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 reporting an act of solidarity. First we must remember what the word solidarity means. Solidarity is defined as: A feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc. (Merriam Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary).
I am currently in the Residential Mental Health Unit (RMHU). It's similar to the SHU. The COs think since we're diagnosed with bi-polar, antisocial, major depression and whatever that they can just oppress us. Well, they learned on 4 September 2017 that we're not just a bunch of crazies.
It's hard to get 10 comrades to stand together as a whole so when a member from the LGBTQ community got jumped on and 30 comrades refused to leave the classrooms I was shocked! I asked a few of them "why did you stand up for one of mine?" Some of them said they were tired of the COs putting their hands on us, and some of them said the COs went too far. I thanked these comrades for standing with me and my LGBTQ family.
So, I'm sharing this because in the July/August ULK (No. 57) a Nevada prisoner weighed in on "Fighting Gender Abuse." As comrades we need to stand together in this way more. You shouldn't care who or what the person is, who cares? If s/he is in the same struggle as you then you need to help him/her. In the long run by you helping them you'll be helping yourself.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a great example of people coming together behind bars. And the writer highlights the important point that we need unity across different groups and individuals. This imperialist system has created some major divisions between groups of people: based on class, nation and gender. And these divisions are found in prisons as well.
In prison, class tends to be less relevant as prisoners are forced together as lumpen, at least while behind bars. But the national oppression that is so fundamental to imperialism's power and wealth creates national divisions. Within the United $tates (and around the world) oppressed nations are encouraged to fight one another and even to form sets within a nation to fight, so that they won't come together against the oppressor nation.
Gender oppression is a bit different behind bars than on the streets, with prisons segregated by designated biological sex. One of the most common manifestations of gender oppression we see is against non-heterosexual prisoners (or those perceived as so). Uniting against this abuse starts with people, like those described above, recognizing that this abuse is wrong, no matter who is targetted. We can take it to the next level by proactively combatting gender oppression among prisoners as well as by the guards. We need to defend our comrades against abuse, and educate our allies about why gender oppression is wrong.
I write with news of what I believe to be progress by a few comrades and I here at Clinton Correctional Facility on 27 February 2017. Me and 7 other comrades staged a peaceful protest in response to gaolers playing around with me and my neighbors' food.
Each comrade refused to return their empty food trays until my neighbor and I received new food trays that wasn't tampered with (my neighbor was a diabetic and needed to eat). Lieutenant Durkin came around to see what was going on and he seen the seriousness of our solidarity and brought us new trays. (Protest over right? But you know these pigs.)
After me and my neighbors' trays were collected these gaolers decided that they were not going to pick up the trays from the comrades who initiated the protest, in order to use this as their own excuse to deny them showers for the night, and to use these trays to extract them from their cells to inflict abuse.
These pigs tried to offer my neighbor and I showers but we refused unless everyone had their right to a shower, and we continued to press to speak to higher authority.
That only led to higher authority getting tired of our solidarity and want to teach us a lesson by summoning the "Extraction Team." These pigs pumped gas into my cell and the cells of three others, and invaded our cells in units while we were incapacitated by the gas, and beat us one by one. We are in the SHU and on complete lockdown and posed no threat to those cowards.
I was taken to an outside hospital in Malone, New York after the assault only because these pigs thought they broke my ribs. But I won't break, not even bones comrades, not even bones.
These cowards put us on deprivation orders and took all of our in-cell property and left us with just a bare mattress and pillow for the next 5 days (February 27 - March 4). They also took our sweaters and socks and cut the heat off at night in below-freezing weather.
I organized a mass letter to the Superintendent and that's when we started to get our property and water back. The cells were never cleaned after the gas was pumped in and I burned my eyes a few times some nights laying on the plastic bed and pillow.
We all received false tickets to cover up the racially-motivated mass assault, so we all (7) decided to file grievances on what happened. We're just waiting now. They haven't separated us yet because I know they are just listening to our conversations. Most of us don't have the discipline to speak in silence. Anyway comrades I need advice, stratagems, literature or whatever you think we may need to continue our struggle on the inside in a winning fashion.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We encourage anyone with advice for these comrades to get in touch with us and we'll pass along your suggestions. These sorts of retaliations for peaceful protests are all too common in prison. One suggestion we can make to these comrades is to continue to build unity and knowledge among the group, and work to expand the solidarity to others if possible. Our power comes from unity and this is built in part through studying and struggling together. And because we know admin may transfer anyone at any time, especially if someone is seen as a threat because of eir ability to unite people, we encourage everyone to get set up in our MIM(Prisons) correspondence study course. This will allow people to study together and continue studies even if some folks get moved around.
As of 22 August 2016 I have begun a peaceful protest (Hunger Strike). If my death would be the price for oversight on the New York State Department of Correctional and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and a complete stop of abuse racism, intimidation, inhumane treatment of solitary confinement and most of all staff brutality so be it!
On 10 August 2016, I was beaten and called racial names and threatened by correctional officers Horvey, T. Erbach and three others whose names are unknown, in the presence of an area supervisor, Sergeant Keith McFall. Sergeant McFall was the individual who made the threats to plant a weapon, two in fact. NYS DOCCS haven't begun an investigation, and when they do the conclusion will be biased as the COs try to justify their actions by filing and submitting false documents (use of force and misbehavior report) stating I attempted to strike the officer, which is a complete lie.
Furthermore, I have no personal property because Attica Correctional Facility refuses to ship my property as a retaliation to a situation that transpired at that facility because of the correctional officers not feeding individuals. Prisoners, including myself, began an uprising which was the cause of the transfer to Southport CF. Anyhow, I refuse to eat until a full investigation is done and I receive my property. These correctional officers must/should be charged with gang assault in the 1st degree Penal Law 175.35.
On July 24 they shot a gang-related prisoner in the yard as he was fighting another prisoner. A few months ago they killed a 15-year-old inmate by pushing him down a flight of stairs. In 2008 while in this facility I was jumped by 4 officers after testifying on behalf of an elderly man who was assaulted by 4 officers for complaining about not getting his medication.
August is approaching rather quickly and before I address the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity, I want to address the making of such a day of global recognition.
Black August is the representation of struggle. Black August is a clear representation of the resistance exhibited by the oppressed who fought not to return the deed of enslaving their unfortunate captors, holders or those who sought their demise; but, rather, to end the slave economy. Black August is the awakening of the poor of all nationalities to stand up and fight to end the oppression we encounter on all levels.
This fight doesn't entail the necessary requirement to pick up guns. Violence only begets violence. To bring peace, unity, growth, internationalism and global independence, we are to share our experiences to come up with a solution to prevent these unfortunate encounters from being transferred to our youth. The key is communication and patience. Black August is for all who seek programs of productive change to participate. We welcome all who are indeed sincere in change to engage in this growth.
Our commemoration of the 9 September 1971 Attica uprising should be a somber day of triumph and, more importantly, solidarity. The Attica uprising ignited not too long after the untimely demise of our beloved revolutionary comrade George Jackson, who was shot to death by tower guards in the San Quentin maximum security prison on 21 August 1971 — one year and two weeks after the death of his little brother Jonathan "Manchild" Jackson who was gunned down on 7 August 1970.
Much sorrow is attached to the Attica uprising, for the physical loss of so many brothers. The purpose of the Attica uprising was for better conditions of prisoners (i.e. education, cleaning areas, an end to racial discrimination, etc.). The courage these comrades displayed never will be forgotten. It is up to us to see that their memories are honored, and the first step to this effort is learning and then teaching those who wish to learn.
I currently reside in Attica and I teach as much as I possibly can regarding the law and history. It's the key to our liberation and only us (united soldiers) can be held responsible for the new surge of our youth entering the prison system at such young ages. We are their keys to betterment, provided we aim for better conditions ourselves.
During Black August fast till sundown. From September 9-13 fast as well from sun up to sundown in true solidarity of our comrades.
MIM(Prisons) responds: As we see in other articles about the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity, there are many ways to organize and recognize this day. Some will choose to fast, others will choose to engage in education towards greater unity, still others will spend the day in quiet contemplation and study. What you do will of course be determined somewhat by your conditions. But whatever your action, be sure to emphasize the building of peace and unity. In general, we don't agree with this writer that "violence only begets violence." We know that the oppressors won't put down their guns and stop killing those they oppress without physical force. But our current stage of struggle is a peaceful one. We echo this comrade's call to cease all violence on this day, and instead build between the groups that might otherwise stay apart. Talk about ways you can work together against the common enemy of the criminal injustice system. However you commemorate the Day of Peace and Solidarity, send in a report on what you did to Under Lock & Key on September 10 to be included in the next issue.
7/7/2015 Attorney General of the United States: Lorreta E. Lynch Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania, Avenue NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
June 8, 2015
On June 7, 2015, a man named XX was brutally beaten by the large group of rogue correction officers in Great Meadow Correctional facility, for no reason other than for asserting his rights by writing up the injustices that take place in this facility on a daily basis. We mess hall workers witnessed it, since it took place in the corridor right outside of the mess hall. As Mr. XX was walking out of the mess hall in the afternoon of June 7, 2015, he was approached by several officers and was told to put his hands on the wall, and he complied. They then slammed his head into the concrete wall and picked him up and body slammed him against the floor. Then a group of officers started kicking him all over the face and head and were hitting him with their sticks as well. XX was screaming hysterically as these officers continually hit him over the head with their sticks, blood splashing all over the place, and then the screaming stopped, since he was knocked unconscious. Then the officers who beat him carried him down the stairs and the officers who were in the mess hall started screaming at the mess hall workers to go to the front part of the mess hall and get against the wall, which we did.
This is the type of brutality that goes on in this place just about every day, especially against Black men. For this reason this is an anonymous letter, since at the end of the day we have to live here, and these officers here are out of control violating human rights all day long. We are afraid that they will retaliate, as they always do. But if you send officers from your agency to interview us, we will give you all of the information needed to prosecute this crime if we are transferred to other facilities.
The correction officers here at Great Meadows don't just beat the prisoners up, they kill us here, then falsify their reports claiming they were assaulted, but it's the prisoners who end up in the hospitals and morgues.
XX was carried to the SHU, where he has been ever since. They haven't even taken him to the hospital. And when they cleaned up the pool of blood in the outside corridor of the mess hall where he was brutally assaulted, there was a big piece of flesh in the blood. It was said that his teeth were knocked out.
Ms/Mrs Lynch, this savage, racist, criminal behavior, must be stopped!
Please investigate this as soon as possible!
cc: Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Clifford C. Holly New York State Police Superintendent, Joseph A. D'Amico
MIM(Prisons) adds: This letter was forwarded to Under Lock & Key by the persyn who was assaulted, after receiving a copy from fellow prisoners who sent it to the Attorney General. It is a particularly brutal example of the reality of life in Amerikan prisons.
Last month I received my first issue of Under Lock & Key (No. 42), and I'm honestly surprised that the correspondence unit even let this newsletter into the facility. In the 13 years that I've been imprisoned, I've witnessed and experienced having all kinds of books, magazines, and other publications be either censored in part or disapproved altogether.
The conventional reasons behind this censorship are either that the works contain content that is considered a threat to the safety and security of the institution, or that the literature contains "gang" signs or other unauthorized organizational content. Of course these reasons are totally arbitrary and capricious. For example, the prison media review committee regularly blots out the peace gesture in The Five Percenter Newspaper and claims that the hand gesture is a "gang" sign. However, I've seen pictures of President Obama making this very same gesture, but these pictures are never censored.
Similarly, I'm enrolled in a college program and last semester the administration here disapproved two pieces of Black literature: Richard Wright's Big Black Good Man and James Baldwin's Going to Meet the Man. They claimed that the stories were offensive in content. The real insult to me was that during the very same semester they approved literature in other Eurocentric classes that regularly referenced Black people as niggers. I guess offensive content is okay as long as it doesn't offend those in control.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This new ULK subscriber is reporting a problem we see in prisons across the country: systematic censorship of literature that presents even mild cultural news targetting a New Afrikan audience. White supremacist books and magazines get past the censors with no problem, but books by famous authors like Richard Wright and James Baldwin are denied. And ULK is even more likely to be censored because it speaks to the situation prisoners face today and builds unity and peace to create real change as part of a broader anti-imperialist struggle.
Everyone who successfully gets a copy of ULK should do their part and share it with others. You never know when it's going to slip past the censors, so each issue should be passed around so that we can maximize its use. And if you get a copy from someone else, be sure to write to us for your own subscription.
In New York what you call "gang validation" is called "gang intelligence" and every prison has at least one sergeant who works on it full time.
Alleged gang members are very often self-identified by foolish displays of colors, flags, and wacky writings found on cell searches. Sadly, many are not real gang members in any substantive sense, but foolish young wannabes who are horribly manipulated by "gang leaders." In New York, and likely everywhere, nearly all "gang leaders" are really collaborators of the worst, most manipulative kind, and they are nearly all rats. It's pretty easy for the "gang intelligence sergeant" to look good when the leader gives him a written membership list! Which doesn't have to be at all accurate, of course.
The biggest gang intelligence tool is the phones — New York State prisons record 100% of phone calls on digital hard drives. Obviously, there are not enough ears to listen to 80,000+ prisoners all the time, so they just sample or review a particular prisoner's calls. Or they may review calls to a certain phone number by multiple different prisoners. And the authorities are very careful. They rarely make direct use of recorded calls to nail minor offenders. I know about the extent of the monitoring because I double-bunked with a guy whose ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend was beaten up very badly. My bunky was questioned harshly and almost charged based on calls going back two years. Another man, who I worked with, a defrocked politician, got six months in the box, when "they" had it in for him, based on year-old recorded conversations.
A technical note: hard drive voice recording costs about 1 cent per hour once the system is set up. Put another way, it would cost more to have someone periodically erase old recordings than it costs them to keep them indefinitely.
From snippets of phone conversations I've overheard while making my own calls, nearly all prisoners are lulled into complacency and extreme carelessness by the authorities letting little transgressions slip by while they wait for the really useful information.
In New York, men identified as gang affiliates go to the most miserable prisons which have the fewest educational and remedial programs (nearly zero). Young, generally terrified, totally uneducated men get no help. I call them "five centers," just empty recyclable cans. Recidivism is good for job security. Just like a hotel or restaurant, prison employees make real money on repeat customers.
Another method is to record the information on the outside of mail. I happen to know Green Haven Correctional Facility was doing that big time (probably related to Muslim prisoners). Authorities look for multiple prisoners written from or writing to the same address. Same game with phone numbers. It's not likely ten guys have the same wife or grandma.
Regarding the petitions advertised on page 12 of Under Lock & Key, please be very careful. Petitions from prisoners are completely illegal in New York. A clear constitutional violation which has, unfortunately, been allowed by every level of New York and federal courts. Please find another word, at least, and please don't encourage more than one signature on any piece of paper, or multiple letters mailed together. Anything considered a petition in New York is a quick bus ride to a six-month box stay.
I do not mention anything in New York out of admiration. It's the worst and sometimes the best because they spend (waste and steal) the most. The real fixes are real pay, real freedom, not the phony kindness of the dictator. The most distressed prisoners must get the most help, not the least. The gangs exist mostly as a tool of domination and manipulation — in the larger view they are created by and for the system, not combated by the prison system. The only usefulness to my mind of somewhat better practices in New York prisons or elsewhere is that New York's practices may temporarily help men's arguments in other states.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are people out for themselves in all prisons, who will sell out their fellow prisoners to the guards. But we would not categorize all so-called "gang leaders" as collaborators. No doubt some are, but some are working with lumpen organizations that have a genuine interest in the anti-imperialist fight. We need to judge each individual for their own actions and political line. Similarly we judge each organization in the same way.
This comrade correctly points out the many difficulties prisoners face with secure communications and general security of self-preservation. As we've written in the past, secure communications are a critical part of self-defense at this stage in the struggle. Everyone needs to be conscious of the many ways the imperialist state can monitor our work and communications. The Amerikan public knows that all its communications are being monitored now, and prisoners should be under no illusion about theirs.
Along those lines, comrades in New York should take heed of this warning about petitions. At the same time, we should not be scared into complacency. Petitioning the government is a basic right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which reads, "the right of the people... to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So while we should be strategic about using petitions in conditions where they have been used as an excuse for political repression, we must fight these battles for basic civil rights for the imprisoned population in this country. MIM(Prisons) will work with comrades in New York to push this battle further.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was signed into law in 2003.(1) National prison and jail standards were enacted in 2012, nearly a decade after passage of PREA, and inexplicably late for the U.S. prison system which is long plagued by a sexual violence crisis.(2) PREA national standards carve a benchmark for prison administrators to prevent, detect and respond to prison sexual violence (PSV). Most significant are sweeping changes affecting documentation, accountability, confidentiality, post-sexual-assault medical care, testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and mental health counseling for PSV survivors.(3)
The PREA audits began in August 2013, and are supposed to occur at every youth and adult, state and private prison, jail, and holding facility every three years, with punitive forfeiture of federal funding at stake for lack of compliance. With 50% of documented PSV perpetrated by staff, prison administrators face greater liability through the transparency now mandated by PREA.(4)
One in ten prisoners are sexually abused, which is more than 200,000 youth and adults in prisons, jails and juvenile detention each year.(5, 6) Many are left to march the road to recovery, while coping with HIV, other STIs, mental trauma — the morbid souvenirs of rape.(7)
With PREA, the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) started promoting "zero tolerance" propaganda. I felt (foolishly) that we were on the same side for once. I formed and launched a non-profit project with the goal to support, educate and advocate for PSV survivors, and those at risk. I especially focused on LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/sexual, Queer, Intersex) prisoners who are at 10-13 times higher risk to be victim of PSV, according to Department of Justice statistics. Not thinking I was doing anything "disallowed," I conducted this openly with no attempts to hide my activities.
However, DOCS took a radically different view, and launched an Inspector General Office investigation, forcing me (under duress) to cease and desist further activity with the project. But unable or unwilling to issue writeups on this issue, they instead launched a salvo of "unrelated" administrative charges, resulting in 18 months of keeplock (isolation). They also transferred me multiple times. I'm now serving 5 months keeplock time, which I'd already served at the last jail.
All this has only served to strengthen my commitment and resolve. Our efforts, in concert with NY ACLU, have yielded a settlement with DOCS to reduce the use of SHU/long-term isolation, with caps on sentences and exempting non-violent/safety-related offenses. It's a start but I'd have preferred a court ruling to this "voluntary" settlement, which the state can renege on.
PREA mandates the first round of audits as of August 2014, with statistics to be published online. This increased transparency is progress. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are little more than an ideal or paper unless we facilitate their power through litigation, demanding compliance with these standards. PREA can be just a stack of papers and "feel good" hot wind, signifying nothing. Or it can be a keen sword to excise the cancers of prison sexual violence and prison staff corruption and negligence. The burden falls to us to proactively safeguard our interests, and our futures. Fight to Win!
MIM(Prisons) adds: We regularly receive reports of sexual assault from prisoners across the country. In September 2013, one year after the PREA standards were finalized, Prison Legal News published an article detailing incidents of PSV all across the country. This article underscores the futility of federal laws to actually protect people in custody of an oppressive state.
The 2013-2014 PREA Resource Center (PRC) report was just released this week. It contains no statistics on the efficacy of the project, but does contain a lot of fluff about the trainings and webinars that the PRC has been hosting.
It is a step in the right direction that this comrade, with the help of NY ACLU, was able to place some restriction on the use of isolation to protect prisoners from rape. The use of isolation has been reported by the American Friends Service Committee to have an even worse affect on the victims of prison rape, causing negative psychological effects due to isolation, and making the prisoner even more vulnerable to abuse by prison staff.(8)
While we can and should make use of laws to stop prison staff sexual violence when possible, we call on prisoners to step up and put an end to sexual violence among themselves using their own inherent power as humyn beings. The issue of prison rape is one that activists must tackle head on, as it impacts our ability to build unity behind prison walls, and is indicative of a wrongheaded line on gender oppression overall. Take an example from Men Against Sexism (MAS), an organization in Washington State Prison in the 1970s. MAS pushed men to treat each other with respect, opposed all prison rape even of very unpopular prisoners, and defended weaker prisoners against attacks by stronger ones.(9)
Gender oppression is a product of our patriarchal society, and neither federal laws nor prison organizations will put an end to all gender oppression in prison on their own. This gender oppression is another tool used to control oppressed nationalities, and won't be done away with until we overthrow the systems that require the oppression of entire groups of people — imperialism and capitalism. Only through revolution can we start to build a society where gender oppression, like class and national oppression, are torn down in our culture, economics, and all levels of social relations. For a basic study of gender under imperialism, we recommend the magazine MIM Theory 2/3, which we distribute for $5 or equivalent work trade. And see the 1998 MIM Congress resolution "Clarity on what gender is" for a more theoretical discussion on the origins of patriarchy and its structure today.