Prisoners Report on Conditions in

New Jersey 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.

[Control Units] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 57]
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Security Investigation Division Goes Around Court Ruling

About two years ago the Third Circuit Court of New Jersey ruled that the Security Investigation Division (SID) could not keep prisoners inside of Management Control Units (MCU) without a way to get out of the unit. And now, two years after this ruling, New Jersey SID has found a new tactic for keeping prisoners in MCU.

A quick summary of what MCU is, for those who do not know. MCU is 4 special housing units meant for high security prisoners in New Jersey. These are generally high-level gang members, with vast networks and influence, cop killers or people who killed people in prison, escape artists, radical prisoners, etc.

A prisoner in MCU cannot go to the law library; he has to write a request slip and await for someone to come see him. He cannot be in contact with other General Population (GP) prisoners. His visits are much more restricted. You can't get college courses or other things that GP could get. And you have no movement.

SID had been keeping some prisoners back in MCU for 10, 20, and even over 30 years! Sometimes more! But as said above the Third Circuit Court ruled this unconstitutional and ordered these prisoners released.

After this ruling, prisoners were shipped all around the country and often put in the same conditions in the new states they were placed in. And since then SID has found a new tactic to fill MCU back up again, by placing high level prisoners that go to Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) for any infraction, no matter how minor, on an MCU tier for Ad-Seg. And when their Ad-Seg time is up SID places them on Involuntary Protective Custody (IPC). And the reason they cite is rival gang threats.

SID has done this now to about 20 people and this new tactic is spreading rapidly. Grievances, writeups, complaints, and inquiries have all gone nowhere. New efforts now must be taken in the courts to address this which may take years, and will be much harder now that SID can argue that they are doing it for the safety of prisoners.


MIM(Prisons) responds: New Jersey is following in the footsteps of other state DOCs that have lost court battles regarding long-term isolation of prisoners, only to come up with new work-arounds to lock up people in long-term segregation. It is important that we continue to expose the torture by control units, be they called MCU, Ad-Seg, SHU, IPC or by any other name. There is no justification for long-term isolation, regardless a prisoner's conviction, conflicts behind bars, lumpen organization history, or escape attempts. Torture is inhumane and can not be tolerated under any circumstances.

Our campaign to shut down prison control units has been going on for many years, and unfortunately it is no closer to victory than it was when we initiated the campaign. As long as prisons are a tool for social control for the imperialist state we're unlikely to win this campaign overall. But sometimes battles are won in court, which both help to expose the isolation as torture and help provide relief to some prisoners.

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[Campaigns] [New Jersey]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, New Jersey

NJpetition
Click to download PDF of New Jersey petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.



Commissioner, NJ Dept of Corrections, Whittlesey Road, PO Box 863, Trenton, NJ 08625-0863

Chief Ombudsman/woman, NJDOC, PO Box 855, Trenton, NJ 08625-0855

US Dept of Justice, Civil Rights Div, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, PHB, Washington, DC 20530

And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!

MIM(Prisons), USW
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140

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[Abuse] [Religious Repression] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 48]
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Punished for Reporting Brutal Assault During Ramadan

I'm a Muslim here in the New Jersey gulag. Back during the month of Ramadan, I witnessed the pigs brutally and viciously assault a fellow Muslim. I felt so strong about the incident that I wrote to the local regional FBI. And as it would turn out, they shipped the Bro out to another of the New Jersey gulags.

Well about a month after that incident, I was snatched up, and placed on temporary close custody status. A prisoner may be placed in temporary close custody for a period not to exceed 72 hours, unless there are exceptional circumstances, or substantial evidence found to warrant an extension at this time. Well I was in temporary close custody for 12 days. But the prison Special Investigative Division came to interview me regarding some info they received, stating that I was trying to rally prisoners to attack female prison guards, regarding the incident on the Bro. Now what's funny about this whole thing is that it wasn't only female guards who attacked my Bro. Well I offered to take a polygraph test in order to confirm my truth.

I was eventually released back into general population, with no reason as to why, and no "we made a mistake." But I've come to understand over the years that the insidious prison system is used to destroy people mentally, as well as physically and spiritually. I had to report this incident, and I felt that every one of us who witnessed that brutal assault should have done the same. About 20-25 Muslim prisoners saw it, why didn't they write reports? I had to report this incident to Under Lock & Key because these kinds of conditions need to be made known to the public outside. I don't hear from the outside much, mostly because I've been forgotten about.


MIM(Prisons) responds: While we can't say whether the brutal assault of the Muslim prisoner was related to eir religion, this comrade provides an example of where religion can serve the oppressed. If Muslim prisoners are moved to fight brutality from their religious teachings, they can be an ally of the anti-imperialist movement. In fact, we call on all religious prisoners to think about the teachings of their religion around violence and brutality and use this as motivation to join your fellow prisoners in fighting the criminal injustice system. Often religion is used as a tool to keep people passive, but revolutionaries should seek to ally with all who can be rallied to our cause. Those who are targeted for repression because of their religion, as Muslims in the U.$. often are, will be most likely to see the connections with broader oppression and join the struggle.

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[Hunger Strike] [New Jersey State Prison] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 34]
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New Jersey June Protest Prelude to October

I'm writing to give you an update on the protest back in June. The protest in June was just the start. The real protest will jump off in October. The one in June went on for six days, not two. It was on for two days before the south and north compounds took part. We really wanted to go off with the July 8 one, but things here were getting so bad the prisoners just couldn't hold back any longer. By October all should be ready. If not, those that are prepared will be ready to share the understanding of what is going on so all the population will be on the same page. And everyone understands this is a peaceful protest, too much is just not right. I'm not the one doing the talking but I'm surely a part.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As another comrade from New Jersey reported: "Although nothing has changed as of the writing of this report, it is important to highlight that the level of unity achieved across nations and groups, the effective organization of the protest, and the fearful response by the state demonstrate the power of non-violent resistance in a corrections environment." We agree this unity is critical. We are seeing unity in resistance in prisons across the country. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to educate and build. As this prisoner points out, those who are ready for October in New Jersey will share information so that all the population will understand. We call on anti-imperialist comrades in prison to expand this education and take this opportunity to educate others about the nature of the injustice system and its role in imperialism in general. Protests to improve conditions are important, but they are just the start.

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[Hunger Strike] [Control Units] [Abuse] [New Jersey State Prison] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 33]
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Protest at New Jersey State Prison

Prisoners at New Jersey State Prison, the only maximum security facility in the state, staged a non-violent protest June 6 through 8, 2013. Initially, prisoners on the West Compound, the older part of the prison, and one of the oldest in the nation, functioning since 1830, refused to go to the mess hall for the entire day. Despite some lack of cooperation at the breakfast movement, the mess hall finally remained empty at dinner time. The next two days the modern North and South compounds of the prison joined in the protest, bringing the institution to a complete standstill.

The protest came as a consequence of several factors. First was the issue of collective punishment. The prison administrator issued an official memorandum in which he threatened to suspend recreation and privileges to entire wings of any individual prisoner who had committed a serious offense (a common occurrence on a prison that houses close to 2000 people).

Ancillary issues involved the harassment of people at the central rotunda, a place of obligatory pass for any activities, including meals, recreation, education and religious programs. The officers, with little supervision, or perhaps encouraged by supervisors, overtly harass inmates, many times without probable cause, as demanded by the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of New Jersey, and affirmed by the 10A Code that regulates prisons in the state. Prisoners are stripped searched at the mere whim of any guard. Made up charges that lead to lock-up time are usually the result of such harassment.

The last issue that weighed on the decision to stage a non-violent protest relates to the abusive language and arbitrary searches conducted by a second shift sergeant. Sometimes, the results are outright sad and curious, i.e., the same shank found in several cells by the same sergeant.

In conclusion petty management practices, abuse of power by supervisors, lack of concern by the administrator and superintendent (supervision from an Ivory Tower), collective punishment, and indiscriminate use of lock-up as an instrument of control, led the prison community to unite as one to express their concerns.

It is important to highlight that the prison, at any given time, keeps an estimated 750 inmates on closed custody units such as 1-Left lock-up, Ad-Seg, MCU (Management Control Unit), and P.C. (Protective Custody) — a full 38% of the prison population. More than one in three prisoners are kept in solitary confinement.

Although nothing has changed as of the writing of this report, it is important to highlight that the level of unity achieved across nations and groups, the effective organization of the protest, and the fearful response by the state demonstrate the power of non-violent resistance in a corrections environment. During the demonstration the prison was militarized by SAG, the special operations response team of the DOC, hundreds of officers were summoned to work, and all administration had to report to work. It is presumable that the cost of overtime hours, and the emotional cost of an oppressive power challenged by the masses will affect the way in which future decisions are made by the administration. A group of prisoners were transferred to other facilities across the state, some others placed in solitary confinement. As it usually happens, most were not organizers of the protest.

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[Control Units] [New Jersey State Prison] [New Jersey]
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NJ Control Units Violate Court Ruling and Basic Rights

I am a prisoner at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, NJ. I am presently housed in what is called the Management Control Unit (MCU). I have been in this unit since 2008. New Jersey's MCU is basically the equivalent of other states Security Housing Units (SHUs) or Intensive Management Units (IMUs). The reason I'm writing is to alert you of the numerous human and civil rights violations that we have been subjected to here. I also want to bring to your attention the fact that the administration at the prison has intentionally instituted a system designed to violate procedural due process rights of the prisoners in MCU.

Design and intent of the Management Control Program

The MCU program was designed to house the prisoners the administration considered a threat to the daily operations of the prison, to the correctional officer, or those they considered unable to house in general population with the other prisoners. The MCU unit in theory was not supposed to be a punitive unit for punishment since you could be placed there coming directly from the street never having received a disciplinary infraction inside of the prison. The prisoners of the MCU unit were told that the MCU is basically a "population for MCU prisoners." However, the MCU is anything but.

The MCU is supposed to be governed by what's called the New Jersey administrative code 10A. However, the administration does not adhere to it's own rules as put forth in the 10A. The so-called release program of the MCU is a three phase program (levels 1-3, one being the lowest). Completion of the following programs are requisite: Cage your Rage, and Thinking for a Change. The problem with this criteria is that the programs are very seldom offered, or capriciously and arbitrarily offered. This situation has only gotten worse recently. Since April of this year (2011) the administration has had the unit on lock-down. This lock-down is supposedly the result of a couple of random fights between a few prisoners (no correctional officers were involved in either of the situations). Since these random fights, the administration has done the following:

  1. Canceled all requisite programs needed to be considered for release
  2. Painted the cell windows so that we can no longer see outside
  3. Closed down the pantry in the unit where the food is served
  4. Taken all the jobs from the workers in the unit
  5. Canceled indoor recreation
  6. Changed the outdoor recreation schedule from every other day to once every four days
  7. Changed the amount of people allowed to go to the outdoor recreation. Everybody that was on MCU was able to go to the yard together. Now only six can go at a time.

It is my opinion, which I believe to be firmly grounded, that the couple of fights had nothing at all to do with the draconian measures taken by the administration. On July 2, 2010 the superior court of New Jersey appellate division issued a crushing ruling that the administration of New Jersey thought would never happen! In that ruling the court said that once a prisoner has reached phase three (the highest level in the MCU program) the burden then shifts to the prison to show why the prisoner should be held in MCU. The burden the administration must meet is to show a present identifiable threat that the prisoner presents. Up until this ruling the administration in New Jersey was just throwing prisoners on MCU and leaving them there. The average prisoner in MCU has been there for about a decade.

To circumvent this ruling the administration has canceled the programs preventing prisoners from reaching phase three which would render them eligible for release if the administration is unable to meet it's burden. I have more proof that this is the administration's intention. The court ruling was issued on July 2, 2010. Up until that ruling whenever a MCU prisoner would appeal the Management Control Unit review committees (MCURC) decision to continue his placement in MCU, the administrator would quickly respond to the appeal 99.9% of the time upholding the MCURC decision.

Let me explain. Every three months the prisoners in MCU are given what's called routine review where the committee decides whether or not the prisoner should be released or if his placement in MCU should be continued. Every MCU prisoner is allowed to attend even though you must be phase three to even be considered for release. This is not more than a ceremonial display and out right sham. Again, after these hearings about a week later you receive the MCURC decision on paper which you can appeal to the administrator. The decision from the court was issued July 2, 2010 and since that decision none of the MCU prisoners have received a response back from any of the routine review appeals which would be September 2010, December 2010, March 2011, and the last one June 2011. I do not believe in coincidences. As I said up until that decision from the court we were getting every single one of our appeals back.

There are a few prisoners in the MCU unit right now that are phase three and still the administration have not let them go. Not only have they not let them go, but by not responding to the appeals they are preventing prisoners from taking their case to the court. The court has ruled that before a prisoner can prevail on his complaint s/he must afford the administration the opportunity to make it's final decision. Thus, the administration is violating the MCU prisoners procedural due process rights! If this is not suppose to be a punitive unit and a general population for MCU prisoners, how do you explain the actions taken by the administration?

They have stopped me from being able to finish the programs, they have painted over my cell window so that I can't even see outside! I'm only allowed to go outside every four days and you cover my window. This is treatment one would expect to hear being done at Guantanamo Bay. Before the covering of the window the MCU unit was already a socially and sensory depriving unit. The prisoners are in single cells and the only time they come out in the unit is for a 15 minute shower one at a time. Thus any conversation is carried on by yelling through the crack of the door. The only contact you have with anyone is during recreation every four days. I truly hope that my concerns and suffering, as well as the concerns and suffering of the other prisoners will lead you to pick up our cause and help us fight for and defend our human and civil rights. We are still humans.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Lack of due process and group punishment were two of the main complaints behind the California hunger strike that started in the Pelican Bay SHU and included participation of at least 6600 prisoners across the state. As stated by the author these conditions of long-term isolation are very similar across the United $tates, as are the policies that keep people there. This example also parallels that in California where the courts are ordering the state to make release easier (whether from MCU or prison altogether). But the interests of the Amerikan workers has made sure that in neither case has the state government begun to comply with court orders. While the courts offer a facade of justice, the state continues on as it always has in its efforts to control oppressed people.

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[United Front] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 20]
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NJ Avalon Crip Signs On to UF Statement

I fully support the United Front and the five principles, because these five principles should be lived out within lumpen organizations. What the United Front means to me is this is one form that we can use to better ourselves as a whole, as well as liberate our minds to become better people so that we can help better others. I also feel that the principles are important because within U.S. prisons the prisoner-on-prisoner oppression is at an all-time high and I feel that I must do all I can to help put a stop to this madness.

- A New Jersey Avalon Crip

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[Control Units] [New Jersey]
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New Jersey Gang Unit

The last time I was in a control unit was from 2000-2002. It was in Norther State Prison's STGMU, which was the gang unit lock up. The location of this control unit is in Newark, New Jersey. There are various groups in this control unit, and the total population is about 100 prisoners. The national makeup of the population is Latino and Black. The only expansion I believe is that once you are finished with the STGMU ad-seg time, you are given the option to go to the gang-unit program, and if you refuse to participate you may stay in phase I and you are basically in ad-seg without any ad-seg time or charges. At least that's how it was done back when I was there. Now, I heard that you have no choice once you finish the STGMU ad-seg time, they send you straight to the gang unit program and if you refuse you no longer are allowed to stay in phase I. Instead you are given a charge and sent back to the STGMU. In the STGMU you only get to go to rec 2 times a week at most.

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[Puerto Rico] [New Jersey]
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The 71st Anniversary of the Ponce Massacre!

The 21st of March of 2008 will mark the 71st anniversary of the Ponce Massacre, a peaceful march in the town of Ponce, Puerto Pico to seek self-determination and independence. What should have been a peaceful demonstration, turned out to be an annihilation by the National Guard under u.s. military command. For many Puerto Ricans living in the united snakes, this event they may have never heard of or known that it ever happened. Hopefully this essay will enlighten those Puerto Ricans who have been deceived by the amerikkkan dream and the so-called amerikkkan help, and understand the u.s. aggression against the will of the Puerto Rican people to be self-determined.

Days before leading to the Ponce Massacre, a letter was written by the Ponces branch leaders of the Nationalist Junta, to inform the township government that they will come together and have a parade on the 21st of March of the year 1937. Ponces Mayro Jose Tormos Diego granted such permission for this demonstration. Although permission was not needed since Colonial Supreme Court ruled back in 1926 that consent were not needed to occupy parks or public place for meetings or parades. Still the Nationalist Junta wrote the letter as a sign of courteousness

On the 19th of March of 1937, Colonel Orbeta, which was the Insular Chief of Police went to Ponce to examine the conditions. Shortly after, Colonel Orbeta went to San Juan to meet with the united snakes appointed governor of Puerto Rico, Blanton Winship. It is said, that during that meeting between these two individual the massacre was arranged. Colonel Orbeta was sent by Winship to go back to Ponce to persuade the mayor to prevent the parade.

The day before the parade, Ponces Chief of Police, Captain Felipe Blanco wrote a letter to the Nationalist Juntas leaders of Ponce, Luis Castro Quesada and Plinio Graciany, stating to them that he has recognized the letter that they have written, giving the township of Ponce, a notification of a parade by the Cadets of the Republic and the Nationalist Committee, which will take place on the 21st of March of the year 1937. Capt. Felipe Blanco also stated to them in that letter, that he was informed by his higher ranks, that such parade will not be allowed. After the advisory by Capt. Blanco, Capt. Blanco met up with Colonel Orbeta to discuss things. They both agreed to meet up with Ponces Mayor, Jose Tormos Diego, to persuade him to cancel the parade. Mayor Jose Tormos Diego made it clear to them that he gave permission for the parade to take place. Colonel Orbeta kept pushing the issue to the Mayor, by planting in the mayors mind of a serious danger that the parade will bring. Orbeta persisted with the so-called danger, that the Nationalist posed, by adding, that he had knowledge that The Nationalists intended to come armed to the parade and that there were also other groups planning to attend the parade , coming from Mayaguez. It was observed that the other group of people who were from Mayaguez, were a group of 50 people, who consisted of women, men and children, who like the Nationalist Junta were not armed, and posed no danger.


Somehow Colonel Orbeta managed to get the mayor to give in. The mayor then directly called the Nationalist leaders to tell them that the Paulist Fathers had asked him, not to allow the parade because it was a religious holiday, "Palm Sunday". The Nationalists, knowing that the mayor was being dishonest, told him that the people who are going to attend the parade were already in Ponce, and that the parade would take place in a methodical tone, and that they will also inform the Paulist Fathers of their cause. But of course to the mayor, this was not the response he wanted to hear from the Nationalist, so he ended the meeting and told them that the permit was vacated.

The day of the parade there were conferences that were being held; one conference amongst the pigs; and the other amongst the Nationalists. It was evident that the scene at the parade was belligerent. As the Nationalists lined up to march, it was easy to identify the Nationalists since they were in uniform. Lined up in lines of 3, in the back of the Nationalist were a group of women called the Nurses Corps, uniformed in white, behind the Nurses Corps came the band of 4 musicians, which at the time were playing the National Anthem "La Borinqueña", while the participants in the parade stood at attention.

Eye witnesses and photographers stated that you could clearly see, that the parade participants were surrounded by u.s. trained forces. They also state that-the u.s. trained forces were heavily armed with rifles, tear gas, etc. Shots were fired, causing the men and women scattered for cover, and even though witnesses and photographers could not pin point which u.s. trained personnel fired first, it was clear that the aggressors were the u.s. trained forces. As the barrage of bullets went flying for a period of 10 minutes into the crowd, 20 were killed at the scene and 150 injured. It is also said that others died in a nearby hospital, while others were almost dismembered by this brutal attack.

Shortly after the Ponce Massacre, the ACLU conducted an investigation, along with witness and photographers. ACLU, with photos taken on that day clearly sees the brutal shooting against the unarmed people. What the ACLU did not understand was, with so much published pictures in the open, why wasn't any of them used by the government for their investigation. But to no surprise the Puerto Rican people were going to be deprived of justice. A couple of congressmen wanted a thorough investigation, but nothing was honored by congress. Instead there was a plan to persecute and indict some of the Nationalist leaders for murder and for instigating murder, but behind were a group of respected Puerto Ricans, from the District Attorney who vacated their positions, rather than to give in to Blanton Winships requests to indict on murder charges, the innocent survivors of the Ponce Massacre. Reports say that the ACLU blamed Blanton Winship. Washington with no quilt or pitty backed Blanton Winship, keeping him in command for 2 more years after the Ponce Massacre.


I honor the Nationalist Party and those people who died on that day of March 21,1937. Their stance was heroic, relentless, their wills could not be shaken by the fear of terror that was presented to them at that present moment. Here I will mention a few that should always be remembered for their bravery. Bolivar Marquez, a young Puerto Rican mortally wounded in the event of March 21, 1937 dragged himself to a sidewalk, took his fingers and dipped it into his blood and wrote on a wall,"Viva la Republica", "Abajo los Asesinos", in english "Long Live the Republic","Down with the Assassins". A girl from Mayaguez by the name of Dominga Cruz Becerril, who was already away from harm, when she noticed that the Flag was on the floor, she immediately went back into the danger zone and courageously picked the Flag up and walked towards a hospital. She was later asked, why did she go back? Her response was, and I quote "Our Master has said the Flag should always be flying". Do you know who that Master was? None other than Pedro Albizu Campos, the leader of the Nationalist Party.

To many when they hear of the Nationalist Party, the first name that pops up is Pedro Albizu Campos. Some may be asking why did I not mention him in this essay. Pedro Albizu Campos, to me is one, if not the greatest Revolutionary Leaders in the history of the struggle of Puerto Rico. I apologize for not mentioning him in this essay, but as you may know that he was incarcerated during the Ponce Massacre of March 21, 1937. But regardless of his whereabouts, his influence and legacy will always be admired by true seekers of an Independent Puerto Rico.

I truly felt the need to give a tribute to the Ponce Massacre. I also felt the need to write this essay to hopefully enlighten those Puerto Ricans living in the u.s. I gave a young fellow Puerto Rican brother a copy of the literature that described the events of the Ponce Massacre, and it hurt me, because when he gave it back, the words that came out of his mouth was, "that he has always thought that the u.s. was always there to help Puerto Rico and its people". But as he found out, that help was never the intentions of the u.s., but rather to exploit.

Anyone willing to go into more details of the event of March 21, 1937, I recommend you look for a book titled, "Albizu Campos and the Ponce Massacre", written by Juan Antonio Corretjer, which is the book that I have obtained information in putting together this essay.

—Dedicated to those who died and survived the Ponce Massacre, you will never be forgotten for your Heroic stance.

MIM(Prisons) adds: In the internal semi-colonies of the united $tates we generally face an upward battle in awakening the inherent anti-imperialism of the struggle for national self-determination. It is not just a lack of knowledge of the true relation between amerikkkans and Boriquas, as this comrade laments and attempts to counteract through this essay. There is also a real belief among Boriquas that they too can be amerikkkans. Making that temptation a reality was the reason that u$ citizenship was forced upon them in 1917. Ever since then Puerto Ricans have had free access to the richest country on the planet, while those on the island were able to benefit from u$ sponsored social programs.

While the majority may be sucked in by the imperialists' carrots at this stage, there remains a vibrant and armed resistance to u$ occupation among Boriquas. Ultimately, the people must learn from the oppressor that they must fight to be free. But by educating around the historical and contemporary oppression of the people of Puerto Rico, Aztlán, New Afrika, and the First Nations we can plant the seeds of future resistance when the oppressed in north amerika give up amerikkkanism to join with the world's majority in a struggle against oppression and exploitation.

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[Education] [Release] [South Woods State Prison] [New Jersey] [ULK Issue 2]
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DOC claims integrating Prisoners back to society/work force a priority

I felt the need to express my opinion on this matter, since I will be one who will be affected by this phenomenon that has yet to be solved.

The other day I was watching the New Jersey Network channel, in which they were airing a program called Due Process. The topic being spoken of on Due Process was on the issue that prisoners will be facing prior to their release from prison. The main & only topic was "jobs." there were several spokespersons, one was from Princeton University & the other was from the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Corrections states that they have implemented programs to help prisoners in obtaining jobs when released back into society. So here I am to expose the so-called programs & to hopefully make clear what is the Department of Corrections (DOC)'s main priority.

As you may know, I am a prisoner at Southwoods State Prison (SWSP) in the state of New Jersey, which is the largest prison in New Jersey. In this prison you have a variety of programs that you may choose from. They consist of Educational, Vocational, therapeutic programs such as Moral Recognition Therapy, Life Skills & AA. DOC has also started a program by the name of S.T.A.R.S. which is suppose to help prisoners to re-enter society. The S.T.A.R.S. program provide prisoners with the help of resources, how to apply for jobs and how to manage your money. There is also another so-called program that is provided to prisoners who are within 2 weeks of their release from prison to prepare them to re-enter society. This program also provides resources.

This leaves us with DOC's top priority program, The Therapeutic Community Drug Program, which to my understanding is a funded program. The Therapeutic Community Program (TC) is a program that is provided in several of the New Jersey State Prisons for prisoners with substance abuse disorders. It does not provide prisoners with educational, vocational, nor a transitional re-entry back to society.

Upon entering DOC, you are interviewed by so-called trained clinical screeners, to evaluate the severity of ones substance abuse. Once you see classification, which have the final say, they determine if you qualify for the TC program by evaluating your clinical screening results. If your results are a 5 and above, then you are automatically classified to the TC Program. Now the catch to this program is that if you deny or refuse the TC Program, you are given an I-Overide, which means that you will not receive any type of status, forcing you to do the remaining of your time behind the wall without the possibility of obtaining full minimum status or the possibility of obtaining full minimum status or the possibility of going to a Halfway house, unless you submit to such TC Program. I am one who will be facing the I-Overide for my refusal to participate in such programs. I was classified with a score of 5 which according to the Administration makes me an appropriate candidate for such programs, in which I have no substance abuse disorder since 1999 & my Pre-Sentence Report states clearly "no drug use during the time f crime, no drug evaluation or recommendations for drug use programs." But according to the Administration they state that due to my previous and present drug charges, I am an appropriate candidate for such programs. Funny that no where in the 10A Law does it state that you will be classified to the TC Program because of your past & present drug conviction. But as I mentioned above, the TC Program is a funded program, which provides money to DOC for keeping the programs beds filled. Which leads me to really question the contradiction that DOC has imposed on itself. What is really their priority? Are they really providing prisoners with the proper transition program to re-enter society, who has always abandoned our interest & needs, after being released?

DOC claims are nothing but bull shit, like every politician here in the united snakes, who sell dreams. DOC fails to really understand the prisoner's needs. Lack of job opportunities is not the only obstacle that many prisoners will be facing when released. Many prisoners will be facing the obstacles of not having a place to stay upon their release & health issues as well. But has any of this really been a concern to DOC? Of course not! If DOC was really concerned about this issue, then they will provide more educational & vocational programs. Here the only certificate that is really recognized in society is the GED certificate, which is authentic. All the other certificates are not recognized in society. I took a Core Curriculum & Building Trades course at this prison and according to the teacher who taught one of my classes, the certificate that I received from the National Center for Construction, Education & Research really meant nothing. He stated that if we were to provide these certificates in our resume or job interview, that employers will probably laugh because the reality is that no one has ever heard of such a place.

Here at this prison there are College courses, that are being provided to those prisoners who are under 25 years of age. Leaving those who do not meet the age criteria with no hope of pursuing a higher learning. Of course there are College correspondence courses, but the issue with such courses, is the money the prisoner will have to pay, in a place where the common pay is $1.40 a day.

There is truly a lack of understanding by DOC, when it comes to the prisoner population, in dealing with the needs & obstacles that we face collectively when we are released from prison. The priority should be Educational & Vocational learning skills. DOC should find a solution for upgrading the educational & vocational programs.

Here in New Jersey, every prison has an Inmate Trust Fund, which is generated by the surcharge of the Institution Commissary Sales. What the Inmate Trust Fund is being used for is recreational equipment, Incentive Meals and for more commissary purchases. This trust fund is well over 2 million dollars.

To give you an insight into how much the Inmate Trust Fund generates a month, I will give an example. At this prison it is said that it holds up to 2800 prisoners. Let's say that all these prisoners receive a state pay of $16.00 a month. Let's also say that all 2800 prisoners will use their $16 for commissary orders. So 2800 prisoners x 16.00 dollars = $44,800 dollars made in commissary sales, now $44,800 x 10% of commissary surcharge = $4,480 made for the Inmate Trust Fund. Just think, over the years the amount that the Inmate Trust Fund has generated. Yet DOC claims that they run on limited funds for educational programs.

This money from the Inmate Trust Fund should be used to build a complex to provide prisoners with a true & certified vocational trades before and after release. It should be mentioned that the Inmate Trust Fund is run by a Board of Trustees, in which we the prison population have no say or rights.

If DOC wants to make re-entry a priority, they should stop giving I-Overides for a TC Program that does not provide any educational or vocational learning skills and and replace them with proper training to re-enter society. If you were to do a survey of prisoners who participated in TC Program and prisoners who participated in real educational & vocational training, I can guarantee we would see a lower recidivism rate among those who got the educational & vocational training.

It is evident that the DOC priority is money as they keep giving I-Overides to those who refuse TC Program, while educational & vocational programs are optional. As mentioned above, the TC Program enrollment brings money to the DOC while other training does not. If they were truly concerned about prisoners post-release they would give I-Overides for refusing educational & vocational training instead.

DOC's form of helping to deal with this matter is by providing prisoners with pamphlets listing resources. This method is like giving a person a map to find a specific place. Of course I will refer to the pamphlets as I would the map, but the rest is really up to us.

Another way that DOC could really help prisoners with the transition back to society is to bring back the Work Release Program that were eliminated for reasons unknown to me. And if they were to bring back the Work Release Program they should find jobs that provide true vocational skills for prisoners to become equipped with the proper training for today's work force.

I myself will not submit to the TC Program, I will not take part of a program whose only benificiary is the DOC, not me. I tell all those inside the belly of the beast, to stop submitting, stop participating in any TC program. Note that DOC has no priority or concerns in this matter. Don't rely on DOC rehabilitative process because if you do it will only keep you contained. The struggle continues.

MIM replies: We don't know much about the programs described above, but we actively support the demand for more educational and training opportunities for prisoners. As the author stated, these are proven means for helping prisoners after release and therefore helping society as a whole. There are tactics that we can use to build a campaign among prisoners and concerned citizens on the outside to push some of the reforms suggested.

At the same time, we encourage those who are concerned with these problems to work to build the Serve the People Prisoner Re-Lease on Life program as well as our Free Books and educational programs for prisoners. The state has the ability to provide various training on a large scale to prisoners. But as we see here, this is a constant battle. And ultimately we must create institutions that can provide the people with what they really need.

The DOC has two main motivating factors: 1) to perform the task of social control, including the suppression of liberation movements, and 2) the meeting of the narrow economic interests of the bureaucracy and prison guard unions. Only institutions by and for the people, free of these narrow interests can really address the concerns expressed in this article.

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