The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Campaigns] [Download and Print] [United Struggle from Within] [New York]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, New York

NYgrievepet.png
Click here to download a PDF of the New York grievance petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with their grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses listed on the petition, and below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Acting Commissioner, Anthony J. Annucci
The Harriman State Campus
1220 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12226-2050

New York State Commission of Corrections
80 Wolf Rd, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12205

United States Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Office of Inspector General
HOTLINE
P.O. Box 9778
Arlington, Virginia 22219

And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!

MIM(Prisons), USW
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Use Your Observation

A revolution
Our only solution
Of freeing us of
Media's pollution

From teachers
To preachers
To what's taught
In classes
Are intended
To neutralize the masses

We must be open minded
And not be blinded
By believing
Everything we're told

Evaluate the situation
Do not rely
On your education
Instead use your observation
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[Legal]
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To Grieve or Not To Grieve

I read with interest "Why Take Action?" by Texas Prisoner in Under Lock and Key No. 63. The article starts by encouraging resistance simply because of who we are, that it is our nature to stand up. While this makes for an excellent mythology, and I heartily agree, the sad truth is that the majority of prisoners are intimidated into doing nothing.

While I do not look down on those who do not resist, I am not content with the status quo. Only massive group actions has a chance to succeed. This article is an attempt to persuade more prisoners to fight. A Texas Prisoner then points out that action can make a difference, especially in numbers. This is quite correct.

One of the most powerful ways to effect change is the federal civil rights lawsuit (1346 and Bivens for federal prisons, 1983 for others). Courts often make good decisions. Then the prisons stretch the case law beyond the breaking point or simply disregard it. They do this because they can. They get away with it because not enough prisoners file.

In 1996, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (1997e) made lawsuits against prisons much more difficult and less likely to succeed. As a result, prisons and jails have gotten much worse than they were at that time. Most onerous is 1997e(a), which states, "no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions [] by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted."

While it is sometimes possible to get a court to declare the grievance process (for administrative remedies) unavailable, this takes a lot of effort. For the most part, prisoners simply have to follow the grievance process, being careful to meet all the deadlines.

Though the process of filing grievances seems (and usually is) futile, it has to be done. "[W]e will not read futility or other exceptions into statutory exhaustion requirements where Congress has provided otherwise." Booth v. Churner, 532 US 731, 738 n. 6 (2001); (When only a date is in parentheses and no circuit or district, it's from the Supreme Court.) There is no way to escape. "[W]e hold that the PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life," Porter v. Nussle, 534 US 516, 532 (2002). A prisoner simply has to exhaust the grievance process.

The trouble is that the prison can retaliate for filing grievances, even including beating prisoners. One might think that a prisoner could sue for such retaliation, but for decades the courts held that prisons are perfectly within their rights to retaliate for filing grievances, without fear of suit.

Here is the story.

Courts have held it is only possible to sue for civil rights violations over retaliation that chills the constitutional right. "Retaliation against a prisoner is actionable only if it is capable of deterring a person of ordinary firmness from further exercising his constitutional rights." Morris v. Powell, 449 F. 3d. 682, 686 (5th Cir. 2006). Also see Crawford-El v. Britton, 93 F. 3rd 813 (D.C. Cir.1996). The D.C. circuit is just under the Supreme Court in terms of power, and all other circuits have followed.

The question is whether filing grievances is a constitutional right. Up until recently, the courts have held it isn't. "[I]nmates do not have a constitutional right to have available or to participate in an effective grievance process. "Miller v Williamson, 2016 US List. LEXIS 63498 (4th cir. 2006). See also Adams v. Rice, 40 F. 3d 72 (4th Cir. 1994).

This idea can be traced back to an opinion in 1991. "[T]he prisoner's right to petition the government for redress is the right of access to the courts, which is not comprised by the prison's refusal to entertain his grievance." Flick v. Alba, 932 F. 2d 728, 728 (8th Cir. 1991).

The trouble with this is that a mere five years later, 1997e changed the situation, making it so that the right to access the courts very much depends on the grievance process. Yet until after 2016, courts did not recognize this extremely obvious fact.

Finally, they did. "Given the close relationship between an inmate filing a grievance and filing a lawsuit — indeed, the former is generally a prerequisite for the latter — our jurisprudence provided a strong signal that officials may not retaliate against inmates for filing grievances." Booker v. South Carolina DOC, 855 F.3d 533, 544 (4th Cir. 2017). Also, "The Second, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. circuits have all recognized in published decisions that inmates possess a right, grounded in the First Amendments' Petition Clause, to be free from retaliation in response to filing a prison grievance." id. at 544.

There are lessons in the fact that it took the courts so long to recognize the obvious.

The courts move slowly. More importantly, they only move when pushed. Seldom does a court decide anything on its own, not even something as obvious as this. They generally wait for litigants to make arguments and decide if the arguments are good.

So it is essential that we all push the courts, not only for our individual benefit, but for the benefit of all. We must make even obvious arguments, even ones so obvious we imagine should have been raised a hundred times before us.

The PLRA was sold as intended to improve the quality of lawsuits, but what it really did was reduce the quantity. Doubtless this was the real intention. "Congress deemed prisoners to be pestiferous litigants" Kerr v. Puckett, 138 F. 3d 321, 323 (7th Cir 1998).

This has worked. Far too many legitimate lawsuits have been quashed. Increasing millions of prisoners have suffered in worsening conditions. The courts have only sluggishly moved to correct gross violations of civil rights. Prisoners fearing retaliation have not pushed them hard enough.

It is up to all prisoners to push the courts. Even though it seems futile, grieve and sue anyway. You may not be the one to win, but if we all work together, we can improve conditions for all of us.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We respect and admire this comrade's resolve to fight the legal battles. Eir analysis of the value of making space for better conditions for prisoners through court battles is accurate. Courts are sluggish to respond to clear violations of rights, and certainly don't take action unless pushed through a lawsuit.

It's important that we also recognize that we will often lose court battles. For lack of funds, legal knowledge, political power, or just straight up bias, there are many reasons prisoner's lawsuits fail even when the case is good and righteous. We can't count on the imperialist courts to grant us liberty. But we can use them to gain some breathing and organizing space.

The trick is deciding when it's worth the time and expense to pursue cases in the courts. When it really is a potentially winnable battle. MIM(Prisons) doesn't have the legal resources to offer this advice. So we can only provide the broad guidance that everyone needs to analyze the balance of forces in any battle. Try to objectively evaluate our chances for victory, and what harm could come from defeat. In some cases, losing a lawsuit sets a worse legal precedent than not filing the lawsuit in the first place. But if you think you have a good chance at winning, and you have the resources to pursue an important case, then don't just file a lawsuit. Use the lawsuit to educate others and rally them around the cause you're fighting for. Build support and help for the battle, and tie it in to the broader struggle against the criminal injustice system so that everyone learns from this work whether this one battle it ends in victory or defeat.


Related Articles:
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[Economics] [Prison Labor] [Organizing] [Texas] [ULK Issue 64]
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Debating the Prison Labor Movement

incarcerated workers organizing committee

I am approaching from a background of having been held captive in general prison population where I am aware that at least a few of us subscribe to The BayView and Under Lock & Key and agreed the latter's issue No. 62 is controversial in criticizing a certain labor union.

One reason for focusing on this outstanding view(s) is because some of us are unionized with this entity which is the only one of its class that waves membership dues for prisoners and is also actively involved in the prison abolition movement. Specifically you allude in your article to, "Those organizations don't want low paid prisoners to replace high paid petty bourgeois workers."

Further what I think was more shocking is you attributed to outside support low, selfish motive by claiming, "They would be happy to see prisoners rot in their cells... it's higher pay for their class that the labor aristocracy wants." Indisputably your position is informative and generally supported by historical patterns, including Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow which illustrated how Capitalists successfully divided White and New Afrikan working class through granting pay raises and white skin privileges who in turn collectively advocated us decaying in segregation.

I would like to remain on Under Lock & Key subscription list because by far, it's more advanced than a number of other non-mainstream publications, in that yours boldly challenges general thought trends. One case-in-point is an Elder had cautioned us to be vigilant on what Under Lock & Key also affirmed about those who share sentiments identified as "the mass base behind the prison craze." We see clear signs they are present, active and have self-centered agendas.

But in contrast to what you promoted, I don't think our struggle has yet nor is on the verge of being co-opted by selfish motives — though potentially via "Incarcerated Organizing Committees" — provided our focus don't prioritize amending the 13th Amendment over acquiring human rights and Independence, attacking deceptive parole mechanisms. In this regard, MIM(Prisons) provides a vital source exhorting the prison movement to re-evaluate the ramification of amending the 13th Amendment. Perhaps the pendulum will sway away from giving successive energy to the 13th Amendment when factoring that many prison systems already pay money of account for prisoner labor; but yet, both sides of the spectrum agree mass incarceration is the core problem.

In ULK 62, among other issue numbers, you criticize massive prison work strikes. The perspective MIM(Prisons) is herein asked to ponder upon is the impact of "sustained" general work strikes will have on the bottom lines of private sectors; namely, commissary stork, telephone companies, choicey livestock parts that never reaches our food supply, etc.


MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we must make a disclaimer related to this discussion. We've learned of a recent article in Turning the Tide by a couple of United Struggle from Within comrades that calls out IWOC, among other organizations, as "ghost organizations." This is NOT the position of MIM(Prisons) or ULK. We will likely address this in more detail soon. However, we hope our readers can distinguish our approach here in criticizing the political line of other organizations and the effects of that line, rather than disparaging them for not doing anything just because they aren't working with us. No one can deny that the IWOC has done a lot to successfully publicize recent prison struggles and actions.

Overall it seems we have a lot of agreement with the writer above, but areas of debate are well worth addressing. The main point raised here is whether labor unions are selfishly pushing their own agenda for higher wages for the Amerikan labor aristocracy, or if these labor unions can really be putting the interests of prisoners first in prison labor struggles.

As this writer notes, we have plenty of historical evidence of labor unions in the United $tates promoting the interests of the Amerikkkan nation at the expense of oppressed nations.(1) And this promotion of national oppression includes support for the expansion of prisons to lock up oppressed nations. In fact, those prisons provide well-paying jobs for many labor aristocracy workers. So the contradiction between prison employees and prisoners is amplified, as this incarceration is essential to their livelihood.

Many corporations can't take advantage of cheap prison labor because labor unions have put provisions in their contracts and state laws to force consultation with labor leaders before establishing a contract for prisoner labor. It is clear the cheaper labor available in prisons is a direct threat to the high wages paid to people outside of prisons for work that could be done by prisoners. Many labor unions are quite clear about their position on this point.

But the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is different from other labor unions in that it claims to be international and anti-capitalist. The IWW is the labor union offering free membership to prisoners and actively campaigning on behalf of prisoners. The IWW also actively campaigns for higher wages for Amerikan workers. So they are walking a fine line between progressive work supporting prisoners' struggles, and reactionary pro-labor-aristocracy politics. The history of the IWW includes some clear examples benefiting white workers at the expense of colonial labor, as is documented in J. Sakai's book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat.(2)

This doesn't mean the IWW is always working against the interests of prisoners. In fact they have waged some progressive battles. But their goal of raising wages for Amerikan workers is still fundamentally reactionary. The Amerikan labor aristocracy is the mass base for fascism, not a base for revolutionary organizing. They continue to come down on the side of imperialism, and are well bought off with the spoils of conquest and exploitation of oppressed nations around the globe.

In all of our prison struggles we need to keep the contradiction between internal oppressed nations (locked up, killed by police, flooded with drugs, denied economic, educational, and work opportunities, etc.) and the oppressor nation at the forefront. Why do we have such a huge prison population in the United $tates? It comes back to national oppression.

Battles around prisoners getting access to education, or getting paid for their labor, can be progressive parts of the struggle against the criminal injustice system. As long as they are framed in the context of the battle for liberation of oppressed nations. Opportunistically tying the prison labor battle to the broader Amerikan labor union struggles will only drag us down into reactionary oppressor-nation politics which builds up the labor aristocracy at the expense of the world's oppressed.(3) The oppressed, around the world and within U.$. borders, are always the losers in Amerikan labor union wage struggles.

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[National Oppression] [Organizing]
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Black August Memorial, Day 21 "Day of the Dragon!"

The example(s) set down by the "People's Machine" still resonate today...within the hearts and minds of captives in particular, and conscious folk out in "minimum security" (Amerikkka!) in general.

The blood of our revolutionary martyrs still stains the ground in San Quentin, Soledad, Tracy, Attica, Angola, Jackson, Walla Walla, among others! Their spirits call out to us..."Avenge Us", they say! Can we hear them? Truly?

Today being the day, 47 years ago! that the "Dragon" spit fire and in turn, ran out of the adjustment center...to a revolutionary death! The Amerikkkans thought that killing Comrade George, they would kill the movement...WRONG!

Granted...the system of capitalism has been quite active in circumventing our quest(s) for revolutionary change! As we ourselves have internalized "gangsta" delusional fantasies...and in turn, became cannibals of our own! Between the two lives the poor and oppressed masses! The have nots! starving for freedom...starving for justice...starving for equality! Just unsure of "how" to go about obtaining it?!

The fact that every issue of ULK that i have ever read has had at least one prisoner submission that referenced Comrade George, speaks volumes! At least to those who are truly conscious...These Brothas identify with strength in these torture chambers, where broken men abound! They want to be about more than lip service...it is on those of us who know, to teach! and lead by example!

Comrade George, W.L. Nolen, Bill Christmas, Khaiari Gualden, others unnamed, sacrifice their very lives for the cause of liberation! They waged struggle in service of all of us behind the walls and we owe them, period!

Today, i am deep in thought...examining my conditions and the cats i find myself imprisoned with. And I am working...regardless of what the Amerikkkans do to me: indeterminate SHU, death row, out of state moves, even death! i shall continually strive to be the example of resistance to those around me! Way i see it, i have absolutely nothing left to lose...but my chains! Life in a cage is unacceptable...to a "Black Cat"! i salute all of you Brothas in struggle with a clenched fist held high! Thinking of the beloved Comrade G. i have blood in my eyes! Power to the People!

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[Special Needs Yard] [Non-Designated Programming Facilities] [Pleasant Valley State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 65]
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PVSP From Chill to Tense with New GP/SNY Integration

This report is in response to Programming Facilities in CA to Decrease SNY Population in ULK 63, July/August 2018.

We are receiving a small but steady flow of general population (G.P.) prisoners on our yard. About 10 every week or two. It's not going well at all. SNY population is now jumping G.P. when able to. First time G.P.s arrived they attacked some SNYs in work out bar course. Four on five and G.P.s got scrapped. Next time SNYs were waiting, so guards had to escort G.P.s from R&R.

Next morning, 300+ prisoners were outside the building waiting for the G.P.s release. So guards decided not to release G.P.s and recalled the yard. Later guards released only 5 G.P.s and they were jumped by 20 SNYs. So this is the pattern. Only a matter of time before someone gets killed.

So now anytime in transit G.P.s and SNYs are in a possible dangerous situation. This SNY yard is super chill, with very few incidents to report. So I can only imagine how serious this issue will be on other more dangerous yards. OR when SNY prisoners are placed on a yard with the majority being G.P. Something needs to be done soon. CDC is basically staging these fights.


MIM(Prisons) adds: While family members on the outside have been petitioning to stop the integration, MIM(Prisons) has been supporting USW leaders who are trying extra hard to push the United Front for Peace in Prisons principles in these difficult situations. California prison staff have a long history of staging fights between prisoners. However, this massive integration is different in terms of the numbers involved. Comrades should search out opportunities to apply the principle of Unity, based on the fact that GP and SNY prisoners are now, more than ever, facing the same conditions.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 64]
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The Power of Sound

The days: they pass without a sound
The guards: they come to make their rounds
The food: it comes, but no one eats
The prisoners: they stay within their seats

The warden: he wonders what went wrong
Yet still he thinks "they won't last long"
They guards still come to make their rounds
But still we wait without a sound

The halls are quiet, the cell doors closed
The corruption conspired is surely exposed
The enemy soon gone to be tried and convicted
The power of sound, with not one finger lifted
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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 66]
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Ask & Answer Approach to Outreach

Here's an essay on the question of recruiting tactics and methods. When it comes to people and you're trying to impress upon them a particular concept or an idea. Sometimes the direct approach isn't the best tactic. So #1. When having a conversation with them, we utilize the ask and answer approach to see how much they know, and how receptive they are to the topic at hand.

Because for the most part, uneducated people are negative and close-minded. They become argumentative and want to express their viewpoint in order to appear right and that they know what is correct. But the truth of the matter is they know absolutely nothing.

So, the question and answer approach, in a sense, will expose them. So, this will put you in a superior position to teach them without any opposition. And now they know that they can learn a great deal.

However, through this Q&A tactic, you've now piqued their interest in a profound way. Hence, becoming receptive and open-minded to knowledge and understanding about revolutionary change. This is the greater reality for us socialists who doesn't fear the movement of teaching what life is... a society without imperialism is possible.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Under Lock & Key 63 was focused on different methods used by organizers in prisons. Keep sending in your tips and observations from the field, and write in to get ULK 63 if you don't have it.

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[Organizing] [California Correctional Institution] [California]
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California Correctional Institution September 9th Solidarity

For this September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity, I personally will fast, exercise, read and hold a study group, which will consist of 8 committed and conscious-minded individuals, who hold fast to the philosophy of peace and unity amongst prisoners. This day there will be no strife, conflict nor division amongst the prisoners here. It's not conducive to a healthy environment. Nor will it promote growth and development.

So, the study group's theme will be peace and unity and how we can best promote these themes within these prison confines. I will start it off by giving my interpretation on what peace and unity means to me. And then i will ask the eight comrades what does peace and unity mean to them individually.

And this will start the deep discussion about the continued peace and unity amongst the prisoners here. And at that, we can come together in solidarity to rid ourselves of the internal oppression that exists amongst us. And only then can we conquer and vanquish imperialism in all its forms. This is our object. We'll make this a successful effort by all means necessary.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 63]
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Mobilize Raza for Independence

by the AV Brown Berets

All matter is in motion and so with this motion we will continue to find new ways to apply the proper response to new ideas, and of course new actions will create new reaction. Each of us has to find the strength and opportunity into any area in our life. In this development we become more capable of helping others with the same issues. Today's Chicano nation is at a crossroad. The Raza population is growing faster than any other. In a couple of decades we will be the largest population in the United $tates. We have to understand, whatever changes we experience holds opportunity. In other words, external events often happen as means to facilitate internal change and consciousness. Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions break down before the collapse in practice.

I believe that in the independence of each nation is a unity that will help mobilize broader masses, then we begin to understand the importance of windows of opportunity. Chicano power is not simply being in charge. We don't want to mimic capitalism, but merely exercise socio-political, economic power where socialist relations of production replace capitalism. Without the influence of imperialism, we know that imperialism defines crimes and pushes oppressed nations into committing the crimes. Knowing most minority already have nothing to lose, and are well armed, when revolutionized can serve as the fiercest fighters.

We were not created by the same social and material forces which govern Mexican life, but by the imperialist venture of the annexation of the Americas. Our existence is therefore not defined by the reality of the border, but by social and material forces that have influenced the way we develop since before and after its imposition. Aztlan represents the land which was invaded, occupied and stolen from the Mexican nation. The southwest is home to many Chicanos, and non-Mexican indigenous nations each with the universal right to govern themselves and exist as a sovereign and autonomous people. Thus the era of imperialism is the era of New Democracy where a democratic struggle must be led and waged by the masses of the popular class in a united front where the primary goal is national liberation.

This August we commemorate the Plan de San Diego, which was a plan for New Democracy for the internal semi-colonies of occupied Turtle Island. It is a time to study [email protected] history, and apply internationalism. Write MIM(Prisons) for informational fliers on the campaign and submit your own essays and art.

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