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.
I am a prisoner at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. I'm currently being held in solitary confinement for our May 12 uprising against the oppression and abuse inflicted on us by the administration and guards.
For months, the administration had been keeping us locked in our cells for 23 hours a day, in population! Using excuses of "short on staff," we are only allowed to either shower or call our loved ones for one 30-minute session per day. Our one-hour recs are cut to 45 and 30 minutes consistently. The inmate barber shop is closed. Visits are canceled. Guards are verbally and physically abusive.
Until, on May 12th at dinner chow (2 hours late) at 7:30 pm, 288 prisoners participated in a mass sit-in, in peaceful protest to all of the injustices. Instead of answering requests for talks with white-shirts, all officers fled both chow halls and kitchen, leaving us locked in, and grouped outside the windows and taunted us. The sit-in quickly escalated into the largest "riot" in Missouri history, consisting of a reported $4 million in damages, with the complex being taken over and held for over 7 hours. Inside, only 2 people were attacked before leadership and unity were established.
Countless abuses and injustices followed our return to custody, including: remaining zip-tied for 7-9.5 hours, forced to urinate ourselves, beatings, double-celling prisoners in single-man cells for a week with no mattress or bedding, less than 1000-calorie daily diet instituted for the entire camp for over 70 days, etc.
Through all this, the administration kept up its tricks of sowing hate and dissension amongst prisoners in population by blaming the 3-month lockdown on us by actually naming us to other prisoners in hopes of retaliation). Visits were canceled, no canteen, etc.
However, those of us in confinement know the truth: in 2017, we had a mass race-riot of Browns & Whites vs Blacks, and less than 12 months later those same races, true those same prisoners, come together to fight in unity against oppression! Me and about 20 other comrades came together again in September 2018.
It is coming up on 6 months since our placement in seg and we are likely to receive another 90 days just for good measure, but we are still standing. There are 78 of us from the uprising in seg, and many of us belong to one organization or another. When we are released we will continue to spread and build on this unity that was formed under great oppression. We will carry this momentum to bring all prisoners together to face the true enemy!
We have seen and heard praise for our battle and victory in the struggle throughout other max securities in Missouri. There have been other uprisings that have followed ours at a couple mediums, (one was a race-riot, but with guidance and support those aggressions can be properly re-directed), and the administration is taking notice. The five principles of the United Front are taking hold in Missouri. We will do our part to learn, share, teach and uphold them as we struggle together in our war against oppression. I will do my part in not only spreading the message to mi raza, but others as well. Unity is the key! Viva la gente!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We printed some good discussion about these Missouri protests in ULK 65. This writer highlights what is most important about these sorts of actions: the learning by participants and observers about what prisoners can accomplish with unity. By building the United Front for Peace in Prisons, comrades in Missouri are building strength and unity, setting up the conditions for stronger actions in the future.
13 May 2018 — 208 prisoners of every race, background, group, organization, etc. said enough is enough! We came together and sat down in a peaceful protest. During dinner (chow hall) as usual the pigs not only violated our constitutional rights (First Amendment freedom of speech) but they also attempted to bully us by flex'n and threatening us. That's when our peaceful protest turned uprising. I wish y'all could have seen the way all the guards (C.O.s, Sergeants, Lieutenants, etc.) ran out the kitchen and chow halls. You would have thought they ran track! Who the cowards now?
For the first time in Missouri history we united. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity. In a matter of seconds we gained control of the kitchen, both dining halls, property room, canteen storage, the factory, forklifts, weapons, keys, phones, computers, etc. Well after a few hours the phones start to ring. Guess who's calling? The warden and highway patrol. For the first time they listened to our demands. They respected us. They feared our unity. They was at our mercy.
On our own terms we surrendered 8-9 hours later. After we got our point across.
Note: 90% of guys in our peaceful protest turned uprising have outdates ranging between a few weeks and 15 years. So only imagine if the outcome was the other way around. 90% of us could have been locked to the board (life without?).
Due to us striving so fast and hard we left administration not only confused but also emotionally off balance. Being that this never happened before in Missouri history they acted off impulse and violated every constitutional right you can think of. Which led to KC Freedom Project lawyers starting a class action lawsuit on our behalf against Missouri DOC. The media has been on fire regarding this.
Update? We still on lockdown! We still receiving brown bags (sack lunches). They say it was $3 million worth of damage. They making us do 1 year. We damn near 6 months in.
Administration is still up to their tricky ways. They have attempted to divide and conquer us by destroying all the guys' property that was in the hole and told them we did it. Also telling all the guys in GP it's our fault they are locked down still. So yeah the struggle continues.
By the way, there have been two other uprisings of this kind since we kicked it off. If we can unite here in Missouri where unity has never existed then any state can.
Another Missouri prisoner wrote:
It has been 13 months since the prisoners bonded together, Black, White, Native and brown (Chicano) and kicked off a riot at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, causing over a million dollars in damage. What did it accomplish?
Prison property got damaged that your families who are tax payers (and you too cause you pay taxes on your canteen items) are going to have to pay for the damages.
You injured one another with violent acts and all it accomplished is enemies, and lockdown of the prison.
Supposedly two housing units are to be cleared out for the creation of SHU units. They are supposed to lock up all the gang leaders and violent soldiers.
As of now, this is all just rumor, but every time Missouri prisoners show acts of violence via riots, the prison gets stricter. For example, the 1985 riot in the old Missouri State Penitentiary caused them to build a supermax housing unit.
When are we gonna learn that we are hurting ourselves more ways than one by these acts of violence? When I was advocating peaceful protests with demonstrations of how to shut the prison system down, nobody in Missouri wanted to participate. But you go off on your own and committed this no nonsense act of violence against your brother, your friends, your families, and jeopardized everyone.
It costs $85 million a year to keep the U.S. prisons up and running. The government is not producing this money to keep the prisons going. So where is the money coming from? Let's see now, in Missouri it's coming from Missouri Vocational Enterprise (MVE), the sign shop, the printing shop, the license plate plant (tag plant), the furniture factory, the chemical plant, information technology (IBM program), the braille program, the laundry, the cooled-chill plant (cold food storage), the shoe factory, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot work release) and the newly implemented paneling factory.
The above-mentioned factories are multi-million-dollar industries per year. They are paying you pennies. So what a couple of these jobs pay between $150 and $300 per month. If you peacefully protest by refusing to go to work in these factories, either they are going to pay you at least minimum wage where you will be making at least $340 a week, or they are gonna bring in civilians to do the work, in which case the factories are going to have to be uprooted and moved because most civilians are not coming inside the prisons to work. So to shut down a beast like the U.S. prison system is to shut down their economy — that is, the very thing that's bringing them money to keep the prisons open is the very thing that can shut it down.
This just doesn't begin and end with the prisoners. The prisoner has to survive. He has to eat. So the people in the free world are going to have to support the prisoner financially. Family, friends, advocate organizations are all going to have to pitch in and support the prisoner financially. That means to stop working we have to buy food to eat. To stop using the phones and tablets, we need stamps, envelopes, paper and pens to write letters that cost money. So the free world must understand that for us to make these sacrifices, then society is going to have to make sacrifices to assist us.
So Missouri prisoners, society (family, friends, organizations, advocates, etc.), stop going about things the wrong way and do them like they should be done in order to get results.
I go home next year on parole, but I do not leave my fight behind. There is a bigger world out there, which means a lot more opportunities to fight. I am going to find resources and seek out that they join me in my quest to do away with this beast. I will need their support mentally, physically, spiritually and above all, financially. With this, Comrades, I hope to see you on the other side, working with me and supporting me from the inside and outside.
In struggle—In solidarity
Arm raised—clenched black fist
MIM(Prisons) responds: A lot of folks talk about how hard it is to get people to unite behind bars. The prison controls everything from day-to-day comfort to release dates. And that's powerful incentive to conform. Then they introduce drugs and other distractions to pacify the population. They pay off snitches to keep an eye on activists. And they lock organizers down in solitary confinement. Still, faced with all these barriers, prisoners can and do come together to protest. Conditions at Crossroads CC were bad enough to inspire this action. And while the outcome wasn't all positive, the class action lawsuit and attention of the public has forced the Missouri DOC to admit that prisoners are suffering significant restrictions due to short staffing.
The comrade criticizing this action for its lack of focus and random acts of violence and destruction is right that often these sorts of actions lead to more repression. Though peaceful protests are also often met with increased repression. This debate over tactics in prison protests is one that should be happening within all prisons across the country. We hope the comrades at Crossroads will learn from this action and move forward in greater unity towards future actions that will be even more effective.
Focusing on the economics of prisons reveals the ridiculous scale of the criminal injustice system. As the writer above notes, it would be a significant financial loss to the state if they were forced to hire non-prisoners for all the jobs prisoners are doing. And this is financial leverage that prisoner workers can use to their advantage.
But to debate the value of this tactic we need to first be clear about the scope of prisoner labor. The state of Missouri 2018 budget allocated the Department of Corrections over $725 million. About the same as the previous year, which was up $50 million from 2016.(1) The state would have to allocate even more money if no prisoner labor could be used to help run the prisons, or produce products that are sold to generate revenue. But that prisoner labor is still a small part of the total cost of running prisons.
As we showed from data collected from prisons across the United $tates, in general, losing prisoner labor would add about 10% to the cost of running prisons. Prisons are mostly subsidized by states' budgets. The labor from prisoners just doesn't come close to covering that cost. So while there is definitely economic power in those jobs, shutting down prison industries won't shut down prisons.
We don't aim to just improve conditions. In the end we know the criminal injustice system keeps taking away rights, doing what it can to make prisons a place of suffering and complacency. But this protest showed the people involved that they have the power to take collective action. As the original writer notes, the prison can see their downfall in the unity of the prisoners. This lesson of the importance and power of unity is what will hopefully fuel ongoing organizing.
I'm a politikal prisoner warehoused at the State of Missouri's most repressive slave plantations (Crossroads Correctional Center). It's name (Crossroads) alone sounds like a cemetery and it does literally feel like one.
The institution is still on lock-down from a riot that took place 5, 6 months ago where no one was injured but millions of dollars in property damage occurred.
The conditions that led up to the rioting still exist today and are even worse today. Basically, we are locked down in our cells all day and none of our daily needs are met. For example, they transferred me here last week as a punishment from another camp and placed me in ad seg despite me not having any conduct violations (write-up). They refused to bring me my ad seg allowable soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste for six (6) days, but gave the other transfers theirs the same day.
So, I sent my case worker numerous kites requesting grievance forms, which she denied me. I'm on high blood pressure medication, which I should have received the first day I arrived, yet medical staff continues to ignore my request. When I arrived here, they gave me another prisoner's used and dirty underclothes and bedding when everyone knows that you're supposed to be issued new underclothes and can be issued used outer garments. Again, I sent my caseworker a kite for a grievance complaint and a legal request form to order prison policies and legal case law to challenge these conditions and was again denied.
I'm on a certified religious diet meal plan, yet they refuse to recognize it at this camp despite having documentation proving that I'm on the diet plan. (Please note: A white prisoner next door to me receives his CRD-meal 3 times a day).
We are dealing with gangsters here. Gangsters who have been allowed to do whatever they feel like doing and outside of what prison regulations mandate without being challenged or corrected. And if you bring attention to this abuse of authority, they calculatingly and systematically isolate you and target you with more abuse.
Please send me something to read, i.e. newsletter, prisoner resource guide, anything that will keep my spirit and mind up.
In 2010, the Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), with the assistance of MIM(Prisons), initiated a campaign to fight censorship. BORO last provided an update on this campaign in ULK 17. Since that time there has been censorship of some issues of ULK and IRRs (appeals) and grievances were filed. Issue 28 was censored in October 2012 and we fought it. On 19 December 2012, we won the grievance and were issued the ULK on the same day.
Prison activism can be very discouraging at times, but we must hold firm to our commitment to struggle. Whenever an issue of ULK, or any other material, is censored, our advice is to not sign the censorship notification and covenant not to sue forms. Although signing these forms will allow you to send the material to whomever you want, you effectively give up your right to grieve the issue or file a legal complaint in the courts.
Another new development is that the mailrooms now have to notify publishers when they censor any of their mail sent to prisoners. This is a strategic win for us and should be further encouragement for those of you who complain "we can't beat these people".
MIM(Prisons) adds: To the comrade who wrote in asking for more news on Missouri in ULK 27, this is a good example of how to make news by carrying out work over the long term and reporting on it. We got another response to that letter from a comrade in Missouri who reported being on a solo hunger strike going on fifteen days on 1 January 2013. S/he wrote, "I'm hoping some other prisoners in Missouri will read this article and start to ride on some shit. The way they run prisons in Missouri is screwed up and it's time to stick together and change some stuff." We warn our readers that hunger strikes without support and planning can be dangerous and reckless. But make no mistake, not all prisoners in Missouri will accept abuse.
I have been incarcerated in the Missouri Department of Corruption since 1997. Over these many years I have been confined to seven different "camps" within the state of "Missery."
I have seen prisoners maced and beat severely at Potosi Correctional Center in the late 90s. Officers there would routinely chain prisoners up "hog tied" like and leave them lying in their cells. Rather than move prisoners that didn't get along or otherwise weren't compatible they would make them fight and in two instances I know of, prisoners were murdered by their cellmates.
All over the state it is common practice to place completely incompatible people in a cell together. Guys with life without parole being celled with prisoners with only a matter of months left in their sentence.
At Crossroads Correctional Center I saw a sergeant kick a "chuck-hole" closed on one prisoner's arm. Another sergeant grabbed a prisoner in a reverse headlock and dropped said prisoner on his face using all his own body weight. Prisoners with asthma or other health problems are sprayed with pepper spray.
All over the state it is common for prisoners to be "free-cased" for violations or crimes they had nothing to do with because a scape-goat was needed in a hurry to save face or out of animosity issues between staff and prisoners.
At South Central Correctional Center prisoners were "free-cased" for another prisoner's murder because the institution needed scape-goats to cover up their own incompetency in running a safe and secure 'camp' and insufficient security equipment.
All over the state there are prisoners on a status termed "long term mandated single-cell confinement." This security status has no set end, no guidelines and no governing policies or any unit set aside for such a special security status. There are men on this status who have been confined solidarity for over ten years.
At South East Correctional Center things are to a point where at the time of this writing there are prisoners eating foreign objects such as ink pens, screws, and any item obtainable (in one case the ear stem of a pair of eye glasses) to express the need to be transferred away from the tyrannical oppression found in this backward run facility.
All over the state prisoners are housed in single-man cell units with prisoners with severe mental illness so they are subjected to round the clock beating on walls and sinks, yelling and screaming, smearing and throwing feces, urine, etc. Lights are left on or shut off per the whim of the officers.
Noble salutations comrades! I have been a recipient of your prison newsletter for several months now. In January I was transferred from the South Central Correctional Center in Licking Missouri to Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron Missouri. I have been in administrative segregation (Ad-Seg) since November of 2007. In Feb of 2008 a classification hearing was held (unscheduled) and it was then recommended by the housing unit staff of one house at SCCC that I be placed on "mandated single cell confinement," a status with no end. This hearing was held but twenty four hours after I filed paper work through inmate grievance procedure of the functional unit manager of my unit for staff familiarity and personal conflicts. The day following this unscheduled hearing, I filed again on this DOC employee for retaliation which is plain to see. All of my grievances and appeals were denied and have now been exhausted, my situation remains the same although I am in a different correctional center.
SOP 21-1.2 Administrative Segregation, page 2 states the following: Assignment of an offender to a single cell within an administrative segregation unit [is] for documented safety and security reasons, i.e. offenders who are considered an immediate or long term danger to other offenders that would be celled with that offender based on extremely violent, aggressive, threatening actions towards others, which may include murder/manslaughter, sexual assault/rape, assault with serious physical injury, sexually active HIV positive offender. This offender is not to be celled with other offenders.
Page 8 of the same SOP 21-1.2 states: Mandated single cell assignment: 1. The administrative segregation committee will evaluate offenders for single cell confinement at the time of the hearing. All offenders who are considered an immediate/long-term danger to harm a cellmate as explained in definition II.E of this procedure should be assigned to a single cell in administrative segregation.
2. Offenders who have recently assaulted/harmed a cellmate or other offenders who staff believe are a continuous threat to other offenders if housed in a cell with them, should be submitted to the deputy division director, who, in consultation with the division director will approve/disapprove these actions. Offenders who have been approved for mandated single cell assignment will require approval from the deputy division director prior to removal from this status.
Upon my arrival to this institution I asked the classification staff if I would now be removed from the mandated status. I was informed by the head of the committee that no one gets removed from this status once placed on it. All staff present for this made noises that I "have life without in the hole," as I'm serving two consecutive life sentences, one of which is without parole.
I have been denied my right to due process. I have quoted their policies and procedures in all my filings. Every action I have taken has been within and following all guidelines. No justice has been given.
I have written several prisoner rights advocates and contacted numerous attorneys offices, all futile.
This is not just a solitary issue concerning just one prisoner. Missouri has prisoners that have been on this status up to ten years (that I know of). Some have had no violations in several years yet remain caged 24/7 like some rabid, volatile beast.
Many of us have no one to reach out to for aid and assistance. More than one is being held for past acts or political reasons while others committing the same or worse acts are given a year with a cellmate in ad-seg then released back to general population.
The South Central Correctional Center hands out this status as though it were candy to any prisoner who staff seem to have personal issues with. And it continues because we have no one to assist us.