In this environment (prison), I am a prison activist. I was placed in high security because I got fed up watching prison officers abuse and mistreat elderly and disabled prisoners on Estelle Unit. I went to Unit Classification Committee and I made a threatening "political statement." That direct action landed me in high security.
When I came to Estelle in 2011 I had never ever been in any serious trouble; I was the "model inmate." But something changed when I observed the abuse and foul treatment of the most vulnerable prisoners. I became more politically aware, and my former cellmate gave me a copy of Under Lock & Key. I was impressed with the cerebral, scientific, and pragmatic approach to facing these prisoncrats. I discovered that people listen to me and respect my opinions. I stepped up my commitment to Islam, giving Katbahs and hosting Tawleem, speaking more.
On March 14, 2012 I witnessed an officer slam the fingers of an elderly blind Latino man in a chow hall doorway. I wrote it up, Step 1. I wrote Senator Whitmire and Mr. Oliver Bell at the Office of the Inspector General. I was very angry at the injustice. And then the retaliation began: bogus and fabricated disciplinary cases, threats, and before I knew it, I had 50 days commissary and recreation restriction. I was devastated. There was a collusive and concerted effort to shut me up and set me up. However, instead of breaking a man they helped awaken a revolutionary! My main focus is to maintain this same passion, energy and fervor when I am released.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade's experience speaks directly to a contriction of oppression: on the one hand, oppression keeps a certain population down; but on the other hand, the oppression leads that population to resist and rebel. One of our jobs as revolutionaries is to tap into that urge to resist and rebel, and to guide it in the most productive way possible. We need to reach these people and plug them in to campaigns and strategies that fit into our revolutionary objectives. Under Lock & Key will always be a medium to recruit new comrades into the struggle, and to push that resilient warrior spirit in a direction that will fight oppression everywhere.
Currently all group segments here in the SHU at Pelican Bay are preparing mentally and physically for the upcoming peaceful hunger strike/work stoppage scheduled for July 8th of this year. From what I gather, most are committing to ten days for now, although the Short Corridor Collective wrote a letter to the governor declaring an indefinite hunger strike until all five core demands are met. I've read that San Quentin's death row "adjustment center" is on board and even many female prisoners in California. So this one should be even bigger than the last two combined with all outside the walls brothers and sisters even more prepared than before.
Basically the prison administrators did not follow through with the positive changes that they said they were going to do during the hunger strike negotiations. Yes we were given beanies, allowed to order sweats, and we are allowed to purchase art supplies and take one photo per year if we remain disciplinary free. Plus they added a few food items to the canteen list. Those were all positive changes. However, besides that, the only thing that has changed is that they created the STG/SDP [requiring prisoners to go through a Step Down Program (SDP) to get out of STG, among other changes], which is not beneficial to anyone besides the gang investigators and the prison administrators. It's counter productive for us as it gives the prison administration an even broader range of prisoners who they will now be able to validate and place in the SHU. These are prisoners who before were not validated due to it being harder to tie them to a prison gang, like the whites and Blacks for instance.
The vast majority of us did not participate in the hunger strike simply to receive a bunch of miscellaneous crap, and since the prison administration did not follow through with their end of the hunger strike negotiations, the Short Corridor Collective has decided that another peaceful hunger strike/work stoppage is necessary in order to force CDCR to the table and make them follow through with their promises of positive changes. This peaceful hunger strike/work stoppage is to continue until they have met the five core demands or until the Short Corridor Collective has negotiated terms that are satisfactory and/or beneficial for all.
As far as the new STG/SDP is concerned, it's a straight joke that CDCR is actually attempting to push it out to the public that these are positive changes when they are in fact not. They are trying to go on a media campaign saying that seventy something people have been released and so many admitted into the step down program, but it is nothing but smoke and mirrors. It looks and sounds good to the public but in reality it's business as usual for the pigs.
Nobody is acknowledging the so called "SDP" so anybody that they say is in it is actually not participating in anything. Nobody has been transferred yet for step three or four to Corcoran SHU or Tehachapi SHU. They have not raised the limit on canteen for anyone or given anyone a phone call or anything. All they did was dedicate one channel on the TV for a bunch of fake rehabilitation videos that are old and outdated and that nobody even watches. So there is no step down program in our eyes and in reality, just the prison administration's story of one.
In regards to the so-called reviews that they say they are doing, and the prisoners who are being released back out to the mainlines, this too is a sham, a way to sugar coat the story and make it look as if they are making changes when they are not. There is no reviews taking place here in Pelican Bay SHU, where I'm at, it's all just for show. All they are really doing is conducting the inactive reviews/gang status updates for those who have already been in the SHU for six years, that's nothing special. That's something that we all already have coming to us no matter what we do once we've been back here for six years.
The only thing that has changed is that Institutional Gang Investigations is now approving more people for inactive status instead of mysteriously coming up with bogus confidential memorandums. In my immediate vicinity I've seen around six or seven people get approved for inactive status, all southern Mexicans. I've also seen about four of them get denied as well so not everyone is getting kicked back out to the mainline. Those that were denied were given a new inactive review date six years down the line, so that means that they have to be in the SHU for six more years before they can again be reviewed for release from the SHU. So where is the change in that?
Like I said, it's all just for show, the only reviews that they are doing are the ones that they have to do and that's the six years inactive reviews. As far as Contraband Surveillance Watch, aka "potty watch", they are still using this unconstitutional method as a means of torture and intimidation. However, from what I've been noticing they have been utilizing it less than normal in the last year or so. I've only seen one or two people here and there when I pass by C Facility and D Facility "potty watch" cells while en route to the law library so that's better than them being overflowed at least. Although it shouldn't be allowed at all, because it is wrong and degrading. I speak from experience having been through it myself with my celly back in February 2011.
From what I've recently heard the "agreement to end hostilities" is holding here on Pelican Bay A and B yards and everybody is programming with no incidents of violence in a while. Yard visits, canteen and everything else is up and on track and each group segment is giving each other their respects. As a matter of fact northern Mexicans are starting to go to A yard now. After about a five year period of not being placed there by the prison administration, they are being housed in A3 from what I heard.
One more thing in regards to the peaceful hunger strike/work stoppage, you have to refuse food for at least seventy two hours before you are even acknowledged as being on a hunger strike and you're added to the statewide count of those who are participating. Also you can't order food nor coffee from canteen in July, only hygiene and stationary because if you accept food or coffee then you won't be counted as being on a hunger strike.
I have a lot of things to catch you up on in regards to the never ending struggle against the oppressors who run the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). I've been moved. I have been "mashing the gas!" on these oppressors: pressing them on their abuse of mentally ill prisoners, religious discrimination towards Muslim prisoners, and extremely poor quality food and unsanitary conditions at Estelle High Security Unit.
These folks have sent me to a unit where the food is excellent, known as "the friendly" Wynne unit. I'm still trying to reconcile the "friendly" tag with a place that holds an overwhelming number of elderly men who should be free! Or how "friendly" it is to have humyn beings locked in cells in which I can touch both walls standing in the middle of the cell. I'm in a very small dog kennel, but the food is good. This is still torture and my comrades on Estelle are still being beaten, and fed slop. I firmly believe this was a ploy to disrupt my operations.
A few of us sent grievance petitions to TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston, Chairman of Texas Board of Criminal Justice Oliver Bell, and other agencies, including legislators. All correspondences sent to any TDCJ upper level administrator were re-routed to the risk management office and central grievance office.
In the streets we call this activity "short stopping." TDCJ is doing all they can to thwart our efforts to expose the abuse and injustices being perpetrated against us. So we had to go around and through them. I hooked up with a like-minded comrade, he modified the grievance petition to fit our unique circumstances, and we did a mass mailing to legislators, media, prison activists, ACLU, and DOJ civil rights.
That was March 18, 2013. Three days later I was shipped. I'm told I may go back soon. At first I was like "shit." I hate Estelle and all the pigs who work there, but I love to fight them and I've been lighting their ass up. And now I have help. So warm the bus up! I'm ready for round 2, 3, 4 and 5.
On or around March 9, 2013 another comrade of mine attempted suicide on the Estelle High Security Unit. This comrade, who I have watched deteriorate mentally, was removed from his cell by Lieutenant Pope. Lt. Pope beat my comrade half to death, with his fists! My comrade was taken to a hospital in Conroe, Texas where he was placed on the intensive care unit as he clung to life. No one wants to hold these people accountable for their heinous crimes but I get written up for an extra sock!
I also must report, a Texas state representative Dr. Alma Allen (Black womyn) has proposed House Bill 877 that would create a grievance oversight committee separate from TDCJ. This is great news but I don't think it is going to pass. [As of December 2013, HB877 has been pending in committee since March 2013. - Editor] The chairman of the Texas senate criminal justice committee, Mr. John Whitmire, also the most senior senate member, says he doesn't want to create another bureaucratic entity. But the system is fucked up. On the real, he doesn't want "outsiders" observing the abuse and lack of accountability that is so prevalent in TDCJ. It is out of control. The grievance program is a sham. I have suggested they scrap the entire system and fire or re-assign every grievance investigator in Texas. These people are "oxygen thieves" who are complicit in heinous crimes against humanity. We will never be treated fairly nor have our grievances addressed in a just manner as long as this cronyistic, nepotistic, obstruction of justice filled grievance program is in place.
In reference to the pigs attacking a mentally ill man, well I'm still waiting! Remember this incident happened December 28, 2012. It has been 3 full months and no justice, just coverups and lies. I've even challenged the oppressors to a polygraph. Hell no they don't want none of that. I guess not.
Strategy for Grievance Petition and Abuse Issues in Texas
Texas hates negative publicity, period. So it is imperative to flood the media and internet with details of mistreatment, abuse, and serious brutal acts of violence aimed at prisoners. Always include name, date, time, who, what, where, when. Who to write:
1. Concerned Christians for Inmates PO Box 101094, San Antonio, Texas 78201-9094 210-737-2600
As a rule socialists and communists do not promote religion. However, these are some "Gangster" Christians why go hard in the paint to address prisoner abuse. They are going to make somebody answer the tough questions. And they are going to go the extra mile. They know no boundaries. If you have been the victim of serious physical abuse by TDCJ employees, copy all the dirty details and get at CCI ASAP.
2. Kathy Griffin Grinon - Host The Prison Show! KPFT - 90.1 FM 419 Lovett Blvd Houston, TX 77006 713-526-5738 JAM KPFT, A pacifica station.
Kathy is a former prisoner. She is super connected in the political realm and specializes in human trafficking and prostitution issues. She will expose these oppressors but you have to stay on it. She is super busy, but if you get her attention, look out.
3. Austin American Statesman Attn: Mike Ward - Journalist/writer 305 S. Congress, Austin TX 78704
Mike has written pieces on prisoner abuse and prison issues in Texas for a few years. Truthfully, he is just one more option. But if your story is news worthy, he will do an exposé. Media attention is like mothers milk to me. Learn to use it in your favor.
4. Senate Committee on Criminal Justice PO Box 12068 Austin, Texas 78711 512-463-0345
5. House Committee on Corrections PO Box 2910 Austin, TX 78768 512-463-0796
Hit these two simultaneously. The briefer you are the better. But pack your letter with details and heinous acts of abuse. Give it to them raw and uncut but use your intellect to articulate the wrong and ask for an investigation and accountability.
6. Have family or loved ones file formal citizens complaint with TDCJ-CID Ombudsman 936-437-6791 Find online: tex.gov.org
You can't file a formal citizens complaints with the Ombudsman, but your friends, comrades, and family can file on your behalf. Make sure to have details (who, what, where, when, how) and by all means include the pig's full name and rank. Ask to be kept abreast of the investigation and notified when resolution is achieved. This is important, be sure to follow up.
Lastly any serious civil rights issues that have to do with prison conditions physical abuse by guards vs prisoners and religious discrimination, don't hesitate to write:
DOJ-Civil Rights U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section PHB 950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington DC 20530
I acquired my GED and then enrolled in college and studied economics; macro economics, micro economics, public speaking, business administration and small business management. This is when such were free to Tax-us inmates. Then Klinton passed the laws in 1995 to pull Pell Grants, and further punish us by implicating behavior modification level I, II, and III programs.
When I got released from TDC I was transferred to another cage called ISF, a mini-prison Inner Sanction Facility in a distant desert city in Texas. Then they placed me on a program called SIPS (Super Intense Parole Supervision) with a leg bracelet and electronic monitoring, and they imposed the rule that I couldn't meet or talk with any [groups of men, i.e. lumpen organizations] or they'd violate me. They completely isolated me.
I became gainfully employed after 9 days of being at the ISF and I saved all monies earned. They charged me 25% of my weekly check to be harassed and fed a cold bologna sandwich. I petitioned District Parole for permission to obtain my residency. They kept me on SIPS so I had to pay for a land line so that the security company ADT could monitor my whereabouts.
I worked approximately 2.5 years as a laborer and applied for grants to attend college. I graduated with a 3.95 GPA and I went on to become a sub-contractor and parole detested that I was finally beyond minimum wage earnings. They imposed guidelines claiming that, due to being a possible terrorist, I should be kept in one location. So I had to quit jobs where I earned more than poverty level, and had to find a job in a non-relevant industry to satisfy their requests.
I was rearrested 9 times for faulty batteries in the bracelet monitor, which were not my doing or fault, but marred my record as a recidivist. I only have been arrested two times but they use the technical arrests to further discredit me to make me look like a dangerous re-offender.
I was brought back to the Texas Department of Corrections in 2009 and was immediately placed in the security housing called Expansion Cell Block High Security (ECBHS). I, like other comrades here, have been stripped of all earthly possessions and marked as a threat for what we believe. But our minds are ours to control.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As we described in an article on overcoming release challenges, there are many hurdles facing prisoners who are released from prison, even for those not faced with restrictive parole supervision. MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to help prisoners prepare for life on the streets with the goal of keeping our comrades political active once they are outside of the structured environment of the prison. Get in touch with us if your release date is coming up within a year so we can start planning and preparing.
There is a saying, A dog with a bone in his mouth don't bark or bite. Will you sell your soul or continue to fight? They give handouts to tame the wolf, They set the trap when most don't look. An addict of the state give me all I can take. You stay in the projects, I'll stay in the White House, You spend your food stamps until they run out. We'll exploit the Third World, we'll be alright A dog with a bone in his mouth don't bark or bite.
According to Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.), all signatory member nations possess the "inalienable right" to "develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination."(1) As a signatory nation, the Islamic Republic of Iran is entitled to this most basic right, just like any other nation. However, the United $tates and its allies are seeking to infringe upon and limit Iran's right to produce nuclear energy for civilian purposes, asserting that the Iranian government is using its civilian nuclear program as a smokescreen for an alleged covert nuclear weapons program.(2) These assertions are backed by no credible evidence, just the assurances of the U.$. and Israeli governments respectively. It is further insinuated that once Iran develops nuclear weapons, it will certainly use them to "wipe Israel off the map of nations,"(3) presenting an existential threat to the Jewish people.
Despite the belligerent public tone of the U.$. government, however, its intelligence community has consistently reported to Congress that Iran's military strategy is strictly geared towards "deterrence, asymmetric retaliation, and attrition warfare" (emphasis mine).(4) Even the U.$. National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, recently admitted to Congress that "we do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons" and implicitly confirmed that Iran is not presently seeking to do so because if it were, such activities would certainly be discovered by the "international community."(5) In spite of all this, President Obama maintains that "all options are on the table" to thwart Iran's nuclear program, with a military attack on Iran taking place as early as June 2013.(6) As we shall see, the United $tates is merely using Iran's nuclear program as a pretext to justify further military intervention in the region in a larger effort to redesign the landscape of the Middle East in order to secure the continued global hegemony of the U.$. empire. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United $tates remained standing as the world's lone superpower. In 1991, President Bush declared the establishment of a "New World Order," that is, a unipolar global system completely subjected to the imperial dictates of the United $tates and its junior partners.(7) Foreign policy experts and government policy think tanks immediately began mapping out blueprints for a new century of what can be called trilateral imperialism (the United $tates, Western Europe and Japan).(8)
To this end, the Bush I administration called for "the integration of the leading democracies into a U.$.-led system of collective security, and the prospects of expanding that system, [to] significantly enhance our international position and provide a crucial legacy for future peace."(9) Within this collective framework, the United $tates would act to "preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the United States and our allies."(10) In other words, the First World should unite under the leadership of the United $tates to dominate and exploit the resources of the Third World (cheap labor, oil, cobalt, etc.), while preventing any other power from emerging which could disrupt this neocolonial relationship.
At the time, Russia was deemed to be the only military power capable of potentially deterring U.$. imperialism. Thus, during the late 1990s Council on Foreign Relations member and Clinton foreign policy advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski advised that Russia "ought to be isolated and picked apart" in order to extend "America's influence in the Caucasus region and Central Asia," both formerly under Russian control.(11) In doing so, the United $tates could secure its domination over Eurasia, long deemed to be the strategic "heartland" of global power.(12) The NATO-led "humanitarian intervention" in the former Yugoslavia during the late 1990s must be understood in this light.
The Middle East has long been assigned a very narrow role within the imperialist world system, being seen as "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."(13) This is of course only because of the region's massive natural gas and oil reserves, which the United $tates considers to be vital to its national interests. U.$. foreign policy in the Middle East in the post-war period has been geared towards three main objectives: 1) securing and maintaining "an open door" for Western companies to the region's vast oil and gas reserves; 2) maintaining a "closed door" for potential rival powers (i.e., Russia and China) to Middle Eastern oil; and 3) preventing Middle Eastern "radical and nationalist regimes" from coming to power that might use their oil and gas resources for the "immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses" and development for domestic needs.(14)
In the bipolar world of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was able to counter U.$. ambitions in the Middle East, supporting various secular nationalist regimes relatively hostile towards U.$. imperialism. After the collapse of the USSR and the subsequent isolation of Russia, however, the United $tates was in a position to fundamentally alter the political map of the Middle East so as to "ensure that the enormous profits of the energy system flow primarily to the United States, its British client, and their energy corporations, not to the people of the region" or potential rival powers.(15) It is in this light that we must view the recent wave of "humanitarian interventions" conducted by the United States and NATO in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the current confrontation with Iran.
In 2000, the Project for a New American Century published a report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century," which was extended and adopted as official national security policy in 2005. Drawing on the themes of the first Bush administration and Brzezinski, the report recommends that U.$. military forces become "strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."(16) As noted above, there was nothing new in this goal of American hegemony per se, but what was new was the emphasis placed on "transforming" the political landscape of the Middle East. Due to the rise of Islamic terrorism and the stubborn existence of "rogue states," the "stability" of the Middle East, North Africa, and their oil reserves were deemed to be essential objectives of U.$. national security and foreign policy.
Using the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a pretext for this grand imperial project, the Bush administration outlined a list of seven "rogue states" targeted for regime change in order to secure de facto U.S. control over global oil supplies. Those seven countries were Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.(17) Of course, Iraq was invaded, occupied and "democratized" by the United $tates in 2003. The threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon has been satisfactorily neutralized as a result of Israel's 2006 invasion, the Jamahariya government of Libya was utterly destroyed by NATO and Al Qaeda in 2011, the Assad regime of Syria is on the verge of collapse today as it is under attack from NATO and its Islamic mercenary forces, while there are ongoing covert military operations being conducted against Somalia and the Sudan. Only Iran remains intact as a nation-state out of the seven countries targeted by the U.$. imperialists for regime change.
The current U.$. propaganda campaign would have us believe that the United $tates is targeting Iran because it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons with which it will destroy Israel. As we have seen however, U.$. intelligence — that is, the agencies responsible for obtaining such information — does not have strong evidence to prove that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Further, in its assessment, Iran's military strategy is not geared towards aggression or the offensive, but strictly deterrence and defense. Therefore, there must be some other reasons why the United $tates is gearing up for war against Iran.
In light of U.$. policy objectives to dominate global oil supplies and to subvert or overthrow "nationalist regimes" that seek to use their natural resources to benefit their domestic populations or to promote independent development, it should be fairly obvious that Iran is a target because its oil is nationalized and it pursues a program of independent development. Indeed, when Iran first nationalized its oil in 1953 under Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, the CIA and British MI6 quickly organized a coup d'etat to overthrow Mosaddegh and reprivatize Iranian oil.(18) The oil industry wasn't nationalized again until the 1979 Islamic revolution, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, which quickly set Iran on a path of independent nationalist development.
Also of grave concern to the United $tates is Iran's growing commercial and economic relations with Russia and China. Iran exports 22% of its oil exports to China,(19) while it has cultivated a strong economic relationship with Russia on various fronts, especially in military equipment and nuclear infrastructure.(20) The Iranian regime's independence from Washington has afforded Russia and China a foot in the door of the Middle East, which hinders the ability of the United $tates to completely dominate the region and prevent the rise of potential rival hegemons in the world system, perhaps the greatest threat posed by Iran.
Iran itself is deemed as a threat to U.$. interests in the Middle East, as it is devoted to "countering U.S. influence" and becoming a regional dominator.(21) To this end, Iran has been fostering political, economic and security ties with other actors in the region, appealing to Islamic solidarity and resistance to imperialism. Iran has become influential in both Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining U.$. objectives in those countries, and has maintained its support for the Assad regime in Syria, thwarting NATO's efforts there.(22) All of these factors make Iran a formidable obstacle to U.$. objectives in the Middle East, halting Washington's ability to totally redesign the political landscape of the region.
Iran also gives financial and military support to various politico-military organizations in the region. As the United $tates considers many of these organizations "terrorists," Iran is then a "state sponsor of terrorism." Most of its support is channeled to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Both of these groups are opposed to the Zionist colonization of Palestine and to U.$. imperialism in the region more generally. Through Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran is able to exert its influence in the Middle East, creating political "destabilization" in Lebanon and Palestine.(23) The continued existence of such armed groups is considered a threat to U.$. objectives in the region and is another main reason why the United $tates is seeking to attack Iran.
When we place the current threats towards Iran in their proper geopolitical and historical context, it becomes clear that Iran's nuclear program is not the real reason why the imperialists are gearing up to attack it. In fact, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the alleged threat posed by Iran's nuclear program is merely a propaganda fabrication designed to garner popular support for the immanent invasion of Iran, similar to the lie that Saddam Hussein possessed "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. In truth, Iran was targeted for regime change at least ten years ago, but because of its resistance to the "Washington Consensus," its economic nationalism, its growing commercial and economic ties to Russia and China, its potential to become a regional authority, and its support of politico-military organizations opposed to the United $tates and Israel, not because of its nuclear program.
The drums of war are now beating in the United $tates as Washington prepares to launch the final phase of its grand strategy to remake the Middle East. This plan is merely one component of a much larger plan to maintain the world system of trilateral imperialism. In order to maintain the global supremacy of the West, the United $tates and its junior partners are determined to prevent the rise of Russia and China to hegemonic status. Thus, an attack on Iran will surely be viewed as an indirect attack on both Russia and China. A war on Iran may very well quickly escalate into a global military conflagration, consuming other states in the region, as well as Russia and China. To prevent such a scenario from unfolding, academics and intellectuals must dispel the propaganda about Iran's nuclear program and expose the imperialist ambitions behind the U.$. government's agenda to the Amerikan people.
The example set by those who went on food strike in California was like Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus. They weren't the first to do it, and they didn't single-handedly change the system, or even significantly reform it. But they did serve as a prime example that continues to inspire those struggling for basic humyn rights behind bars. Since 2011, MIM(Prisons) has been in dialogue with USW leaders in Pelican Bay and across the state about those historic events, and how we can push that struggle forward.
One change that has been proposed by comrades in Pelican Bay this time around is that prisoners develop their own demands locally and hold the CDCR/state to the demands that they think are most pressing. While, ideally we would all unite around one set of demands, we agree with this tactic at this stage. There were many who came out to propose changes to the five core demands for many different reasons. So this approach allows those who had critiques to put their ideas into action.
In practice this means each prison could have their own demands focused on conditions specific to their location, building unity within the prisoner population at that facility. We caution people though that the broader our unity behind core demands the more pressure we can put on the criminal injustice system to make change. As much as possible, prisoners should try to come together around common demands within each prison.
MIM(Prisons) is working to unite United Struggle from Within (USW) in CA around some goals that are strategic for the anti-imperialist prison movement. These are goals that could be won within the realm of bourgeois democracy and will strengthen our cause and more long-term goals.
Please note that neither USW nor the statewide councils are able to operate on the basis of democratic centralism through postal mail. So while this draft incorporates the ideas of the California Council of USW, it is principally authored by MIM(Prisons) and does not/will not necessarily represent a consensus among council members or USW in general. However, the two principal points are points that MIM(Prisons) has long held to be strategically important in expanding the ability of the oppressed to reach the medium-term goals of organizing for self-determination. So we do not believe that they will be very controversial within our circles. We do hope they will push the limits of what is possible more than what has been proposed so far.
If there are already demands in place where you are, we'd encourage you to push for an inclusion of more focus on these goals. If not you may still need to adjust the document below to meet your local conditions for various reasons. But we should all be able to agree on what the major issues are here, and the more we can speak as a united voice with a united mission, the more successful we can be. There is very little in here that is specific to California, so comrades in other states can also use this as a model.
Here are our demands:
An end to torture of all prisoners, including an end to the use of Security Housing Units (SHU) as long-term isolation prisons.
Basic humyn needs are centered around 1) healthy food and water, 2) fresh air and exercise, 3) clothes and shelter from the elements and 4) social interactions and community with other humyns. It is the SHU's failure to provide for these basic needs that have led people around the world to condemn long-term isolation as torture. Therefore we demand that the following minimum standards be met for all prisoners:
no prisoner should be held in Security Housing Units for longer than 30 days. Rehouse all prisoners currently in SHU to mainline facilities.
interaction with other prisoners every day
time spent outdoors with space and basic equipment for exercise every day
healthy food and clean water every day
proper clothing and climate control
an end to the use of and threat of violence by staff against prisoners who have not made any physical threat to others
access to phone calls and contact visits with family at least once a week
timely and proper health care
ability to engage in productive activities, including correspondence courses and hobby crafts
a meaningful way to grieve any abuses or denial of the above basic rights
Freedom of association.
As social beings, people in prison will always develop relationships with other prisoners. We believe positive and productive relationships should be encouraged. Currently the CDCR makes it a crime punishable by torture (SHU) to affiliate with certain individuals or organizations. This is contrary to the judiciary's interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We demand that prisoners of the state of California only be punished for violating the law, and that there be:
no punishment based on what books one reads or has in their possession
no punishment for jailhouse lawyering for oneself or for others, for filing grievances or for any challenges to conditions of confinement through legal means
no punishment for what outside organizations one belongs to or corresponds with
no punishment for communicating with other prisoners if not breaking the law
no punishment for tattoos
no punishment for what individuals of the same race/nation/organizational affiliation do unless you as an individual were involved in violating a rule or the law, i.e. no group punishment
no punishment for affiliation with a gang, security threat group, or other organization - in other words a complete end to the gang validation system that punishes people (currently puts people in the SHU for an indeterminate amount of time) based on their affiliation and/or ideology without having broken any rules or laws
The above goals are very similar to the original five core demands. However, you'll notice that they boil down to two main points, an end to torture of prisoners and freedom of association. Until both of these goals are fully achieved, the struggle continues.
We've heard from comrades in Washington, New Jersey and South Carolina who are organizing their own actions for July 8 or modeled around that struggle. Comrades in North Carolina and Texas have launched peaceful protests of their own in just the last couple months. As we address local conditions and petition institutions at the state level, we build unity around the common demands of the imprisoned lumpen class across the United $tates.
My eyes bleed of day to day oppressing I sit and think where the war began Is it prisoner on prisoner? Or is it the deception my eyes hold full of blood And pain asking questions like will we all get along And realize it's something been took every day that pass Will anyone hear the cry of the real POWs Or will I look in another brother's eyes only To hear a threat that will lead to this Administration patting each other on the back With words saying "now that is what we need" Another POW lost his life September 2012 Rest in peace Comrade, forever you will be Known as a brother fighting to see freedom This day to day oppressing we only hurting Each other with tears full of pain and suffering Prisoners of war, I am truly my brothers' and Sisters' keeper. Knowledge Knowledge.
What should I do in these days & times Where my people's in a daze, drunk, Submissive-to-the-oppressor state of mind. Plus all he authorized, orchestrated & given False lies as a religion wondering why caged up like A zoo animal trapped in a prison, Amongst our own honor, respect & love for our people missing To me it don't matter what set or what nation cause 2 me U Black Tribe Just vision what all we can accomplish if we stand For the cause of equality, justice & righteous communism Stand together & ride Maybe I'm tripping or you don't see what I see Black on Black love, power of the people & undivided Unity It's time to seize the power over us that they Maintained for years. Raped my ancestor sisters, killed my brothers Brutality for running away from your plantations & refusing to work on your cotton fields. Never would you change my outlook of being a Communist until my heart cease I'm always there ears & eyes wide open Waiting for the opportunity to present itself so The process of revolution & confirmed science that Won in the past can repeat Peace
Recently the state of California has created what they call the step down program which those of us at Pelican Bay SHU have rejected. The strikes that swept Amerikan prisons in 2011 were initially kicked off with the intention of obtaining five demands, and the State has so far failed to grant the five demands. This July it will be two years since the prisoner population first mobilized around the five demands and yet the State has been making excuse after excuse to go in circles and drag things out while making more promises.
We have reached way deep for what little patience may be left in us as people who have suffered years and in some cases decades under the brutal torture of the State. And yet this patience was taken as weakness as all oppressors take patience or good gestures coming from the oppressed. We have attempted to resolve this issue with the brutal state through dialogue, and through agreements, to no avail. We now understand that like all efforts for dignity and humyn rights it will take struggle!
Everywhere in the world where the people fought oppression it was done through struggle, with selfless acts of sacrifice in some way. The law of dialectics proves that struggle, sacrifice and suffering produces justice, freedom and peace. One relies on the other in a unity of opposites and a perpetual contradiction and it is this contradiction that prisoners today find ourselves in and which created the conditions in which the 2011 strikes were brought to surface.
California, like all imperialist prisons and jails, has relied on brutal treatment in order to control its prisoners. It is living within a capitalist society that creates these prison camps, these concentration camps that capture our people, capture our youth and have us living under an occupied force, colonized not only physically but mentally as well. The fate of our nations within prisons relies on what we do today.
For the past few decades the movement for prisoner rights has been in a semi coma, many have been bought off with petit bourgeois ideology where everyone is looking out to come up and get money, too many seeking escapism in dope or alcohol, too many times do I hear prisoners talking about 'get rich or die trying,' but like dead prez said we need to 'get free or die trying.'
The question is, do we continue to be locked in oppressive conditions or do we finally stand up and demand our dignity? More and more of our youth enter these concentration camps lining up right behind us and walk in sync to the slaughter house known as SHU or hole. So many of our "privileges" have been taken by the state. Many times our loved ones out in society suffer from traveling to see us, paying outrageously for phone calls or goods and yet we sit and accept it. This has gone on far too long. Our patience has run out, we have grown old, our health is beginning to fail us, our sanity under such cruel and decrepit conditions is at stake and there is no end in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel. So we must make a spark that creates our own light at the end of the tunnel!
We have given the prison until July 8, 2013 to meet all five demands we listed in 2011 and if they are not granted by July 8 then our hunger strike will continue on that day. We will demand to be treated as humyn beings, we will not be tortured any longer.
What we learned from 2011 was the repression that will come from such a non-violent protest and many ideas have since come to the fore. Many lessons were learned since the last strike, lessons that will make us stronger next round. But we call on all those oppressed to use July 8 as your rally cry and to use this historic day to bring attention to your suffering, to your torture and to your oppression. And so we ask all to join us on July 8 as once more we hunger strike in unity for all prisoners, not just in the United $tates but around the world.
United we can accomplish anything, so long as we act as one. We need to remember that our oppressors act as one when they create harsh laws and throw away the key. They act as one when their sticks are breaking our heads and when we are placed in torture conditions. It doesn't matter their background or nationality, their sticks and boots feel the same on our bodies. So let all prisoners also use this unity in a united front where every dungeon forms their own demands on July 8 to better conditions wherever you're at.
There are still a few months until this date comes, and it is better to have time to get your mind right and be prepared. California has begun to develop peace zones in all prisons and jails where no longer are prisoners at each other, oppressing each other. Instead we are promoting peace and creating peace zones in all facilities. Now, instead of warring on each other, prisoners in California are beginning to find ways to better their living conditions. They are looking to the true oppressor and developing a more revolutionary culture in all prisons, jails and youth facilities. It is only by creating a more revolutionary environment that real change can come from not only our prison conditions but also in our relations with one another behind these prison walls. Let us create these safe zones and look to those who are also held captive as struggling against the same oppressor.