Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Texas Prisons

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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.

Allred Unit (Iowa Park)

Beto I Unit (Tennessee Colony)

Bexar County Jail (San Antonio)

Bill Clements Unit (Amarillo)

Billy Moore Correctional Center (Overton)

Bowie County Correctional Center (Texarkana)

Boyd Unit (Teague)

Cameron County Detention Center (Olmito)

Choice Moore Unit (Bonham)

Clemens Unit (Brazoria)

Coffield Unit (Tennessee Colony)

Connally Unit (Kenedy)

Cotulla Unit (Cotulla)

Dalhart Unit (Dalhart)

Darrington Unit (Rosharon)

Dominguez State Jail (San Antonio)

Eastham Unit (Lovelady)

Ellis Unit (Huntsville)

Estelle 2 (Huntsville)

Estelle High Security Unit (Huntsville)

Ferguson Unit (Midway)

Formby Unit (Plainview)

Garza East Unit (Beeville)

Gib Lewis Unit (Woodville)

Hamilton Unit (Bryan)

Harris County Jail Facility (Houston)

Hightower Unit (Dayton)

Hobby Unit (Marlin)

Hughes Unit (Gatesville)

Huntsville (Huntsville)

Jester III Unit (Richmond)

John R Lindsey State Jail (Jacksboro)

Jordan Unit (Pampa)

Lane Murray Unit (Gatesville)

Larry Gist State Jail (Beaumont)

LeBlanc Unit (Beaumont)

Lopez State Jail (Edinburg)

Luther Unit (Navasota)

Lychner Unit (Humble)

Lynaugh Unit (Ft Stockton)

McConnell Unit (Beeville)

Michael Unit (Tennessee Colony)

Middleton Unit (Abilene)

Montford Unit (Lubbock)

Mountain View Unit (Gatesville)

Neal Unit (Amarillo)

Pack Unit (Novasota)

Polunsky Unit (Livingston)

Powledge Unit (Palestine)

Ramsey I Unit (Rosharon)

Ramsey III Unit (Rosharon)

Robertson Unit (Abilene)

Rufus Duncan TF (Diboll)

Sanders Estes CCA (Venus)

Smith County Jail (Tyler)

Smith Unit (Lamesa)

Stevenson Unit (Cuero)

Stiles Unit (Beaumont)

Stringfellow Unit (Rosharon)

Telford Unit (New Boston)

Terrell Unit (Rosharon)

Torres Unit (Hondo)

Travis State Jail (Austin)

Vance Unit (Richmond)

Victoria County Jail (Victoria)

Wallace Unit (Colorado City)

Wayne Scott Unit (Angleton)

Wynne Unit (Huntsville)

Young Medical Facility Complex (Dickinson)

[Organizing] [Texas]
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Real Hope is in Historical Materialism

Reading the many articles in Under Lock and Key, I realize daily how hopeless our battle against injustice, inhumane conditions and the current American system itself, may seem. I continuously hear so many say we can't change it. They are wrong. They are weak and apathetic. We (prisoners and all Americans) must awake a revolution - no, not in the commonly accepted sense, not an attempt by one group to overthrow another to assume power. We need a revolution of the most profound kind, a revolution of the national soul and psyche, because if we continue to quietly submit to the injustices of this country, this system, with no opposition, then the limits of the tyrants will be absolute, acquiesced to by the very people who they oppress. Yes my brothers and sisters, it will be terrible to watch, torturous to be involved in, yet unquestionably destined to triumph if we (prisoners and Americans) will once again band together as one and rise to the call. I am certain of this because of my belief and faith in us, as prisoners, people, and Americans. William Faulkner once said, "It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe man [and Prisoners] will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance." We are that Man and Woman. Rise to the call of freedom and justice.

MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this prisoner that it is important that we believe in humynity and our ability to rise above what we have accomplished (or failed at) in the past and create a society free of oppression. However, we do not just take this on faith, we base it in the history of humynity, the struggles of the oppressed always fighting to rise out of oppression. And we do not share this comrade's faith in "Americans". As a whole Amerikans are bought off with the profits of imperialism and have a material interest in maintaining this system of exploitation and oppression. It is not their humyn nature that will lead people to rise above oppression, it is their desire to fight their own oppression that will ultimately bring down imperialism. We can learn this lesson from history, and so we should not place false hope in the bought-off Amerikan population as a whole. With that said, we do work to win over the minority who will join the cause of the good of humynity, against their own material interests, and we will continue to educate and organize petit-bourgeois people to that end while working for and with the truly oppressed and exploited.

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[Prison Labor] [Texas]
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Abolish Prison Slavery

A search of the Texas constitution reveals no trace of the word slavery or any reference to the use of prisoner labor as slaves. Nevertheless, Texas has a long and unbecoming history of resisting the economic integration of Blacks into it's society and exploiting the use of prisoners as slave labor (including Mexicans) etc.

The 13th Amendment to the US constitution states in pertinent part: "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime... shall exist within the United States." The 13th Amendment was formally adopted on December 18, 1865. Texas was not among the states ratifying this amendment. In 1866, participants at a constitutional convention took the position that it was unnecessary to adopt this amendment. By taking an oath to support the united states constitution, they had indirectly abolished slavery and this was sufficient. It was not until February 18, 1870 that Texas formally adopted the 13th amendment, and this was only done grudgingly, to satisfy conditions for gaining admission back into the union.

Prisoners perform valuable services in their prisons and in a multitude of different prison industries. Without prisoner labor, these prisons and prison industries could not function. From the inception of its prison system, Texas historically refused to pay its prisoners any wages for their work, no doubt relying upon the clause carving out an exception for prisoner labor in the 13th amendment of the US constitution as their authority for doing so.

The 70th Texas legislature reversed this long standing practice and policy by creating work credits as part of its major overhaul of the parole system. Under the 1/4 as this legislation came to be called, these work credits vested when earned, and hastened a prisoner's mandatory supervision date. Since this law was enacted, prisoners have been receiving a half day of work credit for every day of calendar time served.

During the term of the 74th legislature, from 1995 to 1997, the parole board's ability to perform its statutorily delegated function of reviewing all parole candidates applying the Texas parole guidelines to their cases and issuing decisions as to their fitness for parole was clearly illusory. The parole board was vastly lacking the staff and resources to perform this task. Nevertheless, the 74th legislature increased the authority of the parole board by giving them the right to cancel a prisoner's work credit, simply upon a finding that the prisoner's release could endanger the public's safety.

A finding that a prisoner's release could endanger the public's safety is ambiguous, vague and vulnerable to abuse. Parole candidates have seen their mandatory supervision date pass as well as their good time and work credits rescinded for just this reason, with no factual basis and no reasoned decision to support this finding.

The parole board is making its prisoners serve their sentences day for day, acting above Texas law and of our US Constitution, like the 13th amendment, claiming it is giving out parole when a prisoner is within months or a year of finishing his or her entire prison sentence. Is this not illegal, and prison slavery? Indeed.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We don't like to use the word "slavery" too much in reference to the modern U$ prison system. Though in fact, slavery is legal in U$ prisons according to the 13th Amendment, which this writer seems to ignore. As we have discussed elsewhere, the prison system is not akin to the economic system of slavery in capitalist or pre-capitalist societies. It is a form of the mass lumpenization that is unique to modern imperialism, and is about managing excess populations, not acquiring populations for exploitation.

We appreciate the brief history of Texas policies provided by this writer, but would add to it the significance of the history of the 13th Amendment. As mentioned, this amendment allowed for slavery in prisons at a time when imprisonment of Blacks was even easier than it is today. This was a bone thrown to the white nation in the South who stood to loose out from the new economic realities following the Civil War. Southern whites were given a means to control Black labor on a small scale to get them through the transition. Today the 13th Amendment plays a similar role, where mostly Blacks and Latinos are forced to do much of the maintenance labor to support their own imprisonment, while predominantly white staff make fat checks as watchdogs and bureaucrats in the system.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Texas]
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Pepper Spray for the Mentally Ill

Here in our Texas prison system, prisoners with mental health issues are being abused, mistreated, assaulted, and forced into harming, hurting, endangering themselves as well as other prisoners and officers. The unit officials are negligently using chemical agents against mentally ill prisoners by spraying pepper spray (OC) directly on us and then leaving us in our contaminated cells as a form of punishment. They leave us there to suffer as they watch with gas masks on. OC cause you to burn for days, and by the cell not being decontaminated, it's an ongoing torture. Every time you touch something in the cell it starts all over again.

Mentally ill prisoners are constantly written bogus disciplinary infractions, which we are automatically found guilty of. The mental health and medical departments are co-defendants with the administration's corrupt misuse of disciplinary policy and procedure by falsifying documents, and signing off on these cases without any sort of support on the prisoner's behalf.

This causes mentally ill prisoners to max their sentences because every major case is automatically a year set off by parole, plus the fact that it's also a year's wait before you can receive eligibility for the appropriate line class all over again. So if you are bipolar paranoid, or have another psychotic disorder, you are constantly in harm's way.

And as I've mentioned, the psych staff corroborates with the administration to keep you down and in the last place. There are not any successful programs for prisoners like myself who are provoked to act out in order to receive immediate help and relief. Our ADA rights [granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act] are being stomped on.

MIM(Prisons) adds: For more on mental health abuses, causes, and cures check out Under Lock & Key issue 15.

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[Organizing] [Texas]
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Fighting Rotten Food and No Parole

Before I could get this letter out, land of the weak, home of the slave day came up, "4th of July" the celebration of the day the Europeans that came to amerikkka who took this land from the Indigenous people had to in turn fight the British to keep it. I wonder where was good ole karma then? Anywow. I'm sitting here troubled because like the comrade who wrote about the hot dogs, they served us half-cooked BBQ chicken. My point in this they were also supposed to put cherry pie on the tray but since I'm in loss of privilege, for not wanting to work for free, and numerous other reasons, myself and others on the "lazy offender program" as the pigs call it, did not receive cherry pie. These grown ass men were crying about no pie, and I was saying you'll be lucky to eat the chicken with no stomach problems. These morons stress for all the wrong reasons. There is no unity here in the Texas Don't Care Jailocracy. These inmates have been led to believe that if you work and stay disciplinary free parole'll let you go. The truth is I stayed case free for 7 years on a non-aggressive 10 year sentence and they tried to give me parole after I pulled 9 years and 3 months, with all kinds of stipulations. So I told the parole board to give it to someone else. The moral of the story is, instead of riding for a cherry pie, why not ride for parole or furloughs to be reinstated in TDCJ asylums?

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[Abuse] [Texas]
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Depriving Sleep to Torture in Texas

I know you folks are interested in illegal activity that prisons allow against prisoners. Here in Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in the Administrative Segregation (Ad Seg) sections that I have been to and others that inmates have spoken to me about we have several things being done against prisoners.

The first is sleep deprivation. Every night, either officers or inmates who work for them will talk to you in all kinds of disrespectful ways, mostly in whispers through the venting system or they may use the PA system. It's a form of brain washing I have been keeping a log on. It's way out of control because many officers and inmates are involved.

In cases of baby rapers they force them to have different kinds of sex with other inmates. They will open cell doors to allow this to take place.

Some (most) of the inmates are weak when it comes to being threatened in Ad Seg. I am here for two murders and I am not weak. I backup against their threats. They have been trying their bullshit with me going on 4 years, at two different units. The inmates who illegally work for them help in this with mirrors and cell phone cameras. It is actually a terrorist operation they have set up to make criminals worse instead of better. This makes sure the inmates return, increases the prison population and increasing funding for their jobs.

I have been up for parole six times but due to action taken against me, it created a reaction with me and stopped parole each time. I have had several fist fights and was declared a gang member which I am not. Never have been, except boy scouts! They are threatening to move me to another pod right now for writing this letter, they are reading it as I write with their small high tech cameras that are not supposed to be used by other inmates. They are saying as I write this that no one will believe me because of my mental illness.

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[Medical Care] [Texas] [ULK Issue 15]
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Refused medical treatment in Texas

I'm writing in reference to the mental health and overall medical conditions in the Texas pri$on $y$tem. Here recently they've been taking several mental health patients off their psych medications even though these individuals need these medications. They say these individuals don't need these medications anymore, even though they've been diagnosed with mental disorders prior. Since they've started taking these individuals off their medication there's been several of them attempting suicide (one successful).

They've refused me treatment for a rash I had spreading over my body. I had to raise hell just to get some medication for it. It's to the point now where it's extremely difficult to get any kind of treatment for anything.

The big picture is these pigs could care less about our mental or physical well being. It's all about making a dollar to them. If they got to cut back on our medical care, to make more money they will. That's why we got to make a stand comrades, we can't just sit back and let these pigs f**k us over. Sad thing is a lot of these prisoners don't know how to fight back, that's why those of us that do need to step up and show our fellow brothers how to stand up to this injustice system here in Texas and everywhere else for that matter. Once these pigs see that we won't be run over and mistreated, they will stop their B.S!

MIM(Prisons) responds: We are printing this report in our issue focused on mental health. While medical care is often tied into mental health in our society, we are putting forth an approach that looks at mental health as a social issue and problem. While in the narrow sense, these prisoners may have acted on their suicidal tendencies because they stopped receiving certain medications, these medications were only a band-aid to begin with. And while suicide is the ultimate destruction of a humyn being, the fate of many people who are victims of this oppressive system of incarceration, isolation and drugging is little better. So, rather than see the lack of medicine as the cause of death, we would say that the oppressive system of imperialism caused this death and the other suicide attempts.

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[Abuse] [Texas]
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Filthy Prisons/Filthy System in Texas

I want to lace some of you up about the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutional Division (TDCJ-CID), just in case you ever get the itch to come to Texas. It is a great state but the courts are kangaroo, the Texas court of criminal appeals ignores pro-se (pro-per) filings and TDCJ-CID treats prisoners (now called offenders for effect) exactly like barn yard animals. This prison system is so oppressive that they recently took away our pillows. The following is a list of oppressions that Texas inflicts on prisoners:

You can not purchase anything from an outside vendor. There are no care packages, and no conjugal visits, and you can not purchase your own television. TVs are in the extremely loud and noisy dayroom where everyone argues and/or fights over programs which is usually Jerry Springer, soap operas, or basketball. The Texas prison units are not air conditioned, and the old brick units and some (most) of the sheet metal units are cockroach and mice infected, filthy pigsties. The unit I'm on routinely had black mold on the kitchen and shower walls. Speaking of kitchens, prisoners clean and make all the food - 90% of Texas prisoners take no pride in anything they do - they do not wash their hands.

This prison system is one nasty filthy place. Every summer there are many staph infection outbreaks. Some even have the resistant type called M.R.I.S., and we just got over a Norovirus. Showers are at 6am so you go to bed after 90-100 degree weather sweating. Clean clothes are given only Monday thru Friday. If you went to a hospital environment on Friday (chain leaves at 3am, you get back at 9pm/10pm), you are contaminated with bacteria and/or viruses, etc... but you still get no shower or clean clothes until Monday, Tuesday if the Monday is a holiday. Waiting on transfer transportation, you must leave your coat in the main building and walk to the back gate, pouring rain and/or freezing cold, it does not matter. If there is a shack, it will not be heated. Guards have thick fur lined coats and sit in a hot brick shack sipping hot coffee while grinning. In the dorms in the summer, it is so hot that the fans run 24/7 for almost 5 months. These fans are industrial barrel fans. They are so loud that if you close your eyes you can imagine being on an old propeller airplane - 24/7 for 5 months! This has to be causing ear damage. Complaints to any state or county agency (health department, etc) are diverted, ignored, or just sent back to prison officials identifying you/me as the whistle blower.

Parole? Forget about it. The records and classification department of the prison system scans the prisoner file when you first get here, evaluates your sentence and any and all allegations by anyone, and then codes your file to tell the parole board not to seriously consider you/me for parole until the "coded amount of years" has been completed. It may be the entire sentence. Getting a "serve-all" is commonplace, and get a "serve all via 1 yr, 2 yr or 3 yr, continuous denials" is also common place even for model prisoners who has completed all individual treatment programming and has full family support. Interstate compact transfers and paroles are rare. Prison staff are "guards" not trained peace officers like California. Most TDCJ-CID guards are off the welfare roll, Nigerians who barely speak English, wanna be police officers who fail the psych exam, and huge ego power trippers who get their rocks off making life as miserable for inmates as possible. And then you have actual gang members - bandana flying gang members. As a lung and bronchial tube cancer patient the prison and medical system deliberately tried to let the cancer kill me - waiting for 1 1/2 years to even get me to a hospital, and 3 years to start actual treatment.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg. And in Texas there are no pro-bono attorneys to speak of. The ACLU of Texas provides no help for Texas prisoners unless it will generate news media coverage, I am assuming to get more donations.

If you come to Texas, remember that its a good 'ol boy state and the highway signs that say "don't mess with Texas" is not talking about littering, as advertised. On a final note, the Texas government code has a section that states that no state, county, or city government has to answer any correspondence from anyone "incarcerated" (convicted or not).

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[Censorship] [National Oppression] [Texas]
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Mexicans targeted for censorship

I am caged up here in this racist Texas Department of Criminal Justice where Mexicans and African-Americans are treated unfairly. As everyone knows, this justice system is one of the biggest in the country. It is so overcrowded. Texas is in debt so bad that they need to make budget cuts to save money. But they won't even consider releasing people as a way to save money.

Well, another reason I'm writing is to address the issue of racism and censorship. Whenever Mexicans attempt to order books on our culture, especially revolutionaries, it is denied. Their excuse is that it is "gang-related." The general library here at this facility has a few books, maybe 5, on a little Mexican history. But when we take notes for our knowledge, and future use, these notes are confiscated by officers during routine cell searches, and labeled as "gang-related." Then the person who was in possession of it is placed on a watch list.

So these people all across Texas prisons do this to us, we are being denied our culture, to be able to study it without fear. Meanwhile, all of their racist propaganda material is readily available, and allowed to enter with no problems.

We've also had to deal with officers racist remarks toward Mexicans and Blacks. The grievance system here is useless. This is a whole network of klansmembers. So they all cover for each other. When we speak up and make it known we won't tolerate any of this, we are retaliated against.

I really appreciate your newsletter. It is very informative. I can relate to the revolutionary mindset completely. I educate myself as much as possible and I do my best to get others around me to do the same. I stand up for my rights as much as possible. These people know I won't be intimidated. They can lock me up but they won't take my pride or will to fight for what is right.

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[Organizing] [Texas] [ULK Issue 14]
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Snitch strategy backfires

When will prisoners stop repeating the same errors? I'm referring to the different examples where prisoners declare and promise to be the ones to contribute to change prisoners violations, inhumane conditions or prison problems? Then you realize that everything was only a trap. You burn your brain out trying to figure out how you became an oppressor, an enemy of prison change, or prison progress. That bunch of idiots who you thought were down/hard core prison reformers or revolutionaries, as always turn out to be only real cowards, or snitches. Functioning under lie after lie, to control you somehow.

Under the prison system, prisoners are turned into oppressors. A recent example is a group of prisoners devoted to snitching. They keep their Laundry List, as it is called, of targets for repression. They operate under sentencing guidelines 5K1.1 that has been ruled by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional. Under this guideline, they receive preferential treatment in exchange for snitch info. Prison informants usually turn in false information to the prison administration so they can get away with disciplinary infractions or other kinds of illegal actions.

Other city homeboys and I decided to infiltrate the snitch group that claimed they were against prison gangs, even though the group itself was acting as an undercover snitch prison gang that wanted prison protection in exchange for snitch info. They took it to another level: they turned in false info to the administration to lock up gang members or any prison group they feared, violent or not. If you didn't want to be a snitch you would end up in Ad-Seg, on lockdown, usually under false info. So now many sit in Ad-Seg, misclassified to prison gangs they never belonged to. The only way to get out of Ad-Seg in Texas is to denounce a gang. How do you denounce a gang you never belonged to?

Let's recall some of the Texas prison struggles. In 1974 the Texas prison system had no prison gangs, but officials had "Building Tenders" (BTs) carrying out all kinds of violence against other Texas prisoners. The BTs acted as prison guards dressed in white prisoners uniforms. They were allowed to get away with anything, even killings.

In 1976 the first Texas prison gang popped up, promising to go against the BTs, in an act of retribution that would present a better challenge for prisoner rights. The honorable United States Judge William Wayne Justice decided to abolish the BTs system, under a federal court ruling. With the BT system dead, other prisoners in Texas formed themselves into hostile prison gangs.

At the same time racist riots popped off across the Texas prison system because each cultural group was against each others' strategies to defend prisoners' rights. A "we got the better strategies for prison reform" mentality blossom up because "my" race or city is always better than "yours."

Today in the 2000s this group is the New Building Tenders. Yet their snitch, or rather false info, tactics against other prisoners has now backfired in their face because the ex-gang members continue to grow and have become a group that can't be placed in Ad-Seg unless they return back to their old gangs.

Once a Laundry List is turned in with all kinds of prisoners' names, 99.5% of the time they are placed in Ad-Seg. So the snitches proclaim to be doing a great job against Texas gangs. The prison system refuses to classify them as a gang so they cann't be placed in Ad-Seg as long as they stay in line.

Under the sentencing guidelines 5K1.1 methods, it allows the government (in this case the prison security threat office) to recommend a downward departure from the guidelines. In this case disciplinary reports given to prison informants, in exchange for substantial assistance provided to the government by a prison informant in the prosecution of others.

The availability of a benefit by cooperation with the government (prison administration) can create a strong incentive for a criminal defendant (prison informant) to exaggerate or even fabricate false info against another prisoner, which is usually acted upon without real facts or evidence.

MIM(Prisons) responds: Most lumpen organizations(LOs) have their origins in youth from a certain group banding together in self-defense. Originally, it was always self-defense from the oppressor nation who terrorized them to keep them outside of the labor market. Once the prison boom launched off the backs of the oppressed nations, then the need for self-defense from constant state harassment and brutality was needed. But the broader the organizations of the oppressed were, the more they were targeted for repression and destruction, leaving only the small, narrow-focused groups who were more easily turned against each other, especially after crack cocaine was thrown in the mix to create real economic competition between the groups.

Amerikkka has always repressed LOs because they represent a power of the oppressed that is independent of the state. When mere membership in an organization triggers the state to throw you in a torture cell, you must realize that something serious is going on.

Many people on all sides recognize that the struggle and strife between LOs got out of control a long time ago. Many among the lumpen have been critical of their current and former affiliations. As we said to the LOs in the last issue of ULK, the best way to stop snitching is to run an organization that the oppressed can respect, especially if you are recruiting people by claiming to represent the struggles of the oppressed in some way. Criminal organizations will never have a shortage of snitches, especially when the state is much more powerful than them.

Another issue brought up in this letter is the emergence of "anti-gang" organizations, which is not an uncommon thing. The writer asks how we can stop repeating the same errors and getting fooled into following false leaders. Well, the answer is by studying and establishing principles based on your studies that you always follow. One key principle of the anti-imperialist, or anyone hoping to serve the oppressed, is not to collaborate with the oppressor's state. That principle would prevent anyone with genuine intentions from joining a snitch group like the one discussed here.

Traditionally, Marxism considers the lumpen to be a fickle ally. They are often at the forefront of conflict, but have served many different class interests. Their lifestyle and conditions promote an individualism that is easily translated to snitch behavior. Note that the unnamed group discussed here is reportedly large and diverse and this story does not necessarily represent all groups going by that name, which is indicative of this individualist, fickle nature. As this comrade also points out though, among the oppressed, the snitches are the minority. So with good organization and correct principles, the interests of the oppressed will win out.

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[Organizing] [Prison Labor] [Texas] [ULK Issue 14]
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Our Unity vs. their Crisis

In today's prison society, prisoners are losing constitutional rights at an alarming rate under either the security rationale or the rehabilitation rationale. Yes, our United States Supreme Court has effectively shut the constitutional door on prisoners and individuals charged with crimes. A fair trial is now impossible as any misconduct by the prosecutor is considered "harmless error." Additionally, many individuals plead to charges they have not committed due to judicial extortion; "Take this five years or we're going to give you 99." It's all sad, but reflects the state of our society and country as a whole, and the corrosion of our criminal justice system.

In the newsletter, I read that many prisoner have begun food strikes; one wanting to commit suicide, the others want to sign a petition. The sad and unfortunate truth is, none of these work. Yet there is a way to be heard that is peaceful and has a dramatic effect.

Prisons are run by prisoners from laundry, food service, landscaping to maintenance of the institution. Additionally, many prisoners work in industries that manufacture anything from stop signs, chemicals to office furniture for the state and the prisons themselves. What if we were to just stop? Yes, stop supporting the imperial system that oppresses us at every level? Incarceration costs would rise exponentially overnight. Correctional officers would have to be hired to pick up where the inmate population left off. The cost of incarceration would be so great that states could not afford to incarcerate people en masse as they do today. Until the prison population itself makes a stand against the draconian justice and prison system, they will continue to lose the most basic and fundamental rights inherent to man.

My brothers and sisters, it is us, the prison population that runs and perpetuates the injustice of the justice and prison system and it is we who can peacefully break its back. The courts have failed us; the politicians have failed us; our country has failed us. Must we continue to fail ourselves? Must we continue to be dehumanized, degraded, mistreated and tortured so others may prosper and/or be entertained? It's time to see this realistically and stand together peacefully, to battle an unjust system as one. Martin Luther King once said, "The ultimate measure of a man [or woman] is not where he [or she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he [or she] stands in times of challenge and controversy." Are you a person of character who can stand as one or individually in the face of adversity? If we can't stand together as one then no matter what we do, we lose. Give some thought to this. All that's necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We couldn't agree with this comrade more that there is no real justice to be had by the class system of imperialism. We don't expect petitions to solve the heart of the problem, though we may achieve partial victories. And we've already cautioned comrades that hunger strikes without outside pressure and support tend to be ultra-left tactics that can lead to sacrificing of lives.

But as we explain elsewhere, petition campaigns are two-pronged. One prong is to improve our ability to organize by fighting winnable battles, and the other prong is agitational to expose the state's repressiveness.

The facts behind this comrade's proposal are solid, as we discussed in ULK #8 on prison labor. And the argument is particularly strong as most state's are facing extreme financial shortages. They cannot afford to run their prisons if the labor aristocracy must do all the work.

However, in most cases, the level of unity does not exist to carry out this tactic effectively. Another comrade who proposed this same strategy simultaneously complains about this reality. Again, this is where more agitational work comes into play, like petitions, lawsuits and even small fund drives that some comrades have led. These things establish unity among people on the issues. With that unity, we can begin to talk about mass actions, such as boycotts.

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