The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got HTML/CSS skills? We need a volunteer to make our website friendlier for small screens. help out
[Censorship] [Legal] [Political Repression] [Control Units] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 24]
expand

SCDC's Illegal Ban and Inadequate Law Libraries

Peace, comrades in the struggle! First and foremost, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) is a modern day slave plantation. Being political is a crime within itself; once I became aware of the truth then the system considered me a threat. I'm a Black man in solitary confinement due to my passion to stay alive, and I strive to use this time to analyze my legal problems and how to continue to educate myself.

I write to this so-called law library to request certain law books and other legal material, but I am denied because the law library is not up to date and lacks current books we need. So I reached out to receive The Georgetown Law Journal 2010 Edition from Georgetown Law. I was denied permission to purchase that journal out of my own funds. Then I wrote to Prison Legal News, South Chicago ABC Zine Distro, Justice Watch, Turning the Tide, the Maoist Prison Cell, the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights. All these organizations sent me material but I was denied access to have the material and it was sent back because of the so-called policies OP 22.12 and PS 10.08.

The SCDC has designated a ban on all magazines, newspapers, books, photos, etc. that come from outside sources, whether it be from publishing companies or organizations. In Special Management Unit, where prisoners are housed 23 hours a day behind a locked door, SCDC mandates all above material must come from its institutional library, whereupon no newspapers or magazines are allowed, period. Only the inadequate out-of-date law books and library books. Because of this ban many people suffer from lack of information and educational and legal materials.

And the thing about it is the mailroom staff has a list of names of publications that aren't allowed to send mail to this institution. She has no education in security besides searching mail for contraband.

I have limited information I can use to fight oppression as a whole. I have offered my problems at the hands of my oppressor to hopefully serve as a springboard for further war against oppression. Times do get hectic, and recently I was placed in a full restraint chair off the words of another prisoner's statement! I am aware of some cases that deal with censorship, so I'm doing my research the best way possible even though the law books inside the library don't have cases past 2001. Of course I'm aware of the Prison Litigation Reform Act; that's why I am going through the grievance procedures now. I will continue fight this system and hopefully my voice will be heard outside of these walls.

SCDC has no educational programs so it's more about self-education, but as you see I'm limited on that also. They have even started feeding prisoners in here two meals on Saturday and Sunday due to so-called budged cuts, but Monday through Friday we receive three meals per day. This is a very hard battle but my will is to survive physically and mentally until there's no fighting left. I hope you can continue to send me updated info because I can receive up to five pages of material printed out like the Censorship Pack you recently sent. Thanks for your support.


MIM(Prisons) Legal Coordinator adds: Since 2010, MIM Distributors and South Carolina prisoners have been challenging the policy of "no periodicals allowed on lock-up unit." From our study of case law, we don't believe that this policy could withstand the scrutiny of the higher courts, but to date all prisoncrats who have responded to our letters have upheld the censorship and/or evaded our direct questioning.

SCDC is not the only prison administration that is more interested in political repression than rehabilitation. Because national oppression is the name of the game, all prisoncrats try to push the boundaries of legality, and fortunately bourgeois democracy sometimes get in their way. Regarding this particular type of repression, we have received similar reports from prisoners held in North Carolina, California, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.

It is a set-up for backwardness, which is the obvious goal: no programming, no reading materials, and you are barely able to prepare a lawsuit. They can't actually expect prisoners to reform.

As a movement, we are held back by this censorship in South Carolina. But rather than it defeating us, we should be inspired to push even harder to spread ULK, the United Struggle from Within, and the United Front for Peace in Prisons where we are able. Comrades affected by censorship should file grievances and go to court if necessary, so that conditions where they are don't mirror South Carolina's. Those with legal knowledge should write in to get involved in the Prisoners' Legal Clinic.

chain
[Organizing] [Control Units]
expand

Connecting Struggles Across the Country

I read the article in Under Lock & Key 22 FL Grievances Forbid Helping Others and I would like to thank the comrade in Florida for having the dedication and strength to fight against these pigs.

To my Florida comrade, I want to tell you to stay strong. Like Mao said "In times of difficulty we must not lose sight of our achievements, must see the bright future and pluck up our courage." I'm asking all of our comrades to remain constant to fully override this oppression in all prison systems. I'm in similar conditions in the Mass DOC, I'm in a control unit serving three years with one hour free to roam around a steel cage I call a dog kennel. Not only do we suffer from isolation, prisoners here are beaten by the staff and fed cold meals. Not only do the Correctional Officers in this facility oppress us directly but they also provoke situations between other comrades to enjoy the show and watch us destroy each other.

The staff continue to steal magazines and not allow grievances to fix these problems. I for sure will continue to speak my mind regardless of the repercussions or reprisals . Until next time stay strong united and positive.


MIM(Prisons) adds: One of the important contributions of the Under Lock & Key publication is connecting prisoners across the U.$. to share information and organization. As with the recent hunger strike in California, prisoners all across the country are inspired to learn about activism and unity. Do your part to share ULK and send donations to help with the cost of printing and mailing.

chain
[United Front] [Texas]
expand

Revolutionary Mandingo Warriors Join United Front for Peace

To an amazing extent, my organization, Mandingo Warriors, would like to put our strength with your strength and unite as one, under one common cause - the United Front for Peace in Prisons. It is our honor to be listed as an affiliate of the United Front for Peace in Prisons.

The Mandingo Warriors are a non-disruptive organization in Texas prisons which was formed to protect each other from harm and defend our community from oppressors. We strive to improve spiritually, morally, mentally, politically and economically. Our concepts and principles are no different than the United Front organization: peace, unity, growth, internationalism and independence. We study and uphold the five principles, our cause is not about self-destruction and mis-educating the people. Instead our purpose is to educate the people and uplift our people from fallen humanity. We will incorporate no different principles into our cause than the United Front's five divine principles. We will help promote peace and unity between factions where we are at on the basis of opposing oppression of all prisoners and oppressed people in general.

chain
[Culture]
expand

In Time: Proletarian Premise with Focoist Mistakes

In Time poster
Set in the year 2161, In Time is a science fiction film portraying a world where people stop aging when they hit 25 years old. At that point they have one year of life in their bank, and living time has become the currency instead of money. When a person's time runs out they die instantly, and so rich people have lots of time, while poor people live in ghettos, living day to day, barely earning enough to survive another 24 hours. Poor people literally have to rush around to earn enough time to survive, eat and pay their bills, while rich people can waste time relaxing or doing nothing, without fear of death.

This movie has a solid proletarian premise with the few rich bourgeois people living at the expense of the poor masses. "For a few immortals to live many people must die." The movie's hero, Will Salas, learns that there is plenty of time for everyone from a wealthy man who is ready to die and transfers all his remaining time to Will in order to commit suicide. Will decides to use this time to seek revenge and end the brutal rule of the time rich.

When Will buys his way into New Greenwich where the rich live entirely separate from the poor masses, he meets a young woman, Sylvia, who suggests that rich people don't really live because they spend all their time trying to avoid accidental death. This is not a bad point to make: capitalism's culture is bad for everyone, including the bourgeoisie. But the case of Sylvia is a pretty good example of what happens in real life: only a very few of the bourgeoisie will commit class suicide and join the proletarian cause and the youth are the most likely to do this.

Sylvia and Will set out to steal time from Sylvia's father's companies and redistribute the wealth to the poor people. They plan to distribute time in such large quantities so as to bring the entire system down. This is where the politics of the movie fall apart. Capitalism will not be ended with a quick massive redistribution of wealth liberated from the banks by a few focoist fighters.

The In Time world includes police who enforce the system. The Timekeepers work for the wealthy to ensure the poor never escape their oppression. But the Timekeepers seem to have very limited resources and staff so it's not so difficult for two people to out run and out smart them. And except for one key Timekeeper, the others are happy enough to just give up and stop defending the rich. Under capitalism the ruling class understands the importance of militarism to maintain their position and they won't trust enforcement to just a few cops.

In another interesting parallel, In Time includes a few characters who play the part of the lumpen, stealing time from the poor. At one point, the leader of this lumpen group explains that the Timekeepers leave them alone because they don't try to steal from the rich.

History has plenty of examples of a few focoists setting out to take back wealth to help the people and ending up in prison or dead, often bringing more repression down on themselves and the masses. A quick action to liberate money from banks will not put an end to the system of imperialist repression. True and lasting liberation will only come from a protracted struggle organizing the oppressed masses to fight and overthrow the imperialist system.

The other major political flaw of In Time is the complete lack of any parallel to the national oppression that inevitably exists under imperialism. In the movie the oppressed and the wealthy are mostly white. There are a few Blacks and people who might be other nationalities among the oppressed, but they all are oppressed equally. National distinctions have disappeared and class oppression is all that exists. While this is a fine science fiction premise, we fear that the Amerikan petty bourgeois audience will see in this movie false parallels to life in the U.$. where workers actually have more in common with the time rich people than the poor in the movie. The reason for this, found in imperialism and the superexploitation of colonial people, doesn't exist anywhere in this movie. And with an audience that likes to consider itself part of the 99% oppressed, this movie is going to reinforce this mistake of ignoring the global context of imperialism.

chain
[Release] [ULK Issue 23]
expand

MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease on Life Program

Helping Prison Activists Stay Active on the Streets

MIM(Prisons) has spent years trying to build the Re-Lease on Life program for prisoners coming back to the streets. Our goal is to help prisoner activists stay politically active when they are no longer incarcerated. An important component of this is helping our comrades to set up stable life situations that won't lead them back to prison. As most of our readers know, this is very challenging, demonstrated by the recidivism rate of 43% within the first 3 years post-release in Amerika.(1)

While in prison, people have a unique opportunity of having much time on their hands to study and engage in political organizing. While prison oppression certainly interferes with daily life, the structure of prison and this same oppression enables and in fact encourages political activism. When prisoners are released they face the difficulties of meeting their basic necessities, and dealing with people in random and complex settings, often after years of isolation. And with discrimination against people with a prison record, things like housing and a job can be very difficult to find. Consumed with day to day life issues, it becomes much more difficult for former prisoners to stay active on the streets.

As hard as those challenges are, the primary barrier to reaching our goal is preparing people mentally to deal with these challenges and prioritize serving the people. Even those with a stable home and support on the streets struggle to stay politically active. They are often pulled back into street life with their LO. Other times, their free time is taken up by friends and family who have an expectation of consuming free time with destructive behavior like alcohol, drugs, or just wasted time watching TV.

Part of MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease Program involves reaching out to prisoners well before they are expected to hit the streets, and working with them to build a study program and a release plan. If you hope to stay out of prison and support the struggle after you get released, having a strong political education is a vital piece for staying on track.

It is never too early to start preparing for continued activism outside the walls. We've seen too many solid politically active comrades disappear once they get out and are faced with the realities of getting by on the streets.

MIM(Prisons) has very limited resources and we cannot offer the kind of release support that is needed in the United $tates. Instead, we focus on working with our comrades who are active behind bars and who show a commitment to stay politically active when they hit the streets. This means we want to work with you now, both to satisfy some general study requirements, and put together a release plan that will help ease the transition to the streets. If you want our support, we need yours.

Requirements for participating in MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease on Life Program include:

  1. Creating a realistic post-release plan for both practical living needs and political involvement
  2. Participating in required study programs behind bars
  3. Undertaking political work while in prison
  4. Planning for both contact and political work once on the streets

Prisoners who do these things are offered our resources and support to help stay politically active and focused on the streets. Keep in mind that we can't offer housing or a job, but we can provide support, help finding resources, and most importantly a strong tie to maintain political sanity and activism.

We work with our comrades to develop a plan for what sorts of political work can be done after release. On the outside there is a lot more freedom to do political organizing, but it's also harder in some ways. There is no longer all the free time there was in prison, and there is not the same level of political interest among the people on the streets. And we know it's hard to walk away from the temptations or difficulties of street life.

This program needs help to expand. We need people who are expecting release in the next few years to get in touch with us to work on a release plan. And we are collecting stories from our comrades who have been out and back in about the challenges they faced trying to stay politically active on the streets. This will be the focus of an upcoming issue of Under Lock & Key, so send us your submissions soon!


Notes:
1. State of Recidivism, The Revolving Door of America's Prisons, Pew Center on the States, April 2011 Report on recidivism for prisoners release in 2004.

chain
[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 25]
expand

Fighting Censorship Through Litigation Works

Back in 2008, I was denied a lot of reading material and did not file grievances about any of the instances. During that time, I was stubbornly relying on just physical action to challenge these oppressors. That certainly was not conducive to making my situation better.

Fortunately, I've grown wiser over the years. I now litigate against these tyrants and use the grievance system regularly. Since I began utilizing the pen against them, I am yet to have any material from MIM(Prisons) rejected. Should that change in the future, I will file grievances and subsequent appeals. I will also keep MIM(Prisons) abreast of the results and be willing to take action in the court if there is strong probability of success.

This prison recently rejected some issues of a Turning the Tide newsletter. I will send you a copy of the grievance I filed, the appeals, and responses.

I know they would like to prohibit us from receiving and reading literature that teaches us correct ideology and ways to thwart their oppressive establishment. I will no longer allow them to get away with trying to control my mind by putting unreasonable limits on what I can read.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We don't want to mislead our readers to think that filing grievances will guarantee your rights are respected, as other articles in ULK will quickly disprove. But as materialists we should be struggling to learn and utilize the most effective means towards progress. And this correspondent's change from physically challenging COs to utilizing the administrative process is a very common transition for readers of Under Lock & Key in this learning process. Progress is not just about using the legal system, it's about organizing for our own needs and building independent institutions of the oppressed.

While MIM(Prisons) continues to discourage violence against COs, and we see this play out in prisoners' behavior, the prison administrators regularly censor ULK as a "threat to security." It is clear that they are not concerned about the physical safety of prisoners or staff, but rather the security of their jobs, hazard pay and white power.

chain
[Censorship] [McCormick Correctional Institution] [South Carolina]
expand

Fighting Prison Officials' Belief that Prisoner's Have no Rights

Comrades, I received the copies of letters that were sent to Director Gary Boyd and McCormick Correctional Institution Warden L. Cartledge concerning censoring of mail from MIM Distributors. I sent Warden Cartledge a detailed request form concerning that issue also.

I think I'll wait until I receive mail from CRC and then file a grievance claiming discrimination and harassment against this mailroom. From my understanding two prisoners here have filed lawsuits against the mailroom already.

South Carolina Department of Corections (SCDC) officials are quick to tell you that they don't care about lawsuits. All SCDC officials have qualified immunity. If a lawsuit is successful the state has to pay a monetary settlement.

What makes these matters worse is higher institutional officials tell staff that as prisoners, we don't have any rights. And that the harder they make it on us the less likely we'll be to return to prison.

To them our being sent to prison was not punishment. The punishment is to come from them once we get to prison. Imbeciles masquerading as psychologists. To become a warden in SCDC all you've got to do is take a prison management class, which is provided by SCDC.

Due to a staffing shortage they're hiring new recruits who're in their 50s and 60s. They're the worst pigs to have as guards, they think they have everything about life figured out and they're really doing society a favor by working here.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We need our comrades behind bars to follow this prisoner's example and fight censorship of mail. We have to follow the legal procedures even when we know the officials are not worried about lawsuits if we want to win these battles. If you learn about censorship of mail from MIM(Prisons), let us know and work with us to fight back.

chain
[Censorship] [Education] [Civil Liberties] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
expand

Expanded Censorship from Hunger Strike

The recent strike has unleashed a new round of censorship here in Pelican Bay. It's crazy that the very issue that CDCR claims to be "working on changing," that is 'Group Punishment,' is the very thing they are still doing by punishing everyone for the strike. Administrators from Sacramento came in their suits to beg prisoners they label falsely as 'worst of the worst' to stop striking and told them that if they stop there will be no retaliation, and yet here we are getting our political literature censored because of participation in the strike!

The state is so sick that it is not enough to keep prisoners locked in solitary confinement for years. It shows the cruelty, the depravity of what we are up against, and so when I think of so called 'constitutional rights' I know in my heart that these so called rights don't apply to me or any other prisoner in Amerika. When I'm denied even the ability to think, this is when I know the intention is to destroy me mentally and psychologically.

This is what the Security Housing Units (SHU) is used for - destruction cut and dried, there is no other reason for the modern day control unit, it's used to break you down by all means necessary. Whatever it is you enjoy is taken. If you like the fresh air we will have lock down, loss of yard privileges, etc. If you like to watch TV the power will go out throughout the week or COs can simply take your TV for 90 days. If you like to read, your books and newspapers will be denied and censored. If you like to write certain people they will stop your mail, return to sender and claim this address is a mail drop, etc. The list goes on and on. This is all done to get people to collaborate with the state in order to get out of SHU.

So as people go about living their life, or even for people incarcerated who have no idea of the active repression many face, I say it's real and be ready for the same repression. I have gone years having my literature from MIM and ULK censored and I have learned not to rely solely on ULK or MIM Distributors but to study on my own or with others. And when I do receive some political science literature, some revolutionary history, I read it over and over and discuss it with others so that I remember it and expand my understanding of it.

What we are experiencing now in the SHU with the new censorship will become common as prisoners in Amerika become more progressive and revolutionary. It is for this reason that people should prepare for this repression just as urgently as one would prepare for a hurricane or earthquake or any other disaster. To disregard this will leave one with nothing, no lifeline to truth, no theoretical nourishment, and most of all no guidance.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises an important point about the value of political literature and the need to prepare for censorship. We face censorship across the country in so many prisons it is hard to keep track. But it is never sustained forever, sometimes we can get past the censors after a few months of appeals, sometimes it takes years and a court case, sometimes there is nothing obvious that changes but suddenly literature is allowed back into a prison. Regardless of the reasons for the censorship or the victories against it, it's clear that we need to get as many people as possible on the ULK mailing list to maximize the distribution, and those receiving it and other literature need to share it, create study groups, discuss what they are reading, and spread the word.

With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows indefinite detention without charges or trial, the U.$. population is becoming more aware of the emptiness of "constitutional rights." There are no rights, only power struggles, as this comrade explains.

chain
[Censorship] [Legal] [California] [ULK Issue 25]
expand

Sending a Donation is Contraband

I wish to apprise you of the recent censored mail to and from your area. As you can probably recall, I promised to send you $20 off my books in exchange for reading material back in August. Well that month has long been left in our background.

I have attempted to get it processed from the start, yet finally it was blocked for the so-called reason that MIM is banned. I find that hard to believe because when you sent magazines and they were returned, the Sergeant who spoke to me checked into it and specifically told me MIM was not on the banned list. Still, in the documentation they refer to a memo from 2006.

Furthermore, the Trust Officer told me that anything over $50 has to be approved by Squad in advance. My donation was way below the $50 mark to go to Squad, yet before responding back to my request, my Counselor forwarded it to Squad. So yes, the Trust Office was just deflecting my question.

In the recent events of hunger strikes I think these pigs are getting petty and they are bringin up their repression tactics by stripping out all property from those who participated. Sending you money from my account seems to be out of the question for the time being.

The policies regarding donations is actually simple. As it states in Title 15 Section 3240.1 Donations, "Inmates may with permission of the institution head make voluntary donations from their trust account funds for any approved reason or cause. Permission shall be denied if any of the following exist: (a) There is evidence of coercion. (b) The inmate's trust account balance is less than the amount of the proposed donation. (c) The inmate is mentally incompetent. (d) The proposed amount of the donation is less than one dollar. (e) The reason or cause advocated could jeopardize facility security or the safety of persons."

None of the above pertain to the case at hand. It is an illegal stretch of the policy for this donation to be denied.


MIM(Prisons) Legal Coordinator adds: Recently, there has been much discussion and some legal challenges to the law stating that corporations are people with the rights to free speech in the form of unlimited spending on political causes. Incidents like this beg the question, are prisoners people? Do they have the rights promised to people in U.$. law? The stories printed in ULK tend to support the answer as "no."

Regarding the alleged ban on MIM, on July 12, 2011, Appeals Examiner K. J. Allen, an employee who investigates Director's Level Appeals, stated in an appeal decision to a prisoner,

“While Maoist International [sic] Movement publications were previously disallowed based upon the direction of CDCR administration staff, the publications are currently not listed on the Centralized List of Disapproved Publications. Thus, a blanket denial on all such publications is inappropriate, and the institution must process the appellant's mail in accordance with applicable departmental rules/regulations.

“As with all publications, the appellant's mailing must be reviewed and evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with all departmental regulations. Unless this specific Maoist International Movement publication is considered contraband, as noted within the CCR 3006, the publication shall be issued to the appellant and/or allowed to be ordered and received.” (When citing this Director's Level Appeal Decision, it may be helpful to use IAB Case No. 1020001.)

The Director's level is the top of the top within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). A decision made at the Director's level would generally apply to all facilities and all prisoners in the CDCR system. When the author of this article cited the above Director's Level Appeal Decision in defense of h donation to MIM(Prisons), s/he was told to omit it from h grievance because it "belongs to another inmate." How a Director's Level Decision simply re-explaining and re-correcting a CDCR practice can "belong" to only one prisoner is beyond reason.

In ULK 24 we put a call out for donations to keep Under Lock & Key functioning at its current capacity. When a prisoner is unable to send a donation to MIM(Prisons), the prison administrators are limiting our ability to publish and send out literature, thereby illegally limiting our (and the donating prisoner's) First Amendment right to free speech. When they cite a defunct memorandum to limit donations, it is even more egregious.

At least one persyn in the CDCR's Director's office made at least one correct decision, at least once. We encourage our comrades to continue grieving and re-grieving the defunct 2006 ban of MIM Distributors up to the top, and take it to court if necessary. To help in this process, we've put together a history of the ban with quotations for specific facilities. We are sending out this Censorship Guide Supplement for California to help prisoners hold administrators to their word. Write in to get it.

chain
[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 23]
expand

Throw Your Fist in the Air!

Let us return to the acquiescent essence
Where our people were taught life's lessons
Now let us fast forward, from Gabriel Prosser
And Nat Turner to when Marcus Garvey stood on the
Corners, calling for UNIA, National Consciousness,
And for our people to be returned to our own land
Elijah said we must have a place to be ourselves.
While Malik moved our peoples' learning towards social innerstanding
Within the context of this capitalist white man's nation
Their words would help give shape for our struggle today
Give us, us free like Cinque!
This thought was given motion by Malik Shabazz who preached
Arm yourselves with AKs for each
His ideology was studied, because his ideology he would teach
To comrade Huey, and the rest of the Panthers that roamed the streets
Protecting the Black man from the white man's feet
Power to the people, I recall their feats
Socialism and political education were the things that
They would teach
As K9 dogs jumped out of their seats
To attack our people who were trying to meet
And protest the injustice of capitalism calling
For communism throughout the streets!
I see it so clear...
Yet, to this day it's still not fair
Some gave up, some murdered, some overwhelmed and some
Placed here (the new Jim Crow), prisons
And the Amerikkkans just don't care
But I still hear that Panther roaring in my ear
And there is nothing I won't do, to get this message
Once again through to you
I will fight without fear
Until this message again becomes completely clear
Power to the motherfuckin people!
Throw your fist in the air!

chain