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.
July 2018 — Hey guys n gals. Well good and bad news.
First the good. I successfully organized my first demonstration, on Father's Day. We are in G-4 custody (20 hr lockdown - 2 hr dayroom and 2 hr rec). The staff always steals our rec with the excuse of "short of staff." So I gathered 6 other prisoners and stated that we would like to speak to Rank (i.e. Sergeant or Lieutenant). Soon all 48 prisoners were united. The officers did not know what to do. They called on the radio an ICS (inmate control squad) stating that we were refusing to rack up. Lo and behold, every officer on the unit arrived with bean bag guns, gas, Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, everybody. I guess they were NOT short of staff! LOL!
After that I approached the Captain very calmly and told him our grievances. The Warden showed up just in time to see. He said "tell them to rack up and we will see what the officer has to say." Seeing that the message had been delivered, I withdrew.
About 10 minutes later they came back and gave us rec.
Now the bad news. Since then the prisons are now targeting me and I am in Seg. SMH! It is okay. Because I see now that I do have the power to make a difference.
Thanks for the Texas Activist Pack, and thanks for the back issues. I also got ULK 62 yesterday and I will follow up soon. In Struggle!
MIM(Prisons) responds: The Texas Activist Pack was updated in August 2018, and you can get one by sending a donation of $3.50. It's a bit thicker now, so the cost to print and mail it has gone up since the last version. The Texas Pack has info about all the campaigns that United Struggle from Within comrades have developed for the state of Texas.
Let's pause to consider why aren't these materals already available to prisoners held by TDCJ? Why has the TDCJ been withholding the grievance manual from prisoners since at least November 2014? Who are the people held by TDCJ and how does it impact their lives and familes when they don't have access to this info?
Filing grievances and working on individual or reform campaigns do have their place. But, like with this comrade's successful efforts to get rec time, the greatest impact will come in the unity we build with our comrades, and the sense of our own power that we can tap into. Those are the successes that are going to stick with us for the long haul, and through various stages that our struggle goes through.
Enclosed is a clipping from the Austin American-Statesman (2018 May 3) I thought pertinent and might be of interest.
Not having first-hand knowledge of the University of Texas (UT) course "MasculinUT," I found it interesting that the reactionary philistines again attacked academia for addressing patriarchal oppression. As far as I'm concerned, conventional notions of masculinity are a societal conditioning of the psyche, ergo, much like a Black persyn ensnared in a eurocentric society, a mind fuck. So, yeah, maybe the yahoos are correct that traditional concepts of what masculinity entails (e.g., violence against wimmin) is a mental health issue, and as such, men need to be subjected to re-conditioning via communist transition. Maybe, like the bourgeoisie under socialism, men will be repressed. Maybe, hell!
MIM(Prisons) responds: The article enclosed, from the Statesman, talks about the UT masculinity education program, which is an awareness campaign formerly run by the University's Counseling and Mental Health Center. Conservatives attacked the program, claiming it treats masculinity as a mental health problem.
In response, the MasculinUT program was moved to Dean of Students, and, in a statement from its website, "the program's original steering committee was reconvened and expanded to provide recommendations and feedback to ensure that the program's mission is clearly defined and fully aligned with its original intent of reducing sexual assault and interpersonal violence."
We're with this comrade in thinking it might not be so bad to think about masculinity as a mental health issue. As long as we're clear that this and many other mental health issues are a product of the capitalist patriarchy. People aren't born being sexist idiots. They are trained to believe that wimmin don't know what they want, to see wimmin as objects, and to view maleness as a sign of superiority. People will need a lot of retraining to overcome a lifetime of patriarchal education.
We don't know what's involved in the UT program so we can't comment on it. But we can say that after the imperialist patriarchy is overthrown we'll have a long period of cultural revolution where we need to re-invent humyn culture and re-educate everyone to see all people as equal. This is about the patriarchy, but also about the oppression of all groups of people over other groups, across the strands of oppression of nation, class and gender. This involve forcibly repressing patriarchal culture and institutions. We hope that forcible repression of half the population (men) will not be necessary, but there will need to be active promotion of feminists into positions of power, and a careful re-consideration of the appropriate interactions between all humyns.
I would like to address the illegal acts by the grievance investigator Ms. Andersen at Dalhart Unit. I have written a grievance on a staff member here for discrimination and then I added three witnesses that saw and heard the incident to my grievance. I never mentioned to any of my witnesses that I put them down as witnesses. The reason behind this was so that it was clear it was not a plan nor did I coach them or inform them to say untrue things. So none of my witnesses knew that they were going to be called a witness.
When the grievance investigator, Ms. Andersen, called them in one by one, she never mentioned anything to any one of the witnesses about when the incident took place. Who put them down as witnesses, what they were witness too. All they knew is they were witness to an incident and could they think of anything. Only one of my witnesses had a clue, but was not 100% sure it was me. The other two had no clue on what incident the investigator was talking about because she said nothing more than "can you think of an incident". Because the investigator, Ms. Andersen, did not disclose to my witnesses anything only that they were put down as witnesses to an incident and could they think of an incident.
She interfered with the investigation to help her coworker out. I was made aware of this by my witnesses when I ask them have they been called as witnesses yet? But all of them stated what I stated above and the two that didn't give both stated "That was you that added me as a witness? Had I known I would have given a statement of what I saw and heard."
This is why most offender's grievances get shot down even when you have proof of discrimination or any other violation by a staff member. Because the person doing the investigation is most likely going to be biased or unfair in their finding or investigation when it comes to "coworkers" and "friends" they work with. This is nothing compared to what I saw and heard when it comes to the investigator who investigate the grievances written by offenders. I can only pray that God will bring things like this to the light to stop this unfair grievance procedure. I think this could be why I've been set off on parole four times already. All because I choose to fight them over the past 7 1/2 years.
As I write you this letter, I'm sitting in G5 closed custody after standing up to an officer denying me medical and medication. The substitute counsel never helped me nor came back to speak with me. The captain lied and said I refused to attend my hearing. So they ran major court without me. We have cameras here and I can prove they are lying. But who do I contact? I've written the warden, but they ignore my letters and I-60. I never receive a grievance back. The law library is refusing to answer any of my I-60s. The officers have come into my cell and packed my property only to take some of my legal transcripts, returned I-60s, and medications, lay-ins and other personals. They went into my legal manila envelopes and took documents. They threw away my legal envelopes, combined several containers of legals into other folders mixing things up and getting them out of order.
What do I do? Who do I contact? No one on this unit will answer an I-60 concerning the issue. I need your help to start me in the right direction to help myself and my fellow brothers beside me. I don't have any outside sources or family to help.
I am approaching from a background of having been held captive in general prison population where I am aware that at least a few of us subscribe to The BayView and Under Lock & Key and agreed the latter's issue No. 62 is controversial in criticizing a certain labor union.
One reason for focusing on this outstanding view(s) is because some of us are unionized with this entity which is the only one of its class that waves membership dues for prisoners and is also actively involved in the prison abolition movement. Specifically you allude in your article to, "Those organizations don't want low paid prisoners to replace high paid petty bourgeois workers."
Further what I think was more shocking is you attributed to outside support low, selfish motive by claiming, "They would be happy to see prisoners rot in their cells... it's higher pay for their class that the labor aristocracy wants." Indisputably your position is informative and generally supported by historical patterns, including Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow which illustrated how Capitalists successfully divided White and New Afrikan working class through granting pay raises and white skin privileges who in turn collectively advocated us decaying in segregation.
I would like to remain on Under Lock & Key subscription list because by far, it's more advanced than a number of other non-mainstream publications, in that yours boldly challenges general thought trends. One case-in-point is an Elder had cautioned us to be vigilant on what Under Lock & Key also affirmed about those who share sentiments identified as "the mass base behind the prison craze." We see clear signs they are present, active and have self-centered agendas.
But in contrast to what you promoted, I don't think our struggle has yet nor is on the verge of being co-opted by selfish motives — though potentially via "Incarcerated Organizing Committees" — provided our focus don't prioritize amending the 13th Amendment over acquiring human rights and Independence, attacking deceptive parole mechanisms. In this regard, MIM(Prisons) provides a vital source exhorting the prison movement to re-evaluate the ramification of amending the 13th Amendment. Perhaps the pendulum will sway away from giving successive energy to the 13th Amendment when factoring that many prison systems already pay money of account for prisoner labor; but yet, both sides of the spectrum agree mass incarceration is the core problem.
In ULK 62, among other issue numbers, you criticize massive prison work strikes. The perspective MIM(Prisons) is herein asked to ponder upon is the impact of "sustained" general work strikes will have on the bottom lines of private sectors; namely, commissary stork, telephone companies, choicey livestock parts that never reaches our food supply, etc.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we must make a disclaimer related to this discussion. We've learned of a recent article in Turning the Tide by a couple of United Struggle from Within comrades that calls out IWOC, among other organizations, as "ghost organizations." This is NOT the position of MIM(Prisons) or ULK. We will likely address this in more detail soon. However, we hope our readers can distinguish our approach here in criticizing the political line of other organizations and the effects of that line, rather than disparaging them for not doing anything just because they aren't working with us. No one can deny that the IWOC has done a lot to successfully publicize recent prison struggles and actions.
Overall it seems we have a lot of agreement with the writer above, but areas of debate are well worth addressing. The main point raised here is whether labor unions are selfishly pushing their own agenda for higher wages for the Amerikan labor aristocracy, or if these labor unions can really be putting the interests of prisoners first in prison labor struggles.
As this writer notes, we have plenty of historical evidence of labor unions in the United $tates promoting the interests of the Amerikkkan nation at the expense of oppressed nations.(1) And this promotion of national oppression includes support for the expansion of prisons to lock up oppressed nations. In fact, those prisons provide well-paying jobs for many labor aristocracy workers. So the contradiction between prison employees and prisoners is amplified, as this incarceration is essential to their livelihood.
Many corporations can't take advantage of cheap prison labor because labor unions have put provisions in their contracts and state laws to force consultation with labor leaders before establishing a contract for prisoner labor. It is clear the cheaper labor available in prisons is a direct threat to the high wages paid to people outside of prisons for work that could be done by prisoners. Many labor unions are quite clear about their position on this point.
But the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is different from other labor unions in that it claims to be international and anti-capitalist. The IWW is the labor union offering free membership to prisoners and actively campaigning on behalf of prisoners. The IWW also actively campaigns for higher wages for Amerikan workers. So they are walking a fine line between progressive work supporting prisoners' struggles, and reactionary pro-labor-aristocracy politics. The history of the IWW includes some clear examples benefiting white workers at the expense of colonial labor, as is documented in J. Sakai's book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat.(2)
This doesn't mean the IWW is always working against the interests of prisoners. In fact they have waged some progressive battles. But their goal of raising wages for Amerikan workers is still fundamentally reactionary. The Amerikan labor aristocracy is the mass base for fascism, not a base for revolutionary organizing. They continue to come down on the side of imperialism, and are well bought off with the spoils of conquest and exploitation of oppressed nations around the globe.
In all of our prison struggles we need to keep the contradiction between internal oppressed nations (locked up, killed by police, flooded with drugs, denied economic, educational, and work opportunities, etc.) and the oppressor nation at the forefront. Why do we have such a huge prison population in the United $tates? It comes back to national oppression.
Battles around prisoners getting access to education, or getting paid for their labor, can be progressive parts of the struggle against the criminal injustice system. As long as they are framed in the context of the battle for liberation of oppressed nations. Opportunistically tying the prison labor battle to the broader Amerikan labor union struggles will only drag us down into reactionary oppressor-nation politics which builds up the labor aristocracy at the expense of the world's oppressed.(3) The oppressed, around the world and within U.$. borders, are always the losers in Amerikan labor union wage struggles.
I was sent here November of 2012 to get a hearing aid. Ten months later, I am still waiting on a hearing test, which is set for October. Until this happens, I am denied all programs from ADS (Assistive Disability Services), talking book program, just to name one.
I am amputated right arm above elbow. I am refused brace and limb as no medical indication that it is needed.
I am also denied a medical floor locker. Again, I have one arm and can't use the overhead lockers with the following restrictions, no climbing, reaching our the shoulder due to aneurysm on the left arm. ADS requested the box. This was denied by the law library staff. I fell while trying to place my property in overhead locker on June 2. It took 12 days to see medical staff and another 12 days to get an X-ray. By that time, my wrist had healed wrong with a big knot on it.
These issues and other have been addressed by the ombudsmen (unit captains) which is a cover up in itself. They are not picking on me, it is like that for everyone here at Estelle Unit.
The Law Library doesn't have law books on a shelf, it has no shelfs. You have to know what case law you want. Without the full name and cite, you get nothing.
The unit/prison that I find myself assigned to now is what is referred to as a "Red Brick Unit." Built in the 1960s at the latest where the cells are a mere 5'x9' with two occupants, giving a paltry 22.5 square feet of living space for these two prisoners to share. Unacceptable dehumanizing conditions. I have found that the feds have ordered such dual housing to be stopped: yet the TDCJ agency continues and is (reported to be) paying fines [to the feds, as restitution] to be allowed to continue this violative, inter alia, 8th amend. treatment of prisoners. One would not house two 150 pound dogs in such diminutive conditions.
Not to ignore the fact that we prisoners are not the only ones suffering from the de-humanizing conditions disdainfully provided for all, on and in these TDCJ agency's units. The COs too suffer the lack of civilized conditions, which should shock the conscience of the citizenry. For instance, cooler temperatures afforded the administration, medical, education, and on Ellis One, a special wing for youths, which too is air conditioned (an issue for another day). Not to mention that the sewage systems back up, belching feces laden water up from the toilets, saturating the cells, and especially first floor walkways, too include the main hallways: with "one inch" deep bacteriological contamination residues just left in the cells to fester for two months before inadequate packets of "bipi" is distributed for clean up of the cells. While all the walkways are cleaned with bleach. Endangering the health of all.
All-in-all these prisons are so deteriorated as to sustain these noxious environs poisoning all who live and frequent them without conditioned (filtered) air and water. At times the water is orange with contaminates. Whereas the water supplied by the local municipalities by way of deteriorated pressure lines, are both so befouled and degenerated, respectively, with black flake particles of unknown origin and chemical composition. Prisoners without means have no options but to ingest this pollution, not apprised of what kinds of future chronic affliction, malady, infirmity, or complication, such oppressive exposure overtime will plague us all with. In juxtaposition, those on these units who are not prisoners can and are provided bottled and/or filtered water for their safe usage.
In my first newsletter of Under Lock & Key you spoke a lot about prison labor. Here on Eastham, you can't get the offenders to assume their role as the ones being imprisoned. This unit can literally run itself without the aid of the officers. From the counts, to disciplinary, to the organization of movement. In the past ten years they have resurrected the yellow lines. In between the lines they have waxed the floors and added the states emblem. They also have refused to write on causes that are structured because of violations on constitutional rights and even rights that deny us actual entitlements.
I miss the days where K-2 was plentiful on this unit. Why? Because some of these same individuals who are running the prison were the ones who helped ruin it. Don't get me wrong, it's not that bad of a race to do your time. It's easy time. It's peaceful all the time. And the programs here are plentiful. You have to learn how to keep to yourself here, but besides that we really have a clean plate to eat on.
The same place where you'll eat better with a stamp, or dress better with a bag of coffee. Some days I look at these men and I see where they come from, who they hung around, and what they were focused on. If you have a noble cause to rally, you'll fail to grasp the attention of over 80% of Eastham. These men are content with their lives being in jeopardy, their rights violated, their health threatened, and their freedoms stripped. If I were to tell every man in white on this unit to "lay it down" about 10% of the unit would stand strong. All they care about is making stamps, going to recreation and commissary, rumors and gossip, and last but not least the craft shop. A sad place to call home, and a horrible place to start a movement.
Please send me the Texas pack. I shared mine with someone who did not return the entire contents. I have found the information to be most helpful. Just this week I won a Step 1 Grievance using the Texas pack.
The unit grievance officer had erroneously coded a Step 1 Grievance. The previously filed Step 1 had been concerning sleep deprivation only because I am wheelchair mobile, a "wheeler." Thus, the sleep deprivation is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (28 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.). However, the grievance was coded as "denial of access to health care." There is a very big difference.
While at the TDCJ Hospital Galveston (HG) Unit the staff denied me access to a bed for all but three hours during a four day period. Instead, I was forced to remain seated in my wheelchair in a holding tank. Just so their records would show that I had been assigned to a bed each night I was taken to a bed late at night and awakened a short time later to go back to the holding tank. Basically, I only obtained three hours of sleep during an approximate ninety-six hour period.
In further error, the unit grievance officer had misrouted my Step 1 to the senior practice manage. Presumably because it had been incorrectly coded. The senior practice manager knew he had no authority over the grieved issue. Yet he responded anyway, saying as much, and thus denying an opportunity for relief at the Step 1. I filed a Step 2 grievance asserting that no relief was available at the Step 1 for the reasons explained herein above.
In the TDCJ, denial of access to the grievance system is a grievable issue. Thus, I submitted a Step 1 Grievance asserting that (1) the unit grievance officer erroneously coded my ADA Step 1; and (2) the senior practice manager should have rerouted my Step 1 back to the unit grievance officer for appropriate handling.
It was only the availability of the TDCJ grievance codes in the Texas pack which allowed me to cite the appropriate code for my ADA complaint and to identify the erroneous code used by the unit grievance officer. As you know, the TDCJ Offender Grievance Operations Manual has been removed form the unit law libraries. I would not have been able to formulate my argument had the Texas pack not been available to me. But once again I am at a disadvantage with an incomplete Texas pack. Thank you for making this valuable resource available.
I have been subjected to delays, unanswered grievances, and harassment. After reading over your United Struggle from Within section I realized that this petition may very well be exactly what these people need. Here in Texas the grievance process is horrible. I'm currently incarcerated at the French Robertson unit, and on this unit all Step 1 grievances come back with the exact same response regardless of what the actual grievance was about. Which clearly shows a violation of the due process rights afforded to us due to the fact that no inquiry or investigation of any sort is being done to validate the response always given. I would like to join the campaign. I am in need of the petition.
I have recently experienced these very tactics with a grievance that I filed on a disciplinary appeal. I had made parole and was supposed to be released but was given a bogus case for fighting an inmate which resulted in injuries beyond first aid even though I wasn't involved in the fight in any way, shape, form, or fashion! To make a long story short for the sake of time: two people that I knew had already fought once in the dayroom and were still heated. I was in the cell. I came out to shower and one of the guys comes and tells me about the situation. I tell him that a fight wouldn't change any one of their minds about the situation (they were fighting about a Euro-Step!) so they should just agree to disagree. They end up fighting anyway. They aren't caught fighting but camera review gets us all locked up. According to them I was seen conversing with the two prior to the incident so I must have been involved. The case says that I engaged in the fight by being a "lookout." Which is total BS due to the fact that I didn't engage in anything nor is being a "lookout" a case anywhere in the TDCJ Handbook.
Of course the case sticks anyway, even though both of the guys admitted and wrote statement professing that they did fight each other and that I had nothing to do with the actual fighting, in fact I was the one who tired to defuse the situation. I still get slammed on the case and lose my parole as well. I file the Step1 grievance and it is returned a month or so later without incident with the pre-meditated response as usual. I file the Step 2 and it disappears. 45 days later it reappears without a response of any kind due to the fact that it hasn't been processed. I resubmit with all the inquiries from me to them questioning the whereabouts of the grievance. The Step 2 is returned to me in 2 weeks stating that the grievable time has expired!
I said all that to say this, comrades I feel your pain and struggle. I've lost my chance at freedom (semi-freedom) over a lying vindictive Lieutenant and a faulty grievance system, well not actually faulty cause faulty would indicate a mistake. This is done with blatant ill intent! I'm not discouraged though, just inspired to speak out on the injustice.