Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Pennsylvania Prisons

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out 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.

[Civil Liberties] [Ionia Maximum Facility] [State Correctional Institution Frackville] [California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison] [Michigan] [Pennsylvania] [California]

Censorship and Repression of Black August/September 9th Commemorations

On 12 August 2021, staff member Karber at Ionia Correctional Facility in Michigan censored Under Lock & Key 74 for the reason: “Pages 8 & 9 calling for Prisoners to organize for uprising for an up coming date.” These pages featured our center spread on Black August and the September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity. It is interesting that the oppressor sees prisoners coming together for peace and unity as an “uprising” and something that is deemed a threat to security (which would be necessary to lawfully censor any reading material in the United $tates).

On 7 September 2021, the staff in the mailroom at SCI Frackville in Pennsylvania disliked the same pages and censored ULK 74 for “Information on Page 8 Calls for Action (September 9).” In Amerikan prisons people do not enjoy the civil rights many Amerikans hold so dear. Their right to grieve or in this case to take an “action” is deemed illegal and punished. Banning peaceful protest and other such actions in prisons leads to violence.

Meanwhile a USW comrade in California reported,

“C.O. Solerio [a white female] emailed a Mental Health/Death Doctor a referral against me for displaying erratic behavior. I was exercising and calling cadence out loud ?? As is my custom, I commemorate Black August by demonstrating physical fitness and oratory skills, loud and proud, wherever I be. This year’s action continues to be opposed by C.O.s obsessed with social control.”

This comrade was in quarantine isolation, where ey could not organize eir normal group activities for Black August.

While the President offers up Juneteenth and Indigenous People’s Day as sanctioned celebrations, the imperialists simultaneously repress those trying to commemorate holidays that represent resistance to oppression. In case anyone was fooled into thinking that we’re all equal now.

[Hunger Strike] [Organizing] [State Correctional Institution Albion] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 72]

Hunger Strike in Albion RHU over Basic Humyn Needs

For every male prisoner locked up in the state of Pennsylvania, I pose some questions:

  1. Do a prison have the right to deprive you of food?
  2. Do a prison have the right to deprive you of a shower?
  3. Do a prison have the right to deprive you yard?
  4. To determine when you can see your children and how long you can hold your children?
  5. Every prison in the state of Pennsylvania allow gay prisoners inside of each prison to hold hands/hold each other, have make-out sessions and have intercourse. The Department of Corrections in the state of Pennsylvania even sell bras/panties, makeup, provide hormone injections and sex changes.
  1. Why can’t we hug/hold/kiss our girlfriends and wives for more than three minutes on a visit?
  2. Why don’t we fight for conjugal visits?
  1. Do the prisons have the right to talk however they want?

Brothers, they don’t respect us nor treat us like human beings because under the 13th Amendment, we are slaves. Under Dred Scot v. Sanford, no black man has “rights that a white man is bound to respect” and blacks shall never have rights under the Constitution. Under Plessy v. Ferguson, we are cattle.

That is why correctional officers in the state of Pennsylvania do all these things to us and why police officers in society can kill us with little to no consequences.

Brothers, the female prisons in the state of Pennsylvania still have everything and much more, that we allowed the D.O.C. to take from us, men. Two female prisons fought to be treated like human beings and won through pain and sacrifice.

This goes beyond our personal dislikes, gang colors, religious perspectives and individual wants. Ask yourself, if two female prisons can accomplish it, why can’t 3 or more male prisons do the same?

We at SCI-Albion believe we have the power to accomplish it, so on 1 November 2020 we are hunger striking. We are not helping the D.O.C. get rich off of this oppression so we are not spending money on commissary/cable/bake sales. WE will be doing more but can’t go into that here.

We are a group comprised of Muslims from America and the Middle East, Christians, a Pastor, G.D., Loc’s, Damus, Kings, Netas, neutrals old and young. Blacks, Latinos and whites.

[Censorship] [Pennsylvania]

Reply to "Pennsylvania Mail Disrupted"

This is in response/follow-up to the “PA Mail Disrupted” article on pg. 13 of ULK 66. Enclosed is some info printed off of the internet that you may or may not be aware of. It substantiates what both the comrade that wrote the article and also what MIM(Prisons) responded.

You are probably aware by now, but the “policy” of staff photocopying our privileged correspondence (legal mail) has since been lifted and we now receive the original documents once again. This is ONLY for privileged correspondence from courts and licensed attorneys with approved “ACNs” (Attorney Control Numbers). This changed over a year ago and I’ve provided a copy of the policy update with this letter.

This is a huge victory and to the best of my knowledge, aside from the individual (or groups of) prisoners who I’m sure filed grievances/lawsuits,, etc. to bring about this change, I believe the ACLU played a major role in this win.

But of course it’s one battle in a much larger war. Our “regular” mail is still being scanned by Smart Communications in Florida as well as our photos from family and friends.

All books/publications still must go through the “Security Processing Center” to be heavily scrutinized and censored, which leads to it taking a MINIMUM of about three weeks for us to receive our books. Sometimes it takes upwards of two months.

An alternative to the poor quality printed (copied) photos (I’ve persynally received numerous photos that the jail has printed on the opposite side of the SAME page as my letters, which I hope I’m not the only one that sees this as ridiculous, lazy, and flat out disrespectful) is to receive “photo books” via apps such as FreePrints, FlikShop, Shutterfly, and Snapfish.

These photo books are more expensive (around $10-$15) but are MUCH better quality than receiving the printed copies through Smart Communications. But the photo books must come (from the app) through the Security Processing Center.

Clearly the DOC isn’t happy that we’ve found a “loophole” in eir ridiculous policy regarding photos and I’ve witnessed a fellow prisoner’s ENTIRE photo book be rejected because ONE out of 25 of the photos depicted eir young daughter throwing up the “peace” sign. It goes without saying that ey claimed it was a “gang” sign. How ignorant and disrespectful can ey be? Obviously this question is rhetorical because clearly ey will stop at nothing and have no boundaries when it comes to censoring and harassing prisoners here in PA and around the country.

Bottom line, this is proof that we can achieve victories, albeit small ones, but victories nonetheless when standing up for our rights against the systematic oppression at the hands of our captors (the State).

So I hope it will encourage all of us to keep fighting and keep standing up for the what we believe in and what we know is right.

[COVID-19] [Pennsylvania]

Many PA Prisoners Have COVID-19 in Gen Pop


Greetings. Enclosed is my completed answers for session 1 of the study group. I look forward to further material.

I will hopefully be back in gen. pop. (at a different prison) within the next month or two. I remain in segregation as all transfers in the PADOC have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ironically, those of us in segregation here are probably safer than the prisoners in general population because numerous staff (C.O.s, etc.) have tested positive for the virus here at this facility (and possibly prisoners, but I’m not sure) and we in seg. are basically in the closest thing to a legit quarantine.

Even in this seg. unit I still see a lot of C.O.s (too many) neglecting recommended (or sometimes mandatory) safety measures and most have a lackadaisical attitude about the situation. I’m surprised many more (and many of us) aren’t sick.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing back.

In Solidarity.

[Medical Care] [Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Fayette] [Pennsylvania]

Brutality in the RHU

I want to speak on what has been going on with me since I’ve been in this RHU. I came to the RHU on 12 November 2019 for an assault on another prisoner. Specifically I punched someone ONE time and broke my hand to the point of it requiring surgery. I had surgery on 26 November 2019 and had 3 temporary pins put in that were supposed to remain in for 3-4 weeks. (*Note: I STILL as of today have NOT been taken back to the hospital to have them removed. It’s going on 7-8 weeks) Three days later on 29 November 2019 as I was being escorted to the shower in handcuffs, I got into a verbal disagreement with 2 C.O.s (Tyne & Emminger) about an approved plastic bag I was supposed to get to cover my bandaged hand so I could shower. They were FALSELY claiming that it was NOT approved (this was later proven to be INCORRECT). But when I disputed this, C.O. Emminger proceeded to violently yank on the handcuff “tether” & twist & pull on my handcuffs to intentionally injure me. He said, “Oh you wanna argue? Now you don’t get shit.” And he proceeded to physically force me back into my cell.

I was prohibited from speaking to any medical staff about this & ended up receiving a COMPLETELY BOGUS & fabricated misconduct (write-up) claiming I threatened them, used “abusive” language & refused a direct order. When I went to my hearing I requested the camera footage & also requested to call 3 witnesses who would’ve refuted the false allegations. I was told that the video footage was “unavailable” and my witnesses were NOT called with the hearing examiner stating that they were “Not Needed” to determine guilt or innocence. Long story short, I was found guilty & received an additional 30 days of disciplinary time to run concurrent with the 45 I was already serving for assault. I’m currently appealing this decision.

ANOTHER similar incident occurred on 1 December 2019 wherein my cell was being searched in retaliation for myself & several other convicts complaining & putting in grievances about us not being able to exchange our dirty bed linens & towels for OVER TWO MONTHS (only the inmates who complained had their cells “searched”). It wasn’t even a search, they just wanted to tear our cells apart to send a message. During this “search”. I was removed from my cell and placed in cuffs. I noticed C.O.s kick out onto the tier 2 partial “gloves” that were provided to me by the hospital where I had my surgery to wear under a custom brace that was made for my hand to protect it. When I complained and stated what they were for, I was told to “shut the fuck up” & Sergeant Wiles ordered me to be escorted to the “strip cage.” I was taken to the “strip cage” & thrown inside by Sgt. Wiles & 2 other unknown C.O.s. As Sgt. Wiles was removing my cuffs, he aggressively yanked & twisted on the cuffs in an OBVIOUS attempt to injure me. When I yelled out in pain, Sgt. Wiles stated, “tell it to your buddy in there.” Referring to the camera inside of the strip cage.

I’ve since filed numerous grievances regarding these incidents and am at various stages of the appeal processes. My intent is to exhaust the in-house remedies and file a 1983 suit against the DOC & these C.O.s specifically. I’ve also contact numerous politicians & outside groups such as the ACLU, PA institutional Law Project, PA prison society, etc. and am looking for all the help, assistance and/or information I can get with this struggle.

If you can publicize my struggle in U.L.K. or on your website or in ANYWAY possible, I’d GREATLY appreciate it. Feel free to use ANY part of this letter & any & all details. If you can provide ANY info to help me or point me in the direction of anyone who can, PLEASE DO. Again, it will be greatly appreciated.


[Organizing] [State Correctional Institution Somerset] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 70]

Educating and Fighting Grievance Denials in Pennsylvania

Until recently I was being held at SCI Somerset with 9 months hole time. During this time prison officials stole my commissary, denied me access to the law library (mini law library), discarded my legal materials, discarded my incoming mail, denied me legal phone calls (even when I had court within days of my request), and I was denied meals (trays), among other things. All in retaliation for my filing grievances about the many injustices and inhumane living conditions I and others suffered from.

After successfully challenging those things via grievance appeals to central office, these C.O.s started targeting other prisoners. Denying them showers, yard, meals, and giving their incoming mail to other prisoners. These guys reacted, as they should, but the way they reacted was counterproductive. So I taught them how to fight our oppressors using the grievance procedure for positive results and they were successful.

As a result of this, the prison guards and prison officials conspired on a course of action and the result was they transferred me to a facility where they know I have multiple enemies, and labeled me as a gang member (which I’m not). This is a Restricted Housing Unit (RHU).

Throughout this entire ordeal I saw opportunity to start teaching those brothers how to put a stop to oppression and injustices they were subjected to before I arrived. I am proud to say we’ve made a couple victories; small ones, but victories nonetheless. The brothers are especially happy of the bigger trays in the RHU! We have more work to do, our battles continue.

[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [Pennsylvania]

Retaliation and Threats for Reporting Rape in Pennsylvania

I am an inmate at SCI-Huntingdon in Huntingdon, PA. I am writing you hoping you can somehow help or assist me. I was a victim of rape in this jail in August 2019. I reported this to PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) coordinator here at SCI Huntingdon, Lt. Grassmyer and Ms Pyle. I placed myself in solitary confinement to get away from my attacker who was my cellmate.

While in solitary confinement (RHU) I received threats of retaliation for filing the PREA report. My attacker is a well established gang member here at SCI Huntingdon with a lot of connections. I reported this to "security" and Lt. Grassmyer, I expressed how I was in fear for my safety due to the treats I received. In response I was given an ultimatum by Lt. Grassmyer, "go back to population, or get a misdconduct for refusing to go back to population." Reluctantly, I went back to population, I didn't want a misconduct when I see the parole board in Nov of this year. I wasn't in population for 24 hours before receiving multiple threats of retaliation for filing report to PREA (Lt. Grassmyer).

Friends of mine were approaching me warning me of a hit (bounty) on my head to stab me or cut me up real good. I went straight to the block guard and told him about the hits on my head, since then, Sept 5 2019, I've been in solitary confinement. I am in steady fear for my life and I'm afraid that this jail, Lt. Grassmyer in particular is going to get me seriously hurt or even killed.

Under the PREA act, it is my right to be protected from retaliation. If they try to make me go back to general population I know for a fact that I will be stabbed or cut up or even killed. This prison is corrupt and I don't trust anyone here and I need all the help I can get from the outside. So please, if there is anything, anything you can do to help me or assist me. I have almost 10 years incarcerated and I am not eligible for parole while in the RHU (solitary confinement), because it is a level 5 security, so even though I am eligible to go home, I can't as long as they keep me here in RHU. I'm in a Catch 22 and this is not right. Please help me.

[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 68]

How to Fight PA Mail Policies

In the article "Pennsylvania Digitizing Prisoner Mail" in ULK 65(1) Soso points out that PA's new policy will restrict prisoners to purchasing books directly (after the publication is first approved by the DOC). By enforcing this policy the PA DOC is implementing a state-run monopoly on reading material within its prisons. The obvious reason for this imperialist act is to further censor prisoners' reading material.

Illinois comrades have heard our brothers' cries for help. This policy can be fought, but it will take time and dedication to prevail. Crofton v. Roe, 170 F. 3d 957, 961 (9th Cir. 1999) is a case finding that a regulation that only allowed a prisoner to receive publications he ordered and paid for directly bore no relationship to the interest of screening for contraband. You'll need to Shepardize this case to find cases from your Circuit that support this judgment.

What does this mean? It means that you can combat the current policy denying third parties to order you books. That might seem like a small victory compared to the digitization of your mail and pictures, but any victory against the state is a victory for the people. Unfortunately, due to the security concerns regarding drugs being smuggled into the prisons through the mail, it is unlikely that this policy will be overturned by any court. The only method left for this issue is direct action in protest of the policy which garnishes public attention and support (i.e. the mass hunger strikes in California in protest of the SHU which resulted in the abolishment of indefinite placement in the SHU). In Solidarity!

MIM(Prisons) responds: We hope that this PA mail policy will be challenged in the courts. Although MIM(Prisons) does not have the resources (or lawyers) to do this from the streets, we print this letter to support our jailhouse lawyers who are working on this battle. At the same time, this writer makes a good point that we are unlikely to win these legal battles entirely. We can sometimes gain some small victories, that allow us things like greater access to educational materials in prison. But we need to keep in mind that political power only comes to those who take it. The imperialists and their courts will not give up this power without a fight.

[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Forest] [Pennsylvania]

Victory in Privileged Mail Battle at SCI Forest

I am in SCI Forest, and have been fighting to get our mail back and this is the outcome of it so far. I am fighting for regular mail to come to us to and I hope soon we start getting the original mail too. So I am sending this to you so you can put it in your ULK.

To: All Inmates
From: Tabb Bickell, Executive Deputy Secretary, Institutional Operations
Date: March 21, 2019
Re: Changes to PA DOC Privileged Correspondence

This notice is to advise you that the Department is implementing a revised Attorney Control Number process for privileged correspondence. With this new process, the way you receive your privileged correspondence is changing. Effective April 6, 2019, you will begin receiving original privileged correspondence. Similar to the current process, you will be present when the privileged correspondence is opened, the privileged correspondence will undergo a security screening and then you shall sign for the privileged correspondence received. Privileged correspondence shall only contain essential, confidential, attorney-client communication.

Failure to comply with the below requirements may result in the rejection of the correspondence:

1. Envelopes do not contain the appropriate identifying information.
2. The correspondence contains non-privileged correspondence.
3. The privileged correspondence contains documents that did not originate from the sending attorney(s). Third party original documentation is prohibited.

If an attorney inquires to you about this new process, please refer them to the Departments public website for all the necessary information (
[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Rockview] [Pennsylvania]

Do Prisoner Lives Really Matter?

On Sunday, 3 March, 2019, a fellow prisoner passed away in afternoon yard. One minute he was talking with his buddies, going around the track, the next he was on the ground not breathing. Not surprisingly, the COs took their good old time responding to the scene, even though the man dropped not even 100 yards from where they were stationed. It took medical staff 15 minutes to respond after the call went in on the walkie. Since then, I found out several things.

1) DOC staff are not put through CPR training at their academy. Only medical staff are mandated to take this training.

2) Prisoners are not permitted to do CPR on any persyn, even if trained on the streets, or even if they could potentially save a life. Serious consequences can and will result, if a prisoner performs CPR on anyone.

3) Medical staff admit that the man might have lived if the response time was seen the slightest bit faster.

4) DOC staff couldn't give a shit about any persyn other than one of their own.

I, along with many other prisoners, are outraged at this situation. How many more prisoners must suffer and die at the hands of DOC officials and their nonsense rules? I refuse to sit back and do nothing. Awareness is key here. I plan on making other organizations, including several news companies and prisoner organizations, aware of the problem and the tragedy that occurred yesterday. I want the appropriate officials held fully accountable. I want to make it clear that ALL Lives Matter and no oppression will be tolerated. Thanks for giving one a voice. Thanks for giving victims a voice. Together we will fight oppression. We are the true United We Stand!

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