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Under Lock & Key

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[Gang Validation] [Smith Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 23]
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Fighting False Validations for Colors and Tattoos

I agree with the Texas prisoner on page 14 in Under Lock & Key 22 that the COINTELPRO is still alive in disguise.

At the Smith Unit, Gang Intelligence (GI) tags mostly everybody as gang members. I have a five point star on my neck that says "rising star" because I have a vision of being a celebrity. For this the GI labeled me as a confirmed Blood gang member, and put me on file as such. Also another prisoner had red in his "free world" tattoo with no indication of gang affiliation and still was tagged as a Blood. They confiscated one brother's pictures just because the brother was wearing blue clothes and tagged him as a confirmed gang member. The GI on Smith Unit is out of control.

On the other hand, for all you comrades who are being denied ULK newsletters and other political publications from MIM(Prisons), don't forget to appeal with the Director's Review Committee, and write a grievance for violation of your First Amendment constitutional right to have access to the media. If you have free world support, use it by having them call and talk to the warden of your unit and the mailroom supervisor. If more people use this line of defense it will make these pigs think twice about violating our First Amendment rights because it exposes them to the public eye and word spreads like wildfire. If the GI illegally tags you as a gang/security threat group member, file a step one and step two grievance so you can have some paperwork backing you up. It's called insurance.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade makes an important point about fighting censorship and false validations. If you experience censorship of any political material, you need to let us know, and file an appeal. We have a guide to fighting censorship available to all prisoners who want to help with this important battle.

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[Censorship] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Strike Leaders Isolated, CDCR Retaliating Against Strikers

During this second hunger strike it seems the prison system is working overtime making itself look stupid so the outside world can really see what we're dealing with. They are making it clear what we prisoners fighting for reasonable changes have to go through in order to bring attention to our inhumane conditions.

On September 29, 2011 they placed all of us strike representatives in Ad-Seg (isolation) on "H" row. Prison officials within CDCR were feeding propaganda to various news media that we representatives in the hunger strike are the prison gang generals, crime bosses, who are forcing prisoners around the states to not eat.

They hate to admit prisoners have had enough of these repressive inhumane conditions and want to be treated like a damn human being with some respect.

On October 5, 2011, a few of us were released from Ad-Seg. I hear the others were released a little later after CDCR officials put things in writing. I understand the 4 main representatives have actually read the writings. I hope to get a copy to share among the other prisoners that stood tall in this strike.

CDCR officials have begun retaliating by giving prisoners CDC 115 disciplinary infractions for partaking in a non-violent peaceful strike. CDCR officials actions simply say we prisoners do not even have a constitutional right to refuse to eat. We will see if a federal court will find CDCR actions were retaliatory and violate our first amendment.

I received a notification that MIM(Prisons) has been banned. These folks here are a joke and violate laws at will.


MIM(Prisons) adds: It's no coincidence that this prisoner is facing repression for activism and having his MIM(Prisons) mail banned at the same time. As activists, and especially revolutionaries, grow in our influence and organizing power the systems we oppose become more threatened and respond with more repression.

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Last Men Standing in CA Hunger Strike

[This letter was just received from one of the few comrades who has continued to stick to the pledge to strike until the 5 core demands were met. While it is unclear why others in Pelican Bay have stopped striking, this comrade is pushing for a re-orientation that addresses the torturous conditions of long-term isolation head on while reaching out to the general prison population.]

18 October 2011 - Well, they had a busload, about 1/2 of it, full leaving Pelican Bay State Prison for Corcoran. All hunger strikers, and all descendents from south of the border, Mexico and further, with only a few whites. How they chose us out of all is difficult to say. They immediately isolated me, and in the last few days have gone to great lengths to convince me the strike is over. The CDC is even lying publicly saying it has ended (see CDCR Star) via Terry Thornton, a mouthpiece propagating on behalf of the state.

I've been told if I relent and eat I can go to the block with the others, but so far I've been lied to at every potential turn of events. [State employees have lied to prisoners throughout the hunger strikes in an attempt to undermine their unity. -editor]

One of the prevailing misconceptions is that this is primarily a legal issue, and there's a metaphysical conception of this too, in that "legality" is viewed in isolation without grasping its interconnections with all that is around it, ie. politics, economics, etc.

This lack of political consciousness is reflected in our goal. If there had been a more elevated ideological grasp on circumstances, even rudimentary comprehension of dialectics - scientific materialism, the distinction between "form" and "essence" would likely have been made once analyzing our strategy, before agreeing on it and pursuing it. You see, we must alter our strategic objective. The validation is only one "form," a vehicle, amongst a few to permanently isolate one within a sensory deprivation unit - the "essence" in this dialectical connection.

Had we made this analysis, instead of confronting a peripheral, a formal manifestation and means to permanently isolate us, we would have gone to the source of the disease, essentially, the permanent isolation itself.

People are sympathetic to the "dehumanization" that one is subjected to. One becomes, if enough time passes in such isolation, a social vegetable incapable of any form of social intercourse. This is caused by the severe lack of interaction with others, the context necessary for the personality's development, which not only identifies us as individuals distinct from one another, but it is social intercourse that binds us together as a collective, wholly as a single species.

If we achieve our goal, we've struggled only to put a Band-Aid on one of these sores manifesting from a diseased spot - Solitary Confinement. So long as it exists, even if we dismantle validation, we'll still be subjected to perpetual isolation by different methods, excuses, justifications, etc.

The push for the right to minimal association with other humyns is a strategy that has a historical precedent, tried and tested, with more successful results than not (see the IRA, ETA, RAF, Red Brigades, etc.). They all gained extraordinary international support within the UN and from organizations such as Amnesty International, etc. [Amnesty International released a statement of support for the hunger strikers during round 2 of the hunger strike. They condemned the use of political repression by the state against those who participated.]

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[Organizing] [International Connections] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Learn from the Hunger Strike and Build

I want to extend a raised fist and reflect on the second round of the hunger strike here in Pelican Bay. As most know, prisoners once again attempted to achieve some sort of sense of humanity, if such a thing is possible in SHU. The demands were not fully met in the original strike, and this combined with the state's propaganda offensive pushed many of us captives into another push of resistance! This is what I attempt to give perspective on in this writing.

We need to review the entire process of any effort in order to learn from it. This is the process of evaluating the action (or inaction) and using these lessons to help us in future life choices. I'm not just speaking of this most recent effort but also anywhere else in Amerika where this same injustice presents itself.

We must remember the torture and abuse suffered and understand that torture will not stop from a peaceful protest. Torture in imperialist Amerika will always exist in one form or another so long as this system of state sanctioned white supremacy exists. So long as the oppressed nations are hunted down like Third World people, just as the Afghani villager flees when s/he hears the sound of helicopters, knowing it is the NATO occupiers, so too do the oppressed Brown and Black peoples understand when the helicopter comes over our neighborhoods, we too are its prey.

The SHUs are but another expression of what the people live with psychologically in the barrios and ghettos across Amerika. We are locked physically in these concentration kamps, told what to read, what to look at, what to listen to and what to think. People out in society are also experiencing this control on a more subtle level, and in our communities we are hunted down lethally. In Amerika our task force 373 (kill squad) is the pigs where as in the Third World it is the U.$. military who go into Third World nations when Third World people raise their objection.

Today the corporate media announced that Gaddafi was killed and as they showed his corpse, and as Obama made a speech about how Gaddafi was a "mad dog" for not respecting the human rights of all Libyans, I sit in solitary confinement with no sunlight, no human contact, and all the oppression that comes with being in SHU. The truth is Amerika doesn't see Brown or Black people as worthy of human rights. This is why millions of us are criminalized; why we are shot dead unarmed in the streets and prisons by the pigs. This is why we are not given work and suffer a new caste system of being branded a felon, and it's why mothers and fathers are ripped apart from children and deported as "illegals." Illegals! Who are the real illegals?!

The second hunger strike erupted September 26 but unlike the previous strike there was no negotiating teams, no attorney visits to work as mediators, no coverage in the corporate media and so many people here did not know a strike was happening until later in the effort. The numbers I got were approximately half the SHU participated in this second effort, which was fewer than last time, but I also heard more participated in prisons across Amerika and even some county jails. This proves my theory that the longer these efforts take place the more they will be supported. Prisoners get used to the idea of struggle. It brings to the forefront the everyday issues that affect every prisoner, particularly the issue of state repression. This of course is the state's worse nightmare.

I continue to believe that an effort prepared well in advance is far more effective and would be more supported and last a longer amount of time. I think the first strike lasted three weeks because it was prepared for properly. To just announce you're going to do something and do so will get many to participate, but if an effort is ill prepared it won't be as lasting and may not be as effective.

I myself was very angry after the first strike because I didn't feel the demands were essential to a mass effort. Things like shut down all SHUs, end the three strikes, end the death penalty, are things I think are worthy of demands. These are issues that affect every prisoner, not just some. I am very proud of the California prison population for its awakening and learning to stand up en mass, yet we should look deeper into our demands and make sure they reflect the true causes of our oppression.

We can see California prisoners are on the move. It took the many years of groups like MIM(Prisons) along with prison revolutionaries working on the inside to raise the consciousness to see this oppression we live with in these dungeons. MIM(Prisons) once said "Lenin always insisted that change does not occur in straight lines, despite our wishes. And like all Marxists, he stressed historical materialism, which means that ideas come from material reality and not vice versa. We can imagine the world we want and wish it into existence, but that will not make it so. What Marxists do is look at the contradictions in humyn society and study the forces that make them up in order to understand how to resolve them."(1)

I think California prisoners are indeed looking at the contradictions we live with and finding ways to resolve them. This by no means is going away. More and more prisoners are taking notice and coming to support the Pelican Bay SHU battles while raising their own demands wherever they reside in Amerika's concentration kamps. Let the demand for human rights for prisoners reach every cage in this imperial empire. Power to the people!

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[Control Units] [ULK Issue 23]
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NY Bar Association Report: Supermax Isolation = Torture

"The Brutality of Supermax Confinement"
New York City Bar Committee on International Human Rights
September 2011

This report addressed the dramatic growth of "supermax" confinement facilities in the United $tates over the past three decades and highlights the conditions of torture and violations of domestic and international law. As an introduction to long-term isolation in U.$. prisons, and an overview of relevant laws and cases, this report is an excellent resource.

The report cites estimates that 80,000 prisoners "...endure conditions of extreme sensory deprivation for months or years on end, an excruciating experience in which the prisoner remains isolated from any meaningful human contact." Articles in Under Lock & Key regularly testify to this torture that prisoners face in long-term isolation. The authors point out that estimates are widely varying and total numbers of people in supermax is not known. MIM(Prisons) has conducted our own survey to collect statistics on prisoners in control units and we estimate there are close to 110,000 prisoners currently in long-term isolation.

The authors correctly conclude about these torturous conditions: "The policy of supermax confinement, on the scale which it is currently being implemented in the United States, violates basic human rights." Though MIM(Prisons) would question how this policy would be ok if the scale was smaller. This "scale" caveat is possible because the authors fail to address the system that determines who gets locked up in isolation and why they are put there.

As a part of an overview of relevant legal cases and laws, the report notes that the courts have failed to address this torture, which the authors consider a violation of the Eighth Amendment: "As long as a prisoner receives adequate food and shelter, the extreme sensory deprivation that characterizes supermax confinement will, under current case law, almost always be considered within the bounds of permissible treatment." They demonstrate some of the legal difficulties in proving an Eighth Amendment violation, including the added legal burden of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) which requires prisoners to show physical injury before bringing an action for injury suffered in custody.

The authors describe how supermax confinement violates international law based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture, among others. They note that international law has not been a factor for U.$. courts in these cases and call for change in this regard.

The report concludes with the following recommendations:


1. The provision in the PLRA providing that inmate plaintiffs may not recover damages "without a prior showing of physical injury" should be repealed;
2. Prisoners with serious mental illness should never be subjected to supermax confinement;
3. Conditions of extreme isolation and restriction should be imposed only when an extremely serious threat to prison safety has been established, and even in such circumstances supermax confinement should be for the shortest time possible and inmates should be afforded due process, and an opportunity to contest the confinement and appeal;
4. Any form of segregated housing should provide meaningful forms of mental, physical and social stimulation; and
5. A national task force should be established to promptly report on the numbers of inmates being held in supermax confinement in state and federal prisons and their conditions of confinement, and to propose further legislative and administrative reforms.

As humynists, we say long-term isolation is torture and it should be abolished immediately. And as we've discussed elsewhere, we disagree with point 2 as a campaign in that it justifies the use of torture against the strongest resisters while misconstruing the real relationship between long-term isolation and mental illness.

If implemented, the Committee's recommendations would certainly reduce the number of prisoners suffering in long-term isolation, and are therefore progressive recommendations for a Bar Association that works within the injustice system that uses supermax confinement as a tool of social control. But this very system, which they point out has demonstrated its willingness to ignore the law and act outside of standards of common decency set out by the Eighth Amendment, certainly cannot be trusted to determine "when an extremely serious threat to prison safety has been established."

The authors ignore the broader context of supermax confinement and its use in the United $tates. As we report in an article on the history of control units: "The truth behind the reasons these control units are needed is they are a means of political, economic and social control of a whole class of oppressed and disenfranchised people. These include especially African, Latino and indigenous people who are a disproportionate part of control unit populations." Prisons in the United $tates are a breeding ground for resistance to the system that unjustly locks up segments of its population, and supermax units are required to further control the inevitable education and organizing that takes place among those who come face to face with the criminal injustice system.

While this report is useful for both the legal citations and the study of the harms caused by long-term isolation, it is important that we put it in the broader context of the criminal injustice system and understand that supermax torture cannot be reformed away within this system. We hope to make some significant improvements which will have a particular impact on the lives of our politically active comrades behind bars who are targeted for lockup in these isolation cells. And in that battle we unite with the NY Bar Association and many others who clearly see the injustice and inhumanity of supermax isolation.

Prisoners interested in a copy of this report should contact the New York City Bar Association at 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036.

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[Political Repression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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PBSP Punishes Prisoners for Hunger Strike

I am writing you from Pelican Bay State Prison. At the conclusion of the hunger strike the COs in General Population at PBSP initiated a 90 day lock down for no specified act or incident from the prisoners. Details are hazy at this moment but there was a fairly wide search of the yards and all the grass is now gone on the exercise yard. What we believe was a "sweep" for weapon stockpiles is turning out to simply be an excuse to hold our privileges hostage.

Visitor and work assignment movement has not ceased, however the administration seems to believe that a facility lock down is necessary for 90 days, even though they are still running the laundry service which is unheard of during "lock down" status.

This is clearly a tactic to impose a punishment for hunger strike participation. Now all quarterly packages and store for the holiday season has been stripped from an already isolated, deprived group of prisoners.

It is rumored that the COs uncovered a rusted piece of metal believed to be a home fashioned knife on a section of yard off limits to prisoners when yard is refused. Sounds real convenient that the COs get to have the last word on our concluded demonstration. When an incident occurs on the yard and a weapon is found, the COs resume yard, why is it we are on lockdown without a riot occurring? Typical "Green" bullshit.

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[Political Repression] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Corcoran Represses Strikers: Denies Salts, Sugars, Liquids

I am writing from 4B1L C Section short corridor isolation unit. It is October 9, day 13 of the second hunger strike in support of our Five Core Demands and the abolition of SHU torture units as a means of manufacturing informants, crushing progressive political ideas, and maintaining the status quo for the prison industrial complex.

At this writing all New Afrikan and "southern" Mexican prisoners in this isolation unit are fully participating in the hunger strike, while our "northern" Mexican and white brothers are providing their moral support. We have not eaten since September 25 and the administration here has unleashed an unprecedented wave of retaliatory reprisals against us, aimed at breaking the hunger strike and provoking a violent reaction. This of course would undermine the non-violent basis of this peaceful effort, and they have thus far failed.

In response to this second effort, on September 29 CDCR revised its medical evaluation policy for hunger strikes to minimize the amount of medical data gathered and maximize the chance of serious injury or death to those on hunger strike by ceasing the taking of vital signs (blood pressure, heart rates, temperature) altogether and only weighing us twice a week — unless it appears you need it. It was only because myself and another prisoner have lost so much weight since this began (over 10% of our body weight from the first weigh in on September 30) that our vital signs have been taken. Others who've requested it or asked in connection with complaints of dizziness, weakness, light headedness, etc., have been told to "put in a sick call request," which will cost $5.

Canteen purchases for hunger strikers have been restricted to hygiene and stationary items only; no food or drink. On or about October 3 they raided 4B1L C Section and removed all food and drink items (even coffee and salt packs) from the cells of hunger strikers. A short time later this warden and her entourage arrived in our section, laughing and joking like it was a day at the fair, and ordered sandbags placed in front of each of our cell doors to prevent any fishing [sharing between cells]. This was an attempt to prevent non-hunger strikers from getting coffee or Kool-Aid to those on hunger strike.

Human rights attorneys were barred access and we have been denied access to yard, and the law library. The warden even directed IGI [the "gang" unit] to open and/or confiscate legal mail for hunger strikers here. They have been dismissive and outright verbally disrespectful to some hunger strikers in a blatant attempt to provoke us. Earlier this week, pursuant to a 1030 confidential informant chrono alleging that two of our "southern" Mexican brothers here "ordered the hunger strike," those two brothers had their visits taken by the administration for 90 days. This is an absurd and blatant abuse of power clearly designed to provoke a violent reaction.

This is a peaceful human rights initiative supported across racial lines. It is impossible for any single group, let alone individual, to "order" anything. We are all participating of our individual free will guided by a collective desire to see an end to this systematic torture and industrial profiteering at our expense.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This statement from NCTT went on to express support and solidarity with the "Occupy Wall Street!" (OWS!) movement currently taking place across the United $tates. OWS! is essentially a movement to save the Amerikan dream, which is a nightmare for most of the world's people. In most parts of the country this movement has regularly appealed to cops as being "one of them." They call themselves the "99%," when in reality Amerikans are all members of the top 13% of the world in wealth; a position they maintain at the expense of the exploited Third World peoples.

While more progressive elements participating in OWS! in California have proclaimed support for the prisoner hunger strike, this mostly serves to Black/Brown-wash a movement that is openly about the enrichment of a group of people who built their wealth on the exploitation of Black and Brown people. From day one the Amerikan nation has been a supporter of colonialism and later imperialism, which in turn depends on Amerikans to expand its exploitation among other nations. For the oppressed people of the world, the awakening of Amerikans to action should be worrisome, as their demands for more translate into further tightening around the necks of Asia, Africa and Latin America, where their wealth is extracted from.

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[Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 24]
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The Musings of a Hunger Striker

Sitting here on my 17th day of a hunger strike, in protest of the inhumane and torturous treatment of our confinement in the Security Housing Units (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Prison, my heart races at 126 beats per minute — at rest! Am I going to have a heart attack? Am I mad for risking my health — my life! — or am I just fed up with having spent 25 years in SHU for non-disciplinary reasons?

My mind is racing just as fast, if not faster, as my heart. A fog has settled in on my thoughts. Everything seems hazy and I'm not sure if I'm even thinking logically anymore.

This morning I was dozing in and out of a dream. I usually don't remember my dreams anymore, so I'm not even sure if I was actually dreaming or if I was awake, just thinking in the fog. But this is what I remember:

I was in this big ol' boat, along with a whole lot of other guys, and we were rowing this boat. It was hard work (and maybe that's what got my heart pumping so hard!), and if any of us slowed down or fell out of sync, these overseers would come over and whip us something awful, so we all had an incentive to keep rowing.

Then an old man, a few rows in front of me, stopped rowing. He started to sway, from side to side, as the overseers whipped him. Regardless of the pain, the old man just continued to sway, from side to side, from side to side, and all he would say is "rock." Everyone thought the guy was mad, that he had lost his mind or something. Then another guy, a few rows back, threw his oar down and began to sway the same way as the old man. Everyone was confused. Then a few more people started throwing down their oars and swaying in sync to each other. Nothing was said except, "rock!" The boat started to sway, just a little, from side to side, and the overseers were frantic to stop the swaying. They were whipping guys viciously, but no one would pick up the oars. In fact, more and more people were refusing to row now and the boat was dangerously close to capsizing. The overseers were terrified and all that was heard was "rock!" The oars with the words "industries," "shirt factory," "wood products," "shoe factory," "dairy," "kitchen workers," "cooks" engraved into them were all just laying there, idle, and we told the overseers, "you want this boat rowed, then you do the rowing!"

About this time, I either woke up or I snapped out of the fog I was in. My heart was racing. Am I mad? Is that really such a crazy thought? Or is it the most sanest, common sense thing that should have taken place years ago?

I thought about this as I drank my tea and the COs passed out breakfast. "Are you gonna eat?" the CO asked. "No" I replied, and with my heart still racing I thought to myself, crazy or not, I say "let's rock!"

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Florida]
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Violence and Medical Neglect Caused by Prison Guards

On August 21st I was stabbed by a white supremacist while I was in full restraints. Though I didn't know the man, I can't help but wonder whether this guy thought I was someone else, or he was following orders from these tyrants (COs). It seems to be a common thing for prisoners to harm another prisoner, in the hopes of staying in the Correctional Officers (COs) good graces.

Anyways, I was sent to medical. While at medical the nurses glued up my wounds, with a liquid stitch. Without verifying whether I was internally bleeding or not, they decided to place me under 23 hour watch. The captain happened to walk in the room, and asked me how I felt. I told him I was having trouble breathing, and so he decided to overrule the nurse and send me to an outside hospital.

By the time I reached the hospital I had already lost 40% of my blood. I was bleeding internally in my lung, stomach, spleen, large intestine, bladder and bowels. Long story short, the surgery went well. I stayed in the hospital for about 3 weeks.

While I was there the COs tried to persuade me to be cool with them enough to not file a lawsuit. You see I was stabbed while in full restraints, and the officer watching us said absolutely nothing to aid me away from harm. It didn't work because I've begun to take the proper steps in order to file a lawsuit against DOC.

They failed to properly search the other prisoner before allowing him to leave his cell, and while I was being stabbed the CO just sat there and watched. The whole situation just seems too funny to me. I don't know the guy, I've never had any beef with a white supremacist, I'm not a rat and I'm in good standing amongst my LO.

But I was building with two comrades and was recruiting other POWs to file grievances on various issues within the DOC. I'm not into conspiracy theories but I can't help wonder whether the system purposely allowed me to be harmed in the hopes of discouraging me from the revolutionary path. Nonetheless here I stand, still fighting for freedom no less.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We're saddened but not surprised to hear this story of brutality and suffering caused by prison guards, and their subsequent attempts to stop a lawsuit that might expose this system. We commend this comrade for standing strong in the face of this violence. We know that our comrades in prisons often place their lives in danger just by advocating for peace and an end to injustice. This is an inevitable part of the revolutionary struggle and we must continue to expose these incidents in the pages of Under Lock & Key.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Ten Feet Tall


Clicking on the cement nails scrape as I motion
Breezeless and stale marinated between want and need
Letters slip through the cracks in my gated community
Shell shocked and sullen as prisons, asylums and death take their feed
All-nighter with exhaustion, your happy hour's almost up
Bleed with me comrade beside cesspooled capital
Talk to me friend as mankind's sun slowly sets
Dead or dying amigo no worse can it get
The worse is over all they can do now is stop the pain
We've already made peace with finality and insanity
Embraced her long lost face beneath the pattering rain
No hope for the white nation but hope for our species
Class suicide's forever hated and chased
No shelter for the homeless nor sleep for the restless
Self-destruct on the construct equals yourself erased
Pain in my twisted back eased by the pain in my knees
Pain in consumer common sense eased by my solitary
Pain is my friend, not heavy, my brother
The pain in your face I've not seen in no other
Obsessive compulsive the captive counts the bricks
Bipolar disorder counting up gritted teeth clicks
Manic depressive jump-roping noose's knots
Lonely humyn male silently, like beads, counting the knots
The beauty in the hurricane matched by the logic of the insane
In the eye of the storm scrubbing windows and storm drains
I sit righting mental wrongs waving goodbye to the gone
Anti-imperialism as my struggle, revolution as my song

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