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.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.
More than 200 detainees began a hunger strike on October 18 at the ICE Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington. The NWDC is a private prison run by the Geo Group. The facility can hold over 1500 people and houses those swept up in immigration raids, transfers from the U.$-Mexico border, and other migrants caught in the Amerikkan system. This is one of the largest immigration prisons in the country.
Since 2014 detainees have launched 19 hunger strikes to protest their detention and conditions behind bars. This latest protest is demanding edible food and humane treatment, with many also demanding a complete shut down of NWDC. Prisoners find maggots, blood, hair and other things in the food. Kitchen workers report rats running around the food prep area. Guards abuse the prisoners. And Geo group ignores these complaints.(1)
U.$. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers mirror conditions in other prisons in the United $tates. In fact, prisoners at Clallam Bay Correctional Facility in Washington also went on food and work strike earlier in October to demand better conditions, focusing on food quality.
ICE officials issued a statement denying the existence of a hunger strike: "Failure to eat the facility provided meal is not a stand-alone factor in the determination of a detainee's suspected or announced hunger strike action. Commissary food items remain available for purchase by detainees." They followed up this statement with a press tour of the NWDC, featuring spotless conditions, a well stocked urgent care room, and nice library. It appears that no prisoners were interviewed or even filmed up close in the tour.(2)
A majority of the 54,000 ICE detainees in the United $tates are held in privately run prisons. And migrant detention makes up the majority of the private prison population in this country. But this isn't about the difference in conditions between private and state or federally run prisons. Conditions across the criminal injustice system are abusive, dangerous, and inhumane. We're not fighting for a different face on the abuse.(3)
While federal arrests overall have gone up over the past 20 years, between 1998 and 2018 federal arrests rose 10% for U.$. citizens and 234% for non-citizens. The most dramatic increase was between 2017 and 2018, a 71% rise in arrests of non-citizens. In 1998 63% of all federal arrests were U.$. citizens while in 2018 that number flipped and 64% of all federal arrests were of non-U.$. citizens. The portion of federal arrests increasingly focused along the U.$-Mexico border increased from 33% in 1998 to 65% in 2018. 95% of this increase was due to immigration detainees.(4)
The ICE detention centers make clear the purpose of prisons in the United $tates. This is national oppression. These non-citizen detainees are mostly being prosecuted for the "crime" of being in the United $tates without permission of the imperialists. This "crime" represents 78% of the cases.(4)
Closed borders are a requirement of imperialism. The wealth is kept within these borders for the lucky few who are born to this privilege. That wealth is stolen from outside the borders; exploitation of labor and theft of natural resources brings great profit to the imperialists. And the imperialists share that profit with the citizens of their countries to keep them passive and supportive. This wealth differential is obvious, even between the poorest within U.$. borders and average people living in the Third World. Those living outside those borders are desperate to get in to access this wealth stolen from their homeland. The role of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security is clear: keep this wealth within u.$. borders exclusively for Amerikan citizens.
We support the just demands of prisoners in NWDC and throughout the criminal injustice system. This system has sunk so low that people are forced to starve themselves to fight the dangerous and inhuman conditions. It will not be fixed by improving the condition in one prison, or even by shutting down one facility. But these demands fit in with the anti-imperialist struggle as we fight for open borders and an end to a system where one nation has the power to lock up others just for the crime of crossing an invisible line.
If we accept MIM(Prisons)'s line and analysis that U.$. prisoners — lumpen prisoners of oppressed nations — have the most objective class-nation interest in anti-imperialism, then of course the validity of this analysis can be tested in practice, whereby objective organizing factors-forces would be evident. MIM(Prisons), to its credit of remarkable theoretical leadership, has already outlined in its article on prison organizing what the principal contradiction is driving the Prison Movement.(1) MIMP also challenged its prison cadre (of prisoner study groups) to do the same for their own specific state prison conditions. While these theoretical tasks are undoubtedly necessary, they don't really instruct us on whether the Prison Movement is actually moving, or better yet whether there is even a Prison Movement to move.
Thus, it is the aim of this article to look deeper into the question of prison organizing, to determine what fundamental factors-forces need to be in evidence for there to be a viable Prison Movement, and above all to give an honest assessment of the U.$. lumpen prisoner's potential to be leaders of any progressive movement, least of all, one of anti-imperialism or national liberation. However, it should be noted that the conclusions reached in this article are specific to Washington state prisons. It is the hope of the author that other cadre across U.$. prisons will pick up the pen and conduct their own serious and sober investigation.
For MIM(Prisons), the principal contradiction determining the development and direction of the Prison Movement is expressed in terms of consciousness, not class or nation. With individualistic (petty bourgeois) attitudes and behavior occupying one pole of the contradiction, the other pole is occupied by more group-oriented (progressive) conduct and concern. And at this time, as it has been for some time, individualistic consciousness is the dominant pole of the principal contradiction. In other words, within a given prison environment, most prisoners view their interests (short-term, medium-term, and even long-term) being realized through individualism (and opportunism). Accordingly, group-oriented thinking and action are rarely seen and therefore have little-to-no impact on the Prison Movement.
Washington state is no different in this regard. In fact, it is exceptional in a level of individualism, opportunism, and soft-shoe parasitism that prevail among its prisoners. Sure, the anti-people behavior of snitching, drug culture, extortion through manipulation, etc. is not exclusive to Washington prisons. Such behavior can be seen in just about any U.$. prison, in settings where violence and viciousness are the only coins with purchasing power. And yet, in Washington prisons, extremely adverse conditions are pretty much nonexistent, and with it a large part of the basis for prison organizing.
To explain further, Washington state has created a new, depoliticized prison environment, one in which traditional prison politics are not tolerated. While prison politics of old were reactionary and self-destructive, depoliticization has anesthetized the Washington state prisoner to the contradictions that come with imprisonment. With the Washington prison of today being somewhat safe, devoid of the ever-present threat of physical and sexual violence, and other forms of overt predatory behavior, the prisoner is no longer forced to question and think critically about the conditions of incarceration. Indeed, today the prisoner is numb to the political dimensions of incarceration.
There are essentially three ways in which Washington has managed to accomplish this. First, it has all but institutionalized snitching, allowing for the systematic abuse/misuse of protective mechanisms (such as PREA and other federally-mandated laws) by prisoners and staff.(2) And because consequences for snitching went out with the old prison politics, this encourages more prisoners to join the growing horde of informants. This results in more and more prisoners seeing their interests protected by the state, when unfortunately, it only reinforces the status quo of their imprisonment.
Conversely, those prisoners who refuse to be pawns of the system isolate themselves within their own close-knit groups and factions. They sit back and lament about how so-and-so is telling or they talk fondly about how things used to be. In reality, these prisoners are only engaging in their own form of individualism by resurrecting old myths or fashioning new ones from their false consciousness. Ultimately, these prisoners are just as bad as the snitches, because they are paralyzed to act or think critically (and scientifically) by the possibility of being told on. At least the snitch snitches, that is to say, "acts."
The second way WA State has sanitized its prisons of organizing conditions is by institutionalizing privileges. WA State has done a phenomenal job in this respect. Prisoners can join culture groups where they have activities and functions. There are a bunch of special jobs as well as the most coveted Correctional Industries job. Programs range from education and vocational to religious and community support. Of course, cable TV, J Pay, food fund raisers, and quarterly food packages contribute to the sanitization of the prison environment. All of these taken together allow the prisoner to carve out eir own specialized niche of doing time, whereby ey becomes a better inmate instead of a better person. More importantly in the eyes of WA State ey becomes reliable because eir behavior is predictable. In other words, WA State doesn't have to worry about "model inmate" given that ey is lost in doing easy time.
Finally, the third and most important way WA State created a depoliticized climate within its prisons was to dismantle and discredit the old guard. The old guard represented a collection of old-school prisoners, who were versed in prison politics of both revolutionary and reactionary iterations. (The term "prison politics” originated during the late 60s and 70s, as a liberation ideology beyond the walls found a home behind the walls. But just as the reactionaries beat back the tide of social change, those revolutionary prisoners under lock and key suffered similar fate. What was left in the walk was the same predations and parasitism we saw in lumpen communities of oppressed nations at that time. Today, most prisoners erroneously believe prison politics to mean prison LO's pushing the line behind telephones and tables or checking in prisoners who's paperwork didn't check out.) Sadly, most of these prisoners have given up on handing down "game" to the younger generations, least of all organizing for better prison conditions. They are either bought off with a special status within prison reserved only for old timers, or become victims/hostages of their own vices. Those who have maintained a militant posture, over time, have their characters impinged in a pig-led campaign to discredit them and their organizing efforts. It is this dearth of political leadership and guidance that is most responsible for the depoliticization within WA State prisons.
But such a situation isn't as discouraging when we look at the WA State penitentiary. The state penitentiary or West Complex is a closed (maximum) facility, housing lots of young lumpen org members looking to wild out. So at the West Complex it is common to have race riots or prison LO rivalries. Fights are an everyday thing creating an atmosphere electric with tension. And at just about any moment staff can be victimized too. Yet, in a seemingly chaotic environment, where WA State has not eradicated "prison politics," that is the West Complex group-oriented action based on principled unity among all the prisoners resulted in concessions from the state. In early 2018, West Complex prisoners got fed up with the poor food (pun intended) they were being served, and as a collective group decided to go on a hunger strike. It became such a big ordeal in the state that the governor, Jay Inslee, visited the facility to speak with a few prisoners who registered the grievances of the population. Of course, the visit by the governor was more show than a show of concern. The point is, such group-oriented action actually resulted in some of the grievances of the prisoners being addressed. Most notably was the addition of a hot breakfast to the menu where previously it was a cold sack.
The point that this example serves isn't that reactionary prison politics work or that violent prisoners are more suited for group-oriented action. No, the point here is that a repressive institution such as a maximum facility creates and nurtures violence; it promotes the continuation of reactionary prison politics. And as violence occurs and politics are pushed, the repressive nature of the institution tightens evermore. Eventually, prisoners are forced to deal with the meager, spartan existence the institution provides them. Some choose the path of more self-destructive behavior, but it is ALL who opts for the path of collective-oriented action when the conditions are ripe.
This isn't exactly a glowing endorsement of the maximum prison. Too much reactionary stuff occurs behind its walls by too many prisoners with reactionary consciousness. Leadership must be in place, the issue to organize around must be important to most if not everyone. And more importantly, there can be no hesitation once the wheels move forward and gains momentum. The organizing effort is too delicate of a process within the WA State prison environment, which is why more often than not conditions are left to rot.
The one definite conclusion reached about organizing in WA State prisons is that the max prison fosters a rebellion among its prisoners that has the greatest potential to serve the Prison Movement. There is a level of seriousness and critical awareness seen in the West Complex that is just nonexistent in other WA State prisons, due to the depoliticization program. This isn't to say that there aren't some enlightened comrades on WA State medium and minimum mainlines sprinkled here and there. It is precisely this "sprinkling here and there" of righteous comrades that the cacophony of "doing easy time" drowns out their leadership, however.
MIMP has already reached the theoretical conclusion that the lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) will make up the vanguard of the Prison Movement. But here in WA State, unlike most other states, it is the labor aristocratic and petty-bourgeois oppressor nation prisoners who are in the majority on most mainlines. And given this group's inclination toward fascism, it poses an obstacle to organizing in many respects. Those oppressor nation prisoners who do not flirt with fascist politics are generally sex offenders and thus seen as even more taboo to unite with. This is an interesting dynamic for lumpen prisoners' (of oppressed nations) role within the WA State Prison Movement. It must not only overcome oppressor nation fascism but also violate prison norms set by politics.
Granted, prison politics have been eliminated on most WA State mainlines, but they have yet to be eliminated from the hearts and minds of both lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) and oppressor nation prisoners (fascists). Consequently, the stage of struggle with respect to the WA State Prison Movement is at the level of disunity and distrust. Coupled with the very real fact that the lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) are fractured into their own constituent prison and street LO's, their leadership in the movement is without a doubt questionable at this point. For lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations), caught in the depoliticized zones of Washington State prisons, the only objective interest for organizing is for their freedom. Everything else for this group is about drug culture, checking for wimmin, and establishing and maintaining a credible prison reputation to take with them to the street. To this point, the potential for the relatively few lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) to lead or even support a Prison Movement exists within the WA State closed custody institution, West Complex.
While such a conclusion is discouraging for WA State revolutionary prisoners, the hope lies in defining—maybe redefining—what the aims of the Prison Movement are relative to the specific conditions of the WA State. If, in general, the Prison Movement is about improving prison conditions, agitating and educating the larger population on the systemic injustices of mass incarcerations, or challenging the legitimacy of the prison, then the WA State Prison Movement must focus most of its effort on agitating and educating, challenging the growth of the prisons, etc. The basis for improving prison conditions has become an exclusive endeavor for the typical "legal beagle" in search of a big payday. The average prisoner has it too good to want to organize for better.
In conclusion, it is the overall contention of this article that the WA State Prison Movement exists, but solely in the individual practices of the few righteous comrades throughout the system.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer demonstrates how to study local prison conditions to determine the contradictions and where to best focus our organizing energy. This is something that has to be done from within each state by people who live there and know the conditions. It can't be done from the outside. With this analysis we can compare conditions, learn from best practices in other similar prisons, and build our organizing work in a scientific way. We welcome comrades in other states to follow this example and send in your own analysis of your state or prison conditions. We also hope other WA prisoners will respond to this analysis with your thoughts and observations.
I have previously written to MIM(Prisons) about a rejected issue (ULK59) which was actually afforded back to me following MIM's stern response.
I am now writing about the lack of medical care at Stafford Creek Correction Center in Washington. I hope that my letter will at least inform your readers or perhaps even act as a conduit for change, improving the conditions for all.
Simply put, I have been trying to get an eye exam for months. I have astigmatism, and I have been wearing prescription glasses since childhood. My current glasses, which were issued to me nearly four years ago, now make me dizzy and give me headaches at times. Worse yet, I can only read a few pages before the headaches become unbearable. Reading novels has been my favorite past time, and I cannot even enjoy that anymore.
Initially I was given a Visual Acuity Test, and I was informed that I would indeed be seen by the optometrist. Unfortunately, this decision was later reversed for no apparent reason. I have already filed an official grievance against the medical provider. Now I am being told that I can actually get an eye exam, if I pay the entire cost – not the usual $4 inmate co-pay, but the full cost of the examination, which would be more than my y early income here.
I have always heard of such terrible stories of people fighting for months or even years to receive the most rudimentary medical care, and now I have become one of them. This whole thing is very frustrating, but I am trying to remain positive.
U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda. Here, free speech is reserved for those with money and power.
In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a battle that MIM(Prisons) and many of our subscribers waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire facilities (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in our newsletter, or study materials, or even a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.
Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.
We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.
Following up on our protest letters over the censorship of ULK 58, Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC responded:
"The issue in question was impounded and the impoundment was subsequently reviewed by the Literature Review Committee on 11/15/2017, at which time the issue was rejected. This means it will not be allowed into any of our institutions. The stated reason was Florida Administrative Code (FAC) Ch. 33-501.401(3)(m), which states: 'It otherwise presents a threat to the security, order or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system or the safety of any person.'"
Peterson went on to quote the mail rules on how publishers can obtain an independent review. But did not bother to respond to any of our arguments in our previous request for a review of this decision.
Florida - Charlotte Correctional Institution
In response to a grievance filed by a prisoner regarding lack of notification of censorship of eir Under Lock & Key, P. Vartiainen of the mail room wrote:
"If a publication is impounded or rejected, a notice will be given to you. Every issue of Lock & Key has been rejected by the State since January 2014. Notices have been given to all subscribers. There is no record of you subscribing to this publication. Your informal grievance is DENIED."
Washington - Clallam Bay Correctional Facility
CBCC also rejected ULK 59 "pending review" because it
"Contains articles and information on drugs in prisons and the cost comparison of inside and outside of prison as well as movement of drugs."
Not sure how that at all relates to the penological interests of the institution.
Washington - Stafford Creek Correction Center
A subscriber was given an official rejection notice, stating "Incoming newsletter containing indepth information on the drug problems and values of drugs within the correctional setting which is a security issue."(Vol. 59 pg1,4-7, 16 — File No. 18346) What is the security issue...?
Michigan - Marquette Branch Prison
"Under Lock & Key #59 will be rejected because the articles contain information about criminal activity that could promote uprisings, unrest and disruption within this facility. The entire publication has a 'revolutionary, protest, uprising' theme. There is also red ink on the back page that will be rejected because it cannot be searched thoroughly."
ULK readers know we do not print anything in colored ink, so red ink (if it really was there) is either from the post office or the mail room. Additionally, political or revolutionary content is illegal as grounds for censorship going all the way back to Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401.
Mississippi - South Mississippi Correctional Institution
A prisoner reports:
"The South Mississippi Correctional Institution has implemented practices by which ANY book sent to a prisoner for 'free' is censored, rejected, and returned to the sender. The rejection notices say only that 'free books are not allowed' and/or that 'inmates must pay for books.' There are 33 facilities housing MDOC prisoners and SMCI is the only prison doing this! This means that prisoners cannot benefit from any free books to prisoners programs. Some prisoners, including this writer, are challenging this practice via legal venues (i.e. grievances, potential lawsuit). Anyone wishing to protest this practice may do so by writing Superintendent Jacqueline Banks, PO Box 1419, Leakesville, MS 39451 or [email protected] If possible cc all letters to MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall, 633 N. State Street, Jackson, MS 39202 ([email protected])."
U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in the United $tates free speech is reserved for those with money and power.
In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a
battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.
Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.
We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.
The Chair of the publications review committee for the VA DOC, Melissa Welch, sent MIM(Prisons) a letter denying ULK 56, and then the next month the same letter denying ULK 57. Both letters cite the same reasons:
"D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.
"F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."
Last issue of ULK we reported on the censorship of ULK57 in Pennsylvania. After sending a protest letter to appeal the decision we had a rare victory! From the Policy Office, PA
Department of Corrections:
"This is to notify you that the publication in issue does not violate Department Policy. As such, the decision of the correctional institution is reversed and the inmates in the PA Department of
Corrections will be permitted to receive the publication. The correctional institutions will be notified by the Policy Office of the decision."
If anyone in PA hasn't received ULK 57 yet, let us know and we will send another copy to you.
Pennsylvania SCI-Camp Hill
From a prisoner we were forwarded a notice of incoming publication denial for ULK 57: "create a danger within the context of the correctional facility" p.21, 24
The description quotes sentences that can't be found within ULK including: "PREA system strip searches for harassment in PA", "Black prisoners deserve to retaliate against predominantly white ran system", and "This is a excellent reminder of PA importance of fighting." They are making up text as reasons for censorship in Pennsylvania.
Texas - Bill Clemens Unit
A prisoner forwarded us a denial for ULK 57 "Page 11 contains information that could cause a prison disruption."
In March 2017, our study pack Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party was censored for
"Reason C. Page 9 contains information that could cause a strike or prison disruption."
This adds to the growing list of our most important literature that is banned in the state forever, including Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat and [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlan. We need someone with legal expertise to challenge Texas's policies that allow for publications to be banned forever in the state.
Florida - Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
A prisoner forwarded us a notice of impoundment of ULK 57. The reason cited: "Pages 1, 11, 14, 15, & 17 advocates insurgency and disruption of institutional operations."
We appealed this denial and got a response from Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC, reiterating the reasons for impoundment and upholding the denial: "In their regularly scheduled meeting of August 30, 2017 the Literature Review Committee of the Florida Department of Corrections upheld the institution's impoundment and rejected the publication for the grounds stated. This means that issue will not be allowed into our correctional institutions."
Following up on a case printed in ULK 57 regarding Florida's denial of the MIM(Prisons) censorship pack, for no specific reasons. We received a response to our appeal of this case from the same Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator, named above.
"From the number of the FDC form you reference and your description of what happened it is apparent the institutional mailroom did not handle the Censorship Guide as a publication, but instead handled it in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code rule for routine mail. As such, the item was not impounded, was not posted to the list of impounded publications for any other institution to see, was not referred to the Literature Review Committee for review, and thus does not appear on the list of rejected publications. That means that if the exact same Guide came to any other inmate mailroom staff would look at it afresh. In theory, it could even be allowed into the institution. ...
"The Florida Administrative Code makes no provision for further review."
Florida - Florida State Prison
ULK 58 was rejected for what appears to just be a list of titles of articles, some not even complete:
PGS 6 Liberation schools to organize through the wall (talk about the hunger strikes)
PGS 8 DPRK; White Supremacy's Global Agenda
PGS 11 Case law to help those facing
PGS 19 White and gaining consciousness
Florida - Jefferson Correctional Institution
Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles was denied to a prisoner at Jefferson Correctional Institution because "inmate has received a second copy of the same edition of this publication violating chapter 33-501.401 (16)(b) and procedure 501.401(7)(d)."
Washington state - Coyote Ridge CC
The invitation to and first assignment for our correspondence introductory study group was rejected by Mailroom Employee April Long for the following reasons:
"Advocates violence against others and/or the overthrow of authority.
Advocates that a protected class or group of individuals is inferior and/or makes such class/group the object of ridicule and/or scorn, and may reasonably be thought to precipitate a violent confrontation between the recipient and a member(s) of the target group. Rejected incoming mailing from MIM. Mailing contains working that appears to be referring to law enforcement as 'pigs' it appears to be ridiculing and scornful. There is also a section in mailing labeled solutions that calls prisoners to take actions against prison industries and gives specific ideas/suggestions. Nothing to forward onto offender."
A recent study assignment for the University of Maoist Thought was also censored at Coyote Ridge. MIM(Prisons) has not yet been informed of this censorship incident by the facility. The study group participant wrote and told us it was censored for being a "copy of copyrighted material."
The material in question was published in 1972 in the People's Republic of China. Not only did that government actively work against capitalist concepts such as copyright, we believe that even by the United $tates' own standards this book should not be subject to censorship.
Clallam Bay CF rejected ULK 58 because: "Newsletter is being rejected as it talks about September 9 events including offenders commencing a hunger strike until equal treatment, retaliation and legal rights issues are resolved."
Coyote Ridge CC rejected ULK 58 for a different set of reasons: "Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy and/or local facet/rules. Contains correspondence, information, or other items relating to another offender(s) without prior approval from the Superintendent/designee: or attempts or conveys unauthorized offender to offender correspondence."
We received the following report from a Canadian prisoner who had sent us some stamps to pay for a few issues of ULK to be mailed to Canada.
"A few months ago, on July 18, I received notice from the V&C department informing that five issues of ULK had arrived here for me. The notice also explained that the issues had been seized because of a Commissioner's Directive (764.6) which states that '[t]he institutional head may prohibit entry into the institution of material that portrays excessive violence and aggression, or prison violence; or if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the material would incite inmates to commit similar acts.' I grieved the seizure, among other things, citing the sections on page 2 of ULK, which 'explicitly discourage[s prisoners] from engaging in any violence or illegal acts,' and citing too the UFPP statement of peace on page 3, which speaks of the organizational aim to end needless conflicts and violence within prisons.
"Well, I can now report that my grievance was upheld and that all copies of ULK were released to me, but not without the censorship of drawings deemed to portray or promote the kind of violence described in the above-cited Commissioner's Directive. It's a decision I can live with for now."
We got reports from two people that the blanket ban on ULK in Missouri was removed and ULK 58 was received. If you're in Missouri and still not getting your ULK, be sure to let us know.
Michigan - Richard A Handlon CF
ULK 58 was rejected because "Articles in Under Lock & Key contains information about criminal activity that might entice criminal activity within the prison facility - threat to security."
Illinois - Stateville CC
ULK 58 was rejected because: "The publication appears to: Advocate or encourage violence, hatred, or group disruption or it poses an intolerable risk of violence or disruption. Be otherwise detrimental to security, good order, rehabilitation, or discipline or it might facilitate criminal activity or be detrimental to mental health. Detrimental to safety and security of the facility. Disrupts order. Promotes organization and leadership."
Currently on a day to day we are faced with dealing with situations that are not part of our sentence. For me I have to decide what approach or tactics I can use dealing with correctional staff whose behavior has escalated from being rude to disrespectful and retaliative. Here, in Washington, Correctional Officers (COs) try to gain popularity amongst their peers by doing disrespectful things and abusing their authority in order to impress each other. They do things like slam your cuff door, kick your door while you sleep, and put your handcuffs on too tight. I've seen officers tampering with an offender's food. This causes me anxiety. I suffer from panic attacks and my mental stability can't handle the paranoia.
It's like figuring out how to deal with a high school bully. I've completed courses in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and also dispute resolutions. I've taken classes on human relations and was a very popular person out in the community where I am from. The CO is a new kind of bully. Similar to a bad boss you can choose to submit to their abusive ways, you know, favoritism, laziness, lying to offenders, slacking off, pretending as if their job is hard and stressful. You can become more passive and avoid conflict and simply stay out the way. Take the disrespect with a smile, do your time, and go home. My father told me to do this, to succumb to their oppression, do your time, and come home.
Because I've been sentenced to 126 months to life they have extended my sentence 3 times due to infractions and some made up reason concerning my mental health. I am a convicted sex offender guilty of rape in the 2nd degree domestic violence. A crime I committed against the mother of my child. Having said that, I understand the ideology that a sex offender is a pathetic human being deserving of whatever treatment he or she has coming. However, with crime, and I mean any crime now, there are people who will suffer indirectly. Families and loved ones who care get victimized when an offender is in prison and receives unfair, cruel and unusual punishment, abuse and neglect and these are people living the right way.
For a criminal to just avoid conflict, do his time and get out, is far more damaging because you left that offender in a cycle of behavior that leads to more crime and often someone's death. So no I don't choose to just do my time and go home. I continue to make a difference, that's how I do my time. If god wants me to be in here for 20 more years so be it. I am helping the men in here internalize change. I may have stopped a family member or loved one from harm by providing new perspectives and ideas that change minds and unlock potential.
So these five tactics I've come up with have nothing to do with avoiding. Just providing solutions.
Before deciding to deal with any issue check your intentions. Deciding whether the issue is detrimental or not and it has nothing to do with your ego.
Learn the 7 habits of highly effective people. Use them, practice them with your comrades. Seek first to understand all angles, give little of your reasoning but get all of theirs. That way you can punch holes in their lies and stories.
Push paperwork, write grievances and kites, use them as documentation. Because you never know when it may go to a lawsuit. Of course, that is not the goal, but fairness and equal protection treatment is.
Transfer power, officers tend to make a lot of mistakes but be considerate of their intentions. A lot of times it's because they haven't been told something or simply feel discomfort. You can ease the tension by helping them see the bigger perspective simply by asking questions. So that way they can come to their own conclusions.
Be reasonable, listen to reason and compromise. In the end it is all about respect. You will have officers who are flat out disrespectful. A lot of them feel they have to operate this way in order to get complacence and respect. So you can't take it personal but you should handle all your issues at the lowest form always.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We want to applaud this comrade's commitment to do more than just do eir time, instead trying to transform the consciousness of others while locked behind bars. There are a few things in here we want to comment on. First, many will criticize us for even printing something written by a sex offender, but we want to push people to consider the ideas rather than judging them based on the background of the people who put out the ideas. 2+2=4 no matter who says it. But even more importantly, someone who previously advocated that 2+2=5 can change and learn why eir previous answer was wrong. We believe the same is true of all people who commit acts against the people with sufficient self-criticism and re-education.
As far as the tactics proposed by this comrade, we agree with the points that promote checking your ego, and filing grievances and maintaining documentation. However, we have some disagreements with this writer's proposals about how to deal with people. First, when dealing with our comrades we should not tell people to "give little of your reasoning but get all of theirs." If this comrade is suggesting we do this with the enemy then that's fine, but with our comrades we should be honest and straightforward about our reasoning as we seek to build unity and respect.
On the other hand we think this writer gives too much credit to officers suggesting that they can be won over through respect and consideration. While it's true that we don't need to start with aggressiveness and should seek to diffuse situations that might work against us, we should not fool ourselves into believing that officers will come around to our side if we just treat them nicely. The prison system is set up to put officers in a position where abuse of prisoners is encouraged. It's not just personalities of individuals or lack of perspective that cause the problems, it's the system itself. We need to be clear on this so that we can stay focused on the system as the enemy.
I am fighting this Washington Department of Corrections policy "c) Publications in a foreign language will not be allowed with the exception of religious publications." They let letters come in in a foreign language, up to 10 pages. Before 2010 they used to let me get books and magazines in Spanish, but then they changed the policy.
I'm familiar with the censorship pack from MIM(Prisons), but there is nothing that applies to this issue. I exhausted the grievances. Their last response was that they had security interests and that it was a threat to the security of the institutions.
I've heard that there are states that let foreign language literature come in, also I heard that the federal system does too. These clowns told me that there is no state, federal or constitutional law that supports me to get books or magazines in a foreign language. I'm asking for the help of ULK readers around the country to advise me with a case or law that I could use in an argument or lawsuit. I don't know how to file one but I have to learn somehow. I wrote the ACLU and other organizations, but they never gave me a response.
If you do have some advice please sent it to MIM(Prisons). And finally to all those in Washington state, it would be good if we can come together in this and many other issues.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is an important battle because it is clear denial of access to educational materials for all Raza, and is particularly important for those Spanish-speaking prisoners who are not fluent in English. This blatant national oppression must be fought. We look forward to hearing from our readers with suggestions for how to best approach this campaign.
I am writing today because I just wrote you on August 8 and the very next day I was called into the office where I was told that my letter (to you) was of concern. The woman working in the office stated that a number of the issues I mentioned they were currently in the process of trying to fix. They have been saying this for the last year while I've been here, and for at least four years according to many of the long-time inmates here.
So like I said in the last letter, ("I'm sure to see some type of retaliation for this letter"). I've been carefully documenting everything that has been happening since I began: piss test, matrix checks, compliance checks, etc. I ask for any books or other legal material that may help with what I'm dealing with. There are no resources to be had here and I do not want OCC to ship me out under the false pretense of legal library issues. I have around sixteen months left and want to spend my time trying to fix some of this BS that is happening here.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The censorship of mail exposing what is going on behind bars in the Amerikan criminal injustice system is one of the most pressing problems that our movement must fight. Mail is our primary method of communication between prisoners and the outside, and also between prisoners in different institutions as our newsletters share news from across the country. This is why we need legal fighters, both behind bars and on the streets. Get in touch with us if you can help take these censorship cases to court.
On 29 June 2011, two prisoners sought their liberation by taking hostage one of the bosses who worked at the garment industry located at Clallam Bay Corrections Center. The prisoners managed to get a tractor vehicle and ram partly through the fence alongside the gun tower. The gunner at the tower shot the prisoner in the chest. The other prisoner released the hostage and got on the ground.
In the wake of the incident, Clallam Bay Corrections' administration locked the facility down. Every day between 29 June 2011 until 6 July 2011 the prisoners were fed two peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, chips and a kool-aid packet. On July 5, 2011, I asked a leader of the "white boys" if he would ask his brothers to file grievances on the meals. That leader said yes. We wound up with 28 grievances. The Blacks and Browns had joined in filing grievances.
It was decided that if they (Clallam Bay administration) didn't fix the meals and give us vegetables, fruit and at least one hot meal a day, then we prisoners would cover our cell windows in protest. Clallam Bay administration didn't fix the meals, so we covered our windows. Twenty four in all covered their windows. A negotiator asked us individually what did we want and we all individually stated that we wanted a memorial for the slain prisoner who sought his freedom and was murdered on 29 June 2011, fruit and fresh vegetables included in the meals, access to showers, and at least one hot meal. The negotiator said that he could deliver our request and that we better uncover our windows or be OC gassed. We stood our ground and between 6:30pm on July 6 and 3am July 7 twenty four inmates were individually gassed, removed from cells, and returned naked to the same gas filled cell after everything was removed from the cell.
On 7 July 2011 we were given a hot breakfast and our sack meals including fruit and vegetables. I was a part of these events that took place at Clallam Bay Corrections Center Intensive Management Unit (Segregation Unit). Power to the People.
Here in prison, particularly my side of the map in Washington state, there is a struggle for unity amongst the oppressed classes, due to racism and the overall lack of political and class consciousness as a whole. Merging together for the sake of strength and unification in order to combat these oppressive conditions seems bleak; unless the heads of the respective oppressed classes tune back in from their myopic ignorance.
It is not hard to recognize, while we're fighting amongst each other in this pseudo-war to obtain megalomaniac status and prestige - as the elite gang or organization - in the shadows lurk the fascist pigs titillating on our destruction. The time for us to wake up and smell the reality is now, but how do we go about it when egotistical individuals refuse to smell what's real?
Well, someone of level headedness, statesmanship and respect from each and every oppressed group, needs to act as the voice in order for a meeting of the minds to occur. At this meeting/sit-down understandings between groups have to be established, in a manner potently stated by Comrade George, in his book, Blood In My Eye, not quoting but referring to: We need to settle our quarrels and come together on behalf of not just ourselves, but the people.
Washington state, despite its fascist racist cops, is a beautiful place to do time (of course only if you have to be locked up). But don't get it twisted, it's real and heads get busted and sent to the ER just like any other place around the united snakes. I'm saying that to say, the beauty of doing time comfortably in the belly of the beast has to have more of a meliorate feeling in order for us all to coexist, and rid the pigs of their elementary tactic of "divide and conquer."
I am only offering this polemic style dictum as one of many possible solutions to help end the hostilities in the state of Washington; and hopefully to potentially create unity amongst the oppressed classes in an attempt to join the other brothers and sisters of the struggle, across the country held behind enemy lines, who want and seek change in this perpetual system of corruption.
July 8th is right around the corner, so in a brazen fashion, we the oppressed classes/groups of Washington State prisons, need to draw up our own core demands for the pigs to abide by. Or we shall, as the brothers in Cali have, orchestrate peaceful non-violent demonstrations in order to show the prisons and/or facility administration that we're as serious as the threat of a 9.0 earthquake.
At the end of the day, it is up to us my brothers and sisters, especially when the time is ripe and the levels of consciousness/political development around the country in prisons have risen. Ending with a quote from Comrade George: "to expect that someone else will take the full responsibility for our own liberation is suicide."
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's call for unity is consistent with the United Front for Peace in Prisons that many behind the bars have been working to build. The first point of the five UFPP Principles is Peace: "WE organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."