Sparking Conversations, Building Independent Institutions
First off I want to express gratitude and respect to the comrades that contributed to ULK 68. It has sparked some interesting conversations on the tier. And this dialogue is strengthening the unity; the only unity I’ve seen at this unit in the year and a half I’ve been here.
Here at Tucker Max Unit they have been keeping us restricted housing prisoners locked in our cells 24/7. We get one hour of yard every two weeks here at Gilligan’s Island due to “lack of security.” They recently re-opened their re-entry program and when they did so, they took officers off yard crew to go work the re-entry. They have made no effort in the past 3 months to replace these officers so re-entry is essentially running at the expense of our constitutional rights. Yard call is a constitutional right, re-entry is not. From my understanding they receive so much money per each prisoner enrolled in their programs, i.e. re-entry, substance abuse treatment, therapeutic comm., and in my opinion the biggest sham of all: the step-down program that restricted housing prisoners are being forced to enroll in. The parole board is notorious for stipulating the first three programs as a condition for prisoners to be considered for release. They reap double benefits thru this system. They get extra money for your enrollment in this program and they can release you with some semblance of rehabilitation.
We, the prisoners, know these programs are a joke. And when they don’t provide the rehabilitation sufficient upon release to hold it down and keep on top of our responsibilities then we become we the repeat offender. And the Dept. of Corruptions is right here with their paternalistic arms wide open, all the while telling us it’s our fault.
But to get another shot at freedom we’ll be forced back into the same programs. Spoiler alert: it’s not gonna work no matter how many times you take their programs, and that’s by design. They don’t want the programs to work. Why would they want us to stay out of prison? A requirement of these programs here in Arkansas is that you drop kites on other prisoners for shit as small as not tucking their shirts in, and if you don’t you’re considered as not “participating”. What the fuck does that have to do with a person getting their shit together and preparing for the responsibilities that weigh us down when we get out?
To boycott these programs would be ideal, knowing the money they rake in off of them. But far be it from me to tell the next man to not do what he’s gotta do to go home. But we can’t depend on these programs to be the substance of our rehabilitation.
So now that I’ve made the argument against their programs there are two questions to be addressed. How do we implement our own programs, and which programs should take priority? Well, as far as the programs that should take priority, we’ve got to implement those that build unity into community where everyone has a role, minus our egos. We must work together to come up with a format that has a higher potential of success when it comes to tackling the issues that perpetuate our carceral existence, and by “our carceral existence” I’m speaking of the shackles on our mind that even upon release from these dungeons into the free world, remain fast in place.
The Five Stages of Consciousness model in the Five Percent tradition will break these chains when utilized to the fullest, but so many of us only attain the base stage of consciousness or the second stage of subconscious and go no further. So many of us attain all this knowledge on our quest for truth, only to use it to know more than the next man. But how many of us are using our knowledge to help win lawsuits, win appeals, and other battles that build upon our independence from this paternalistic system? I constantly see pride and ego hinder all 5 of the United Front for Peace in Prisons points of unity, and keep a lot of prisoners from reaching out to others to build these independent institutions. It’s imperative that we tear these individualistic walls down and build upwards on community consciousness. We need examples of what these independent programs look like and how to build them.
The book Prisoners of Liberation by Allyn and Adele Rickett that MIM(Prisons) refers to in its response to “Fighting the System from Within” in ULK 68 sounds like a good place to find this example. The writer makes a good point in eir letter that if our people would come to work in these prisons that they could expose the deficiencies and ill treatment.Which reminded me of a question a comrade asked me a while back pertaining to the “lack of security” I referred to above. The question was: why did I think that this place has such a high turnover rate? C.O.s get $17 an hour and Sergeants get $20 but they can’t keep them working here. It’s not like they work them especially hard. Myself, wanting to hold out hope in humanity answered that maybe once they started seeing this shit for what it really is, decide that they don’t want to be an active participant in the oppression of their community. Maybe I put too much faith in their moral standards? Even if my answer was right they are still actively participating by not exposing the things done in here. I also like how the writer put it that the “moral obligation is ours,” not just to end oppression, but to build a new system in its place. We the prisoners must champion our own rehabilitation and re-education, independent of our oppressors’ programs, no longer allowing them to determine our value and self/community worth.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer picks up on the theme from ULK 69 where we discuss building independent institutions. As this comrade points out, we can’t count on the criminal injustice system to provide us with effective programs for rehabilitation or release. And so we need to build these programs ourselves. One such independent program is this newsletter, in which we are free to expose the news and conditions that the bourgeois press refused to cover. An independent newsletter is critical to our education and organizing work.
Another example of independent institutions is MIM(Prisons)’s Re-Lease on Life program to help releasees stay politically active and avoid the trap of recidivism. This program isn’t yet big enough and is greatly lacking in resources, so right now we’re not very effective. But we have to start somewhere. And we work to connect with comrades like this writer to build this program on the inside and on the streets.
In the short term, anyone looking to build small independent institutions behind bars can start a study group. This is a good way to start educating others while also learning yourself. And you can build from there with anyone willing to sit down and study. We can support this work with study questions and literature, just let us know you’re interested!