We, the members of GBW & Associates, and the residents of the Will County Adult Detention Facility who shall this day, and henceforth, willingly pledge their allegiance to this Declaration of Unity, and consequently to the United Front for Peace in Prisons, state that:
The imperialist oppressors, having dominated over the poor, the impoverished, the weak, and the innocent, all to their great harm and injury, are deserving of no loyalty or fealty, and must be fought against utilizing every tool available;
The principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, to wit, Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism, and Independence, provide a core of unity among the oppressed masses in prisons in the United States; and
These principles shall be adhered to by every person who reports to fight against imperialism and the tyrannical system of exploitation known as capitalism and the subsequent evils propagated by such system.
For the foregoing reasons, we hereby enter into covenant, and pledge to uphold the five principles, to defend the Declaration of Unity, and to promote the peace and welfare of all mankind.
We further pledge to defend and protect the poor, the weak, the innocent, and the oppressed utilizing any tools available; to utilize all possessed skills and talents to fight against imperialist oppressors; and to show our loyalty and devotion to any person reporting to do the same.
Be it enacted this tenth day of October: In the year of the common era two thousand and fourteen, by the unanimous consent of the undersigned GBW & Associates, residents of the Will County Adult Detention Facility.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This statement comes from a group of jailhouse lawyers specializing in prisoners' rights advocacy and litigation. Recognizing that they have skills specifically important to the legal arena of our anti-imperialist battle, these comrades have built an independent institution of the oppressed. This sets a good example for everyone: you should get in wherever you fit in. If you are an artist, get involved by creating revolutionary art. If you are a writer, submit articles for Under Lock & Key. If you are bilingual, help out with Spanish translation. And for everyone, constantly study and learn. Join the MIM(Prisons)-led study groups, and form your own local study groups. We can provide literature and study guides, but it's up to you to get involved, contribute work, and build independence.
On 8 October 2014 I was suddenly awoken by men in black (literally) with guns who simply stated, "Get dressed you're leaving ADX." The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) is considered the end of the line in the Federal prison system and the conditions of confinement are often more extreme than other facilities. ADX is where terrorist suspects are held in the United $tates.
While I had fought for 11 years to be released from solitary confinement, I was not expecting this sudden transfer. I was compelled to leave my property in my cell, rushed to an airport nearby, and placed on a privately chartered Gulfstream Jet. It was just me and the SWAT-type team of officers and pilots, on an aircraft clearly more used to ferrying billionaires than prisoners.
I was hopeful I was finally about to be treated with dignity and released from solitary since my plight has been chronicled in the courts and national media for years. I was very wrong.
I was flown to the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri which was built in 1933. I was thrown in solitary confinement in a small 6x9 foot cell that contains only a bed and toilet. The TV, 2 hours daily recreation and other amenities I had in ADX were gone in an instant, meager as they were. My only mental stimuli is to hope for mail or to watch aircraft land out my large window. I'm told I'm being mentally "evaluated," though no one seems to have time to do so. The conditions are so spartan and oppressive I am shocked.
That the U.$. government would respond to the largest class action lawsuit in its history, and scores of negative press (see: www.supermaxlawsuit.com), by treating me worse speaks to an audacity and arrogance only the U.S. Government is capable of. There is much left to achieve but I will continue to report on my journey through solitary nation.
MIM(Prisons) adds: For years we have been fighting to shut down prison control units because they are used just as this writer describes: as punishment for those who are resisting oppression. And for those who don't find solitary confinement sufficient inducement to stop filing lawsuits and protesting abuses, the Federal prison system has created even more extreme isolation as punishment, including and exceeding the notorious Supermax at ADX.
The imperialist system relies on these control units to punish and intimidate activists. The end of long-term solitary confinement is not possible today given the current balance of forces in the United $tates, but public opinion against them is spreading. It is our task to push an abolishionist stance against torture and not allow for reforms that maintain this tool of repression as a legal option under bourgeois rule. In the medium-term this is a winnable battle under capitalism, but we have a long way to go.
Fort Collins Colorado - un joven Chicano de 25 años fue asesinado por un policía hoy, en lo que fue catalogado como un robo que salio mal. Los detalles todavía no están claros y la censuración en las prisiones esta interfiriendo con la recolección de información, pero la noticia ha creado un impacto masivo en la población chicanas dentro de las prisiones. Una pregunta que me viene a la mente, si no es suficiente estar en prisión debajo de un sistema nuevo de autoridad brutal en Colorado, y ahora los policías nos están matando, donde vamos a encontrar alivio?
Y el hecho de que los chicanos están usando violencia en contra de si mismos con las diferentes facciones de agrupaciones internas, ¿cómo nosotros vamos a usar este asesinato para crear revolución a las lineas fronterizas en Colorado? Con la mente y conciencia llena de tristeza, ¿cómo nosotros podemos usar esta lamentable situación para crear unidad?
Violencia entre los Chicanos en las agrupaciones internas solo justifica la violencia en nuestra contra por parte de la policía. Mi último articulo centrado alrededor de Mike Brown ahora empuja en genocidio, tanto externo como interno, hacia el frente y deberá de ser usado para recordarnos que nuestras condiciones son nuestra responsabilidad.
Aztlán y la responsabilidad social por su liberación empieza con la paz entre todos los chicanos dentro de todos los grupos de las agrupaciones internas. Sin embargo, por mas sorprendente que éste caso es en éste momento, me gustaría tomar éste tiempo para expresar mis mas profundas condolencias, tristeza y solidaridad a los amigos, familia y seres queridos de este joven compañero en la lucha.
Chicanos cautivos: no re-accionen con focoismo, actos prematuros de violencia encontra de algún guardia solo justificara el uso de fuerza y violencia en nuestra contra por parte de la maquina estatal.
Revolución es nuestra única opción. Para cambiar nuestro dolor a una fuerza educacional revolucionaria, que salvara a nuestros hijos y compañeros en lucha.
Entiendan que la policía estatal y la clase imperialista un general sostiene en dominio imaginario sobre nosotros, con el uso de cosas como el patriotismo, y llamando a responsabilidad social a nuestro gobierno. Esto no es nuestra obligación, nuestra obligación es terminar con las divisiones internas y crear unión. Si nosotros no lo hacemos, entonces ninguno de nosotros estará a salvo. Es tiempo de vivir por algo más. Peleemos para atrás!
I have late breaking news to report regarding the Texas offender grievance manual. There was a memo sent out to all Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prisons from the Access-to-Courts Supervisor, Frank Hoke. Here is the note as written:
Effective immediately the offender grievance manual will no longer be available in the law library. As such, please remove all copies of the offender grievance manual from your shelves. Make a note on your holdings list it has been removed and in its place write 'summary of significant changes to the offender grievance program.' The next revised holdings list will not include the offender grievance manual. In addition, cut out the below notice and post it in your law library for offender review. Should you have any questions, please contact the office at 936-437-4816.
Added: Emergency grievances that are repetitive in nature or have been previously identified and or addressed in another grievance will not be considered an emergency grievance and will be processed as a regular grievance. If at any time grievance staff cannot determine the grievance is repetitive in nature, the grievance will be processed as an emergency grievance according to the guidelines established in the offender grievance operations manual.
Added: 3rd party allegations of sexual abuse. Note: allegations of 3rd party sexual harassment will not be addressed and removed. The term 'specialty grievances' has been removed. Non-emergency grievances shall be processed as regular grievances subject to all screening criteria
Revised: time limits: disciplinary appeals and step 2 grievances shall be processed within 40 days of receipt from offender
Added: grievances that do not describe a reported use of force that was excessive or unnecessary do not warrant any further action and shall be considered non-grievable *enforcing*: 1 issue per grievance
9/30/14 9:24am authority: Frank Hoke.
I am letting all comrades know about this because it affects us all, and now we have no access to what the grievance codes are, the rules of the grievance manual, etc. This is a step in the wrong direction.
I did receive some letters back in response to my grievance petition. One came from Congressman Lloyd Doggett who wrote "Thank you for sharing your concerns with me. I am honored that you have the confidence in me to assist you with this matter. However since Congress has no jurisdiction over state issues I have forwarded your communication to the honorable Susan King Texas State House of Representatives, PO Box 2376, Abilene, TX 79604. Again thank you for taking the time to write me." Administrative Review & Risk Management sent a note when they received the grievance petition. They marked "please utilize the offender grievance procedure to address your concerns." The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) mailed an interoffice communication to me that an OIG investigation will not be conducted in response to the grievance petition.
MIM(Prisons) responds: After four years of campaigning to demand grievances be addressed in Texas, we now have the prison administrators taking action. This action is not to address prisoners' grievances, as their laws and procedures require, but rather to stop prisoners from finding out what the rules say. Fortunately, we already have an extensive guide to fighting grievances in Texas, which we distribute to prisoners, and it contains all the information needed from the TDCJ's grievance manual. We won't let this administrative move slow down the Texas campaign. In response we call on all Texas prisoners to make use of our grievance pack to fight the system on every violation of rules and regulations. File grievances and demand they be addressed. Flood the prison and the appeals system with legitimate grievances and show them that removal of their rules will not stop this fight. Write to MIM(Prisons) for a copy of the Texas grievance materials.
Most prisoners don't know that the only reason some injustices happen to them is because the person before them it was done to did nothing about it. So it continues into custom, then into practice, then into policy. Once in policy, Court Order Injunction is the only means to prove unconstitutionality of such acts and force them to be changed. Therefore we need to fight injustice while it is still just a custom!
In ULK 33"Solidarity: Dead in the Feds", a Federal prisoner reported on a spontaneous action that took place to protest poor meals in the Security Housing Unit at the United $tates Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana. 53 prisoners participated in a collective action but most quickly retreated. Clothing was taken away and everyone was placed on meager "disciplinary meals."
Besides the spontaneous direct action approach which quickly fizzled out, another tactic those comrades could take is to get those 53 prisoners to pick up a pen and a grievance and file the case law outlined on Donegan v. Fair, 859 F2d 1059.1063 (1st Cir 1988) (Statute: Prisoners have liberty interest in receiving nutritionally adequate food and meals).
I would also recommend to read the unit's use of force policy to see what they can and cannot do to you, being that this correspondent in Pollock was gassed five times. Getting gassed when done without reason is unconstitutional. See Stringer v. Rowe, 616 F2d 993 at 998 (7th Cir 1980).
The taking of clothes is arbitrary and capricious and done to punish without penological purpose. The case Reeves v. Pettcox, 19 F3d 1060 (5th Cir 1994) combats this type of act.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We appreciate this Prisoners' Legal Clinic contributor for sending in legal tips for others to use in their struggles against the criminal injustice system. Spontaneous collective action provides a good assessment of our overall level of solidarity. That 53 people participated in this spontaneous action in the first place is quite impressive. But building a protracted struggle to bring down the root causes of our vast criminal injustice system — capitalism, imperialism, and national oppression — is another thing altogether.
Unless there is a very broad and deep level of unity among the imprisoned population, direct actions will face defeat because the guards can easily intimidate people out of participating. This is essentially what happened in the original article from ULK 33. We hope the correspondent in Pollock will continue to organize others against injustices in their unit, rather than accept defeat because of one failed action. There are many tactics we can employ to build unity and strengthen our movement.
When choosing what campaigns to organize around, we can see there is a difference between just fighting for reforms while leaving the overall oppressive system intact, and fighting for reforms that make space for more political organizing. Our comrades behind bars should organize with others in their unit against prison abuses, to build networks and elevate the collective consciousness of their fellow captives. This would include fighting against excessive use of force, or for nutritious meals. And we can fight for reforms that directly impact our ability or organize, such as anti-censorship campaigns, or the struggle to abolish solitary confinement. We can organize over these campaigns, and even have some wins under imperialism. The biggest win will be developing our collective consciousness and unity.
To the comrade who wrote the article titled "South Carolina Stops Grievance Challenge Process" in ULK 33, I would like to commend you and provide ammo. You say the pigs move you around to different segregated dorms when they find out you are assisting other prisoners with their legal work. The clearly established right to assist others with legal work has been in place for over three decades in Corpus v. Estelle 551 F2d 68 (5th Cir 1977). Even though South Carolina is in the 4th Circuit, case law from the 5th Circuit can still be cited as a persuasive authority.
As for the problem of unprocessing your grievances, take a look at your prison's policies and see if they make reference to an offender grievance manual. They might have criteria for making a grievance unprocessed. Check and see if there is information on access to courts and if the manual has criteria with words such as what that administration "must," "will," or "shall" do before unprocessing the grievance. This is how you determine a "liberty interest," if the policy mandates any constitutional process due under the 4th or 14th Amendments.
Also look at these cases: Tool Sparashad v. Bureau of Prisons, 268 F3d 576, 585 (DC 2002) and Herron v. Harrison, 203 F3d 410-416 (6th Cir 2006) on matters concerning grievance and retaliation.
Teach as much as you know to others wanting and willing to learn, and keep on pushing comrade! Keep promoting use of the pen in legal warfare! Remember, winners never quit and quitters never win.
Due to another prisoner's actions who I correspond with regularly, I am being accused of ordering a hit on a prisoner "In an effort to further my position and recruiting purposes in security threat group (STG) activity." In fighting my supermax placement, I was able to get them to admit that the letter they are using as evidence was written in code. So they have no way of understanding what is really talked about in this letter. I went to the extreme of giving them some STG codes to show them that no hit was made on anyone's life and that they are making this out to be something that it isn't. This led to me being given another conduct report for possession of STG related material.
Following the advice from an older prisoner, I started using the grievance process to help fight my case instead of going the way of my past and becoming aggressive. This led to more harassment including cell searches in which conduct reports and grievances that I filled came up missing, making it seem as if I am making all this shit up!
I have been threatened with supermax placement since the day I got off this bus. Last year I was given 3 months in segregation over an incident where I was defending myself against another prisoner who attempted to stab me, and he was given less than a month. I was told that this was due to the fact that I had to have done something to provoke this individual! It's crazy. I used to read about other prisoners complaining of this kind of treatment and I'm ashamed to say that I used to doubt them and think that there had to be more to the story until I found myself facing the same set of circumstances.
Though I am a member of the United Blood Nation (UBN), I am not a gang member. To many that is hard to understand, but to explain it quickly, I feel that gang members rep colors and are more focused on ignorance. I am not concerned with the colors a person wears, the organization to which they belong or any of that. I am a freedom fighter. I stand for a cause. I read, study and follow the ideology of the Black liberation movements of the past. I encourage not only my young komrades but people who I associate and deal with to find knowledge of self and to study, build and to better themselves. I am no angel and don't claim to be. I still have a lot of work to do but I'm moving at a righteous pace and setting the tone and paving the way for the masses to follow in a meaningful and constructive manner.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is interesting that the very method the prison uses for social control, targeting specific prisoners for segregation and other punishments, results in raising the political consciousness of those targeted. Experiencing this repression firsthand leads some who were entrenched in the lumpen mentality of fighting other prisoners to recognize the criminal injustice system is the common enemy.
This is an example of the dialectical relationship between repression and liberation, and is true in all historical eras and oppressive conditions — oppression breeds resistance. Repression of prisoners in the United $tates is one cog in the imperialist machine that condemns people all over the world for the benefit of the oppressor nations. Even though our struggle can seem overwhelming at times, we can have strategic confidence in our inevitable international victory over capitalism and all its devastating consequences. So long as oppressed people are being politicized and educated on the common enemy, from prisons in the United $tates to the mountains in Nepal, we will overcome our common enemy and finally be allowed to eat and sleep in peace. The more the imperialists oppress people, the more people can be drawn in to revolutionary activism.
We hope others will take an example from this comrade and work as freedom fighters to educate and organize others. How quickly and easily we achieve victory depends on how much political work we do today.
In August 2014, in response to I$rael's renewed attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, United Struggle from Within (USW) drafted and began circulating a petition denouncing the imperialist genocide of the people of Palestine. The petition draws connections to the oppressed nations suffering in the United $tates, and in particular recognized the support Palestinian prisoners gave to the California hunger strikers. While this round of bombing by I$rael was over before most could even return their signed petitions, the damage is still being felt and the imperialist occupation of Palestine continues.
"According to the United Nations, 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving 600,000 Palestinians — nearly one in three of Gaza's population — homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian help. Roads, schools and the electricity plant to power water and sewerage systems are in ruins."(1)
In addition, the Cairo agreement to "rebuild" Gaza after I$rael bombed it to pieces, will be managed by none other than I$rael, who will ensure that all the money goes into the pockets of I$raeli construction companies.(1) The democratically elected government of Palestine, led by Hamas, will be deprived of any oversight of this process, as they are further isolated with Egypt closing off the border with Gaza to the south.
It is not too late to rally in support of the Palestinian struggle! As of the beginning of November, USW comrades have gathered over 60 signatures to this petition in at least seven different prisons. Signatures are still coming in and a number of comrades have reported to still be working on collecting signatures in their latest communications.
While the numbers may not be overly impressive, to date only 17 of those comrades originally sent the petition have even reported receiving it. One Texas comrade who gathered 9 signatures reported doing so despite the prison being on lockdown (no one being able to leave their cells) and the recent cut off of fishing (sending notes between cells by string). At least one comrade could not get any other signatures due to the risk of political repression as a validated "gang member" in the control unit where he is held. It is no coincidence that many of our most active and politically conscious comrades find themselves in such conditions.(2)
This campaign to support the people of Palestine is significant in that it is the first USW-initiated campaign around an issue not related to the immediate conditions of prisoners themselves since MIM(Prisons) has been around. The campaign was launched without a lot of preparation, and despite the inherent limitations imposed on those in prison, we got good participation. As one California comrade recently reported, the petition was a tool for outreach that led to many political dialogues and lessons learned that will contribute to the building of the anti-imperialist movement in U.$. prisons. Their efforts to collect signatures reached beyond just those who signed the petition.
The need for these types of agitational campaigns is one of the lessons that we can take away from this experience. The barriers among much of the prison population to supporting the Palestinians' right to survival are built on a combination of Amerikan patriotism, misinformation and apathy. However, to sum up the reports we have received, we'd say that fear of repression is the number one barrier being faced, which is a problem USW faces with all its campaigns. One comrade reported setbacks due to fears around hysteria surrounding the Islamic State.
A number of comrades reported not being able to get any signatures yet, and one wrote from California:
"My focus thus far has been on the socially conscious Muslim prisoners, whom I guessed would be the most willing out of everyone to sign the petition. But I'm starting to see more and more that the overwhelming majority in Amerikkka just ain't willing to take a stand against these racist imperialist idiots in no way shape or form. Not one of the Muslims, out of the around 25 prisoners I approached, would sign the thing. The excuses ranged from, 'We need to worry about fixing 'home' first...' to just flat out 'The Jews have too much control in this country for me to sign some paper and get on their shit list.' ... so far everybody but me has been too scared to sign it."
A few weeks later this comrade submitted h petition with 25 signatures. This fear of signing is a common problem in prisons where all mail is read and punishment for activism can be severe. A comrade in Colorado wrote:
"I read the last issue of ULK and I want to say that the U.S. policy against Palestine has long been underrepresented and ignored. Amerikkka is telling the people of Gaza and Lebanon that it will allow Israel to murder and justify it in the name of 'peace.' I feel that the greatest threat to world peace is the U.S. foreign policy. As prisoners we all should stand with the people of Gaza and their right to self-defense and self-determination. Progress is being made here as far as the petition goes. Many are in solidarity against amerikkkan imperialism as it stands with Israel yet many are afraid to sign."
One letter from Virginia described the difficulty promoting internationalism:
"I have been having trouble convincing prisoners here to sign the Palestine USW petition. The fear of institutional retaliation keeps a majority of them from involving themselves in any type of radical struggles or demonstrations. Compounding the problem is the fact they cannot grasp the concept of 'internationalism.' The dominant question was, 'what do the Palestinians have to do with me?' I tried as hard as I could to convince them that all struggles against imperialism abroad are a reflection of the non-ruling class struggles here in the Empire. So please do not construe the lack of signatures as an indicator of my lack of organizing skills."
This question of "what the Palestinian struggle has to do with me" is a manifestation of the relative wealth and privilege of Amerikans as a whole. In reality the Palestinian struggle is counter to the material interests of the petty bourgeois majority in the United $tates which enjoys a supply of cheap gas ensured by Amerikan military presence in the Middle East. Like the struggle of oppressed people around the world, the Palestinian people's fight for national liberation threatens Amerikan imperialism and its ability to control and exploit the labor of Third World peoples. Any successful revolt against Amerikan imperialism and its allies/puppets (such as I$rael) will destabilize that power and may inspire others.
But when building public opinion with the lumpen in prison we can at least draw some connections to national oppression within U.$. borders and the national oppression of Palestinians. One researcher has claimed that Palestinians are the most imprisoned people in the world, based on the percentage who have been in prison (the United $tates is still #1 in the number of prisoners it holds at one time). New Afrikans and the original inhabitants on North America are potential rivals for this title. In both places, the dominant nation, with the weapons and wealth, is denying the oppressed nations independence and self-determination. And the cause of the Palestinian people is allied with the cause of oppressed nations everywhere in the world; the common enemy is imperialism.
Another persyn wrote about some more reactionary responses to h attempts to collect signatures.
"I attempt to discuss issues raised by MIM, but I'm completely lacking in knowledge. For example, prisoners here state that the Palestinians deserve the bombing because Hamas fired rockets into Israel. They say the land of Israel is not occupied by foreigners — that it belongs to Jews. They (prisoners here — a large number) say that there has never been a nation called 'Palestine' and that the people who today label themselves 'Palestinians' are simply Arabs mostly from the Trans Jordan area. So what is the correct response?"
These positions raise the important question of how we define a nation. Stalin gave us guidance on this point, describing a nation as a group of people with a common language, culture, territory and economy (which is different than a nation-state). The Palestinian people certainly meet these requirements. Nations can arise and fall over time, as humynity evolves and conditions change. While I$rael has evolved into a nation today, Stalin was correct to argue that there was no Jewish nation in his day. It was only after WWII and a mass migration of Europeans to Palestine, and the genocide that cleared the previous inhabitants of that land, that I$rael began its formation.
As for the question of Hamas firing rockets into I$rael, this certainly has happened. And we uphold the right of people to defend themselves. This is simply a question of incorrect facts. The Palestinian people are righteously defending themselves against a much more powerful oppressor who is constantly threatening their lives and taking over more of their land. A cursory study of history shows who is the agressor in this conflict. Even numbers from the end of July on this recent battle demonstrate this: while I$rael reported 56 deaths (53 soldiers), in the Gaza Strip 1,170 had been killed, many of them civilians in their homes.(3) For those who are serious about studying the history of Palestine and I$rael we can offer reading material, but for those who just want to support the imperialists and accept their lies and propaganda, it's probably best to just move on and look elsewhere for supporters. Let them eat their Thanksgiving turkeys and celebrate the superiority of Europeans over the indigenous people of the lands they occupy and destroy.