The ever-growing bureaucracy in Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC), and the interpretations that are following from ego-filled guards is appalling. Rich Ramicsh, our new DOC director, has made strong statements regarding closing down the use of solitary confinement, more commonly known in Colorado as Administrative Segregation. Yet the implementation of these measures and the enforcement of policies is left up to the creative imaginations of the individual prisons' administrators. With no monitoring systems in place, everything that takes place beyond each prison's razor wires and concrete walls goes unnoticed.
A new form of punishment is known as the "Austere Living Environment." They take disruptive, aggressive and often mentally ill prisoners and house them in 12-man housing units, locked in single cells 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are no TVs, radios, books or any form of stimulation. This means of oppression is just the beginning. Ad-Seg now is used as a means of retaliation, suppression, and rendition to those who are not just gang members, but those who speak out against DOC.
Prisons are public institutions, not fiefdoms. Why can't there be inquiries into the use of prison in non-violent crimes and investigations on the environments of prisons? Instead of tough on crime, let's get tough on human rights and abolish prisons.
Standing in solidarity with fists held high. Keep fighting my comrades.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This attempt to build new long term isolation units under different names is a game employed by prisons across the country to conceal their brutality and abuse. This Austere Living Environment in Colorado will do nothing more than degrade the mental and physical health of prisoners. We call on all prisoners to send us documentation like this on control units in your prisons and/or state. Write to us to request a survey you can complete. We compile this data for use by those in the movement to shut down these control units, but we also take this message further and point out the value of isolation units that target activists to the imperialist system. We work to free anti-imperialist voices so that we can organize a movement that will overthrow the criminal injustice system.
I'm checking in from RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in California, where the conditions of confinement are getting harder and harder to tolerate. Here there are a few comrades in the administrative segregation unit (ASU) from both sides of the prison system, mainline as well as Special Needs Yards (SNY), studying and struggling together to overcome the oppression of being punished for submitting inmate appeals.
The pigs that run this unit are giving the prisoners who stand up for their rights half issues of already substandard meals. They also move us from cell to cell at least five or six times a month, and always into a cell with someone who is mentally challenged and disruptive. Some cells are painted with human defecation and urine, and the staff doesn't bother to clean them or provide any cleaning supplies. Some comrades have been physically attacked and have had their personal property passed out to the rats and snitches.
While these are not infrequent unconstitutional violations here, most of the prisoners are afraid to speak up. The theory and actions these officers display is truly terroristic in nature, and the officials allow them to act with impunity.
So I have made it my mission to lead as well as organize and participate in a campaign to stop these abuses here and wherever my feet touch behind these walls. These abuses range from stealing our personal property to creating false charges against us, from denying pens and forms to withholding our mail and yard time, while they sit in the dayroom and eat the state issue items missing from our lunches and dinners.
On a better note, our study group is up to ten in just one week as the brothers of all races and both sides hear us dialogue about the commonality of our situation. Like the brother in ULK 33, I too am SNY and I know there are good strong comrades over here on this side. What people don't understand is that a lot of youngsters have a theory that older brothers "are like leaves on trees" meaning the older ones have to be knocked off so new leaves can grow. This is wrong thinking and a self-defeating tactic.
It's hard for me to understand how some people are fighting to end oppression and hate, knowing the role that the media plays in it all, and then they allow a designation of SNY by the statesman architect of hate and repression to separate us because we'd rather leave our organization and have a chance at parole than stay and end up taking a young brother's life.
I spent 15 years in the prison system of the 80s and 90s. I've done my dirt, put in my work. I'm not an animal who just follows his base instincts. I'm a leader and I'm standing for all these brothers who put their faith in my leadership. A true leader will never send one of his warriors to do battle while he stays behind. Further I stand on the ten point program established by the Black Panther Party and we hold the principles of Under Lock & Key to be of the utmost import.
I truly believe in what the Black Panther Party said when they stated that the power of the people is greater than man's technology. But the people's power has to be organized. As the Vietnamese people, who began their war for liberation with only bows and arrows, we must begin ours with pen and paper. And just as they defeated the most powerful military on earth, with determination, internationalist politics and organization by all oppressed people inside and outside these walls we'll be victorious as well.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have published a number of articles on the debate over SNY prisoners and we stand with this comrade in arguing that solid anti-imperialist comrades can be found on SNY yards. We look at someone's history of political work and political line rather than the label that the administration gives them. This comrade's call for unity is in line with the United Front for Peace in Prisons which brings together individuals and groups behind bars to build peace and unity against the common enemy of the criminal injustice system.
I ask that you embrace the tides of the times We are no longer confined with binds on the mind Once we embrace united front, scientific thought and study for line the long arm of imperialism's law is no longer strong When through theory and practice we arrive at the decision to take up arms which is a must if we are to defeat imperialism's parasitic lust with too much greed for that which we don't need We fail to heed even the most basic of humyn needs As the Third World suffers because of our greed So turn the tides of the times Study for line and overthrow imperialism... Hystory is on our side.
Although the World Cup has been over for some time I feel compelled to comment on Mexico's national team.
When Mexico beat Croatia to make it to the round of 16 there were "disturbances" in Los Angeles. As Los Angeles has a high concentration of people who see themselves as Mexicans and not Amerikans, this goes to show that there is a separate, oppressed nation in the United $tates.
But this disturbance alone doesn't prove this. As J. Stalin said, "A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of the fact that people live together from generation to generation. But people cannot live together for lengthy periods unless they have a common territory."
Mexicans in the United $tates, and especially in California, are distinct from Amerikans as well as from their relatives in Mexico. As Latinos are becoming the largest population in the United $tates it's even more important that a national party be formed to better serve the Latino nation, as the United $tates is incapable and incompetent to serve the needs of the Latino people in North America.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that there is a separate nation within U.$. borders that is comprised of the primarily indigenous people of what was northern Mexico, and includes many descended from immigrants from Latin America as well. Though it is far more complicated than just some World Cup festivities, this comrade is correct that we can see evidence of the separate nation in many areas of culture. We have come to call this nation the Chican@ nation, and this is the subject of a book that is scheduled to be released at the end of 2014: Chicano Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Write to us to get on the list for a copy of this important book.
With the ongoing fighting in the occupied territory of Palestine (Gaza) the death toll rises on both sides. However, there's a savage lopsidedness to it as the Palestinians take the toll of death. Even more savagely is its children and civilians taking the carnage of indiscriminate bombs being dropped by Israel.
In the face of this fighting, U.$. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a press conference in which he more or less stated that, "there can be no meaningful peace without the disarmament of Hamas." Not only is this hypocritical but who in their right mind will lay down what arms they have when faced with an enemy that not only has a standing army but an air force, navy, special forces and drones which lend an uneven hand to the fighting. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) have stated that they will not stop until all of Hamas's underground tunnels are destroyed.
More to this unevenness and inequality is the rhetoric spewing from I$raeli and Amerikan media that Hamas is terrorist and is causing the suffering of the Palestinian people. As if Hamas was the one dropping hundreds of bombs from helicopters and jets. Israel is a settler nation and therefore will stop at nothing to see the destruction of Palestine and the ceasing of resistance from the people.
The resistance of the Palestinian people is not without precedent. History has shown what nations that occupy a territory will do: slaughter and genocide of the occupied nation. All media pundits say that I$rael has the right to defend itself, however what about Palestine?
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that oppressed nations have the right to defend themselves against imperialist agressors. Though we would go even further and say that those oppressed nations don't stand a chance at independence until we can take on the imperialists themselves. The imperialists will not allow individual nations self-determination and independence, even if those nations try to exist without threatening imperialism. Cuba provides a good example of this. But imperialism is building its own demise by putting the majority of the world's people in the camp of oppressed and exploited, with a material interest in overthrowing imperialism. One at a time nations will gain independence, and united these nations will take on imperialism globally.
The bombing taking place in Palestine is beyond words and has changed my view of Israel forever, from a settler state to a terroristic state. As of today over 1,000 Palestinians have been murdered by Israel. The majority of those being blown to pieces have been civilians and children as well as the elderly. This atrocity has gone on without a peep from the U.S. imperialist state media mouthpieces, and criticism about these acts have been slim in the corporate media, but this is no surprise.
I have been following, as best as I could, the Israeli war on Palestine from this death kamp called Pelican Bay SHU, and what I have found is that Israel has been targeting children and hospitals. People are literally buried in their homes and then the Israelis watch and wait until other people come out to help dig these children out of the rubble and they are shot by snipers. The Israeli military is turning Palestinian homes into sniper nests as the Palestinians are driven out. They are sniping wimmin and children in order to inflict terror into the lives of the Palestinians who refuse to give up their struggle for liberation.
I have drawn much strength from the Palestinians and I learn from their concrete examples of what struggling against an occupier, a terroristic settler state, really looks like. I think that the whole world is learning what resistance really looks like, the Palestinians today are the example we can learn from. They are cut off economically and yet they find ways to fight against tanks and missiles, while starving and barefoot with nothing more than an AK and a clenched fist.
The terroristic state of Israel is a bold example of settlerism which needs to be excised from humynity. People in Palestine are being held hostage and bombed at will. But the majority who are being slaughtered are civilians and yet the Amerikkkan parasites remain silent. They are mostly silent because in many ways the terroristic state of Israel is a mirror reflection of the terroristic state of Amerikkka. We are not yet attacked on this scale in the U.S., but the internal semi-colonies are having their lands occupied and we are being assassinated selectively. Amerikkka uses soft terror by SHU torture, death row and the pigs, while in Palestine it is the missile, tanks and drones slaughtering the people.
These terrorist acts unleashed by Israeli dogs are what inspires me to help spread the word that Palestine must be free. This onslaught has educated me in ways that my years of study has been unable to accomplish. After seeing the Israeli's barbaric treatment of Palestine all I have to say is never again will Palestine stand alone in fighting settlerism.
In recent months it is becoming more common to read news stories about the irreversible collapse of glaciers in Antartica and elsewhere around the world, as a result of the rising temperature on earth. This degradation of our global environment is driven by humyn emissions of greenhouse gasses. As the reality of humyn destruction of Earth's natural systems becomes more apparent daily, and scientists provide more clear and alarming evidence that we are at a point where the effects cannot be reversed, we see a compelling case for communism as the only economic system that has a chance of providing for the long-term survival of humyns.
Maoists focus on combating the repression and brutality of humyns against other humyns, which is an inherent element of capitalism. When it comes to fighting for the survival of the most oppressed humyns in the world, fighting for the life of the planet on which we all live has become inextricably intertwined with our humynism. Without an environment that can sustain humyn life, the fight against oppression of groups of people becomes irrelevant. We see a strong reason for communists to take up revolutionary environmentalism, and for unity between environmental activists and those fighting oppression of people. But we will not win the fight for the environment without first liberating the world's oppressed people and overthrowing imperialism.
Back in 1997 MIM published the MIM Theory magazine entitled "Environment, Society, Revolution." In it they wrote: "Our fundamental goal is eradicating the oppression of people over people, and this goal is also the most effective way to liberate the environment from human aggression. We do not believe that socialism necessarily achieves environmental salvation, but we do argue that only through socialism do we have a chance at it."(1)
Historically the worst devastation has been wreaked on the environment as a result of oppression among people: wars, mass production using exploited labor, and corporate land seizure. In war, herbicides and chemical agents are used to deforest land and destroy crop production, which have severe, longlasting impacts on not only the plants, but the people and wildlife as well. Agent Orange, depleted uranium, napalm, and white phosphorous are examples of this type of warfare. A bomb that targets an "enemy" also destroys the environment in the surrounding area. Capitalist production allows for the practically unregulated dumping of waste into our rivers and oceans, including oil spills. When commodities cannot be sold, they are literally dumped into the ocean or incinerated, impacting ocean life and polluting the air.
Further, the imperialists target the Third World with imperialist-country waste, locating dirty industries there and dumping toxic waste in other people's backyards.(1) And it is clear that the countries that contribute least to climate change will be impacted the most by it. Typhoons hitting Southeast Asia and India, droughts in Africa, and islands that will soon disappear to rising sea levels are all consequences that have already taken the lives of many people and threaten to destroy even more. Where the imperialist countries will be able to rebuild infrastructure and defend against the impacts of climate change more easily due to their stolen wealth, residents in the Third World do not have this privilege. At the same time, pollution and other effects of humyn activities have reached a scale where it is harder for the oppressor nations to isolate themselves from these problems. For this reason, environmentalism may prove to be the most powerful material force for building true internationalism.
In the United $tates the capitalists are attempting small reforms to address the growing environmental problem, but these attempts show us clearly why capitalism will fail to save the humyn race. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed regulation of power plant emissions, focusing on existing coal plants. In slow-moving capitalism, the EPA will finalize their proposal some time in 2015, give states a year to figure out how to implement the new regulations, fight the lawsuits that states are threatening, and maybe see a few small changes many years down the road. The EPA optimistically predicts the proposal could cut carbon dioxide emissions from these plants by up to 30% by 2030.(2) The corporate media is already complaining about emissions standards being "bad for business," which under capitalism is more important than humyn lives. And in true capitalist fashion, there is talk of paying off the coal companies and compensating people who have good high-paying union jobs that will be affected.(3) So for the sake of the rich capitalists and the well-off First World workers, there will be years of fighting over the possibility of making some small changes, while people in the Third World are dying today from climate change effects already happening.
Many well-meaning people think they can address environmental problems with individualist solutions. They suggest that everyone needs to recycle and drive electric cars, or perhaps not eat meat. It is true that Amerikan diets, car culture and wasteful production must all be dramatically changed in an ecologically sustainable system. But such lifestyle politics are moving even slower than capitalist reforms in terms of actually reducing the rates of pollution, resource depletion and natural systems disruption. Social movement must be backed by organization, structural changes and real power. The capitalists have all these things, but lack the motivation for change. Setting up independent institutions that actually change our systems of production and consumption to be in line with the rest of the natural world needs to happen. Whether this can be done prior to the seizure of state power is something for revolutionary ecologists to explore. We do know that the joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations will be necessary to eventually enforce the changes needed at a global scale. This is necessary because a significant portion of the oppressor nations will not willingly reduce their consumption, and as long as there is the potential to profit via short-sighted ecological practices, there will be people who will try to do so. In the United $tates today the forces which maintain the status quo are more organized than the forces to impose sound ecological practices.
A third common approach to environmental problems is the pure technology approach. While the science of ecology has advanced in recent decades, it has been limited by the social structure enforced by capitalism. First Worlders can build careers around working with small communities to solve local problems, but these band-aids cannot heal the wound when the knife of capitalist profiteering continues to twist and turn inside it. Such academic ecologists can contribute to our knowledge, but their efforts do nothing to challenge the capitalist model itself. It is far more efficient and effective to make changes necessary for the survival of humynity with centralized government acting in the interests of the majority, rather than through the NGO or non-profit sector, or even via the direct action method favored by anarchist camps. Communism unleashes the creativity of all the masses in a way that pushes these projects forward with immeasurable enthusiasm and breadth. (see our discussion of China: Science Walks on Two Legs in our review of revolutionaryecology.com) We encourage ecologists with global perspective to develop a strategy that will really make use of their work globally, and we advocate communism as the best way to accomplish their worthwhile goals. In the United $tates today, we have far more lifestylists and reformists in the environmentalist camp. We need more revolutionaries.
Socialism will put an end to "efficient" capitalist methods of making profits. And with the land in the hands of the people, we can start to make smarter decisions about balanced use for humyn survival without environmental destruction. The majority of the world's people do have an interest in living on a healthy planet, but the capitalists with the money and power are focused on profit. Since they have the power and the guns, they do not have to answer to the majority. They waste resources or even destroy them, if it serves their competitive interests. And they do not care who or what dies in the process. Under capitalism we see how government agencies and the government itself are beholden to the wealthiest special interests, and incapable of implementing even modest reforms. Only by overthrowing the capitalists and enforcing policies that ensure the survival of humyns on Earth do we stand a chance of reversing the destruction of the environment.
I read over the letter from our Polunsky comrades. This is what I recommend. Often it helps to attach an I-60 with your Step 1 grievance and ask the Grievance Officer for the processing number of your grievance. If you have this number you will have a direct reference to track a grievance. This helps discourage grievances being "misplaced." It's also handy when you write Administration Review & Risk Management (ARRM) about the unit not addressing that particular grievance. For important and serious grievances it is useful to start them like this:
I file this grievance to exhaust all administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act to bring forth action under section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code.
It basically says: I'm going to sue you! It's not a guarantee but such an intro may make the grievance officer take it more seriously.
In regards to the officers who confiscate personal property and then destroy them, I'd like to direct our comrades to the Texas Grievance Guide, in particular the part concerning filing criminal charges against officers. If an officer takes a prisoner's property without giving a confiscation form stating the reason for confiscation, then that is legally theft. It is also a violation of your civil right to due process (which is also a criminal offense). Of course you will need some kind of proof that the item existed and was taken. Get prisoners to write affidavits and reference any camera numbers (if there are any). The criminal charges may not stick because pigs don't eat pork, but it may give them a wake up call and make them think twice.
I agree that our grievance petitions are having no effect with the people we are currently sending them to. I feel it more beneficial to send them to ACLU Texas or the DOJ. Our grievances and complaints are systematically neglected and denied. It is an Orwellian system, a labyrinth of closed loops, a facade. We need to push for the TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee which will place our grievances before an unaffiliated organization with the ability to monitor TDCJ to ensure that it abides by statutory law and its own policy.
We shouldn't hope sending the grievance petition alone to the DOJ or ACLU is enough. We must promote and campaign this proposed bill to our freeworld friends and family. I see no other way to break these closed loops.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Write to us for a copy of the Texas Grievance Guide. While we agree with this comrade that a TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee would bring progress for Texas prisoners in their fight against abuse and injustice, this too is not enough. We must learn from history that reforms like this one are followed by DOJ tricks and adjustments to work around the new policies and continue the same old abuse and repression. While we should still fight for these reforms, and use the battle to educate and unite people both behind the bars and on the streets, we must do this in the context of the broader struggle against the criminal injustice system. We should never mislead people to think that one reform or one house bill will make the change we need to see to create a true system of justice.
This memoir by Piper Kerman, describes the experience of a well-off white womyn who served a year in a minimum-security Federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Kernan was locked up for drug trafficking and money laundering, crimes she committed 10 years before her conviction and self-surrender. This is not a story of the typical imprisonment of disadvantaged men and wimmin, disproportionately poor and from oppressed nations, but rather a memoir of a woman with a solid future who took a brief detour to prison and made a lot of money by writing a book about it. Most prisoners face a life after release haunted by their conviction which makes finding housing and jobs virtually impossible. While others in prison on her charges are labeled drug dealers and face long sentences, Kernan's brief imprisonment is portrayed as the result of a period of reckless experimentation and mistakes of her youth.
Ordinarily a book like this wouldn't hold much interest for MIM(Prisons), but it's become quite a sensation after it was the basis for a popular Netflix TV series by the same name. This reviewer has only seen a few episodes of the TV show, but based on that i can say it's only loosely based on the book. For instance, where the book has virtually no sex at all, the TV show is mostly sex and lots of sensationalism. The reality of boredom and mundane prison life wouldn't make for a very interesting TV show.
On the positive side, Kernan humanizes the wimmin who she meets in prison, and gives their lives voice by pointing out the unjust drug sentences and devastating effects prison has on families. The TV show also provides a human face to its characters, when they aren't having sex or acting in some stereotypical role, but given the general portrayal of prisoners as evil and dangerous this is at least a small improvement. Of course, none of those wimmin get book deals, and for the most part they also don't have jobs lined up, or homes in New York bought by fiancées who visit religiously every week, along with hoards of other people who visit and write throughout their imprisonment. Kernan does admit her volume of mail greatly exceeds everyone else. And she spends a few pages reflecting on the fact that some wimminn she meets face lives on the outside just as difficult as their lives behind bars.
Part of humanizing the wimmin in Danbury's Federal Correctional Institution includes telling stories of their kindness towards fellow prisoners. In this regard the TV show overplays violence and conflict between the prisoners relative to the book. Kernan explains the deep friendships and support the wimmin offer each other in this minimum security prison, and overall she sees their humynity and does not try to portray Amerikan prisons as a place that is offering any rehabilitation or value for prisoners.
Both the book and the TV show condemn the prison guards for their brutality and degradation of the prisoners. The reality of Kernan's experience in the book does describe some guards who clearly enjoy their sadistic power, and overall she maintains a strong anti-pig position even when someone is cutting her a break.
Overall this book doesn't contribute much to those seeking to understand the conditions in prison and fight the criminal injustice system. It advances the finances and career of one well-off white womyn, and if anything we learn that prisons are built to lock up poor people, mostly from oppressed nations, and imprisonment of people like Kernan is a fluke that rarely happens and registers little damage to their lives.