Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Pennsylvania Prisons

Postage is one of our biggest expenses. Why not send a book of stamps or two to POB 40799 SF, CA 94140 next time you're at the post office? help out

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.

[Organizing] [United Front] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 43]
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Carry on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity

I'm responding to the article "Summing Up September 9 Protests" from ULK 41. I became aware of United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) Day of Peace and Solidarity from my August issue of ULK. I fasted on September 9, but it was done in a custom as Ramadan. This year I will fast according to UFPP custom. Solidarity means working or struggling in a union, and I want to start with those who choose to participate. In solitary confinement here at this prison it is difficult to get the prisoners to partake in the fast because of their political immaturity. Many of them are gang members and they are in the hole for fighting amongst themselves. I try to talk with them about taking life more serious, but peer pressure is what forces many to stay in a state of illusion.

You asked what needs to be done about the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity to broaden its impact. We must continue to promote that day and try to let prisoners see it as a day of unity that represents all prisoners in this racist country. They need to view it as a so-called holiday for prisoners throughout this country. Try to promote to them that this is their day in solidarity with the brothers or comrades at Attica, who lost their lives for better conditions in prisons. Being in captivity since the mid-seventies, I learned that this new generation of prisoners doesn't appreciate the sacrifices those made decades ago. I was labeled as a ring leader and spent over 3.5 years in the hole for being one of the peace makers during the Camp Hill spontaneous uprising.

I understand that not everyone can fast for health reasons, and most individuals can't afford to risk losing their prison jobs because that's the only income they receive. Therefore, you must come up with an alternative so that everyone can still support the cause of September 9 in their own way, because you don’t want anyone to feel as though they can't be part of the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity because of not fasting or needing to work. Hopefully we can have a larger participation this year. I'm looking forward to it and I will definitely spread the word.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is responding to the article we published summing up the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity 2014, which saw a decrease in reported participation. We asked for input on how we should proceed with that action. We agree with promoting this as a day of solidarity with the comrades in the Attica struggle, and we encourage everyone to participate in building peace, by networking, putting a moratorium on fighting, and educating others on the necessity of peace. This is something that can be done regardless of whether you take up the fasting and work strike, by reaching out to educate others about the Attica struggle and our work today and why we need to build peace between individuals and groups throughout the prisons. If we can have this one day with no conflict between prisoners, that would be a great victory in demonstrating what is possible, and we can use that to build lasting peace. A critical part of this is education: our activists need to be well-educated themselves on the history of this struggle, so that leading up to, and on, September 9 they can in turn educate others. To this end we've put together a study pack for everyone building the United Front for Peace in Prisons, which includes historical information about Attica as well as organizing materials for September 9. Write to us for a copy. Let's make 2015 the most productive Day of Peace and Solidarity yet!

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Benner] [Pennsylvania]
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Publication Discrimination

It's amazing how some of these institutions specifically discriminate against Black publications from entering into their prisons, stating their writings are offensive and inappropriate to prison standards. This is how prejudice and bias their views are when it comes to Black literature.

I received a notice from the Incoming Publication Review Committee at SCI-Benner, stating that the Movement Newsletter is being denied. They indicated that three of its pages advocated violence, guerrilla warfare against the government, assist in criminal activity related to prison misconduct, and its material is racially motivated that could cause a threat to inmates, staff, and security in the prison.

This accusation is not only a derogatory attack on Black publications, but also towards Blacks in general. They have the audacity to link a race of people to a criminal behavior as though it's inbred in them.

The Black community frowns on criminal activities, as well as violence, much more so than anyone else because many are personally affected by it one-way or the other. And for anyone to imply they abet it, is in a state of illusion, because many of them are unfortunate victims of crime, not participants.

Most of the Black publications are structured to educate readers on past, and current events, give encouragement to those in despair, and to let the community know that they are not forgotten. We're fortunate to have a newsletter of sure caliber as the Movement that's fearless, judicious, and full of profound data that's reliable. Newsletters such as the Movement, Graterfriends, Fortune Society, Innocence Denied, and many others that give a voice to those whose voices have been disregarded. They advocate justice for those who have been denied it, and advocate humane treatment to those men and women in captivity.

It is judged inappropriate for Black publications to denounce racial discrimination, corruption, oppression, hypocrisy, injustice, and whatever else infringe on the rights of others. Are they permitted to execute their so-called Constitutional rights under the First Amendment to freedom of speech, which includes the rights to criticize the government or state officials? Is censorship in effect or is it just my imagination?


MIM(Prisons) responds: The Movement is a newsletter published by the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), which describes itself as: "HRC’s quarterly news magazine, The Movement, is a powerful source in public awareness that serves not only to tie prisoners to the outside world, but also to tie the public into prison issues. It represents the voices, faces, causes, and ideas of prisoner families and prisoners themselves." This is not even a New Afrikan publication, except in that it covers prison issues and a disproportionate number of prisoners of the United $tates are New Afrikan.

MIM(Prisons) is not surprised to see this censorship because we face constant problems with censorship of Under Lock & Key in prisons across the country. Prisons make up bogus reasons to deny ULK as a threat to security because of our work educating and organizing prisoners. Any publication that reports honestly on the Amerikan criminal injustice system is going to include coverage of national oppression and the struggles of New Afrikans and [email protected] in particular. This reporting and organizing work is seen as a threat to the prisons, but we must fight for our right to this legal form of education.

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[Gang Validation] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 41]
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Pennsylvania STG: Acronym for Oppression

A few years ago, former Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) Director Jeffrey Beard relocated to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Director Beard was known for his tyrannical style of utilizing confinement and isolation for more sadistic than safety purposes, by increasing constantly the number of prisoners placed on the restricted release list (RRL). Once on this list, the only persyn who can finalize your release back to general population is the Governor of Pennsylvania. Beard, after seeing the practice of the California STG program, informed current PA DOC Director, John Wetzel, of these tactics of oppression, suppression and repression. In the summer of 2012 the Pennsylvania security threat group (STG) unit was started.

In Pennsylvania, a security threat group is any group of persyns who continuously ignore the department's administrative rules, i.e. any unauthorized group activity. The word "group" is the concealing factor of the oppressive practices in place in the PA DOC. Members of religious "groups" such as Muslims, Jews, Moors, Nation of Islam, Nation of Gods & Earths, etc., are placed on the list of documented STGs violating the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and freedom of association. Members of political "groups" such as the New Afrikan Communists, New Afrikan Independence Movement, Black Liberation Army, etc. are placed on the list of documented STGs, violating the first amendment right to freedom of political identification and freedom of association.

Of approximately 175 captives brought to the Pennsylvania STG program, 95% (166) are of oppressed nation heritage. Out of this percentage, about 20 were actually told why they were abducted for the program, i.e. why they were labeled STG members, although the reasons were mostly untruthful and unjustifiable. There is no appeal process in place to combat placement in the program. There is no validation/assessment hearing or procedure in place to present your side of the alleged claims or bring forth any evidence or witnesses on your behalf. Those who do attempt to refuse this assignment are placed on RRL. In order to be released from there you have to agree to do the STG program (the same program you refused in the first place!).

The tactics employed here are quite surely the same as any other STG unit. Obstruction of correspondence (incoming and outgoing), no visits (unless earned through advancing in the program), no phone privileges (unless earned through advancing in the program), inadequate legal services and materials (unless earned through advancing in the program), thought police/Orwellian indoctrination and debriefing systems disguised as cognitive restructuring. Those who hold firm the belief this is an injustice are labeled as "in denial and unwilling to give up participation in group activity." Those who express their opinions are titled as "thinking criminally" or using a "gang mentality." The guidelines, procedures and policies governing the programs are restricted to the public. Instead a prisoner supplement handbook is issued to each captive which quite surely differentiates from the restricted policy.

Exercise, food, commissary and restraints are used as an enticement method as well as punishment. For example, you may hear a pig say "if you program, you won't have to wear handcuffs." Or "if you don't complete the assignments you won't be able to order commissary." To increase the allure of these "privileges" they make contrasting practices as hard and uncomfortable as possible. They feed you next to nothing to increase hunger and craving for commissary. They make all movements restrained to add to the uncomfortability. This is all done in hopes of breaking your spirit or to make you "give in to the inevitable," to quote a pig.

These are only a few of the ever-changing, ever-occurring issues here for myself and the komrades. There is a resistance to struggle not only for our liberties but for those who would come after us as an example of unity, komradery and solidarity in struggle.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We are seeing this STG classification used to target activists in Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, as well as California and no doubt many more states. While the development of STG programs is a sign of the strength of the oppressed nation organizations and political activists, it is also a dangerous tool of repression that we must expose and fight. Targetting prisoners for "group" or "gang" activity has long been an excuse to bring down oppression on those with the greatest interest and organization in fighting the criminal injustice system.

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[Abuse] [Medical Care] [Mental Health] [Campaigns] [State Correctional Institution Albion] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania Prisoners Petition to End Torture and Abuse

MIM(Prisons) received this petition from one of our readers. We print it here in full because it does a good job exposing the neglect and abuse at SCI Albion. We do sometimes engage in petitioning government officials for reforms in prison, though petitions with such a broad scope of abuses do not have a history of success. Nonetheless, campaigns such as this one are important educational tools and we hope this one inspires activists to get involved in fighting the criminal injustice system in Pennsylvania. Our one point of disagreement is with the introductory quote from the Anarchist organizer Anthony Rayson: as we have repeatedly demonstrated, prisons are not "for-profit" and in fact take a big loss subsidized by the U.$. government.

A Call to End Oppression: United We Stand

"Prisons aren't about crime control, they're about for-profit repression. In fact they are a huge, government-run, criminal enterprise wildly profitable, & completely paid for by ripped-off taxpayers." - Anthony Rayson

The State Correctional Institution Albion in Western Pennsylvania, is a notorious prison for frequent abuse & torture of prisoners, some are held years in solitary confinement without any chance to see daylight, medical negligence has led to the suffering and death of thousands of prisoners. Lack of adequate mental health care has driven many to commit suicide. The taxpayer's money is being used to prop up an untamed beast that only the people of Pennsylvania can stop.

We ask that you support the struggle for humane conditions and rehabilitation by signing the attached petition, copying it, and mail it to the listed officials, or sacrifice a few minutes of your time by calling the officials and stating the demands/issues in the petition.


Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530-0001
202-353-1555

Secretary of Corrections
John E. Wetzel
1920 Technology Parkway
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
717-728-0312

Senator Ronald Waters
6027 Ludlow St - Unit A
Philadelphia, PA 19112
215-748-6712

Senator Shirley Kitchen
1701 W. Lehigh Ave, Suite 107
Philadelphia, PA 19132
214-227-6161

Senator Le Anna Washington
1555-A Wadsworth Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19150
215-272-0475

Governor Tom Corbett
225 Capitol Bldg
Harrisburg, PA 17120
717-787-2500



Public Complaint & Petition
To: U.S. Department of Justice
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett
Pennsylvania State Senators
Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel

From:

Date:

Re: Stop prisoner abuse - inadequate medical/mental health treatment & care - real rehabilitation
This petition comes pursuant to and in full compliance with the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution and Pennsylvania Constitution Article 1 Section 20; the people have the authority to petition government officials and to redress of grievances.

Inadequate Mental Health Treatment

SCI Albion officials are not providing adequate mental health treatment to mentally ill prisoners that are warehoused in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) (Solitary Confinement) that exacerbates their mental deterioration (i.e. cutting/self-mutilation, suicides attempts, smearing/throwing of fecal matter & bodily waste, etc.)

Mary Beth Anderson, an unlicensed psychologist assigned to the RHU to provide and assist prisoners with psycho-therapy, fails to comply with the PDOC policy DC-Adm. 6.5.1 that states: "Psychologist is to visit the RHU 5 days a week and evaluate each inmate in the RHU every 30 days," Ms. Anderson clearly acts hostile to, and in an unethical manner towards prisoners under her care who have sought assistance. Two such prisoners under Mary Beth Anderson's personal responsibility committed suicide, Stoney Schaefer on October 25, 2012, and Harry Cooper on December 9, 2012. Prisoners continue to deteriorate detrimentally in the RHU due to the lack of treatment, with no apparent signs of improvement.

Dr. Steven Reilly, (LMP), is the supervisor of all the (so-called) "unlicensed psychologists" at SCI Albion, who allegedly has been known to manipulate a prisoner's diagnoses, and also dictates to the institution's psychiatrist Dr. Gottsman how to prescribe to the prisoner(s), even when it doesn't conform correctly to a mental disorder; a review of a prisoner's dispensed "psychotropic" medication(s) and their joint-diagnoses will bear this out as occurring.

He also allows the (so-called) "unlicensed psychologist" staff to neglect prisoners who seek help. Two cases in point were of James Whitman who committed suicide September 22, 2013, and a prisoner named Myers who set fire to his cell on the Special Needs Unit (housing unit for mentally ill) October 9, 2013, in an apparent attempted suicide as a result of being denied the treatment that's offered by the department.

Officials at SCI Albion house prisoners who attempt suicide in a Psychological Observation Cell (POC) these cells are designed as torture chambers where prisoners arey confined 24 hours a day with no counseling or therapy, the lights stay on round the clock, and they are forced to wear only a smock (cloth dress mode). These torture chambers only intensify their psychoses that only make them worse upon their return to general population, causing them to receive misconducts and then warehousing them in RHU (Solitary Confinement).

According to the Department of Correction's policy "All Correctional Officers shall receive an annual psychological evaluation," yet SCI Albion officers completely ignore this policy, guards at SCI Albion have not had their psychological evaluations done in years, for some decades, the resulting neglect ramps up the intensity leading to abuse and guards assaulted. The psychological evaluation is also necessary for guards who are active in the military that go to war and return to work with prisoners seething with a combat mentality. Data collected by the International Academy of Suicide Research indicate that prison guard's suicide rates are 39% higher than similar averages for other jobs. If proper psychological evaluations are carried out, it may prevent suicides of guards.

Inadequate Medical Treatment

Prisoners at SCI Albion are being denied proper health care. Prisoners held in the RHU (Solitary Confinement) that send in a request for medical treatment (sick call) get a physician's assistant at their door who attempts to diagnose them based on a brief conversation. Because of this, most prisoners are misdiagnosed, thus violating federal law (Privacy Act), by openly allowing prisoners' medical information disclosed within earshot to everyone on the "pod" (including prisoners).

Many prisoners who request medical treatment in general population and go to see the doctor or physician assistant, are often told to come back or are briefly seen and misdiagnosed. Derrick Jones, a former SCI Albion prisoner won a $312,000 lawsuit for medical negligence at the prison due to a misdiagnosis of a broken ankle as a sprain and inadequate treatment.

Many prisoners with serious medical conditions remain in general population in unsanitary conditions (housing) where they spread their diseases to other prisoners. Prisoners who are on the verge of their demise get housed in the infirmary where they are met with hostile nurses who don't have much regard for life. Dennis Austin died at the infirmary with bed-sores that were grossly infected, confirming a clear disregard for life even at the infirmary. Prisoners continue to die/suffer to death due to lack of adequate care.

No Access to Courts

Valarie C. Kusiak (CCPM) and acting Deputy Melinda Adams are both in charge of the law library at SCI Albion where prisoners' access to the courts and law library are denied. The law library sessions mostly are canceled with no make-up dates; also prisoners are allowed only one 30 minute slot per week access which hinders their research abilities to type up documents and make copies. Also, Ms. Kusiak and Ms. Adams took all the law books out of the law library denying prisoners vital information needed for research. In times of court deadlines, prisoners are not granted extra time to prepare documents and are denied the means to make copies, often leading to losing appeals.

Inadequate Food

Prisoners at SCI Albion are given unhealthy food. The food served to prisoners is uncooked, and the meat is old and freezer burnt. Vegetables and fruit are rotten; milk is 3 days past its sell-by date that most prisoners throw away. Prisoners are getting sick due to these unhealthy food diets.

Inhumane Working Conditions

Prisoners at SCI Albion who are assigned jobs work without proper safety gear to protect them against many dangers. Prisoners working as plumbers do not wear any suits to protect their skin from exposure to the dirty pipes and water that carries Hepatitis C, HIV-Aids, and other viruses from others' body waste that they can be infected by due to a lack of appropriate safety gear. Painters that have to stand on ladders to paint do not have hard hats or eyewear that can protect them from a fall, or paint going in the eyes causing damage to sight. Warehouse workers do not have any hard hats, gloves, eyewear, or safety belt that puts them in great danger. Work related injuries happen quite frequently as a direct result of non-safe standards; also there are other various jobs without any safety measures.

Inadequate Programming & Education

Programs being offered to prisoners at SCI Albion have proven to be ineffective to a prisoners' rehabilitation. Prisoners are lectured in groups (i.e. Violence Prevention, A.O.D., Thinking for a Change, etc.) by coordinators who read from books and do not engage prisoners in critical thinking necessary for rehabilitation, also they allow prisoners to just sit around and talk amongst themselves, when they don't feel like reading and dismiss the group early; this happens a lot. Valarie C. Kusiak and Melinda Adams, who are in charge of programming, do not investigate the efficiency of the groups or prisoners' complaints that the groups are not beneficial.

There are no vocational programs/courses offered for prisoners that coincide with or compliment outside job market trends for ex-felon hiring's at sectors with available openings, leaving an unprepared prisoner upon release to continue a former life of crime that's due to the lack of proper occupational/preparatory instruction. SCI Albion has a 3-in-4 prisoner recidivism rate within a years' time.

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[Campaigns] [State Correctional Institution Frackville] [Pennsylvania]
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Fighting "Lost" Grievances in Pennsylvania

I am having a terrible time with the grievance system at SCI-Frackville along with the misconduct appeal system both in population and in the hole where I'm presently confined.

In general population I have the option of putting my grievance in the grievance box on the housing block or in the grievance box in the chow hall. I always use the chow hall. Only the grievance coordinator has a key to the grievance boxes so all grievances get processed. The problem begins when the grievance is responded to. All responses are sent to the housing units and "stolen" by the guards on the units. Then when we complain about not getting a response, we are told we have to write to the record office and "pay" for another copy. By the time that is done, the time for appealing the response has expired, precluding you from appealing the response. Our final appeals must be sent to the "Chief Grievance Coordinator." On four occasions, she claimed she never received my final appeal that I placed in the mailbox with a postage paid envelop. Misconduct appeals are placed in the inmate-request-slip box. A guard has a key to that box, and on six occasions I was told I never appealed my misconduct sanction.

I definitely need a copy of the grievance petition to have prisoners copy and send out.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the grievance system in prisons across the country, where prison workers conspire to "lose" grievances so that prisoners have no recourse to challenge misconduct. The grievance petition is one tool to help with this fight. We now have petitions for 10 states, and we are looking for prisoners who can customize the petition to their own states as needed. This petition can also be a tool to educate other prisoners. You can share it with those who see the effects of the unjust grievance system, and talk to them about how this relates to the overall criminal injustice system and the need for prisoners to step up and do something. This petition is a small action they can take right now, but they can also get more involved in studying and struggling over issues of bigger change to fundamental injustice. This is one way we can share the anti-imperialist movement with people through practical struggle that impacts their lives right now.

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[Education] [Mental Health] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania Prison System Promotes Social Ills

Systemic and severe violations of international human rights law are an endemic feature of prison conditions in Pennsylvania. This is why the PA Department of Corrections is being investigated by the U.S. Deptartment of Justice and a class action lawsuit has been filed by the Disability Rights Network challenging PA's mental health practices of warehousing prisoners with serious mental illnesses in solitary confinement causing this class of prisoners undue suffering. The treatment amounts to a punishment nightmare where they cannot receive treatment, but receive disciplinary infractions and sanctions for behavior directly related to their mental health issues.

During the past 30 years or more, Pennsylvania has embarked upon a project of race and class based incarceration unlike anything Pennsylvanians have ever seen. In my almost four decades of incarceration, I have witnessed the annual state prison budget increase from under $100 million for the fiscal year 1980, to $2 billion today. Not coincidentally, prison construction and prison population increased with the passage of the law that created the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing in 1982. The prison budget has increased even more because the General Assembly authorized three new prisons and built cells at 17-existing prisons to imprison another 9000 prisoners in the next 3 years. Additionally, PA leads the nation in juveniles serving life sentences, the overwhelming number of them being of African descent.

Pennsylvania is one of many states that are building more jails and prisons at the same time that they are closing schools. While states have an abundance of funds to build jails and prisons, more and more school districts are facing funding and program cuts, furloughs, and hiring freezes. Is it not more sensible to invest in schools than jails and prisons? Schools will help to improve quality of life, education and values; jails and prisons will continue the pipeline to prison and increase the penal population.

Just like I have witnessed the state's annual prison budget increase tremendously, I have witnessed a perversion of the priorities in education that in the long run criminalizes poor blacks and poor people of color in general, institutionally robbing public education to feed the prison industrial complex.

The National Center for Education Statistics affirms that 68 million people read below basic levels, but less money in education is spent. It uses the state of Texas as an example, where they have eliminated close to $4 billion of the budget and also the financing of programs that served 100,000 at-risk children. Other cuts have included the closing of hundreds of schools.


MIM(Prisons) adds:
We appreciate this comrade for taking the time to write this article, which concisely points out many of the problems with the current system. While we print it here for its useful content, we disagree with the reformist line of the article. Long-term isolation is torture for all people, whether you are mentally ill or you are a political prisoner. We've watched as reforms around who gets put into control units only justifies using them against some of the greatest leaders of the oppressed. So we do not report on these efforts uncritically.

As proletarian internationalists, spending more money on schools or prisons for Amerikans is a crime as long as people (whose wealth they've stolen) are dying of malnutrition and basic medical care. Segregation in public schools is an ongoing problem in the United $tates. And the educational disparity, which leaves oppressed nations within U.$. borders with far less than adequate education, feeds into prison. Taking money from prisons to put into education will not solve this problem. While we do support cutting prison budgets as a means to discourage the ridiculously high incarceration rate in this country, as long as the imperialists control the budgets, they will find ways to spend money on furthering their goals. Reforms to spending will just move things around a bit, but not make fundamental and lasting change we will need to end the system of imperialism which prioritizes profit over the life of the oppressed.

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[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Cresson] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania Torture Regular Part of Prison Life

I come in the universal salute of peace. I was recently made aware of your movement and newsletter ULK May/June 2012 Number 26. And as I read it I started to see plenty similarities between our causes. I am a native of Aztlán and therefore the ways of valuing self are embedded in my way of life.

Here, like in any other plantation in PA, exist the ordinary issues of: abuse of authority by staff, unconstitutional living conditions, a definitely inadequate grievance system and last but not least plenty of incompetency in the form of correctional officers and other staff who are not fit mentally, intellectually and/or physically to perform their job who seek revenge on us.

June 30, 2012 in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) an incident took place involving a certified mentally ill prisoner who was moved by force to the "reinforced cell/dry cell/ suicide watch cell." After he was placed in that cell the lieutenant sprayed him with pepper spray, even after the prisoner had already stopped struggling. The whole block and every prisoner felt the effects of the spray because they didn't bother to stop the air ventilation circulatory system which let the pepper spray enter every cell. Soon after the prisoners with asthma started to have complications with breathing and vomiting. But instead of providing health care for us, the guards left the block because they couldn't bear the effects of the pepper spray. This happened at SCI-Cresson June 30, 2012 8pm to 1:30am.

I'd like to personally urge any prisoner to educate him/her self in the law of the land and apply it to their everyday life behind bars. Knowledge is the only cure to the fast growing and deadly disease of "ignorance." Being anti-establishment and/or anti-government doesn't mean that you are an outlaw, a villain or a ruthless piece of trash as they see us. No! It means that you would stand for your principles in accordance with how you want to live your life, and apply those principles to yourself and to how you'd like your legacy to be written.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is correct that even events that seem relatively small and common like this pepper spraying incident need to be fought. Prisoners need to learn the legal system and try to use it to our advantage. At the same time, we have to know that we won't win this battle through the legal system. It is a part of the broader criminal injustice system which, as a tool of social control for imperialism, will not give up power without a fight. Only by overthrowing imperialism will we be able to establish a system that truly serves the interests of the people. But while we build for that struggle we can fight the day to day battles to gain some small rights and freedoms for our comrades behind bars, putting them in a better position to organize and build the movement.

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[United Front] [Organizing] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [State Correctional Institution Camp Hill] [Pennsylvania]
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PA Tries to Divide Prisoners with False Rat Label

I recently returned from a trip to federal court in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. As I re-entered these battered walls of this prison I cringed and rejoiced because the conditions of the temp prison I was at are far worse than Huntingdon. SCI Camp Hill "AKA White Hill" is known for beating, starving, humiliating, and much more. I was housed in the SMU portion of the jail. It's a long-term disciplinary unit. I was banged off every door from booking to the unit, which was no surprise. There we got three cold meals a day, no yard, no shower. That place is crazy. I passed your address along and let the brothers know that there are people who care about these conditions of the PA prison system. These pigs, all ex-military, are overweight, out of shape, and relentless.

As I entered back to the RHU part of Huntingdon I was greeted with "there he is!" "That's the Rat!" I was puzzled, I've never told on anyone in my life. I did a little research and learned that while I was away a couple pigs were telling other prisoners I was ratting on them for passing stuff. We came to the conclusion that my letter to the Department of Justice made these pigs mad. I wrote a letter to the Department of Justice in Washington naming several COs chewing snuff and spitting it in our food, the mice that run this place, the lack of heat, and the neglect of a young Spanish boy who hung himself. The boy survived only because we were kicking our doors and yelling for help. He was in a camera cell with 24 hours live feed to a screen in the RHU bubble, but the pigs were watching TV and playing on the computer while this young man was trying to end his life. So I'm a rat for helping my fellow man. We straightened that all out, and now the pigs are our target once again.

I try to stress to these young brothers, we can't oppress each other. We are already being oppressed by the PA DOC. I tell them if you feel like oppressing another prisoner, take it out on the pigs. I'm spreading copies of all you send me, I'd like to know about how to start a study group here. I want to push your theory it seems to be positive growth material.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for taking on the "Rat" label head on and clearing his name with his fellow prisoners so that he could continue his organizing work. As point 2 of the United Front principles states, "To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts." To help prisoners like this one, we run a study group through the mail that provides basic political education, and we also have a guide to forming study groups in prison, so that people can take what they learn and share it with others and have discussions in the yard or wherever else it is possible to gather and talk. Write to us for more information.

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[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Forest] [Pennsylvania]
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Brutality and Resistance in Pennsylvania Demonstrates Need for United Front

I am currently being held captive in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at SCI Forest and would like to apprise you of some recent events that have taken place:

On February 21, 2012, a mentally ill prisoner told Lt. Raymond Burkhart and other staff that he was feeling suicidal shortly after breakfast trays were distributed to prisoners in the unit. In turn, Lt. Burkhart summoned an extraction team, which consisted of approximately seven guards clad in full riot gear - helmets, body armor and gas masks. Moreover, the extraction team carried Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs), chemical agents, nightsticks, and other weapons. Bear in mind, the mentally ill prisoner, like most other prisoners in RHU, was housed in a single-man cell and with no clothing except for a jumpsuit and underclothes.

Instructed by Lt. Murin, the extraction team accosted the mentally ill prisoner and demanded that he relinquish his plastic breakfast tray. Disregarding the extraction team's orders, the prisoner requested psychiatric care apropos of his suicidal feelings. The extraction team then blasted the prisoner with a chemical agent. With his eyes and skin burning from the chemical agent, the prisoner relinquished the breakfast tray. The extraction team then left the unit. Lt. Burkhart and other staff left the mentally ill prisoner in the cell with the chemical agent burning his eyes and skin, and causing him to experience breathing complications overnight. All requests for medical and mental health care were denied.

The following morning, Lt. Burkhart summoned another extraction team to deal with the same mentally ill prisoner. Fortunately, that extraction team did not attack him with chemical agents. Unfortunately, they opted to charge into his cell, stun him with CEDs and pummel him bloody. Even after he was fully restrained by handcuffs and leg irons, one extraction team member (C.O. Woods) repeatedly struck his face with fists and elbows. The prisoner suffered a broken nose in addition to other facial injuries.

The extraction team then locked the mentally ill prisoner in a hard-cell (a cell with a concrete slab for a bed and no other furniture). He was left naked and bleeding with no running water. Several prisoners made requests to Lt. Burkhart and other staff for the mentally ill prisoner to be given medical treatment. These requests were denied.

On February 23, a comrade had words with Lt. Burkhard about the fact that the mentally ill prisoner was being denied medical treatment and held under inhuman conditions. Lt. Burkhart insulted the comrade with racial epithets.

That afternoon, the comrade was asleep while a pig was counting prisoners. The comrade didn't respond to the pig's calling of his name and consequently Lt. Burkhart ordered several guards to enter the comrade's cell. Awoken by the opening of the cell door, the comrade sprung to his feet and defended himself from the attack by the pigs. In fact, he defended himself so well that one pig ended up with a broken nose, and another with broken ribs. The comrade received minimal damage to the body.

Then, yesterday, four prisoners refused to return to their cells from the RHU yard in what began as a peaceful protest to seek the removal of Lt. Burkhart from the RHU. True to form, the pigs quickly got into riot gear and stormed the yard. They attacked one of the four prisoners with a stun shield. Be mindful of the fact that each prisoner was in a single-man exercise cage. Seeing no possible victory in combating the extraction team under the circumstances, the other three prisoners chose to return to their cells and excogitate new strategies.

It is well understood that MIM(Prisons) believes that the time is not yet ripe for armed struggle in this imperialist country, as their regime is still very powerful, and a minuscule percentage of the people are ready and able to partake in real revolution. Furthermore, when prisoners use violence against guards, then those who want to keep the prison industrial complex functioning label such prisoners incorrigible in order to increase the fear, and decrease the support, of prisoners in general by the populace. This makes easier the accomplishment of the government's goal of social control. Notwithstanding, prisoners often feel the need to take up arms against oppressors as guards are given free rein to physically assault them, deprive them of meals and subject them to various other forms of torture.

Even when prisoners endeavor to resolve issues the "right" way, i.e., filing prison grievances and lawsuits, they are often faced with coverups and injustices. For example, the same Lt. Burkhart mentioned earlier in this report often goes into cells while prisoners are in the yard and discards prisoners' legal materials. There are video cameras recording every pod in this unit 24 hours a day, but when prisoners request the use of the videos that would show Lt. Burkhart leaving cells with legal materials as proof of claims to resolve grievances, Lt. Burkhart's coworkers either refuse to review and preserve the videos, or say they can't see him on them. Such experiences are frustrating for prisoners.

The unity, discipline and hardihood displayed by the prisoners who partook in the hunger strikes in Georgia and California is commendable. And albeit not all participants belong to LOs, respect must be given to the many who do and yet were able to put their differences to the side and federate to take a stand against the common enemy. We are not close to having that type of unity in Pennsylvania, as individualism is prevalent out here. Nonetheless, there are some inspired guerrillas paying attention and working to radicalize others. Moreover, some of us are building the foundation of a movement that will aim to join the United Front for Peace in Prisons.

So, as other comrades and I strive to devise and employ tactics to thwart Lt. Burkhart and other oppressors, we look to strengthen solidarity with those who desire a communist world.


MIM(Prisons] adds: These struggles in Pennsylvania are similar to those going on across the criminal injustice system in Amerika. And this comrade does a good job describing the contradiction between the immediate desire of prisoners to fight back physically against the physical brutality they face daily and the potentially detrimental consequences of this armed struggle at this stage of development. We continue to encourage all prisoners to work with the United Front for Peace in Prisons and avoid physical confrontations whenever possible. We will build a movement that demonstrates that it is the oppressed who want peace and the prisons that promote violence.

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[National Oppression] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania DOC Oppression by the Numbers

Two Republican judges were convicted in a cash for kids jail time scheme in Pennsylvannia. In PA this practice goes on each and every work day. Republicans in the state of Colorado send kids as young as twelve to adult penitentiaries, keeping them locked up until they're dead or grow old. This is a savage system.

Black people receive two and sometimes three times as much time as white people for committing the same offenses. A Black woman will receive life or a 20 to 40 year sentence for killing her child. A white woman will receive probation or 30 months for the same offense. This in itself is a crime. Black men are automatically charged with rape for any type of sexual offense. White men are rarely charged with rape for any type of sexual offense. Wealthy white individuals aren't charged at all. It matters not how much money a Black person has, should a Black man get accused of a sex crime no matter how preposterous, that ass is going to jail.

Pennsylvania recently sent 1000 prisoners to Michigan in March 2009 and they came back in May 2011. Pennsylvania also sent 1000 prisoners to Virginia who have yet to return. They were sent away, not to reduce over crowding, but for financial reasons. Michigan is hurting for jobs since most of their business moved out of town. Pennsylvania had 7k prisoners who had already served their minimum sentences; however, the Parole Board refused to release them for what they said was non-compliance or lack of programming. Why didn't they just release the seven thousand prisoners who were eligible? Because it's a business. Pennsylvania earned $7 million dollars from the phone system in 2010. This institution earns $5k each day the commissary is open. The Correctional Industry (laundry) here at SCI-Somerset earns $1 million dollars annually from outside contracts.

Pennsylvania does not permit prisoners to purchase photographs with or without nudity. Prisoners are allowed to buy magazines but 6 out of 10 issues will be censored (denied) in order to discourage prisoners from ordering magazine subscriptions. I have had four publications denied in a single day. Under Lock and Key was denied October 7, 2011 along with my People Against Racist Terrorism publication, my Human Rights Coalition magazine and my Black Enterprise magazine on the very same day. Five or more of my publications are denied each month.

In the course of a single decade Pennsylvania prison numbers have doubled, not as a result of the crime rate, but due to investors who receive prime rate of their stock. A score ago, forty-six states harshly rewrote their criminal sentencing guidelines, doubling and tripling prison terms for a broad array of crimes. For this reason, our legislators can now afford to reduce the 100 to 1 powder to crack cocaine ratio to 18 to 1 because the other charges which are the result of one initial crime will make up for the loss.

First time offenders are receiving lengthy prison sentences, sometimes for the skin they're in. Prosecutors decide who will be charged with what crime. Insensitive judges determine how much time any given defendant will receive. One prosecutor told an all white jury "what makes the defendant dangerous is his race." Prosecutors mention high profile cases which have nothing to do with the individual being tried in order to prejudice the jury against the defendant. Prosecutors intentionally introduce false testimony, flawed forensic science and allow police officers to get away with perjury, yet they are not held accountable for their actions. Just as police officers who cut down unarmed Black men get off with justifiable homicides. No homicide is ever justifiable.

How is it that Black americans who only make up 12% of the U.$. population make up 60% of the prison population? Our prison population has quadrupled since 1980. In 1980 Pennsylvania spent $100K on prisons, now the state spends $1.8 billion annually. It's no wonder Pennsylvania is facing a $2.3 billion deficit. In 1980 only 6% of the nation's prisoners were convicted of drug offenses, now that number has grown to 25% and offenders are receiving twice as much time.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner does a good job summarizing the national oppression that is inherent in the criminal injustice system, not just in Pennsylvania but across the United $tates. We have reviewed the book The New Jim Crow which gives more background and details on this system. While we agree that Pennsylvania (and other states) have an economic interest in expanding their prison systems, we are careful not to mislead people into thinking prisons are about business. Prisons are a tool of social control which also provide good paying jobs for large numbers of labor aristocracy workers. But they are fundamentally a money losing business: As we explained in an article on the economics of prisons, prisons do not make enough money to cover their costs so they will always be subsidized by the government.

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