Once there was a time you could tell me any lie; I was at the bottom of the pyramid believing there was someone, something, watching and judging from up in the sky. Now I am the eye above the suspended eye and am no longer susceptible to their oppressive lies! Their lies and stories of dread and fear no longer have their delusional hold on me. Sure death brings a final rest, but I now also see that life is to be lived completely free. Stand up, live free, lift your eyes up high! You no longer have to fear their devious lies! We get one life to live and you can choose to live it free! You don't have to be the scared little sheep that they want you to be!
Franklin Correctional Facility is a medium classification prison that does its best to oppress. Rules are broken on a constant basis by this administration. Their need to control every tiny moment and movement really displays their fears of us ever getting on the same page to take action. I'm not speaking riot, just trading info and court actions when it comes to confronting their gestapo tactics. The physical beatings in front of others by guards has placed fear into many hearts so that writing a grievance is taboo.
As an Orientation Facilitator, I used to inform those coming to this prison what to expect and how to protect themselves. Someone snitched on me and I was fired.
I wrote a total of 42 grievances but it was never enough for me. The next step was to meet the oppressors face to face, and I became the Inmate Liaison Committee (ILC) Chairman, and that's when the fireworks started. Contempt and hatred for me was freely displayed. I stayed on my horse until I was set up with a misbehavior report that sent me to the box.
When I got out I tried to get back to the ILC but was always stonewalled. My so-called peers refused to assist me, claiming it would hamper their agenda and they don't want any trouble. In other words they are comfortable and satisfied. Sellouts is what I call them. In order for any progress to take place snitches and sell-outs must be contained. Corrections depends on them for their services. The "I don't want to get involved" types complain and bitch but don't take any action. 1,700 prisoners reside here and about 20 will lay a pen game down. Law library sucks because the workers want to get paid to do nothing for you.
The prisoner organizations are so controlled that we are not allowed to advertise how to become a member. We are told what to spend and where to spend. I say let's organize and write Corrections in Albany, but my prisoner peers say we don't want to cause any trouble. How can people who weren't afraid to break the law be afraid to write in defending yourself or make a point. Even if you don't know how, ask someone. Make the pen your gun.
The capitalist company Corcraft runs sweatshops in this prison to make officer and prisoner clothing. Guys can't wait to work for them because it pays the best in comparison to 10 to 20 cents an hour for other assignments. Commissary prices continue to increase.
Any time I attempt to band us together in writing grievances and Article 78s someone snitches on me. Microphones are placed in the library, chapel and other places we congregate. How can any movement get generated when dudes snitch or are going home soon? I have done all I can, but fear and the lack of education gives corrections an all-systems-go for future oppression in a big way. We are losing in this injustice system and a lot of us don't care to know how to win. Organize!
MIM(Prisons) responds: Our work in the criminal injustice system in Amerika involves a constant battle between those who see the value in uniting to fight the system, and those who are taken in by the bribery offered by the prisons in exchange for complacency or snitching. This contradiction exists throughout the prison system in this country, but in some states we are winning more unity and strength while in others the anti-imperialist forces are still a small minority. New York state still does not have a grievance campaign while prisoners in twelve other states have already stepped up to push this important work forward. There was an important action last year in Auburn Correctional Facility in New York, where prisoners joined the food strike in California.
Activists must evaluate the conditions in their state and their prison, and then determine what they can do to most effectively educate and organize other prisoners. In some states this may involve mass protest, in others we are still at the point of building study cells and educating whoever is willing to talk with us. Wherever your struggle is at, MIM(Prisons) can provide material to help with the educating and organizing.
They don't care. They're not involved or don't want to get involved, but they are. Their involvement just masquerades as indifference or inattention. It is the silent "acquiescence" of the millions that supports the system, your silence becomes approval, for it does nothing to interrupt the system. People use all sorts of excuses for their indifference. They appeal to god as a shorthand route for supporting the status quo. They talk about law and order, but look at the present system, look at the present social order of society. Do you see god? Do you see law and order? There's nothing but disorder, and instead of law and order there is only the illusion of security. It's an illusion because it is built upon a long history of injustices; racism, criminality and enslavement and genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it's insane not to.
While news of online spying by the U.$. government is growing, a court case may provide even broader access for government agencies. This case involves Lavabit, the former email provider for MIM(Prisons). On January 28, the owner of Lavabit went to court to appeal the contempt of court ruling against the company for failing to hand over encryption keys to his email service. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet rendered a verdict, but it will have significant implications on what the government can demand of email providers in the future. This case revolves around the Lavabit SSL keys. These keys were used to decrypt incoming traffic from Lavabit users accessing via an encrypted connection. If Lavabit had given up the keys before shutting down their operation, the government could capture every users password next time they logged in and have full access to their email.
Last June Lavabit was ordered to give the government a live feed of email activity for a specific account. People generally assume this was Edward Snowden's account based on court filing information that refers to his violations of the Espionage Act and theft of government property. Lavabit founder Lader Levison offered to transmit the information requested after 60 days, claiming he needed time to reprogram his system to collect the information. We can't be sure what Levison would have ultimately handed over, but this is further evidence that users can not rely on their email providers for security. In fact, in court Lavabit's attorney claims that Levison had complied with at least one similar court order in the past.(1)
In July, after Levison's delay, the FBI served Levison with a search warrant demanding the private SSL keys that would enable them to decrypt all traffic to and from the site. The government promised to only use the keys for the individual targeted and said they would not spy on the other 410,000 Lavabit users.(2)
The FBI had already begun collecting encrypted data from Lavabit's upstream provider in anticipation of getting the key to decrypt it, and they still have this data.(2) If the government has the SSL keys, all emails for an unknown period of time for all users on the Lavabit email system are in the hands of the government.
After an August 1 court order upholding the government's demand for the Lavabit SSL keys, Levison did turn them over, but as an 11 page printout in 4-point type.(1) This was clearly an attempt to comply in form without making the key usable, or at least delaying its usability. But in spite of the paper form, the government now has the Lavabit SSL keys, all they need to do is manually enter the 2,560 characters. While tedious, this is certainly doable and we think it likely that they quickly completed this work.
The government responded to the printout by demanding an electronic format and on August 6 began fining Levison $5,000 per day until he complied with the FBI's order. Levison shut down Lavabit altogether on August 8.(2)
Although the government and the appellate court Judge hearing the case both claim the SSL keys could not be used for anything other than the individual target in question, the search warrant and sanctions order both place no restrictions on what can be done with the key.(2) Not that we think the government complies with these sorts of formalities anyway.
In November 2013, the elected government of Ukraine caused a stir for rejecting a deal with the European Union citing the overly burdensome terms of the aid package offered by the U.$.-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF). Since we last reported on Ukraine (see ULK 36), opposition forces with Western support have implemented a regime change, ousting president Viktor Yanukovich from the country. This put a deal with the IMF back on the table. Ukrainians once again face the prospect of more wealth being sucked from their country via imperialist loans and imposed economic policies.
While opposition to the oligarchy that has ruled Ukraine has united the Western imperialists with Ukrainian fascist parties, austerity measures imposed by the IMF will threaten this alliance shortly. The new offer from the IMF will require hiking energy prices that have been subsidized by the state, one of the deal breakers cited by Yanukovich in November.
The regime change was a loss for Russian economic interests. In response, on 27 February 2014, Russian forces seized control of the Crimean peninsula, a majority Russian region of the current Ukraine state. On 6 March 2014 Crimea's regional assembly voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The next day leaders of the Russian Parliament said they would support this move. The decision calls for a referendum for the people of Crimea to vote on this, scheduled for 16 March.(1)
The New York Times has made much of the battle over the right to self-determination in recent strife between the United $tates and the Russian Federation. Struggles in the Black Sea region in recent decades have been primarily inter-imperialist battles, and there is no principle behind the imperialists' actions except for their economic interests to have access to more markets, natural resources and people to exploit. Meanwhile, the proletariat's interest is defined by putting an end to this exploitation. Therefore we support the side that most threatens the control and penetration of the imperialists over the oppressed nations.
The Amerikans are saying the Russian invasion of Crimea is totally different from their meddling in Libya, Venezuela, Syria, Iran... just to name a few. But this is all posturing and a question of tactics, and the United $tates often is able to use more subtle tactics because of its greater power. In all cases it is the continuation of imperialist war to maintain profits.
While the situation in Crimea is still unresolved and potentially volatile as we write this, Russian officials have been quoted recognizing Kiev has gone pro-West. At the same time, Russia is talking with the IMF to get in on the Ukraine bail out.(2)
The IMF was part of the Bretton Woods project, which was organized by the imperialist countries after World War II in an attempt to prevent the protectionism and trade barriers that led to the economic crisis in the capitalist core, and drove them to war in both WWI and WWII. Many sanctions and trade barriers are being threatened in the current conflict. But, if Russia is allowed to export some finance capital to Ukraine as part of the imperialist plan for the country, and Russia gets to keep Crimea under its sphere of influence, then a hot war between Russia and the West will likely be averted.
The IMF is basically run by the United $tates, which has 16.75% of the votes. Meanwhile the U.$.-led imperialist camp (U.$., Japan, Germany, France, U.K., Italy and Canada) has 43.74% of votes. Russia has only 2.39%.(3) In addition to the IMF loans, the United $tates has talked of unilateral aid, as long as Ukraine "takes the reforms it needs."(4) So Russia will see a significant loss in its economic interests in the Ukraine overall, but will likely see a small piece of the pie as serving its interests better than an all out war with the United $tates.
The framework developed at Bretton Woods has been a relatively effective solution to one of the inherent contradictions of the imperialist economic system. However, it does not eliminate inter-imperialist rivalry, it just manages it. While a war on North Amerikan or Western European soils is being avoided at all costs, it is not out of the question. It will certainly come before socialism can reach those lands. War is inherent to imperialism. And it is our position that World War III has been an ongoing low-intensity war against the Third World by the imperialists since the end of WWII.(5) In recent decades this war has been primarily waged by the United $tates. While inter-imperialist war has been secondary in this period, the struggle between different imperialist interests is an antagonistic contradiction that cannot be resolved without ending imperialism. As such conflicts heat up, those in the imperialist countries will be reminded that imperialism does not serve their interests when it comes to the threat of annhilation in war. These conflicts also create breathing room for the oppressed nations to develop their own political interests independent of imperialism. The key to the survival of the humyn species is to develop such movements before the imperialists kill us all.
8 March 2014, Jackson, MS — Today hundreds attended the funeral service for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba who died after just eight months in office. His son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, eulogized his father. He has also announced his plans to run in an April 8 election to replace his father as Mayor of Jackson.
Days before his death Chokwe was sick with a cold. On 25 February, he was pronounced dead of "natural causes," with local officials claiming it was heart failure. But family requests for an autopsy were denied. His family is working with the National Caucus of Black Lawyers to fund an independent autopsy. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has offered to put up the money for the autopsy.(1)
Chokwe Lumumba was a leading figure in the struggle for the liberation of New Afrika since the founding of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika in 1968. He went on to launch and work with organizations such as the New Afrikan Peoples' Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. As a lawyer he fought many historic cases for New Afrikan humyn rights in the United $tates. He represented Assata Shakur, Tupac Shakur and the Scott sisters, to name a few.
Many close to Lumumba are questioning his sudden death, following his election in a state with a long history of murdering New Afrikans. In our report on his election, we questioned his ability to build dual power in Mississippi in line with the New Afrikan Liberation Movement from within the city government. We pointed out that true dual power must have an independent base of force from which to defend itself. Only an independent autopsy can tell whether this was a case of political assassination, brutally proving that very point. Whatever the cause of death, it was quite untimely for such a leading national liberation figure who just won a major election. We will continue to watch the developments in Jackson where young New Afrikans must prove themselves as determined as Lumumba and so many others of his generation who fought for socialism and national independence for New Afrika.
My roommate is serving a life sentence. A few years ago he became eligible for parole but each year he is denied with an admonition to "obtain your GED before your next parole hearing."
He has been in prison 20+ years so why hasn't he obtained his GED? Is he ignorant? Lazy? Stubborn? No, each year he submits a request to attend school and each year his request is denied because "classes are reserved for inmates with five years or less remaining on their sentences." Persyns with life sentences will always have more than five years remaining.
The parole board Chairpersyn and the Education Director refuse to compromise. Each states emphatically, "I am in charge and this is my policy."
The imperialist/capitalist mindset views power as a goal in and of itself because imperialism is built upon domination, subjugation, and starvation of "those other people."
Socialism/communism views power as a means to a worthy goal. The view is toward the community or collective, and power is used to help each persyn find his or her place of function or service within the collective. A communist who sees a worker on the roadside with a flat tire will stop and show the worker how to change the tire. The imperialist will stop and flatten the other three tires, then punish the worker for being late to work by docking the pay.
In American life we see many selfish abuses of power. For example, almost 100% of persyns released from prison are at the lower end of the American socio-economic scale. Yet their criminal convictions will make them ineligible for low income housing. And if they have a conviction for a "sex offense," they are pretty much prohibited from living anywhere except landfills and moon craters.
Criminal convictions in American "society" restrict employment to generally the most menial and lowest paying jobs. Yet imperialist judges demand fines, court costs, and restitution payments begin immediately. Usually there are additional monthly fees for parole and for court-ordered treatment programs. Plus, the former prisoner's drivers license is suspended or revoked until these payments are made, effectively hindering the mode of transportation to seek or maintain employment.
Deification of the individual ego and crushing the down-trodden are lauded achievements in imperialist nations. The only treatment for these symptoms is decapitation and removal of the minds that develop and implement politics designed to keep the impoverished in poverty.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer provides some excellent examples of how the criminal injustice system (CIJ) works to keep the lumpen class down. And as this article notes, the CIJ is an integral part of the imperialist system, serving an effective role of social control. The author outlines the ultimate solution to this problem: overthrowing imperialism and implementing a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat. But in the short term we can also fight these repressive policies through independent institutions of the oppressed that build the anti-imperialist movement. Two of these that are directly relevant here are our educational study groups and literature for prisoners, and our Re-lease on Life program. Both work within the current legal system, the first to provide educational materials and classes to prisoners motivated to study, and the second to help prisoners stay out and politically active once they are released. Write to us to get involved in building these programs.
In the William P. Clements Prison unit in Amarillo, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is now selling us 50 sheets of low quality paper on commissary for $1.80. Here in the extended cell block, High Security A.K.A. Segregation, we have showers in our cells. They only come on 15 minutes per day. We are only issued a clean towel 3 times per week: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. So we go Saturday, Sunday and Monday on the same towel.
Here's the problem. Once you are done with your shower the spray covers at least 1/3 of your cell. If you use this towel to dry all this grey water up you no longer have a towel suitable to dry your body off the next day after a shower. If we get caught with a second towel for use in this purpose we receive a disciplinary case for extra necessities. I personally grieved this issue and it was denied because policy states we're only allowed one towel at a time. This is a sanitary issue.
These are just some of the injustices we see here in the Texas department of Criminal Justice. On another level though Texas inmates just won a small victory when the federal courts ruled TDCJ was violating our religious rights by making prisoners of certain faiths shave or cut their hair, like Rastafarians, Native Americans, Muslims, Amish, and Jews. We are still waiting for the change in grooming policy but we won.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Compared to some of the brutality, long-term isolation, and medical neglect, lack of a clean towel may seem like a minor issue facing Amerikan prisoners. But it is these minor issues that really illustrate the irrationality of the prisons in this country. Why would it be a disciplinary case for a prisoner to have a second towel to keep his cell clean? How could this good hygiene practice be dangerous or otherwise problematic? Prisons withold small "privileges" like this as an arbitrary form of punishment. There is no educational or reform purpose. There is just a long list of such actions adding up to unsanitary, disrespectful, unstimulating, and counter productive living conditions (when prisoners aren't being beaten, tortured, starved, or otherwise physically abused).
Prisoners will come together to fight for these minor issues, as we see with this court victory for religious expression with haircuts in Texas. It is our job as revolutionaries to take these small battles and use them as educational opportunities to show others how these issues fit into the broader system of imperialism where prisons are used as a tool of social control.
When a prisoner writes the TDCJ Executive Director it will always be forwarded to the Ombudsman. They (Ombud) will always reply that they do not respond to prisoner complaints and that the grievance procedures should be followed. It's a "closed loop" to prisoners.
The Call to Action that I wrote which included the contacts were primarily for our family and friends to put pressure on authorities so that our grievances are more effective - eg. our families should contact the Executive Director and Ombudsman to file an official complaint about the policy change.
I got my Step 2 back around November and I sent it to the Texas Civil Rights Project to see if they would be interested in representing this issue in a lawsuit. I am yet to get a response from the Texas Civil Rights Project. It could be worth while if someone could contact them (TCRP) about this issue to prompt a response to my correspondence to them as I know they get piles of mail every week.
We not only need to file grievances but also strongly encourage our freeworld friends and family to contact all the contacts on the Call to Action to put a lot of pressure on the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to repeal the policy.
I believe it is futile to send the Texas Grievance Petition to the Executive Director because of the closed loop with the correspondence being forwarded to the Ombudsman. It could be worthwhile for freeworld people to send a version of the petition to the Exec Dir but I think prisoners need to start directing the petition to someone else.
I also want to mention that this mail restriction should not affect legal/privileged correspondence - prisoners should still be able to send 5 per week.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We received information from another prisoner on this same issue:
Comrades in Texas, do not send your petitions to the Executive Director or Central Grievance office because they are not working in our favor. They only forward the petitions to departments that don't address these issues, who contacted me and said "address this grievance related issues on a unit level with the grievance investigators."
We on the Polunsky plantations are sending our petitions to: ARRM Division, Administrator, PO Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099. I suggest that all Texas prisoners do the same so that we will be in solidarity. Let's flood their office with our complaints. If this doesn't work we will flood the DOJ in Washington DC. Let's work in solidarity!
We agree with these comrades' recommendations that prisoners focus sending their grievances to somewhere other than the Executive Director. We suggest the following addresses:
ARRM Division, Administrator PO Box 99 Huntsville, TX 77342-0099
Senator John Whitmire PO Box 12068, Capitol Station Austin, TX 78711
Oliver Bell Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice PO Box 13084 Austin, TX 78711-3084
We also now have a sample Step 2 grievance available to those who had their Step 1 on this issue rejected. Write to us if you need a copy of this.
We know this campaign is not going to change the criminal injustice system in any significant way. But restrictions on mail access is equivalent to cutting many people off from the outside world. And for those who are engaged in educational and organizing work, this is a significant problem. For this reason, focusing a campaign on restrictions on indigent correspondence is important to our broader organizing work.
It seems that change in our society is only brought about by those of our populace who are considered to be radicals, so this piece is written for those radicals who are compassionate enough to care and who will take the necessary efforts to make a lasting difference for those of us who are held and tortured in Security Housing Units (SHUs), which are specifically dedicated for those prisoners who are supposed to be under the care of an institution's mental health system. These american gulags are also known as "Psychiatric Services Units" (PSUs).
These specially dedicated SHUs are rarely, if ever, visited by outside prisoner rights organizations, to my knowledge; and the prisoners housed therein are simply forgotten. These prisoners have no representatives and no means to voice their concerns and so the atrocities accumulate unchecked.
Aggressive and sadistic prison guards have been known to pepper spray an individual until they cannot breathe due to the accumulation of micronized capsicum (pepper essence) absorbed into their lungs after the guard empties onto the individual several canisters of the corrosive irritant chemical weapon. This is not third party hearsay, I know of it personally, for it has happened to me. Of course nothing is done about it when you have the foxes guarding the henhouse.
Think a prisoner can obtain justice through the prison's administrative grievance systems? You had better think about it again, no way. And the courts, including the federal courts, will not entertain themselves of the issues of complaint where the completion of the administrative appeals process has been denied by a corrupt prison administration; it has been made law, a statutory prerequisite otherwise known in litigation circles as a "procedural bar." It creates gross injustice and perpetrates unchecked human abuse which is tolerated by our society, it is a blatant indication of how cruel and vicious we have become as a people.
Even more sinister is the presence of food pantries created within each of the blocks of SHU/PSU units, which are independent from the main kitchens where mainstream prisoners receive their meals. These food pantries are not under the control of licensed food service employees and are in fact totally controlled by the guards assigned to that block. Those prisoners who are targeted by the "system" quite often find themselves physically sickened by the meals they are served, meals which stink with rotten foodstuffs. Milk cartons are served bloated with full-blown contamination.
The milk is a favored vehicle to get an inmate victim to ingest a "knock-out" drug and get raped while he is unconscious. This is a fact; it has happened to me twice. Also milk is utilized in these modernized dungeons as a tool to get unsuspecting targeted prisoner victims to consume psychotropic substances which has the effect of a "truth serum" and is used as an aid in covert interrogation of all prisoners suspected by debriefer informants and snitches. And, for the same purpose targeted prisoners are placed in cells with low pressure or dysfunctional ventilation systems which are used to force irritant gasses, pepper spray or other toxic obnoxious chemical weapons through to be inhaled by the occupant of that particular cell. In addition to the above abuses, the usual torture routine includes the air cooling system on full blast in mid-winter, and the heating system turned full up in mid-summer.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We appreciate the risk that our comrades take to get reports of such horrible abuses to Under Lock & Key. Information like this is important to get out because, as this writer points out, very few people are looking at these prisons or monitoring the treatment there. But Under Lock & Key is more than a tool of exposure, it is a rallying point for activists and leaders to bring together others and work out strategies and tactics in our fight against the criminal injustice system. We should read reports like this one and be outraged. And then we should turn that outrage into action, working to educate others and build support for our fight to put an end to this system of injustice.