www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.
I 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."
The Washington State Department of Ecology recently required the Washington State Dept of Corrections to conduct an investigation at Washington State Penitentiary to determine the type and location of contaminants present, and evaluate cleanup options.
They found hazardous waste (lead, gasoline) in the soil and well water system here at the prison. This water is used for drinking, showering, cooking, etc.
On 9 December 2012, local news ran the story regarding toxic waste in the water here at the prison. Two days later, coincidentally, prison staff were handing out printouts regarding the "toxics cleanup program." Are they trying to lead us to believe that they had no prior knowledge of this potentially dangerous problem prior to a couple days ago?
Chemicals (TCE and PCE) were identified in ground water outside the exterior prison fences. Some of these chemicals were used in furniture refinishing and repair, license plate manufacturing, dry cleaning, motor pool maintenance, metal working and welding, photo processing, sign manufacturing, and medical and dental labs.
The report given to prisoners claims that the levels of PCE and TCE in certain groundwater monitoring wells no longer pose a health concern to humans or the environment. However, they do admit that "gasoline and lead in soil exceed state standards at certain locations."
This is something that needs to be looked at by an independent scientist/law firm, so we prisoners know that we have chances of living a healthy life, in and out of prison.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As a prisoner discussed in the article "Environment and Prisons" in Under Lock & Key 7: "The main thing that I learned from this MT 12 was of the overwhelming toxic dump sites in and around oppressed nations areas. . .Yet we hardly hear a murmur from the media when toxic dumps spring up in areas where the oppressed nations swell. Third World countries have become the imperialist dump site. I watched a news program around a month ago about how petty bourgeois here in the U.S. were setting up these scam 'recycle' centers for computers and 'e-trash.' These 'recycle' centers would turn around and ship off this toxic junk to Third World nations and turn a profit, even though there's supposed laws prohibiting this toxic dumping (for Petty Bourgeois and small time entrepreneurs) it is still continued with a nod and a wink. The bourgeois, big business, transnational corporations etc. are a whole different story. They continue to dump toxins on the Third World nations with only encouragement from imperialist economists."
We should not be surprised when toxic waste is found in or around prisons as well. In fact, we have published reports of similar incidents in Connally Unit in Texas and Kern Valley State Prison in California. Those suffering under similar conditions must continue to expose these incidents, and campaign for basic safety for the imprisoned. We then need to take this one step further, as the contributor quoted above does, and put it in the context of imperialist environmental destruction and national oppression so that contaminants aren't just pushed into someone else's backyard.
"The Anti-Exploits of Men Against Sexism" Ed Mead Revolutionary Rumors PRESS [email protected]
This pamphlet is an historical account of the organization Men Against Sexism (MAS). It is written in an informal, story-telling style, from the perspective of Ed Mead, one of MAS's primary organizers. "Anti-Exploits" spans the development of MAS, from Mead's first encounter with the near-rape of a fellow prisoner on his tier in the mid-1970s, to the successful height of the organization and the eradication of prisoner rape in Washington State Prison. This success impacted facilities all across the state.
Men Against Sexism was created to bring prisoners together to fight against their common oppression. Mead recognized that homophobia, sexism, rape, and pimping were causing unnecessary divisions within the prisoner population. "Only by rooting out internalized sexism would men treat one another with respect."(p. 5) He brought together politically-minded prisoners, queers, and even some former sexual predators, to change the culture of what was acceptable and not on the tier.
We should take the example of MAS as inspiration to identify our own collective divisive behaviors on our unit, and attempt to build bridges to overcome these barriers. Mead's reputation of being a revolutionary, stand-up guy in defense of prisoners' rights preceded him across the facility, and helped him win allies in unlikely places.
In the mid-1970s, prison conditions were much different than they are today, and organizing MAS seems to have been relatively easy according to the account given. Of course there were challenges amongst the prisoner population itself (for example, MAS defending a convicted pedophile from being gang raped and sold as a sex slave put many people off) but the administration didn't play a significant role in thwarting the mission of MAS. The primary organizers were allowed to cell together, and several different prisoner organizations were mentioned which had their own meeting spaces.
Today it seems we are lucky if more than two prisoners can get together to do anything besides watch TV. This is a testament to the dialectical relationship between the prisoner movement and the forces of the state. During the time of MAS, the prisoner movement was relatively strong compared to where it's at today. After the booming prisoner rights movement of the 1970s, the state figured out that to undermine those movements they needed to develop methods to keep prisoners isolated from each other. Not the least significant of which is the proliferation of the control unit, where prisoners are housed for 23 or more hours per day with very little contact with the world outside their cell, let alone their facility.
MAS recognized that there is power in numbers. They collected donations from allies outside prison to purchase access to cells from other prisoners and designated them as "safe cells." MAS would identify newcomers to the facility who looked vulnerable and offer them protection in these group safe cells. This is in stark contrast to how the state offers so-called protection to victims of prisoner rape, which is generally to isolate them in control units.(1) Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee writes of this practice being used with transgender prisoners, and the concept applies to all prisoners who are gender oppressed in prison no matter their gender identity,
"In some cases this can be a safe place to avoid the violence of other prisoners. More often this isolation of transgender prisoners places them at greater risk of violence at the hands of correctional officers...
"Regardless of whether or not it provides some level of protection or safety, isolation is a poor alternative to general population. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological impacts of solitary confinement are tantamount to torture for many."(2)
As late as 2009, data was compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) stating "Approximately 2.1% of prison inmates and 1.5% of jail inmates reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, whereas approximately 2.8% of prison inmates and 2.0% of jail inmates reported staff sexual misconduct."(3) Certainly much of this staff-on-prisoner sexual assault occurs in general population, but isolating victims makes them that much more accessible.
Isolation as the best option for protection is the most obvious example of individualizing struggles of prisoners. What is more individualized than one persyn in a room alone all day? Individualizing prisoners' struggles is also carried out by the rejection of group grievances in many states. All across the country our comrades meet difficulty when attempting to file grievances on behalf of a group of prisoners. In California, a comrade attempted to simply cite a Director's Level Appeal Decision stating MIM is not a banned distributor in the state on h censorship appeal, but it was rejected because that Director's Level Decision "belongs to another inmate."(4) We must identify the state's attempts to divide us from our potential comrades in all forms, and actively work against it.
MAS worked to abolish prisoner-on-prisoner sexual slavery and rape, where the pigs were consenting to this gender oppression by noninterference. But the state paid for this hands-off approach when the autonomy of the movement actually united prisoners against oppression.
What about gender oppression in prisons today?
In 2003, under strong pressure from a broad range of activists and lobbyists, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), and in May 2012 the final rules were completed. With the initiation of the PREA, statistics on prison rape are becoming more available. But comprehensive, sweeping data on the frequency of prison rape does not exist and so we can not detect trends from 1975 to the present, or even from 2003 to present. Despite high hopes for the PREA from anti-rape activists, we can't yet determine if there has been any benefit, and in some cases the rates of prison rape seem to be increasing.
When MAS was picking out newcomers to recruit into their safe cells, they were identifying people who they saw as obviously queer, or in some way likely to be a target. MAS was using their intuition and persynal experience to identify people who are more likely to be victimized. According to the BJS, in their 2009 study, prisoners who are "white or multi-racial, have a college education, have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and experienced sexual victimization prior to coming to the facility" ... had "significantly higher" rates of inmate-on-inmate victimization.(1) Human Rights Watch similarly reported in 2001,
"Specifically, prisoners fitting any part of the following description are more likely to be targeted: young, small in size, physically weak, white, gay, first offender, possessing 'feminine' characteristics such as long hair or a high voice; being unassertive, unaggressive, shy, intellectual, not street-smart, or 'passive'; or having been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor. Prisoners with any one of these characteristics typically face an increased risk of sexual abuse, while prisoners with several overlapping characteristics are much more likely than other prisoners to be targeted for abuse."(5)
The descriptions above of who's more subject to prison rape are bourgeois definitions of what MIM called gender. Bullying, rape, sexual identity, and sexual orientation are phenomena that exist in the realm of leisure-time activity. Oppression that exists in leisure-time can generally be categorized as gender oppression. Gender oppression also rests clearly on health status and physical ability, which, in work-time also affects class status.(6) Since prisoners on the whole spend very little time engaged in productive labor, their time behind bars can be categorized as a twisted form of leisure-time. Prisons are primarily a form of national oppression, and gender is used as a means to this end.
Consider this statistic from BJS, "Significantly, most perpetrators of staff sexual misconduct were female and most victims were male: among male victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% of prisoners and 64% of jail inmates reported sexual activity with female staff."(3) An oversimplified analysis of this one statistic says the biologically-female staff are gendered male, and the prisoners are gendered female, no matter their biology. But in the United $tates, where all citizens enjoy gender privilege over the Third World, this oversimplification ignores the international scope of imperialism and the benefits reaped by Amerikans and the internal semi-colonies alike. While there is an argument to be made that the United $tates tortures more people in its prisons than any other country, this is balanced out with a nice juicy carrot (video games, tv, drugs, porn) for many prisoners. This carrot limits the need to use the more obvious forms of repression that are more widespread in the Third World. Some of our most prominent USW leaders determine that conditions where they're at are too comfortable and prevent people from devoting their lives to revolution, even though these people are actually on the receiving end of much oppression.
On a similar level, MIM(Prisons) advocates for the end of oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But we are not jumping on the bandwagon to legalize gay marriage.(7) We also don't campaign for sex reassignment surgery and hormones for prisoners.(8) This is because we see these as examples of gender privilege, and any privileges obtained by people in the United $tates inherently come on the backs of the Third World. Whereas in the time Men Against Sexism was formed the gay rights movement was militant and engaging in street wars against police, they are now overall placated by the class privilege they receive as members of the petty-bourgeoisie.
We encourage everyone facing oppression to recognize its true roots — capitalism and imperialism — and use their privileges to undermine the United $tates' world domination. Without an internationalist perspective, we will inevitably end up on the wrong side of history.