www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.
I want to thank you for sending me the newsletter. I’ve been getting fellow prisoners together to help change the ongoing troubles we’re having here on the John B. Connally Unit. I’ve had my mom email the Ombudsman due to the fact that the Warden stated everyone filing a grievance on his officers actions or the units conditions will find themselves in building lockup, facing disciplinary.
So we can’t write a Step 1 or 2 cause they are getting stopped by the officials. Right now we’re on lockdown due to a racial riot that happened due to the guards making our environment ‘hostile.’ A lot of the guards don’t be wearing they mask; and they haven’t been vaccinated, yet they lock us down when one or two people take down our mask.
We try to get an ‘informal resolution’ but they refuse to talk with us. Sgt. J Sandoval stated “fuck you, we don’t care.” Exact words. When they put us on 23 hour lockdowns they make it into a 26 or 28 hour lockdown cause they don’t want to let us up. Some of the guards are 19-20-21 year olds who’ve been an officer for 2-3 months, and they get rank and misuse their power. I’ve also written the Ombudsman and my mom emailed him.
The riot was Brown vs. Black cause the Blacks don’t wanna wear they mask and were tired of going down behind one or two people. Last night everyone had enough, grievances don’t get addressed. They write bogus cases for going to respite for heat restriction. TDCJ policy says we’re allowed respite 24 hours 7 days a week even during count yet when we go to respite, Sgt. Reed and Sgt. Sandoval write out of places cases when policy says we’re allowed respite. Also, August 1st TDCJ is trying to take all our pics of females away and calling pics of women in lingerie or exotic poses ‘contraband.’
In the past few years censorship in TDCJ has reached epic proportions. In March 2020, the board on criminal justice enacted new restrictive policies regarding mail correspondence, greeting cards, and receiving monies. After a year of wide-spread resistance to this fascist policy, an exposé was written by Kerri Blessinger of the Houston Chronicle’s criminal justice department along with an inside comrade of the National Freedom Movement - TX Chapter.
The public outcry that resulted from this article which spoke specifically to the denial of greeting cards, moved TDCJ officials to annul this restrictive policy and now captives are again allowed to receive cards.
If the story ended there, things would be all well. Unfortunately, TDCJ officials have sought to retaliate against the prisoner population by instituting even more arbitrarily restrictive regulations.
Set to take effect on 1 August 2021, the newly amended Board Policy(BP) 3.91 will effectively ban ANY/ALL publications, photos, drawings, and images that We could possibly receive. This amendment bans any items showcasing thongs, lingerie, buttocks, sex toys, or bodily fluids, as well as photos that hides someone’s face.
Nearly all publications and photos one gets are subject to this rule. Harmless publications such as US Weekly, OK, National Geographic, Muscle Fitness, etc can/will be denied due to this rule. Accordingly, this denies TDCJ captives their visual stimuli, in the case of isolated captives in RHU/solitary such persyn will have NO visual stimuli at all.
The politicized prisoner collective known as Tx T.E.A.M.O.N.E. is calling ALL prisoners in teKKK$a$ to join Us and the souljas on ALLRED seg in Our campaign. We are striving to amass 75,000 grievances on this issue. Included please find a sample of a step 1, shortly We will distribute a step 2 and a petition to be sent to TDCJ Director of CID and the Chairman of TDCJ. We must showcase a show of solidarity as teKKK$a$ captives.
Offender Name:____________________ TDCJ#___________________ Unit:_________________________ Housing Assignment:____________ Unit where incident occurred:______________________
who did you talk to?_________________________When?________________ What was their response?________________________________________________ What action was taken?________________________________________________ sample: BP-3.91, amended on 6/25/21, goes into effect on 8/1/21, and effectively bans ANY/ALL publications, photos, drawings and images that we could possibly receive. This edict is in direct violation of our First Amendment rights against censorship, and fails to satisfy the four-part Turner test as TDCJ officials have failed to justify this policy.(see: TURNER V. SAFELY, 482 U.S.78(1987))
TURNER QUESTION ONE: Is the regulation reasonably related to a legitimate, neutral government interest? These magazines are non-nude, and are commonplace with no age requirement to purchase them. Thus, TDCJ cannot possibly believe such magazines may cause disorder or violence, or will hurt a prisoner’s rehabilitation. Prisoners have a right to non-obscene, sexually explicit material that is commercially produced, MAURN V. ARPAIO, 188 F.3d 1054(9th Circ.1999).
TURNER QUESTION TWO: Does the regulation leave open another way for you to exercise your constitutional rights? No. As an Ad-Seg inmate, the only visual stimuli we receive are pictures and magazines. Yet the very images that are being banned are the EXACT same content any observer can see on TV. Newspapers have circulars with bra sales, etc. Effectively banning those as well. BP-3.91 destroys our ONLY visual link to the outside world.
TURNER QUESTION THREE: How does the issue impact other prisoners, prison guards, or officials and prison resources? BP-3.91 treats ALL inmates, especially Ad-Seg, like sex offenders and pedophiles, creates unrest throughout the prison population, and punishes non-sex offenders, while GP sex offenders still see images that arouse them on TV. It punishes normal inmates while missing the intended targets.
TURNER QUESTION FOUR: Are there obvious easy alternatives to the regulation that would not restrict your rights to free expression? Yes. Restrict these BP-3.91 original to the Grievance DEPT. on (date) copy to my records BP-3.91 is too vague, encompassing a littany of correspondence (see: Alello V. Litacher, 104 F. Supp. 2d1068, 1045-81(W.D.Wis.2000) which struck down similar ban). BP-3.91 actually says, “Any photo that conceals or hides the face of the individual photographed in a manner that prevents identification of that person.” What penological interest does this serve? And during a pandemic when people are still wearing masks?
Action Requested: That the DRC and TDCJ repeal or annul BP-3.91 in its amended form as it does NOT pass the supreme court’s TURNER test.
ALL TDCJ inmates should file a grievance on this issue, it affects all genders and sexualities as pics with an erection will not be allowed. The paper trail begins now, and We may have to file a class action on this issue. By all means, COMBAT GENOCIDE!!
UPDATE: Grievance officers here are saying this is not a grievable matter. THIS IS NOT TRUE. We suggest that if others run into this problem they should write i60 informing the GR.DEPT that the Offender Grievance Operations Manual (OGOM) says that policy is grievable, due to the fact that We are grieving the unit’s interpretation of the new board policy. Prisoners should also see Thornburgh V. Abbot, 490 U.S. 401 (1989). Be sure to attach the returned step 1 to i 60.
Here officers are also saying that we can’t grieve it because the policy isn’t effective yet, and we can do so on 8/1 when policy goes into effect. This policy must be resisted on all fronts on all units. [By the time you receive this it will be in effect.] A separate, more extensive petition has also been submitted to the Deputy Executive Director and a phone zap was scheduled to occur on 1 August by outside supporters.
What’s up comrades, friends, and supporters? i wanted to provide a response both to USW Comrade N’s and MIM(Prisons)’s commentary that was published in ULK 72: “Orientating USW Organizing Strategy in Light of TX Victory.” Really, my comments are more general rather than a direct disagreement with either Comrade N or MIM(Prisons).
First, ‘N’ asserts that “from an organizers perspective, these are not battles in which we can effectively push anti-imperialism forward, much less MLM.” The comrade mentioned phone access as an example of a battle ey was speaking of.
i’ll argue that the above assertion is incorrect and unscientific. MLM, dialectical materialism, is universal, meaning it can be applied to all phenomena. Further, dialectics shows us the true interconnected nature of social phenomena and if we acknowledge that is true, than how can we then deem that prison struggles aren’t aligned with anti-imperialism? Like MIM(Prisons) added, “with the correct leadership, and keeping our eyes on bigger goals like the UFPP, and uniting others around a list of more impactful demands, reformist campaigns like phone access could be productive.”
As organizers, we are focused on inspiring commitment within the masses. Looking at the psychology of the masses under imperialism, we’ll observe that the most effective way to capture the masses attention is to organize around their immediate interests. The more mature and in-depth communist outlook will develop in stages as study and struggle continue. However, the first hurdle is to establish principled unity in furtherance of an objective/program.
Our most pressing strategic goal as anti-imperialist/Maoist organizers behind enemy lines, is developing cadres to re-enter society with the ability to be impactful in the “free world” anti-imperialist struggle. This is our link to a totalizing revolutionary strategy outside the walls. The quality-of-life reforms are connected to the strategy of cadre development because PE (political education) is made up of 3 parts. Those 3 parts are 1) organizing, 2) educating and 3) mobilizing. So in undergoing/providing proper PE we must study and practice organizing, educating, mobilizing. We must observe the knowledge-practice-knowledge method in all aspects of our development to ensure we achieve our highest potential. So there’s an identity between study and struggle, they go hand-in-hand and because we’re not in a ‘revolutionary situation’ our struggle, or practice, will undoubtedly include (some) reforms.
However, it must be noted and articulated to the masses involved in that struggle that whatever particular battle is being waged at the moment isn’t the end-all be-all, but is only a tactical maneuver that was set in motion with the strategy in mind of advancing the organizational, educational and mobilizing capabilities for all involved. The real crux of the issue is never the demands in the prison setting. The real crux of the issue, as it pertains to linking a totalizing revolutionary strategy, lies in the practical experience gained by the masses in asserting their collective power. For, how will we seize state power if the people lack the strategic confidence to assert their power? We have to increase the collective practical experience of contesting the state as a united body. From a lead organizer’s perspective, putting campaigns into motion, communicating internally, advancing understanding of self and the people, practicing discipline, teaching discipline etc., all this does what? It prepares you for your return to the semi-colonies and general public with experience in organizing, educating, mobilizing people to assert their collective power. The differences in context have little effect on the objective advancement of a comrade’s development.
Additionally, we must also account for other aspects of the fundamental contradiction within prisons, which is badge versus captive. In our efforts to organize, educate and mobilize, the badge is not gonna remain still or unmoved. The badge, like the bourgeoisie on the outs, is gonna utilize both coercive and brutal methods to maintain complacency with the social order among the social classes, or in this case the captives. Also, we must acknowledge that the lumpen is a vacillating class anyway and in prison the masses of lumpen will vacillate between escapism, complacency, underground capitalism, etc. anyways. Therefore, acknowledging that these currents will continue with or without our efforts of revolutionary organizing because we still operate under imperialist, bourgeois dictatorship, it is imperative that we exercise every opportunity to advance our aspect of the fundamental contradiction in prison. In doing so, we work towards manufacturing conditions within prison that will be more conducive to our anti-imperialist goals.
While organizing around more impactful demands, the badge is still gonna utilize its double-pronged strategy of coercing or abusing. When the latter won’t work, the former will come in the form of cosmetic reforms. Those cosmetic reforms, even when they’re not demanded by organizers, still hold the possibility of pacifying individuals, making them complacent sleep walkers again. My point is that, at present, we can’t escape these tendencies from either side or the results they may or may not render, but we can’t allow these tendencies to keep us on the sideline, all “study” no struggle.
Lastly, i wanna clarify that none of the above is to assert that we should chase after any old reform or ‘change.’ As MIM(Prisons) states, leaders must make that determination, and furthermore, should educate the masses on why we will or will not seek certain reforms or campaigns.
In this process, i’ve learned the necessity of adequate communication with the masses and unity-struggle-unity internally among cadres, as a tool in struggling against a tendency towards tailism. What has come of this is a re-organizing of the TX Team One under a clearer program and a better understanding (a collective understanding) of what our strategic and tactical goals are, uniting the most committed partisans around those goals, and developing these partisan’s PE. We’ve downsized, what one may call ‘purging,’ but i like to call ‘cutting the fat’ and we are working on our next courses of action.
I’ll never speak ill of the dead. However, if by telling their stories, we can prevent needless suffering, then those stories must be told. There is both beauty and power within our words. If we are to progress from erudite to enlightened, then we are obligated to speak effectively and responsibly. Sometimes, the greatest damage is done by not speaking up or not speaking out.
When I first saw Ms. Woods, I couldn’t help but ask my neighbor “Wow! Who is that?” Oh sure, I’ve seen some very attractive guards down here. But this girl seemed almost too pretty to be working at a prison. My cellie spoke up and said “Do yourself a favor bro, leave that one alone. She’s poison candy. Nice shiny wrapper on the outside… but completely toxic inside.”
I take everything with a grain of salt down here. Surely, this was an exaggeration. I thought these two were just being cynical. Time in here has a way of making people jaded. You’re either going to get better or bitter. Unfortunately, their warnings proved to be both timely and accurate. From the first moment she opened her mouth, the most venomous hatred imaginable spewed out.
For the most part, I wouldn’t have to be around her very much. I’d managed to land a good job at our unit print shop. Four days a week, I’d be gone for 12 hours a day. Guards here work 4 on 4 off. So that even further reduced my chances of seeing her. I figured I could handle just about anything for 3 days. Guess I was wrong.
My very first run-in with her happened on a Saturday. I knew to be at my cell when they called count time. They came through and did their thing. Then the lights turned out. I went into the restroom to finish getting ready for visit. I heard a door pop open moments later, only to be followed by her screaming “10 bunk!” then a string of profanities. Talk about getting caught with your pants down. She walks by while I’m still on the toilet, screaming, “You’re getting a case!”
My neighbor walks over and says “She took your I.D. bro! And your house is thrashed!” Sure enough, I get back to my cubicle and it’s a mess. Everything is on the floor. She wasn’t even doing a search. She simply did it out of spite. By the time I get things almost back in order, it’s about to be lunch. She’s still got my I.D. card, but now she’s nowhere to be found. Great. Hopefully, I can track her down before I get called in for visit.
Sure enough, lunch rolls around and I gotta tell them to punch in my number. “Ms. Woods took my I.D.” The guard at chow hall looks up and smiles, “Sucks to be you!” By the time I get back to the wing, they call me for visit. I leave to find the sergeant to explain that I can’t get into visitation without it. He tells me, “She probably went on break to write you up. Don’t worry about the case. I got you. From now on, you’d better steer clear of that one! Got it?”
The weeks fly by, and I’m fortunate enough to only see her in passing. Oh sure, she’s definitely pretty to look at, but now I avoid her like the plague. All I’m trying to do is stay out of their way.
One day my boss at print shop says “Okay, shut it down. They’re racking up the farm.” We get out to the back gate and they make me sit down. All these guards go running past us headed for one building.
Two guards are talking between themselves, but we can hear over the radio chatter that there has been another assault on staff. Now these guards start to argue, “Look, I don’t care where you put them! But they gotta be out here so that ambulance can come in!”
By the time we get back to our own building, all hell has broken loose. We can hear the warden’s voice on another radio screaming, “LOCK IT DOWN!!” They got one of the halls blocked off. As we walk by to go back in our wing, we can see all these burgundy pools of coagulated blood. This is bad.
Soon as we walk in, they ask me, “Did you hear about Officer Woods? DUDE … he beat the brakes off of her!” I look down at him and ask, “Who?” his eyes get real big when he says “Smitty! I thought y’all knew. Man … he just flipped out! Followed her right out the door into deep space, knocked her out, and then went to WORK on her! After that they say he just walked up to the desk and turned around so they could put the cuffs on him.”
After three weeks of lockdown, we were finally able to go back to work. Then I learned the rest of the story. Seems that while Smitty was off work on his bereavement, Woods went in and tossed his cell. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when she took his pictures off his wall. You see … this poor man had just lost his mother, sister and baby daughter, all in quick succession within about six weeks of each other.
Now, of course, I wasn’t there to see it, but everybody says he got down on his hands and knees to BEG that woman not to take those precious photos. I’m told that even after he explained their sudden deaths, she callously laughed in his face and said “Forget your dead family.” Only she chose to use a different “F” word.
That beating wasn’t what killed her. It was the lifestyle. Reports say that they saved her life multiple times, both on the way to the hospital and in the operating room once she got there. There was extensive reconstructive surgery. Nobody will even know the full extent of the traumatic brain injury. It’s often those scars on the inside, that just won’t heal.
After a few months off, she returned to work. Doctors had done an amazing job, considering the extent of her injuries. Her entire face was pulverized. Oh, she was still somewhat pretty. But those drop dead gorgeous, model-quality features, were long gone. Her nose, eyes and cheekbones weren’t the same. People couldn’t tell if they were dentures or implants, but that smile would never be the same either.
You see … all along, she’d been manipulated and exploited by the gangs. For almost her entire tenure, she’d been smuggling in dope and cell phones. The perverts had simply preyed on her own insecurity. How could somebody so stunning on the outside be completely devoid of the true beauty that only comes from within? The only way prison officials ever found out about her activities was when they busted somebody with one of those phones.
The photos and videos were as numerous as they were explicit. So was all that contact information. It was a treasure trove of evidence. She’d also been prostituting herself. The predators had simply used her, then discarded her like some piece of garbage. Administration walked her off the unit in disgrace.
In the end, the prosecution’s job would be easy. She was facing a long list of criminal charges. I suppose the stress of an impending court trial, along with everything else, simply proved to be too much for her. I was SOOOO HOPING that all those rumors weren’t true. Unfortunately, she really did it. Ms. Woods died of a single gunshot wound to the head. She put the pistol in her mouth – just to stop the pain.
We found out about officer Woods’ suicide in 2019. A few months ago, we found out that Ms. Davis had met a similar fate. We are still unclear as to whether her death was a suicide or accidental overdose. The specifics of each of these tragedies is not nearly as important as the root causes of the problem, which remains the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. TDCJ does not care about stopping the rampant corruption and injustice here in Texas. Everyone from the newest correctional officers to the top administrative officials are complicit and therefore profits from this malfeasance!
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have seen some interesting things in the last year or so. Some prison systems have instituted egregious restrictions on mail claiming it was used to smuggle drugs, and all prisons locked down completely with no visitors for months due to the global pandemic. Yet, reports from prison after prison, from state to state to the feds, have unanimously reported no change in the availability of contraband during these periods.
The imperialists portray ending crime as a great mystery that can’t be solved, a timeless problem that we can only respond to with force and punishment. This is metaphysics, it fails to look at the past, at humyn societies before classes and poverty, at countries who built socialism and virtually eliminated drug abuse, prostitution, theft, hunger, homelessness, etc. These things go hand-in-hand. Our crime-ridden society is not eternal, it stems from our economic system and is reinforced by the cultural ideas that come with such a system. Changing the economic system is hard, it will take determination and sacrifice by many. But once we do, ending so much needless suffering and conflict between humyns is not so hard.
In the 27 years of being confined within these walls, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has always blamed families, claiming that the families are the ones who smuggle dangerous contraband (cellphones, meth, K2, heroin) into the prisons. As of today, we’ve been without visits over a year, due to COVID-19, yet this place is still full of contraband.
Last month several prisoners died from suicide, overdoses, and others hurt fellow prisoners while high on drugs. In order to cover up what’s really going on, the unit was placed on lock down, and a team was brought to shake down and tear up our property. While all this was going on, the only form of communication with our families, the phones, was turned off. We were punished because guards brought the drugs and the prisoners used them.
TDCJ officials and higher-ups refuse to admit there’s a serious problem within the system, and it’s not the prisoners. Prisoners can’t go out the gate, purchase contraband, then return to prison. It’s just not possible. How can prisoners rehabilitate themselves when there’s more drugs in here than out there? Society should take a closer look at the real problem and remember that a lot of prisoners will return to communities out there worse than before, due to the drugs the guards bring into this place.
Someone with a voice of authority and who’s willing to dedicate themselves to bringing new change, needs to step up to this problem. Millions of taxpayers’ dollars are being given to prisons, supposedly to rehabilitate prisoners – it’s the biggest lie prison officials tell the public. Only a handful of prisoners are being rehabilitated. The rest are walking around like zombies high on meth or K2.
I humbly request that my comrades at MIM please help bring this situation to the proper officials, maybe then change will come, that will truly help to rehabilitate my brothers in this place, who are dying from the poison the true criminals (guards) bring to these prisons.
Under Lock & Key No. 59 dealt in depth with the problem of drugs in prisons, how widespread they were, and the very strong material interest of the prisoners and staff involved in the drug trade to keep that going. The above experiments of closing down visitation and mail demonstrate scientifically that it is primarily staff bringing in the drugs. This is not unique to Texas.
This evidence is damning. And we stand with all comrades locked up who oppose the scourge of drugs being brought into prisons by the state’s very own staff. The censorship and harassment of family members and prisoners themselves also must stop. For our whole lifetimes, drugs have been brought into our communities by the state and then used as an excuse to oppress, harass and control. The drugs themselves serving to control and subdue the people.
We are expanding the work of our Serve the People Re-Lease on Life program with a new revolutionary 12 Step Program to help those with all kinds of addictions to re-create themselves as new, revolutionary humyns. We must build a culture of true rehabilitation that the state is not providing, as this comrade points out. Only programs of the people, can really serve the peoples’ interests.
Meanwhile, we want to work with prisoners and their families to pressure the state to recognize these facts that are being exposed thanks to the pandemic. If we can get them to reduce the amount of drugs their staff sneak into prisons, we can reduce the harm they are having on our people behind bars.
In Under Lock & Key 71 we promoted a campaign in Texas’ Allred Unit for phone access and video visits during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The campaign won this immediate goal, although the campaign included a list of 15 demands that included an end to long-term solitary confinement, good time credits, releases related to COVID-19, the right to vote and more that were not addressed. Below one of the leaders draws some lessons from the campaign. Both of the excerpts below are from discussions among USW leaders on current conditions for organizing in prisons.
A USW comrade in Texas: Seven days after the phone zap all prisoners in Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU), even those on level 3, began receiving free phone calls weekly. The admin bought cordless phones, there is one on each pod. Each day one section gets calls. There are only 6 sections per pod, so 1 day of the week is ‘stuck out phone call day’ for those who may’ve gotten moved, downgraded etc. So the zap and the strike were a success, but I also observed some keen lessons. Oh, before I say that let me say that the above arrangement is supposed to last until the OTS bluephones are installed. This is what we’ve been told, although I don’t believe it.
Now the lessons: #1. A more profound respect for the necessity to remain underground. This coincides with #2 which is that the masses, both those within the organized body (the rank & file) and outside that body, are EASILY pacified with the simplest reform because for most lumpen the “invincibility” of the state and admin remains intact. Therefore if in the event the admin actually budges in any way it is considered a monumental victory and complacency sets in. That’s what I’m dealing with now surrounded by masses on the “outside of the body.”
Backtracking to #1, I find myself surrounded by masses on the outside now because the admin was made privy to my position and influence among the active protagonists (Team One). As you know, I was isolated, rehoused. Since then some captives have used their outside contacts to apply pressure to admin – this resulted in the discontinued practice of isolation of dissidents on level 3 pods. Consequently I was moved again, and although things are favorable here in most ways, the point is that the admin’s success in separating the cadres has circumvented my attempt to mobilize peers to push the movement forward.
However, I truly think that once the ‘free’ calls are taken away, and it goes back to $15 for a 5 minute call, and no OTS phones have been made available, people will see exactly what I’ve been preaching to them the last 3 months or so, then the material conditions will be ripe again. In the meantime, I’m working on developing new cadres.
MIM(Prisons): The comrade above reported on repression and bad-jacketing efforts by the state, but has worked against them through mass contact and political education. While the focus of the campaign became the immediate goal of phone access during COVID-19, the demands highlighted much bigger concerns, including the end to long-term solitary confinement, which MIM(Prisons) has spent a lot of time campaigning for over the years. Another USW Leader addressed the issue of organizing around immediate, minor reforms in the USW leaders meeting while discussing local conditions in eir prison:
USW comrade N: The most pressing issues at this facility are of course important to all who feel strongly about them (i.e.: phone access to loved ones during the lockdown). However from an organizers’ perspective, these are not battles in which we can effectively push anti-imperialism forward, much less Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), without veering into reformist practices of little tactical or strategic value. I am aware that arguments on principle can be mounted to the contrary, but absent a practicable, totalizing strategy for revolution domestically being put forward by an MLM organization that is actionable in the here-and-now (notwithstanding the exemplary work MIM(Prisons) has exhibited in their particular field of operations), we cannot effectively utilize many of these prison struggles as a proper springboard to corresponding actions in other areas, actions which do not translate into long-term pacification which benefits their prison administration in an objective, cost-to-us, benefit-to-them analysis.
If we cannot muster the resources and external manpower to mount a facility or state-specific campaign for a tactical reform to push our agenda and continually imprint firmly in the minds of all incarcerated that we have their best interests in mind, it may be advisable to abstain from participation lest credit for the reforms go elsewhere and becomes politically-neutered, or, worse yet, the system co-opts the struggle as its own and touts its successes (ie. The First-Step Act). Otherwise, we are gaining no more than sporadic traction amongst those we are attempting to revolutionize, and then only of a transient nature. We should not be trying to ‘improve’ American prisons, much like we should not be attempting to cut a bigger portion of imperialist profits from Third World super-exploitation for the lower class, yet still relatively privileged, citizens of empire.
If we are to engage in any prison organizing, then censorship battles concerning our political ideology, the UFPP and the Re-Lease on Life programs should take center stage. I find it harder to advocate quality-of-life reforms which are not linked to a totalizing revolutionary strategy outside the walls. Our goal is to radicalize those on the inside, for subsequent outside work. As for our comrades who do not have the luxury of a release date, or have sentences which essentially translate into the same, their best hope for release lies not in reforms but with an all-sided MLM revolutionary organization planning their release through eventual Peoples’ War. It goes without saying that for them, and for everyone suffering under American imperialism, the sooner, the better.
*In case it may not appear as such, all of the above is written in the spirit of “Unity-Struggle-Unity.”
MIM(Prisons) adds: Comrade N echoes MIM(Prisons) in calling for campaigns around censorship battles, building a United Front for Peace in Prisons and developing Re-Lease on Life programs. Ey reflects our general practice in shying away from inherently reformist campaigns; ones that do not contribute to our long-term goals and projects. We include the struggle against long-term isolation on that list, which Team One included in their demands, but was perhaps dismissed as a throwaway demand.
Our comrade in Texas suggests that organizing may start up again when the state doesn’t keep its promises. And we should note that it can be hard to separate out UFPP development work from reformist campaigns. Formations like Team One serve to unite different lumpen formations for common cause. With the correct leadership, and keeping our eyes on bigger goals like the UFPP, and uniting others around a list of more impactful demands, reformist campaigns like phone access could be productive. At this point we rely on the leaders of Team One to make that determination.
We think both the comrades here are contributing greatly to work on the ground and to developing the knowledge and line of our movement overall. We can also say that only focusing on the reformist campaigns, without the longer goals, is not going to change anything in regards to ending oppression and injustice. Scientific leadership liquidating its demands in the masses is an error that will not get us anywhere good either. We’ve seen many who say they unite with our goals but argue that the masses aren’t ready for them so they hide their true politics. This is called tailism, and it has not proven effective in building the communist movement.
Finally, Comrade N makes the point that we need a broader communist movement to be guiding our work in a strategic way. The fact that we are just a prison ministry focused on prisoner support, without a larger organization/formation to be guiding our work leads us much more susceptible to the trap of reformism. This is why it is important for us to be involved in the development of a broader communist movement in this country and to link up with other forces that have the correct orientation around key questions for communists.
I filed a grievance on food service here on the Ellis Unit followed by an Ombudsman complaint. I was put on lock down by the investigating officer (Captain Wiggins) for no valid reason. Kept there for seven days, while the “investigation” was done. After that I was threatened by Captain Livas saying he would lock me up again, justify it by ordering a psych eval on me and then move me around every two days to “fuck with me.” He then forced me to sign a statement saying I had no complaints.
I would like the Texas grievance packet and state-level petition/grievance campaign info.
We here in High Security (cool-bed housing) wrote about 40 or 50 letters to Warden Smith asking to be allowed 30 prisoners in the day room and also to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. We made several copies and spread them around to have them signed, then we collected them and sent them to Warden J. Smith and he actually wrote back and said that he was assessing our request. So we then filled out close to 20 step 1’s [grievance forms] and passed them around. It is not known how many actually sent them in?
All we are requesting is to be tested for antibodies because we believe that the way COVID moved through this building, there is almost no way we did not all contract the virus and obtain “herd immunity”. That may have been their plan all along at this unit, but they should at least admit it to the families of those who died. Two prisoners died on this wing and 4 went to the hospital in 30 days. This pod only holds 62 prisoners so that’s a substantial amount! Most of us had symptoms but didn’t report them for fear of being locked in our windowless cells longer. My Celly had it and they took him out and never told me. I only recently saw him because he has been in the infirmary for almost 2 months. He said he almost died.
We want to be tested for antibodies so that we know who is still at risk and who has obtained resistance to the virus. I also heard that they do not know the long-term effects of this disease and that it has been noticed that it may negatively impact the vascular system. My leg has been swelling up since September, so I’m having vascular issues and it would be good to have good information so that doctors can better be able to treat us.
After submitting our Step 1’s on October 20th, they did random COVID testing unit-wide on November 10. But they did not do antibody testing which they have been advertising on the radio for “free”. I am going to step 2 [appeal] it until they test me for COVID antibodies. They do Hep C and HIV testing, they need to do COVID antibody testing but they don’t want to because it will show how unprotected we are here. And possibly make them liable in some way? Anyway, we are doing what we can. They have lifted some restrictions, we can go to religious services now and I’m in school.
UPDATE: I just got another step 2 back that ignores my complaints and steals my documents. My step 2 was missing it’s 2 pages of attachments. I know I shouldn’t be so long-winded but I was letting them have it! I’m going to do what you suggest in your Texas Pack and grieve the Investigator for not investigating & destroying documents. This is the second time this happened with a “medical emergency” grievance having to do with staff not following safety protocols with regard to COVID.
They never did conduct proper lockdown/quarantine as they took prisoners out of quarantine on a daily basis and took them to the medical dept on the 2nd floor so that medical staff did not have to wear full PPE and they contaminated the medical department by bringing in COVID-exposed patients. Being in High Security, our housing areas are equipped with medical triage rooms on every housing area but they never did use these rooms. They have sinks, paper towel & soap dispensers but medical would never use these things. They spread the virus by touching multiple prisoners with the same gloves or unwashed hands when they dispensed insulin shots twice a day. I’ve filled grievances for 2 years straight and have never gotten anything but outright lies and denials of fact. It frustrates me to no end. Could you please send me your Texas grievance petitions?
MIM(Prisons) adds: While data so far is promising, medical researchers are not yet confident in saying how resilient resistance to COVID-19 will be among those who have been exposed. So it is unlikely that antibody tests will be used to allow for more congregate activities in the near future. However, vaccines should allow for such group activities. It is important that prisoners receive vaccines immediately, not just to return to normal like everyone else, but because they are at a much higher risk for infection and death from COVID-19 than the general population.
This report reiterates the failures of the current system to be accountable for how it treats the vulnerable. As comrades organize for immediate demands during the pandemic, they must also build independent institutions of the oppressed so that we can ensure humyn needs are met in the future.
I’m writing to ask if there is a way to receive the grievance petition for Texas. As for here all grievances are answered the same. The lawsuit that was in federal court due to COVID-19 was thrown out for not exhausting administrative remedies. Also here at this unit we are not allowed to wear N95 masks. We do not have any rights here.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is commenting on the fact that grievances are constantly denied in Texas, like so many prison systems in this country. Yet, without the proper paper trail of going through all levels of the grievance process, your lawsuits are deemed invalid thanks to the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act(PLRA) of Bill Clinton. Before the PLRA there was actually a semblance of checks and balances applied to conditions in U.$. prisons. Since then that has not been the case, and abuse and humyn rights violations occur daily, unchecked. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped bring that to the attention of the general public.
This is why USW comrades have written grievance petitions in over a dozen states to appeal to various state overseers to restore a semblance of justice to these prison systems. While the victories have been isolated, it has led to concrete organizing around concrete conditions faced by prisoners as a class. These injustices demonstrate the bad faith of the current system that offers no real solutions for the oppressed.
I’d like to say thank you for your support while we are here behind these walls, at Prince Daniel Unit in Snyder, Texas. These officers have it in their mind that we don’t have any rights. They delay my mail and even send it back to sender. I’ve been grieving this issue, and no response. Also here you have several C.O.’s who don’t wear their mask. C.O. Gauna doesn’t wear her mask, and constantly turns on bright lights while we sleep just to be annoying, and when I complain, her famous saying is, “You should have never been locked up”. Another C.O. who does the same, his name is Wilcox. And I’ve written Step 1 and Step 2, with no good answer.
We are racked up one row and they let two row out sometimes. There are only 5 people in day room. Showers are not cleaned. If you are an SSI/Porter, your job is to clean on your hour out and get dirty without taking a shower and rack up. When you come out on your next hour you still have to clean. Per Mayor Durben, Capt. Hoover doesn’t have anything signed by the warden or director of TDCJ about one row, two row. But we all go to rec and to eat at the same time. I would like a grievance petition for Texas, so I can share here with my brothers.
So in the Echo it stated that phone visits are $10 for one hour. The video visit. What about those who can’t afford those visits? Shoot, here at Prince Daniel Unit prices are going up in commissary and we are forced to buy what they want us to, because they’re always out of items. The crazy part is that warehouse is 15 minutes from here, and we have 52 workers who work there and live here on The Unit. I guess you just have to stay out of trouble to get out. But hell, nobody is making parole. What can we do? Well brother sorry for the complaining. Until next time