Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Arizona State Prison Complex Central Unit - Federal

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.

We hope this information will inspire people to take action and join the fight against the criminal injustice system. While we may not be able to immediately impact this particular instance of abuse, we can work to fundamentally change the system that permits and perpetuates it. The criminal injustice system is intimately tied up with imperialism, and serves as a tool of social control on the homeland, particularly targeting oppressed nations.

[Abuse] [Hunger Strike] [Arizona State Prison Complex Central Unit] [Arizona]

Hunger strike to stop abuse in Arizona

I’m writing to request assistance with my imminent hunger strike, commencing 12/8/2017. You can help by calling the prison, repetitively and constantly, urging them to resolve the inhumane and unconstitutional conditions of confinement and mistreatment prison officials are subjecting me to here in Kasson Unit, which are enumerated below.

I’ve submitted dozens of Releases of Information to Kasson’s Mental Health Lead, Dr. Tracy Rogers, my therapist/advocate. The R.O.I.s allow her to discuss with you all matters concerning me. They allow ADC to do the same. Rogers and my mother (who is also the legal agent of my powers of attorney) are well-informed of these strike issues and can help you help me. I strongly urge you contact both to coordinate the best possible plan of advocacy for resolution. However, please do not hesitate to call in now. Ask for resolution. Demand it.

I went through a similar strike in Sep., 2017. It lasted 13 days. I lost 26 lbs., or 14% of my body mass. Prison officials, during the strike, seemed willing, eager, to resolve the issues, but, as soon as I ended the strike (because they promised concessions and resolutions), they reneged and let the issues go unresolved. In fact, more issues have risen since, and they continue to perpetrate and ignore them.

Please know that prison officials here, including mental health staff, can force me to be placed in the Mental Health Suicide Watch Pod. There, I will be stripped of all clothing, property, hygiene - everything. I will not be able to write, send personal or legal mail, work on my civil rights cases and appeals. Placement in Watch is purely retaliation and serves no purpose other than to act as a deterrent. Watch cells are filthy, never cleaned, cold. I’ll receive no recreation or out-of-cell time. They’ll be treating me worse than a dog at the pound on the eve of being euthanized. That is the ethos of Kasson Unit.

Kasson Unit is rife with staff misconduct, psychological torture, psychological and sexual abuse by staff, illegal destruction of personal property (a violation of A.R.S. §31-228(A)), and other unconstitutional and illegal acts and procedures of prison officials. Kasson is the most corrupt, broken unit I’ve been in in my entire 12.5 years in ADC. The misconduct is systemic, and very few staff have managed to avoid the pool of corruption.

This hunger strike is my last resort, my only recourse, so please help me urge them, these government officials who are paid with your tax dollars, to grant resolutions before things worsen. This strike is about finding justice, equality, fair and humane treatment, and human decency. The issues I’m trying to resolve are described below. Thank you very much for your concern and solidarity.

  1. Kasson Unit must eliminate the extreme cockroach infestation. Each 4-man pod has thousands of roaches, each cell hundreds. They crawl everywhere: walls, floors, ceiling, property, clothing, bed, even my body, while sleeping. Staff have even delivered my food with roaches in it. They refuse to properly address the problem, will not pay their contracted exterminators the required amount to actually exterminate them. In my 15 months here they’ve sprayed a minimal amount of pesticide in the cells only twice. It is extremely unsanitary.

  2. Since Jan, 2017, mail room, at Sgt. J. Ramos’ direction, has been returning to sender all incoming books and magazines I subscribe to, in violation of my First Amendment rights. They falsely claim I have in my possession more than the allowed limit of books (10) and magazines (5). They do this because I challenge their illegal exclusions and censorship of certain magazines, such as Esquire, US Weekly, Cosmopolitan, etc. They figure that if they return to sender all publications, I won’t be able to appeal censorship. They allow, seldomly, only secular publications, another First Amendment violation.

  3. Staff, including C.O.3 Oswald, C.O.4 Castorena, and Dep. Warden Montano, refuse to allow me reasonable - or any - telephonic access to call my attorneys of record. This is causing irreparable damage to my legal cases and is highly unconstitutional. Pima Co. Judge Godoy has ordered an inquiry into this matter, but staff continue to refuse any legal calls, since Feb, 2017.

  4. Staff must provide me with unfettered access to grievance forms, per policy (D.O. B02.01.1.7) and the Redress of Grievances clause of the First Amendment, but they consistently deny them. Additionally, Oswald refused to respond to most of my informal grievances, though his job, and policy (D.O. 802.02.13), mandates Responses. Their justification for this is that I “file too many grievances.” There is no limit for filing grievances. Also, Grievance Coordinator Castorena refuses to process valid grievances, instead returning them “processed” under false pretexts, in violation of the grievance policy. 4(A) This issue is compounded by staff’s refusal to properly address the problem. All staff, including Central Office, Admin., Programs and Security, routinely refuse to respond to my Inmate Letters, in violation of D.O. 916. They claim they never received them, though I retain proof of receipt by staff. They are attempting to effectively silence me. They must respond to all Inmate Letter forms. 4(B) This matter also relates to issue #2, as Florence Complex Publication Review staff commonly refuse to acknowledge receipt of my Exclusion Appeals, a Due Process violation.

  5. Staff will not respect my Right to Education. They allowed me to begin earning my paralegal degree from Blackstone Career Inst. in May, 2017, but have returned to sender all course materials since June, relying on unconstitutional prison policies as a justification. This is a self-pay course, which will improve my life and reduce chances of recidivism upon release. This prison must allow me to resume this course.

  6. I have a Special Needs Order (S.N.O.) for sunglasses, to help me treat my photosensitivity. I’ve had approved sunglasses sent in but Property Officer C.O.2 M. Del Valle refuses to give them to me, without any justification. Exposure to bright light causes migraines. My sunglasses have been sent in previously, but staff stole them. Now this pair is in jeopardy of being stolen, or “lost.”

  7. Property Officer Del Valle is violating prison policies and AZ (ARS §31-228(A)) by destroying my property. She refuses to allow me to return to sender non-allowable items (e.g. photos, etc.) received via mail, in violation of D.O. 909. & She instead decides to illegally destroy it.

  8. Staff are withholding my TV because I’m serving Loss of Privilege (LOP) disciplinary sanctions, though they permit everybody else on LOP to retain/possess their TV. They single me out because I file so many grievances and lawsuits, which other prisoners are afraid to do for fear of retaliation - like having appliances seized.

  9. In July, 2017, staff inappropriately placed me under protective custody (P.C.) without providing me any notice (Due Process). Placing me under PC was retaliation, an attack on my pride and integrity, and is totally unwarranted. They claim it was due to a single written threat on my safety. 9(A) Further, Dep. Warden Mortano refuses to process my requests to be removed from P.C., a violation of D.O. 805. (See also:4(A))

  10. Mail Room staff are enforcing unfair, unconstitutional and illegal mail policies, which must cease. D.O. 914.02.1.5, 1.5.1,, 1.5.2, 05.1.3, 1.3.2, 1.5, 1.5.4 and 1.8 allow staff to read, seize and withhold incoming and outgoing mail if staff, regardless of rank, don’t like or find offensive the content of the personal correspondence. I’ve personally been aggrieved of this issue. The policies & procedures are totally unconstitutional, too vague, and illegal. 10(A) Additionally, staff refuse to allow self-addressed stamped envelopes (SASEs) to be received unless they are sent from a secular (Christian) group. They routinely seize SASEs sent from non-secular groups, a violation of D.O. 914. and the First Amendment. (I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.)

[Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [Legal] [Censorship] [Campaigns] [Arizona State Prison Complex Central Unit] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 18]

ADC Claims No Obligation to Honor U.$. Constitution

Due Process

As our readers already know, MIM(Prisons) runs political study groups with our comrades behind bars. And as some of you know, and have experienced, the state generally finds our non-violent, non-law breaking, communist study in poor taste. In October 2009, a study group assignment for the pamphlet “What is MIM?,” which included other participants’ responses to the previous assignment, was mailed to a participant held in Arizona. This study group assignment was censored because allegedly it “may be obscene or a threat to security” generally, and “promotes racism and/or religious oppression” specifically. Yes, this is coming from the state that is fighting the federal government in court to be allowed to use the color of one’s skin as probable cause for investigating immigration law violations.

Our comrade imprisoned in Arizona appealed this decision, and MIM(Prisons) wrote to the prison administration to request an explanation as to how this study group assignment could “promote racism and/or religious oppression” without even mentioning races, nationalities, or religions:

“It is truly fascinating that your mailroom staff could find the promotion of racism and/or religious oppression in this document. Nowhere in the letter are the following words even mentioned: religious, religion, christian, muslim, baptist, KKK, white, mexican, latino, asian or arab. The word”black” is written once in the context of a reference to the Black Panther Party’s education programs. How can you even talk about religion or race enough to speak against it if you don’t use any of the above mentioned words?” - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant

No attempt has ever been made by Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) administration to address this point. ADC General Counsel Karyn Klausner offered her opinion: “I have reviewed the materials sent by MIM Distributors and find the decision to exclude the publication due to content ‘promoting racism and/or religious oppression,’ was appropriate.” She gave no explanation of how she came to the conclusion that it was an “appropriate” violation of Constitutionally protected rights. In a later letter Ms. Klausner clarified that with this statement she didn’t mean she was “upholding” the censorship in her official capacity as General Counsel of the Office of the Director of ADC, just that she agreed with it on a persynal level.

Instead of explaining how the study group mailing in any way promotes racism and/or religious oppression, ADC administrators then began to rely on their policy of violating MIM Distributors’ First Amendment right to free speech and association to censor this study group assignment:

“There is nothing in case law that gives rise to a publisher’s right to appeal a decision to exclude its material on an administrative appeal level. . . You are not entitled to a forum within the prison system.” - ADC Director, Charles Ryan

Director Ryan clearly had not investigated the matter on the prisoner’s end either. He claimed that our imprisoned comrade had not appealed the decision to censor, yet s/he had, on multiple levels, and submitted requests for the results of these appeals.

“You claim that MIM Distributors has no rights to appeal the censorship of their mail. While we are not lawyers, and may have put too much weight on the Procunier case, we still uphold that we have First and Fourteenth Amendment rights according to federal law. As employees of the state you may not deny anyone their rights to free speech and association arbitrarily and without due process. In fact, if you read Thornburgh v. Abbot, 490 U.S. 401, which you referred [COLLEAGUE] to, you will see that its procedural protection was provided because the publisher was notified of the censorship and given the right to independent review. A number of U.S. Court of Appeals decisions have upheld the right of the publisher in such instances (Montcalm Publ’g Corp. v. Beck, 80 F.3d 105, 106 (4th Cir.), Trudeau v. Wyrick, 713 F.2d 1360, 1366 (8th Cir.1983), Martin v. Kelley, 803 F.2d 236, 243-44 (6th Cir.1986) ).” - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant

And ADC’s response?

“You assert that ‘MIM Distributors’ First Amendment right to free speech’ is not being respected. The Arizona Department of Corrections is obligated to respect, within the confines of legitimate penological interests, an inmate’s constitutional rights. It does not follow that ADC is likewise obliged to do the same for an independent distributor such as MIM.” - General Counsel, Karyn Klausner

It is apparent that the ADC believes themselves to be exempt from the legal straitjacket of the United $tates Constitution, which they don’t see as having an application in the 10th Circuit. This isn’t surprising coming from an institution whose administrators believe that one can promote racial and/or religious repression without ever talking about race or religion!

Amerikans like to pretend they hold no political prisoners, yet political repression is an integral part of the U.$. injustice system at every step. In our struggle for a world without oppression, MIM(Prisons) works to build public opinion for national liberation struggles amongst prisoners through our newsletter Under Lock & Key, our free books for prisoners program, and our study groups. Within prisons, there are two primary ways in which the state enacts political repression: through physical torture techniques such as solitary confinement, forced drugging, beatings, starvation and murder; and through the control of the spread of ideas, which also includes solitary confinement as well as the censorship of mail, and outlawing oppressed nation organizations.

In pre-fascist Amerika, we are still promised certain rights under United $tates laws. While we recognize that U.$. law will never lead us to communism (a world without oppression), we still need to fight for more room to organize and educate for revolution. Fighting against the censorship of revolutionary literature is vital to maintaining the connection between the inside and out, which may make the difference between being turned on to communism or not for many people. For those already turned on, we need to fight against censorship so that we can continue to build our revolutionary understanding.

Like a MIM Distributors Legal Assistant mentioned above, we are not lawyers. We do what we can to protect our Constitutional rights from the outside with the resources we have, and we rely on prisoners to fight to maintain their rights from the inside. If there is a lawyer who wants to get involved with this specific incident in Arizona, or with anti-censorship work in general, get in touch!

You can browse incidents of censorship here.

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