by every person who reports to fight against imperialism and the tyrannical system of exploitation known as capitalism and the subsequent evils propagated by such system.

For the foregoing reasons, we hereby enter into covenant, and pledge to uphold the five principles, to defend the Declaration of Unity, and to promote the peace and welfare of all mankind.

We further pledge to defend and protect the poor, the weak, the innocent, and the oppressed utilizing any tools available; to utilize all possessed skills and talents to fight against imperialist oppressors; and to show our loyalty and devotion to any person reporting to do the same.

Be it enacted this tenth day of October: In the year of the common era two thousand and fourteen, by the unanimous consent of the undersigned GBW & Associates, residents of the Will County Adult Detention Facility.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This statement comes from a group of jailhouse lawyers specializing in prisoners' rights advocacy and litigation. Recognizing that they have skills specifically important to the legal arena of our anti-imperialist battle, these comrades have built an independent institution of the oppressed. This sets a good example for everyone: you should get in wherever you fit in. If you are an artist, get involved by creating revolutionary art. If you are a writer, submit articles for Under Lock & Key. If you are bilingual, help out with Spanish translation. And for everyone, constantly study and learn. Join the MIM(Prisons)-led study groups, and form your own local study groups. We can provide literature and study guides, but it's up to you to get involved, contribute work, and build independence.

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[Gang Validation] [Control Units] [Pontiac Correctional Center] [Tamms Supermax] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 41]
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STG Validations to Justify Reopening of Tamms Supermax

The good old boys are at it again. These slipper suckers, who feed off other people's misery, are upset about the closing of Tamms Supermax in Illinois a few years ago. Rather than let Tamms sit unoccupied, Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) officials have devised a plan to put pressure on the legislature to open up the 500-bed hell hole again.

Suddenly they claim we have a major gang problem here in Illinois. IDOC officials are rounding up all the Latinos who they can claim are a part of a security threat group (STG) and sticking them in administrative detention (A.D.).

Some guys haven't caught so much as a disciplinary ticket in years and were quietly toiling away in the kitchen or some other form of servitude. Next thing they know they're on a bus and sent to A.D. Some guys, after serving their segregation time for disciplinary tickets, found themselves in Phase 1 of A.D.

The common thread that binds these guys together seems to be that they are alleged members of an STG. It doesn't take much to validate someone as an active member these days. Most guys were members as kids, and their record preceded them to the joint. Some were identified by gang tattoos. And of course there is always that elusive confidential informant (CI), and only the gang intel officers seem to know for certain if the CI even exists. Personally I believe the correctional officers (COs) make up the CIs because the COs know that all they have to do is say the CI's identity is being withheld for the safety and security of the institution, and no one can or will inquire further.

These brothers sit with no recourse in the courts, stuck in limbo waiting in administrative segregation for some sadist to stop using them as a means to obtain a bigger piece of the tax dollar pie so they can re-open Tamms Supermax, and give themselves a pay raise for a job well done while they are at it.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Tamms Supermax opened in 1998. As 2008 approached many who opposed the torture chambers in Illinois formed the Tamms Year Ten campaign to bring attention to it and get it shut down. By January 2013, the unit was completely closed. This campaign was one of a handful demonstrating that the closing of control units is a winnable campaign under imperialism.

That said, almost as soon as Tamms was closed we are getting reports of increasing use of control units in Illinois again. This is why our Shut Down the Control Units campaign uses a specific definition of long-term isolation rather than just counting the prisons officially labeled as "supermaxes" as many bourgeois press do. The above example of pushing false gang validations for more or higher security prisons should not surprise us because prisons are a tool of social control for the imperialists, and that social control includes long-term isolation cells for anyone who challenges the system. The oppressed must organize to build power to change this.

This situation also provides a good example of how we know prisons are not run for profit. The government regularly uses funds to open control unit prisons, which are more expensive to run than lower security prisons. In 1999, MIM Notes reported "Tamms' budget works out to well over $34,000 per year to control each prisoner, not including the $73 million the state reports spending on building the dungeon. Tamms' cost per prisoner is more than three times the $11,006 estimated cost of living for a University of Illinois student at the Urbana-Champaign campus." The employees (COs and other staff) make out with nice high salaries (totaling $17 million at Tamms when it first opened), but these salaries, and everything else in the prison, is funded by the government, with prisoner labor offsetting some of the costs. The imperialists don't mind spending money to sustain their system of social control. It's money they got from the exploitation of workers in the Third World, and they will spend it freely to maintain their way of life and position of power.

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[Censorship] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 39]
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Illinois Court Rules Medical Books Not Allowed to Prisoners

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has just rejected an Illinois prisoner's lawsuit pertaining to the refusal of the prison to allow him to receive the Physician's Desk Reference and the Complete Guide to Prescription Drugs 2009. The court's rationale for this rejection was rather convoluted:


"Quite simply, the prison gave the books' drug related content as one of the reasons justifying its decision to restrict Muson's access to the books, and we don't need to look beyond the books' title and the content to know the books contain information about drugs."

By reading this statement, one would assume that the prison was afraid of the information that the prisoner would learn from reading these books, but later in the opinion, the Court indicated that the same books were available to be read in the prison's law library.

The Seventh Circuit has been issuing some rather head-scratching decisions lately concerning prisoners' rights, and this is simply another one. If the prison we are confined in does not have these books available in the prison library this is a point we as prisoners can raise around this case.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This court ruling demonstrates the arbitrary and unjust basis for censorship of prisoners' mail and reading material. The difficulty with fighting these decisions, which start with the mail room rejections, is that courts often uphold censorship with arbitrary and contradictory reasoning. We need the help of jailhouse lawyers and street lawyers alike so that we can take on some of these battles and expand prisoners' access to revolutionary literature in particular.

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