Prisoners Report on Conditions in

LA State Penitentiary - Louisiana

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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.

[Censorship] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana]
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New Afrikan Books Censored in Louisiana

On 13 February 2015, the books Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Dubois, The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, and Blood In My Eye by George Jackson arrived at the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. They were sent to me by a family member directly from the Amazon.com as per the requirements of this institution. However, I wasn't notified of their arrival until six months and two weeks later. Added to that outrage was the rejection of the absolutely essential, must-read piece of literature for the New Afrikan Guerilla, Blood In My Eye.

The institution, perhaps on some "legitimate self-interest" grounds, could have possibly raised a plausible objection to the book. For it is known throughout the corrections racket that the book "Blood In My Eye" has been known to elevate the consciousness of the oppressed captives subsisting behind its walls. And of course conscious elevation equals prison population deflation, I get that. What I didn't get was this institution rejection the book on the grounds that it contained nudity or sexually explicit material. Yes you read that right. The book by Comrade George was rejected, according to this institution, because it contained nudity or sexually explicit material.

I of course immediately appealed the decision through the administrative remedy procedure. Three and a half months later - mind you that policy only allows 40 days for a response - I received an answer. Amazingly the book was now being rejected because it "contains material that could lead to inmate unrest for racial reasons." Not the nudity issue I addressed in the appeal! If it wasn't for the fact that I understand how the administration does battle, they would have totally thrown me off course with that move. But they didn't so I continue to fight on. Just another episode in the never ending series of "Administrative Justice". A Luta Continua.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for continuing the fight in face of the prison changing rules and reasons, failing to follow their own policies, and unjustly denying em educational material. We should all strive to have this same attitude of perseverance when we are repeatedly put down by those in power. We will lose most of our battles right now because we do not have power. This is why our tactical battles, like the one against censorship, must always be in the context of the larger struggle to overthrow imperialism. Only when we have a government that is serving the interests of the majority of the world's people, rather than one serving the minority of wealthy people, will we be able to implement real justice. This power will not come with a few petitions and legal battles, but these campaigns are part of the long hard work we do at this stage of the struggle.

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[Abuse] [Prison Labor] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana]
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Angola Louisiana Warden Making Money on Prisons

I've decided to place my pen to paper and let you know about some reprehensible bullshit the imperial pigs who run this whole prison complex racket are up to and are hoodwinking the public about.

I was reading the June 2012 issue of Prison Legal News, Vol 23, No 6 and I was utterly floored when I read the cover article titled "God's Own Warden." [This article was reprinted from Mother Jones magazine.(1)]

There is a Warden of Angola prison in Louisiana by the name of Burl Cain. This man has a full blown racket going on down there, where he not only exploits inmates with blatant slave labor, but then hides it behind religion, and openly broadcasts his money making exploits.

This imperial pig "pays" inmates 2-20 cents to move the wheels of his little prison industry down there. He's got a "museum," farming fields, a gift shop, and a rodeo arena which seats 10,000 people and draws 70,000 people each spring and fall for "prison rodeos."

At these "rodeos" they have "convict poker," where they put 4 prisoners around a table and tell them to remain seated while a 2000 pound pissed off bull charges at them. In another event they call "guts and glory," they tie a poker chip to the horn of an angry bull. While it hangs from the horn "inmates vie to snatch the poker chip off the horn" while the prisoners run after and are chased by said enraged animal. These events are done for the laughs of the people who've bought themselves tickets to this idiocy.

In 1998 Daniel Bergner wrote a book titled "God of the Rodeo" where he himself researched this rodeo and wrote a book about it, saying that he "observed the reaction of the crowd which was electrified, exhilarated, by the thrill of watching men in terror, all made forgivable because the men were murderers." He then goes on to say "I'm sure some of it was racist (see that nigger move) and some disappointed (that there was no goring) and some uneasy (with that very disappointment)." Then he goes on to say "many people were not laughing, were too bewildered or stunned by what they'd just seen."

And of course this industrial pig has prisoners outside the arena selling arts and crafts, crawfish étouffée and Frito pies. In his "gift shop," he sells miniature handcuffs, prisoner-made jelly, and mugs that read "Angola: a gated community." Then people move on to a display of "Gruesome Gertie" which is dubbed as "the only electric chair in which a prisoner was executed twice." (The first time didn't take because the executioners were "visibly drunk.")(2)

So not only does this imperial pig make money off live inmates, he cashed in on their cruel and unusual deaths as well. But that's still not enough for the deep pockets of this racketeering Warden. He contracts his prison out to Hollywood and "allows" prisoners to be extras, all for a nice fee of course!

Cain gets away with it because he hides it all behind religion and converting prisoners to Christianity. So with his money he tosses up a few plywood walls and roof, calls it a church, and says he's "saving souls."

This is the prison where a trio of prisoners had been locked down in solitary confinement longer than anyone in U.S. history, because they were Black Panther Party members (Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and the now released Robert King). They were put in solitary confinement, and have spent nearly 4 decades there, simply for their political beliefs.

In 2008 Warden Cain had a disposition taken in which Cain says of Woodfox, "He wants to demonstrate. He wants to organize. He wants to be defiant... He is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize young prisoners, I would have me all kinds of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them."(3)

Never mind the fact that these two heroic comrades are in their 60s and have a near perfect record for more than 20 years. Warden Cain says "it's not a matter of write-ups. It's a matter of attitude and what ya are... Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace is [sic] locked in time with that Black Panther revolutionary actions they were doing way back when... and from that there's been no rehabilitation."(3) Warden Cain then "suggested that Wallace and Woodfox could be released into general population if they renounced their political beliefs/views and embraced Jesus."(3)

Cain's policy is if inmates don't attend church services they don't get the good jobs (that pay 2-20 cents), or other goodies, such as a day or two off from plowing and farming his fields, a good meal, special banquets, ice cream, etc.

There should be a public outcry of complete outrage over this shit. This is the very sickening degeneracy which we as communists strive to stomp out. These atrocities going on down in Angola under the skirts of religion piss me off, and only strengthen my resolve to standup and fight these imperial piggies every step of the way. With every breath I take it fills my eyes with only the color of red. In solidarity we stand.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As we've explained in articles on the U.S. prison economy, the exploitation of prison labor by private entities is very limited in scope, with most prison labor contributing to prison maintenance and expenses. In the case of Angola, the farm laborers, making a maximum wage of 20 cents per hour, are actually engaged in productive labor and are likely providing a net surplus value to the prison after factoring in the room and board they are provided. But even in this large, well-organized operation, the income is only an offset to the total costs of keeping these men imprisoned, in particular paying the salaries of guards and administrators.

Those prisoners making jam, and other trinkets for sale outside the rodeo are raising money for Christian organizations.(1) In this case private interests are benefitting financially from coerced labor, but even then there are no capitalist profit interests behind these projects as implied by the myth of the "prison industrial complex." Petty economic interests aside, the bigger story here is the national oppression faced by the 75% Black prisoner population at Angola coerced into supporting Christian organizations and pushed into the rodeo. This is a reprehensible example of treating men like animals and turning social control into a sport for the entertainment of reactionary spectators.

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[Religious Repression] [Prison Labor] [Organizing] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana] [ULK Issue 17]
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Political Activism Killed by Religion in Louisiana

I have begun to receive ULK and I have not had any problems with censorship. There are not very many politically active people/groups here now, such as in California, so the mailroom is not hyperaware of radical political publications.

This was not always the case. Louisiana State Prison (Angola) in the 60s, 70s and 80s was a hotbed of political activism, primarily with the Black Panther Party. It was also considered one of the bloodiest prisons in America. Since the 90s it seems political activism/education has evaporated. This is mostly due (in my opinion) to the prison becoming admittedly more safe, the aging and death of the older inmate population (as the 60s and 70s were a universally more politically active time across America), and the current Warden. Warden Burl Cain has quite effectively turned the prison into a church, with even a 5-year seminary college funded by the Southern Baptists of America.

This has had an enormously detrimental impact on the prison population. There is no longer any prisoner solidarity (beyond the individual self-serving prison clubs and organizations) or any real political movement. Most (though not all) prisoners now play the religion game as a ticket to move up within the prison society and garner favor with the administration. In fact, to essentially get in any position of prisoner power - such as a club president or to work for the prison magazine The Angolite (which came to prominence under Wilbert Rideau) - you must be an active professed Christian.

The true harm in all of this is that there is no real rehabilitation or education within the prison now. Louisiana does not have parole for people sentenced to life and 90% of the 5000+ prisoners here at Angola will die in prison. This is a proven statistical fact even admitted by Louisiana DOC. The only option for lifers in Louisiana is the possibility for a sentence reduction by the pardon board. This is not a legitimate option though. It is extremely rare (once every 10-15 years) that they recommend a lifer for a sentence reduction and the governor signs it.

In the farce of this hopelessness, the warden has pushed the panacea of religion both to fight hopelessness, as well as the idea that if you garner enough favor and play the religion game well enough, you will be lucky when you go before the pardon board. The warden has made moves to place himself as an "advisor" to the pardon board to give recommendations as to who should be given a pardon (sentence reduction) and who not. This means you either toe the warden's line - be Christian, not exercise your rights, make no waves, become an informant to show you are "reformed" - or you essentially have no hope whatsoever of ever being granted relief by the pardon board. This includes those prisoners with lesser sentences who go before the parole board. The pardon and parole boards are one and the same.

All of this is a preamble to my real reason for writing this letter to you. I am attempting to re-energize a political base among the prisoner population. The most possible form this may take is by labor unionizing. Angola is one of the last great prison farms (18,000 acres for crops and cattle), along with places like Parchman in Mississippi. A good many of the prisoners here still perform agricultural labor. This food is primarily sold for private profit, not fed to us. This prisoner labor saves the state (and earns it) million of dollars, while prisoners receive little or no "incentive pay" or wages. Field workers earn 4 cents an hour or less, half of which (up to $250) must go into a "savings account" the prisoners may not use (except for a few narrow reasons) even if the prisoner is a lifer and will never get out to use his "savings." This money sits instead, in perpetuity, earning interest in DOC bank accounts for the state.

The only practical political force prisoners here may exert is by unionizing. Not only to work towards better living/working conditions in prison, but towards more just sentencing laws. Unionization as well creates a solidarity movement younger prisoners may never have experienced before which can prove fertile grounds for Marxist/Maoist education. It would be fitting to see such an agrarian Maoist movement take hold and grow here. Unionization and the educational benefits of a labor movement create the grounds for producing politically aware cadres, some who will remain in prison, but many who may return to their communities to expand the movement.

Consequently, it is my hope to recruit and develop a dedicated cadre of individuals here to research the possibility of a prisoner labor movement and further that idea by education and activism.

I have already circulated the introductory letter you sent to me describing MIM(Prisons)'s platform, as well as the first issue of ULK I have received. I further plan to enroll in your Maoist study cell. I have read and studied Marxism-Leninism for many years but am not as familiar with Maoism or how such Maoist principles may differ in form or function from Marxism. As I have always generally understood, Marxism-Leninism applied to an industrialized (to a large degree) proletariat, where as Maoism was an agrarian movement. I'm sure this may be a huge oversimplification. For that reason, I wish to educate myself more, with your help.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We support this comrade's efforts to organize prison workers. Rather than a proletariat or peasantry, the U.$. prison population's relationship to production puts it squarely in the lumpen class, as we explained in a report on the U.$. prison economy. Prison labor is used to save the state money, as this comrade points out, in its excessively expensive project of imprisoning this class of people that capitalism has no use for. Therefore organizing prisoners to heighten the contradictions of the state in fiscal crisis is of great value. And there is no doubt that this organizing serves an excellent educational purpose as well.

Maoism is an advance on Marxism-Leninism that still bases itself in the revolutionary class of the proletariat but also sees the peasantry as a key ally to the proletariat in countries like China where the system is semi-feudal and the population is so dispersed in the agrarian countryside. While we can't just take this theory and apply it to farming in the U.$. where conditions are very different, the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) is still very relevant today. The dialectical materialist method teaches us to learn from the best that history has to offer (MLM) and apply it to our conditions today just as groups like the Black Panthers and Young Lords did with the lumpen before us.

The history of prison labor organizing at Angola pre-dates the Panthers, and according to one blog, during a strike in 1951, 31 prisoners cut their Achilles tendons so that they could not be made to work on the farm. Acts like these distinguish those who really have "nothing to lose but their chains" - one definition of the proletariat. Religious brainwashing can be effective at diffusing such resistance, especially when there are bribes involved, but the oppressed will gravitate towards Maoism as it represents their interests as a people and not just short-term individual interests.

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