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Under Lock & Key

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[Hunger Strike] [Work Strike] [Calipatria State Prison] [California]
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Second Support Strike in Calipatria

We had another support strike here on Calipatria's A-Yard from Aug 26 to the 28th. The July 8th support strike went on for 7 days and involved all races. There was also broad refusal to go to work or school. This time around, however, only Mexicans refused food and people still went to work. On top of all that, the food strike was called off right after a race riot broke out on the yard between us (Mexicans), and the whites. We skipped 9 meals but I'm not even sure that the pigs reported this as a hunger strike.

The pigs have clever ways of manipulating our numbers here. During normal program we get a sack lunch as we exit the chow hall after breakfast and I believe they lump this together as one meal because during the July strike they didn't come around to acknowledge that we had skipped 9 meals and ask if we were participating in a hunger strike until after we skipped breakfast on the fifth day. By then about half of the strikers had started eating and going to work. They also followed their question of whether we were on hunger strike by asking if we would allow them to take the food we had in our cells. Many answered "no," others answered "yes." The following day the pigs came around and only bothered with the cells that answered "yes," going right by the cells that answered "no." CDCR claims that confiscating food is done in order to monitor our food intake. They can say that they couldn't start monitoring our food intake until they confiscated the food. If they start counting how many meals you skipped after they took the food then you're not even counted as a hunger striker because we only lasted a day and a half after that.

When they asked if they could remove food items they only accepted yes or no answers. I told the pig over and over that there was no food for them to take but that wasn't even a question. If you answered no then they could say that you acknowledged having food in your cell but wouldn't allow them to take it. They pretty much don't have to count anybody by using these tactics.

We need to go on an indefinite work strike that should last as long as they insist on having indefinite SHU terms, but there's not enough people with jobs in level 4 yards making it easy for CDCR to target those few inmates who refuse to work and replacing them with people from lower levels or PC yards.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This discussion of the latest action in Calipatria underscores the importance of our work to build unity and a United Front before engaging in serious actions. We commend everyone who stands up against the system and puts their lives and health at risk, but without unity we end up with small numbers of protesters and struggle to present a united position to the prison system. As we discussed at length in our article summing up the strike suspension, we don't anticipate the state will meet the strikers demands, but the struggle against torture continues.

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[Censorship] [ULK Issue 34]
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2013 Censorship Report

2013 Censor Chart All

As a mail-based prisoner support organization, the ability to get our mail in to our comrades and subscribers is an essential part of our ability to organize. If we can't get mail in, we can't help lead the anti-imperialist struggle behind bars. We are under no illusion that we'll ever be free from censorship; if our enemy hates us, we're probably doing something right! But the U.$. Constitution and our humynist morality support our insistence on fighting censorship as much as possible so that we can have as big of an impact on the international revolutionary movement as we can.

Often times our subscribers don't even know how much censorship they persynally are experiencing, let alone what's going on around the country. Our annual censorship report gives our subscribers an idea of how much political repression we're facing overall.

This year we started recording our mail in more detail, and removed a lot of flaws in how the data is aggregated (although it's not perfect!). At the bottom of the chart, "% Unconfirmed" tells you how accurate the snapshot is for that reporting year; the lower number the better, because a lower percent of unconfirmed mail means we actually know what happened to more of the mail we've sent in. Unconfirmed mail not only covers up censorship in cases where the prisoner never got the mail but we haven't been made aware of it; it also may exaggerate the level of censorship we're actually facing in a particular facility or state where our mail is actually getting in to some people but they haven't told us. Of course we know the content of our literature is not held in high regard by most prison staff, so assuming we're being censored when we aren't sure what is going on is probably more accurate than not.

A facility is considered to be banning our literature for that reporting year if they have censored two or more items, and no items have been confirmed as received. An entire state is considered to be banning our literature if they have censored any mail, and no mail has been reported as received. Another note on the chart: it is only a snapshot of what is going on with our mail. A facility might be banning us in the same state where we also had victories, or a complete statewide ban may only actually affect a few subscribers (plus the potential new subscribers we might gain if our lit wasn't censored).

To improve our data on the level of censorship we're experiencing, you may receive a list from us of mail we've sent you, asking you to confirm receipt or censorship of each item. This list is called an Unconfirmed Mail Form (UMF). We recommend everyone keep a log of all your mail, incoming and outgoing, with dates received/sent, from/to who, and contents. That way if your mail with us, or anyone, is tampered with, you are one step ahead of the game. And if you get a UMF, you will be able to fill it out accurately rather than guessing. But do not wait to receive a UMF to tell us what you've gotten! When you write to us, you should always tell us what you've gotten from us since the last time you wrote. That will save time and money so we can send in more books and literature.

Facilities banning all our mail in the last reporting year:

  • Colorado - Arkansas Valley State Prison
  • Connecticut - Northern Correctional Institution and Northern Supermax
    this is the second consecutive year in Northern Supermax
  • Florida - Suwanee Annex
  • Illinois - Menard Correctional Center (two years in a row)
  • Michigan - Gus Harrison Correctional Facility
  • South Carolina - Leiber Correctional Institution
  • Utah - Central Utah Correctional Facility
  • Virginia - Hampton Roads Regional Jail (two years in a row)
  • Wisconsin - Green Bay Correctional Institution and Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Facilities banning ULK in the last reporting year:

  • Connecticut - MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
    Reason: "Rejected publication per the Media Review Board"
  • Florida - Franklin Correctional Institution
    Reason: MIM investigated as Security Threat Group
  • Florida - Jackson Correctional Institution
    No reason given
  • Illinois - Menard Correctional Center
    Reasons: "Threat to safety and security"
  • Michigan - G Robert Correctional Facility
    No reason given
  • New York - Riverview Correctional Facility
    Reasons: "Incites disobedience, describes gang activity"
  • North Carolina - Marion Correctional Institution
    Reasons: "MIM Distributors on disapproved publication list," "encourages insurrection"
  • North Carolina - Warren Correctional Institution
    Reason: "On ban list"
  • Pennsylvania - State Correctional Institution Waymart
    Reasons: "Unauthorized enclosure" and no reason given
  • Wisconsin - Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
    No reason given

Florida is also attempting to classify Under Lock & Key as a "Security Threat Group," which would likely make all mail from MIM Distributors banned as gang-related, and subject anyone in possession of mail from us to disciplinary action. We have not received an update on this process since April. We do know that for a couple years Florida was a booming United Struggle from Within state, and some of our more active comrades have recently asked to be removed from our mailing list for fear of repression. We aren't sure whether the administration is threatening parole eligibility or physical abuse, or other forms of torture such as solitary confinement; or if they've already gone ahead and beaten the shit out of these comrades to get them to stop talking to us. Yet we've seen this enough times to know that something like that is going on. It's incredible the lengths Amerikans will go to to keep someone who's already locked up in prison from doing something as innocuous as reading a newsletter, participating in a study group, and talking to other humyn beings.

A popular reason for citing censorship in Nevada has been "Per AR 750... Address labels are unauthorized." Our guess is that this policy of the Nevada Department of Corrections would not hold up in court as being reasonably related to penological interests and the safety of the institution. A subscriber in Nevada who has been missing mail due to this rule should take on this struggle in a lawsuit! Another comrade in that state reported that prison officials have admitted ULK is not banned, but now they are resorting to "unofficial censorship" by simply throwing out incoming and outgoing mail. This is another reason why it's important to track your correspondence.

Victories and Struggles

Appealing censorship and filing grievances can lead to small but significant victories. The victories in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and on the Federal level are attributed solely to prisoners filing appeals of the censorship, without any supporting letters from MIM Distributors. Of course not all appeals will be granted, and we don't expect to ever be completely free of censorship from the state. But we encourage everyone to at least attempt to appeal all censorship of their mail. Send us copies of your documents and we can publicize and track them on our website www.prisoncensorship.info.

In the last year we've focused much energy on fighting censorship in Missouri and North Carolina. In Missouri we've met some success with letter writing, but in North Carolina it has been a different story. After a surge in USW activity in North Carolina, every issue of Under Lock & Key has been placed on their ban list for over 3 years straight. Upon appeal, not only do North Carolina prisoncrats tend to simply uphold the decision of the lower level with no explanation, but when asked to explain how their "independent" review process works, we are given no response. When we filed a public records request with the state, the only documents they had to demonstrate that the independent review process existed was a stack of the original censorship notifications, further putting into question the existence of the "review process." We have comrades working on this case in North Carolina who could benefit greatly from some additional legal assistance.

Multiple subscribers in Illinois have volunteered to assist MIM(Prisons) in fighting censorship in that state, and one has two lawsuits pending on this issue. While ULK is not getting in at all in some facilities in the state, some of our subscriber-volunteers are able to receive ULK and copies of the censor documentation. Also they are intimately familiar with the mail rules and appeal procedures in their state. Although it is a slower process for volunteers on theinside working via mail, this has been a very beneficial campaign, and one that anyone with legal knowledge can contribute to in their own state. MIM(Prisons) facilitates a Prisoners' Legal Clinic (PLC) to help jailhouse lawyers plug into projects that will push forward the collective legal knowledge and experience of the anti-imperialist movement behind bars. Write in to get involved! Any lawyer or law student who is interested in helping prisoners push forward these anti-censorship lawsuits should contact us.

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[Varner Supermax] [Arkansas] [ULK Issue 34]
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Day of Peace Protest in Arkansas

For the annual day of peace we pulled together approximately 70 prisoners scattered around the institution. We avoided the cafeteria at all costs and kept our contact with the pigs at a minimum. We had a lot of cats who faked or simply broke weak because of their watered down hearts, but as a whole we are proud to say that you can add Arkansas/Varner unit to the list of participants.

Next year we're going to expand with a stated goal of at least a thousand participants crossing all lines toward producing unity among the poor and oppressed is a struggle that we must take step-by-step, making small gains with each step until we've achieved our goal.

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[Mental Health] [Michigan]
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September 9: We Need to Remember This Day

never forget Attica September 9 1971
Each and every prisoner should remember this day as the anniversary of September 9, 1971 because of these comrades and freedom revolutionary fighters, who fought and died in the prison uprising at Attica to fight the oppression, exploitation, abuse and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

A lot of rights and privileges prisoners have today came about through these warriors and true liberation soldiers at war with this corrupt DOC throughout this country.

It's necessary we reconstruct our thoughts on imprisonment of New Afrikans or Latino Nations. In reality the reason there is so little discussion or debate concerning this topic is because far too many of us are engrossed and trapped in major media for our information. Simply by investigating alternative news/information, we would find factual information on various experiments being conducted on our New Afrikan prisoners across the country. Prisoner modification specialist are performing massive "biological" and "chemical" experiments illegally and daily on New Afrikans, for the sole purpose of controlling their minds. For example, a large number of New Afrikan prisoners were forced to undergo electro shock treatment under orders of a Dr. Martin Groder. The same Groder who in 1962 gave a seminar on brainwashing prisoners and, according to Jessica Mitford's article "Kind and Usual Punishment," the treatment only targeted New Afrikan prisoners, because they were labeled as trouble makers for refusing to follow rules which stripped them of any thought of humanity, viewing themselves as less than human. (Truth Telling Report of 2007 by Bro. Najee J. Ingian. Aldaurum Publishing, St. Louis, MO. Aldaurum pub.)

Ever since the rebellion at Attica, the Department of Criminal justice has been coming up with ways and ideas for controlling prison populations. In the state of Michigan, MDOC instituted tasers to control prisoners and they have a lot of snitches feeding the pigs information and many prisoners are getting cases and put in the hole or transferred to other institutions, and there are no communications throughout the prison system to other prisoners. In addition, if your people from the outside send you a message, if the inspector catch it, your pay will be closed down for months at a time.

Many rights and privileges the comrades at Attica and others fought and suffered and died for are being overturned by the MDOC. I will extend honors to all the comrades of the Attica rebellion and other prisoner's struggles throughout the United $tates. All I can say is fight on, struggle on and all you have to lose is your chains!

USW leaders I want to thank you for standing up strong behind the enemy lines and working to educate the lumpen because I know these comrades are very hard headed and think they know everything. But being upright, independent and fearless, against all odds and not fearing the outcome of whatever, this is what a true USW is all about. So free your minds from the control of the belly of the beast! We got to continue and strive, struggle and fight in this world revolutionary war that is going on against oppression, exploitation, racism, sexism and injustice and demand freedom for all prisoners throughout the world. This is truly a day of solidarity and every September 9 is a day of remembrance for all comrades in every prison throughout the world.

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[Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 35]
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Tactical Move in Texas Grievance Campaign

Our struggle here in the belly of the beast continues! I'm writing to update you on the recent communication I received from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning the petition I sent them in regards to the grievance system. In the DOJ's response to my petition, they wrote, "The Special Litigation Section only handles cases that arise from widespread problems that affect groups of people."

I have not received a response from the many other mailing resources you indicated on the petition. Therefore I suggest that those engaged in fighting against this unjust Texas grievance system gather all petitions and send them to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, PHB 950, Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20530. Comrades, let's flood their office with these petitions!


MIM(Prisons) responds: The imperialists will use every excuse in the book to justify their oppression. So one piece of our struggle involves making it harder for them to make excuses, which further exposes them as the willful oppressor. In that light we are promoting this comrade's suggestion as a next step for the campaign in Texas.

UPDATE: Texas prisoners also need to send formal complaints letters/I-60's to the Central Grievance Office, PO Box 99 Huntsville, TX 77342-0099. Also, MIM(Prisons) has a new guide available for the Texas grievance system combining the information from a couple supporters of this campaign.

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[Gender] [Abuse] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 35]
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Fighting Gender Oppression in Nevada Builds Unity Among Prisoners

On 21 August 2013 I was doing research as part of my challenge to my illegal perpetual imprisonment — officially I am being kept in prison forever only because I have no birth certificate, i.e. I am a prisoner of the war on terror.

Upon leaving the law library, I was groped/sexually assaulted by a senior CO under the guise of a "pat search." After the incident (and collecting my wits) I made a written complaint to the unit caseworker. Since then I have had my cell searched, been given a notice of charges, been sanctioned, and have received special attention from the good ole boys in the form of attempts at intimidation, verbal abuse, and derisive sexually charged remarks concerning my sexual identity and persuasion. In the wake of this incident, however, something else has also occurred, and that is an unexpected level of support from both comrades known and, until this incident, unknown.

It is my hope that this incident will galvanize people and raise their awareness of the need for unification. I'm not the only prisoner, transgender or otherwise, to be sexually assaulted at this prison by guards. It is only one of the many abuses we are exposed to, one of the many symptoms of a degenerate system that thrives on violence and exploitation.

It is my hope that in time our solidarity will prevent abuses rather than merely tend to the damage caused by them.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Prisoners are in a unique position of gender oppression in Amerika. While the vast majority of prisoners are male, they face gender oppression on the scale otherwise experienced by biological wimmin. This is because prison guards use sexual harassment as a power tool, and a form of abuse. It is good to hear about people coming together to help this comrade in this battle. This is the kind of unity we need to build against all forms of oppression. We can look to the struggles in Washington state from Men Against Sexism as an example of prisoners coming together to fight gender oppression.(see ]ULK 29)

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[Control Units] [Organizing] [Florida]
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Florida Conditions Differ, Struggle Continues

I don't read much in ULK about Florida prisons. This is unfortunate because readers may believe the Florida Department of Corruption (FDOC) is like the California, Texas or Arizona systems. This is not true. There are conditional differences as well as attitudinal differences between the north and south Florida prisons.

Some notable conditional differences are in what has been referred to in ULK as SHUs and the unity among Florida prisons. The FDOC has Control Management Units (CM). One can find these on CMI, CMII, or CMIII for 3, 2, or 1 year, respectively. In the beginning, the early 1990s, these were sensory deprivation cells. During the CM heyday of the late 1990s you didn't even have to commit a disciplinary infraction, just be considered a 'management problem.' Torture was the name of the game. Suicide was frequent. With help from the outside, lawsuits were filed and settled, and the CM system changed at the close of the 90s. This did not bring a close to the shattered lives of the survivors of these imperialist torture cells. FDOC still has CM, but it is not as easy to put someone on CM status, and they are not sensory deprivation any longer. Brutality and rampant use of tear gas sill happen, but not as bad or often as before. I urge comrades in the other states to keep up the struggle and to not think any sacrifice you may make is too much. A couple of my friends lost their lives trying to get out of those torture cells and two more took their own lives after release from prison due to continuing mental instability after years in CM. It doesn't go away when the door opens!

It appears to me, after reading several issues of ULK, that there is more unity in other states. There is no organization among different prisons nor even among individuals within a single prison here in Florida. They are more like cliques operating for extortion purposes. Unity is virtually nonexistent against the administration.

Unity is not even a concern of the guards. In my present experience, I am a peer facilitator in a certain program. The institution requires everyone in the program to live in the same dormitory and to meet at least once a day, 25 at a time in a separate classroom, to complete character based programs, i.e. imperialist brainwashing, that I then conduct unsupervised - Ha! Comrades, you would think this is the perfect opportunity to organize and unify, but it doesn't work that way. There is much inner struggle. When I speak of how the imperialists define a box and then they say it is our own fault that we don't fit in it; that we are here, I am met with scorn. I have started a slogan: Power to the poor people, but it is slow to catch on - no one is poor? When I filed a grievance on an officer for not doing her job it was labeled as 'snitching on the police' as if that's even possible! When the water cooler broke and we needed it fixed, I asked who all will file a grievance. No one would: no one did. There is a fear about unifying to file grievances.

Furthermore, as I stand up and speak on oppression and revolutionary ideas; about socialism and communism, I alienate myself more and more from my fellow white nation. It is just like a comrade from MIM wrote me recently - I am committing class suicide (a small sacrifice indeed). I am labeled communist as if that were a dirty word! If any comrades know of a technique I can use to get these guys united, let me know.

North Florida prisons vary from south Florida prisons in the general attitudes of the guards and administrators. The north Florida prisons are mostly operated by the white nation. These prisons are more structured, restrictive, and command more discipline. The south Florida prisons are mostly operated by the Black and Latino nations and are not as well organized, loosely run, and more laid back. It is not so easy to get a disciplinary report or go to disciplinary confinement while in a south Florida prison.

I said that to say this; keep the struggle against the man, not yourselves. Remember who the enemy is no matter what type of prison you are in, be it a north or south Florida type. Just because some of you have better conditions than others doesn't mean be pacified, it means you can struggle more; struggle harder.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises a good point about analyzing the conditions where we are at. Each state, and even each prison, has different conditions with different contradictions and struggles. While this comrade is frustrated by the current lack of unity in Florida prisons, s/he gives a good example of unified struggle from the 90s and so we can see that conditions we face change over time. We do have the power to affect these conditions. It won't happen overnight, but through education we will build unity. Where there was unity around a shared struggle against Control Management Units, we might look to build unity today around another common struggle. This is a challenge for USW comrades in Florida: to determine what issue will be best to focus on at this time. Regardless of the issue, spreading Under Lock & Key and other revolutionary material, and talking to others about their situation and the system, will help build consciousness. When we are met with scorn when we talk about the imperialists, we may need to take another approach, start from something that is bothering someone. Try to tie this back to the imperialist system so they can see the connections. And remember that even if we don't gain a comrade today, we may have planted the seeds for revolutionary consciousness.

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[Control Units] [Harris County Jail Facility] [Texas]
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Fighting Long Term Isolation in Texas Jail

Under the pretense of not allowing any harm to befall me, I was placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg). Texas law states inmates in Ad-Seg must be afforded at least one hour a day, every day, out of their cell for exercise and/or meaningful recreation. I stayed in Ad-Seg for approximately nine months, and at no time was I granted any time out of my cell. I suffered significantly due to this cage. Without exercise my muscles atrophied and now cause me severe pain. My mental state declined greatly, with horrible depression, thoughts of suicide, all around mental anguish.

Well, I wrote several grievances about these deplorable conditions, all of which were denied (of course). Then, I filed a formal complaint against Harris County Jail with Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS). TCJS then responded that the "24 hour" lockdown was appropriate and they will not pursue the issue any further. I took the next step and filed a lawsuit (form 1983) against the jail, the Sheriff of Harris County, the Mayor and Captain over the detention bureau. I stated that they violated my 8th Amendment right (to be free from cruel and unusual punishment) as well as my 14th Amendment right (the right to due process). This civil action was filed 4 April 2012. There have been multiple motions filed both on the plaintiff's side and the defendant's. One mistake got me close to the case being thrown out. It seems inmates in county jails on "detention centers" are not protected under the 8th Amendment. They get to decide who is worthy or not of receiving rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

My case is still in the works, but when I get my day in court in front of a jury I'm confident I will win this lawsuit. I am suing not only for monetary compensation, but I'm trying to help my fellow comrades by asking the judge to declare this 24-hour lockdown illegal and immoral, and order the jail to cease and desist this barbaric practice.


MIM(Prisons) adds: In our ongoing struggle against control units we have seen the dramatic and detrimental health effects of this system of torture for social control. Even the United Nations has condemned long-term solitary confinement in Amerikan prisons. But still prisons and even jails continue to use this practice. This is not surprising since we see these units used as a tool of social control. Prisoners who fight the system in any way, or are perceived as educators or organizers of other prisoners, are isolated to try to limit their work. We have been collecting statistics on control units because there are no public numbers on the scope of this torture. To help with this project write to us for a survey about control units in your state.

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[Abuse] [Connally Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 34]
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Deaths from Heat in Texas as Livestock Provided Better Conditions than Prisoners

In late August 2013, in an unprecedented move, the head of the Texas Prison Guard Union, Mr. Lance Lowry, joined a lawsuit filed against TDCJ by Scott Medlock of the Texas Civil Rights project. Mr. Medlock has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Brad Livingston, the Executive Director of TDCJ on behalf of the families of 14 prisoners who died because of neglect and the oppressive extreme heat in Texas prison facilities.

This announcement comes on the cusp of many revelations that TDCJ continues to engage in behavior which shows a blatant disregard for the health and safety not just of prisoners housed in their facilities, but a blatant lack of care or respect for their employees also. However, my focus is on the prisoner because I am a prisoner. I stand in solidarity with the prisoners housed on the Connally Unit in Kennedy, Texas whose water supply was taken from them by a Warden who has ignored the basic human needs of the prisoners in her care.

Prisoners at Connally Unit are on water rations, they are being denied showers, and they can't flush their toilets! They are being forced to live in the heat and the filth because TDCJ decided to give the water well that serviced the prison to the residents of Kennedy!

In August we learned that Brad Livingston approved the spending of $750,000 on 5 climate controlled buildings for pigs! Literally, the Agency of TDCJ has spent three quarters of a million dollars on pigs which prisoners raise for consumption in TDCJ. Prisoners are dying down here Brad, what the hell are you doing?

But it gets better comrades. The American Correctional Association (ACA) has even made Brad Livingston the current chair of the organization that makes policies for all Amerikan prisons and jails across the United $tates. When the subject of heat-related safety precautions came across his desk, Mr. Livingston decided no heat standards were needed! So as we clearly see ACA is a sham and a fraud!

The fact that the head of the Prison Guard Union in Texas joined the lawsuit against TDCJ is a sign that prison officials like Brad Livingston have been passing misinformation and disinformation about the conditions in TDCJ for years. Soon a murder cover-up will be exposed with Brad Livingston being a chief culprit.

If you were thinking about joining USW and are housed in one of Texas's many gulags where inhumane treatment is the status quo and norm, now's the time. As Bobby used to say, we must Seize the Time! I don't know who got first down, but we got next!


Notes: 1. The Prison Show! KPFT, 90.1 FM Houston, TX, 30 August 2013
2. Austin American Statesman - Prison pig barns cooled while humans sweat. 25 August 2013


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the oppressed taking advantage of contradictions among the oppressors. It is rare that we can unite with part of the criminal injustice system against another part, but in the case of this lawsuit, if we can play some prisoncrats off against others, we can work this to the favor of the oppressed. Even better, and rarer, is when oppressors see the injustice and side with the oppressed, actively biting the hand that feeds them.

These preventable deaths from heat are a sad but clear example of the waste of humyn life under imperialism. A system that values profit over people, imperialism will never fix the problems with the criminal injustice system. But we can win some small reforms, and prevent some deaths, while exposing the system and building a movement that can take it down and put a system of people's justice in its place.

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[Culture] [Gender] [U.S. Imperialism] [ULK Issue 34]
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Movie Review: Girl Rising

An extreme redefinition of the term "revolution"

"Once again we are presented with a campaign to end third world poverty and oppression that is incapable of confronting the roots of this oppression because it is bound up in the cycle it pretends to critique."(1)

I couldn't of put it better myself as those are the exact same sentiments/thoughts that went through my head as I watched Girl Rising, the highly touted new documentary film that is concerned with drawing attention to, and putting a stop to the oppression of young girls in the "developing world."

Now, being that this special aired on the info-tainment CNN television station I decided to watch to see just how exactly cable TV would handle this topic. Predictably enough, CNN and their NGO partners (Non Governmental Organizations) show us what most anti-imperialists are already aware of: that most wimmin and girls in the Third World suffer at exponentially higher rates than their First World counterparts. Beyond that however, the film didn't really make any poignant statements relative to the emancipation of wimmin, neither did they explain to us how these girls are supposed to rise, despite the film's name. Instead, the film-makers, the so-called NGOs, and the corporate sponsors they are both in bed with, used the children depicted in the film as a way to launch yet another offensive at the supposedly backwards culture of the oppressed. The take away? "Just look at how miserable these girls in the Third World are, look at how they suffer." The reason? Backwards, internal development, lack of First World ingenuity and innovation, and the reactionary culture of the global south. And the answer? Immediate imperialist intervention whether by bullion or by bullet.

Girl Rising is a movie centered around the life experiences of five Third World girls whose stories are told to us in order to garner much-needed attention to the endemic problem of gross patriarchal oppression in the periphery. Yet the patriarchy is never even referred to. Furthermore, the film leaves one with a rather pessimistic outlook for girls in the impoverished zones absent a western-style bourgeois democracy. And indeed, it would seem then that this documentary was designed just to induce such feelings. Conveniently enough this film fails to mention just how the oppressor of wimmin and girls in these countries is not mere happenstance, but systematic and directly linked to the uneven development of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Nor does it mention that the systematic oppression of young children in these societies (as the ones featured in Girl Rising) are a permanent fixture and of complete necessity for the ongoing parasitic privilege of beneficiary populations such as the United $tates. The perpetuation of capitalism in these countries, and the finance capital that is sent there and dressed in the veneer of "aid," is part and parcel of keeping these nations from developing self-sufficient economies independent of the global status quo.

Almost every other commercial during this two hour presentation is from some imperialist multi-national bragging about what they do for Third World wimmin and girls, when in reality all they are doing is commodifying these girls' oppression. Capital One, BNY Wealth Management and Intel all had their greedy hands in the cookie jar. Here's a perfect example: During an Intel commercial that aired during the movie, a narrative states: "A girl is not defined by what society sees, but how she sees herself." Now, besides the obvious commercialization of its product, Intel is just flat out wrong because, while that sweet philosophical statement holds some truth here in the United $tates where wimmin have "rights" (privileges) and know how to have them enforced, it is a completely different story in the Third World where the gender roles are not the same and are directly dependent on capital.

Amerika maintains the image that they are the gold standard when it comes to gender relations, just as they maintain the gold standard when it comes to how they treat their workers. Point in fact, the very first commercial during the film is brought to us by a feminine hygiene product maker depicting their version of how they see girls rising in the periphery. They show us how they make an African girl's dream come true by giving her the chance to direct a commercial for the day. Surely this dream is not reflective of the billions of Third World girls currently toiling under the weight of comprador regimes, death squads, sexual slavery, feudalistic landlords, and assembly line sweatshops. No, from the looks of this girl it is the dream of a privileged sector child whose parents might very well be a part of the technocratic petty-bourgeois intelligentsia of this much hyped "developing world." A far cry from the realities of the lives depicted in the film.

From little Wadley in disease ridden and underdeveloped Haiti, whose dream is to be able to attend school with her mates, but who is unfortunately unable to because her mother just doesn't have the money. Or Zuma in Nepal who was sold into slavery as a child, was liberated from her abusive masters by a teacher and now as a young adult organizes other girls to liberate those still held in captivity. Yazmin in Egypt who is no more than nine but is raped by some scumbag and then refused help from the police because the chance of prosecution is little to none. Azmera in Eritrea who narrowly escapes a life in bondage, and Senna in Peru whose life seems doomed to mining for scraps of gold. All these lives and their portrayal in Girl Rising are but glimpses into the real yoke of imperialist oppression.

We are constantly told that the mode of production called capitalism is the best humynity has to offer, and that a capitalist economy has already been proven superior to socialism, yet whenever the mode of production has been revolutionized and a socialist economy has been put into effect the people of those societies have seen a tremendous growth in the overall well being of their populations. This is most notably true for wimmin who've been immediately pulled out of their traditional roles as housewives and mothers and thrown directly into the production process, in which they help their nation create not only sustainability but wealth (in particular see socialist China and the USSR). The conditions created by wimmin's participation in the production process likewise creates the condition for participation in the political process where they assume power utilizing revolutionary politics to push people out of the middle and dark ages and into the New Democratic period in which the people truly hold power.

Certainly wherever socialism has triumphed it has been only as a direct result of wimmin's role and participation as guerrilla warriors, battalion captains and proletarian-feminist leaders in liberating her nation from not only the imperialists but the patriarchy; as only by defeating the one can she defeat the other.

The liberation of wimmin is not accomplished via equal pay for equal work nor by the granting of "abortion on demand" as these are really only privileges given to the gender aristocracy for their allegiance to empire. Instead of advocating for more privileges that are contingent on the backs of their Third World "sisters," the NGOs and the First World pseudo-feminists at the helm of such propaganda like Girl Rising and the "Because I am a Girl" campaign(1) should all aim their guns at the imperialist rape and plunder of the periphery that makes it possible for the First World pseudo-feminists to have "abortion on demand" and equal pay for equal work! Real feminist leadership can only come from the proletarian perspective and not from First World wimmin who are really just globally gendered males who have a real material interest in holding up the global system of oppression and exploitation.(2)

"If this campaign actually wants to change 'the plight' of girls then it should endorse wimmin's militias and factory takeovers on the part of women and girls. Such a revolutionary agenda, though, would put it at odds with its corporate sponsors and so, like every NGO, it will remain caught within an imperialist framework."(1)

Liberation of the neo-colonies from the patriarchal grips of the imperialists will set wimmin free in the global countryside; not charity from the imperialist centers.

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