I am currently at Apalachee Correctional Institution - West Unit. There are 2 units here: East Unit, which houses approx 1300 prisoners and West unit, which houses approx 875 prisoners. I have spent time in confinement at both units.
The East Unit Disciplinary Confinement (DC) segregation section consists of three dorms with 28 cells each housing two men. So it holds 168 at maximum capacity, and is always full. In DC we are on 24-hour lockdown. Showers are allowed three times a week in cold water, with approximately three minutes to wash. We receive 3-4 hours of recreation in a dog cage every Saturday after 30 days in. The size of the cage is around 15x8 feet.
The East Unit also has another dorm known as Administrative Confinement (AC). We are placed there until it is decided we go to DC or get let out. Reasons we go to AC include disciplinary reports, investigations (which can be for anything from gang involvement, to stealing from the kitchen, to disrespect staff), or "just 'cause." There is no rec for AC and we can be there for a a month or more if it is for an investigation. The AC dorm consists of 35-40 two-man cells 8x10 feet in size.
AC at the East Unit can reach well over 100 degrees in the summer months and we are required to be in Class A uniforms until 10 pm. There is no air circulation despite the fact there is a fan at the end of the hall. The fan is against the wall so it blows no air.
We are also placed into confinement for check-ins which can last 3 weeks months.
In the West Unit, AC and DC are the same 8 x 10 feet two-man cells, housing 38 men. There is no recreation, and showers are three times a week with about five minutes to wash. We receive 1/4 of a bar of soap per week from a bar of free hotel soap. Also, we receive one roll of toilet paper for two men every 10 days. It's supposed to be one roll per person.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner responded to our request for information about the control units in prisons across the country. In filling out the survey, this elaboration about the conditions of confinement reveals yet another set of long term isolation units that can be called nothing short of torture.
Here at Menard, a prison within the Illinois Department of Corruptions, the prisoners have said "no more." We now are making a full and united front against the swine who confine us.
We have tried for years to voice our objections in a peaceful and civil manner to the hierarchy of this morally bankrupt system. However, these pigs refuse to listen. In fact it has now become completely and utterly impossible to exhaust any and all grievances with any kind of legally sound argument within its body, thereby stopping a prisoner from presenting any claim in any court.
Here in the segregation unit they have gathered together a group of sadistic pigs who torture at will. The head and ringleader of these cowards seems to be Officer Davis. The hierarchy put in cameras to curb the abuse. The piggies found blind spots, where prisoners' blood stains the concrete, and those responsible are allowed to hide.
There have been at least five severe and bloody staff assaults here in a row. The brass in their state capital keeps asking, why? Why, because you have left us with no other course of action. We have become intolerant of the consecutive abuses. We have finally found ourselves in a corner with nowhere to turn. I see no end to the bloodshed. Even after these pigs put those they believe responsible in extreme isolation, it continues!
Defiance and refusal to submit to these pigs has become a movement within itself. It has become much too large to squash. When things attain a certain size they become permanent. One can dredge a lake, but not an ocean.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter illustrates an important fact: when people are pushed into a corner, tortured and given no option of running away and no peaceful way to fight back, they will be forced into a violent response. It is ironic that the prisons are constantly censoring MIM(Prisons) as a threat to the security of the institution when it is their own policies and practices that threaten the safety of staff and prisoners the most!
We do want to point out that there is an alternative to short-term violence against the pigs. We need broader organization among our comrades behind bars so that they are not taken out one by one for fighting back. While we cannot judge individual cases of desperation, we know that the long battle is one that requires the building of unity and the education of our allies.
I'm writing to enlighten you of the new developments here within this oppressed segregated unit [Corcoran Ad-Seg]. For many years we have been denied our constitutional rights: our appeals process is wrongfully exercised, our appeals being lost or trashed or never making it to the appeals coordinators office. Our time constraints are being violated and surpass the time limitations they impose. But if we pass, even by a day, this administration gets very legalistic and denies our appeals on the sole basis of "time constraints."
By court order, we are allowed to possess TVs or radios, but this unit is depriving us of that right, telling us that due to "budget cuts" we cannot get our appliances. This doesn't make any sense at all, because there are so many other activities that are taking place and money being wasted on unnecessary things, but yet they claim "budget cuts."
The health care in this unit is poor, we lack the basic necessities and it takes up to two months to see the doctor and when we see him/her we get denied the rightful care. They continue to defy the court's order!
We are living under extreme conditions. It is real cold over here and yet they have the AC blowing. Our cells are super cold. We have gotten at numerous officers and the sergeant of this unit but to no avail, our environment continues to be cold.
This is just the beginning of the many violations and the torture we must endure, especially psychological. I've been filing grievances upon grievances challenging our conditions, but they just say, "we're working on it."
The rest of the comrades and I are in protest. We have begun a hunger strike. December 28, 2011 was the beginning of this peaceful protest, and we will continue this struggle till our needs are met.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We just hit the two year anniversary of the beginning of a United Struggle from Within campaign in California demanding that prisoner grievances be addressed. It continues to be a popular campaign, though many recognize its inherent limits in a system that is not interested in our grievances. Z-Unit in High Desert did utilize the campaign to achieve some temporary victories in their conditions. But it is little surprise comrades have stepped it up a notch beyond the petitions we were circulating.
While there is much to consider in strategizing and moving forward in the face of this repression, there is no doubt that conditions in California prisons continue to lead prisoners to make greater sacrifices in struggling for their common cause.
I'm incarcerated at Maryland's North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI) in Cumberland, Maryland. I have been getting Under Lock & Key for about six months now. I'm writing this for me and my fellow prisoners; we need help. I have been here at NBCI in the segregation unit for two years now and there is a serious problem here. There is a big ring of corrupt racist white renegade prison guards employed here. These guards are anti-social/racist towards Black prisoners. They provoke, curse, challenge to fight, call them niggers, bitches, etc.
They broke the legs of one of my fellow comrades who I'm close to, and no one did anything to help. These prison guards take our food, recreation, and showers for days at a time. They spray us with pepper spray out of the blue for reasons that are still unknown. I have been a victim of that twice. I have tried to fight back but I'm one lone prisoner. Other prisoners are afraid to back me because they fear losing what little they have: single cells, TVs, etc. They are afraid of having their property sent home, being beaten, and/or thrown in the segregation unit.
The mental health patients housed in the prison who have Axis 1 diagnoses throw feces on other prisoners on the tier and the prison guards feed prisoners while the feces are on the tier. Prison guards abuse these Axis 1 diagnosis mental health patients; they agitate, provoke, mock, and call them stupid and retarded. These corrupt guards also constantly break their chain of command. They are not disciplined for their violations of Maryland Division of Corrections Directives. Even the Request for Administrative Remedy process is corrupt.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter describing the abuse and corruption at NBCI raises a concern directly related to campaigns MIM(Prisons) is leading. Staff in Maryland are not accountable for their actions. This is true in prisons across the country and this abuse of power inspired prisoners to initiate a campaign to Demand Our Grievances be Addressed. It's spread from California to Arizona, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. And anyone can help spread it further by requesting the form from us and doing the research on policies to cite for your state.
I'm doing okay here just maintaining and trying to stay positive throughout this madness that they call the SHU. Things are pretty much the same around here as they were before the hunger strikes. Basically all that's changed is the fact that we have beanies and can buy sweats and sweaters in our packages now. And also if you have a year clean then you can take a picture and buy art supplies, and we can get calendars in the mail.
So I don't know what's going on with all of the rest of the promises that were made as a result of the hunger strikes. The CDCR administration basically is keeping us in the dark and trying to shut down any and all communication that they feel is a threat.
CDCR stopped an eight-page double sided publication that was printed off of the computer back around the end of October. I appealed it and just received a response with them denying my appeal, so now I have to send it to the final level in Sacramento which I am doing tonight.
They say that since it talks about the hunger strikes and the organizers of the hunger strikers here in the SHU that it promotes gang activity. Also since there are other prisoners' letters that are reporting on what is going on in these prisons then that is prisoner correspondence and third party mail. And finally they claim that it promotes a conspiracy to disrupt prison security and that if we are allowed to receive said publication then it would be promoting the conspiracy to cause others mass disruptions of prison programs. Like I said I'm sending it to the final level of appeal and once I get it back I'll send it to you for you to see.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This report of only very small gains in response to the recent California prison food strike is consistent with what we have heard from others. The Five Core Demands of the strikers have been basically ignored with the exception of the really minor examples they provided for the fifth demand "Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates": this is where the art supplies, calendars and sweat suits were mentioned.
This is typical of the CDCR and in fact of all branches of imperialism: they give nothing to the oppressed without being forced to, and they give the minimum possible. The imperialists will concede nothing without a fight, and as we can see from the California hunger strike, even a widespread protest is not enough to accomplish significant change. This protest helped raise awareness of the struggle, and brought many people into activism. Now we must build on that experience.
Due to the budget cuts and Governor Perry refusing the stimulus package, in Texas prisons they've attacked those housed here. They ceased serving prepackaged cartons of milk, and went to powdered milk, and now they have attached a fee of $100 annual to medical. If you need medical care you will be charged for a toothache, diarrhea, headache, etc. But what's devastating is TDCJ doesn't pay its offenders money. Instead it uses good time which they take away as a punitive measure, causing you to do more time.
Since TDCJ doesn't reward or pay offenders, money needed has to come from gifts via family, friends etc. In other words they're extorting our loved ones, and this will follow those who parole with money to be paid and attached to parole fees.
Upon being released from the Texas system you'll receive a bus ticket to your county of conviction and $50. Upon reporting to parole you'll receive the second $50 from which parole fees of $12, victim fees, educational fees, and restitution fees will be deducted, so you're to reenter society on a very small amount of money.
Texas's systems practically operate on what they produce themselves for consumption. Clothing, shoes, food, etc., is all made at the multiple units, sent to central stores and resold to each unit.
TDCJ has the offenders scared. They will stack free world time on any act of violence - any kind of unions or solidarity will be attacked as Security Threat Groups and figureheads will be placed in level III Administrative Segregation.
They have sought out to break any sort of groups and unauthorized activities. Since I've been involved in prisoner rights we've lost more than gained: We have lost smoking products, canned goods, beans, meats, fruits, educational classes, GED, college courses, radios with speakers, cable TV, art privileges, and even carton milk. Long hair and facial hair were banned. They hold supposed good time above these bamboozled offenders and make them comply.
I recently received a major rule infraction, just because I told the law library trustee to stop throwing my photocopies on the floor. So he filed a LID (life endangerment) on me: he forged a letter and signed my name to it - saying I asked another to beat him up, so I received a major rule infraction for Penal Code 71-02 Organized Crime. I've filed 4 grievances on his department and security staff for sabotaging my legal request and destroying my letters. All were denied.
So I wrote to the law library supervisor with no response. I then wrote to the senior warden to no avail. The Office of the Attorney General offered nothing, but they found a dummy letter forged and they promptly protected their SSI (Support Service Inmate).
In Texas you're only allowed to file one grievance a week, and I've been here two years plus. I've filed approximately 94 and all have come back denied - no proof.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This story of grievances being denied over and over for legitimate cases is all too common, not just in Texas but in prisons across the country. This is why United Struggle from Within initiated the campaign demanding our grievances be addressed. We currently have petitions for California, Texas, New York, Virginia, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arizona and the campaign is spreading. We need legal researchers to create petitions for other states. And if you are in a state that already has a petition, write to us for a copy and join the campaign to demand grievances be addressed in your state. It's time to destroy the idea that people can effectively go to the state for protection from abuse in prison.
I've never heard of MIM(Prisons) but enjoyed reading your newsletter and could relate to most of it. I will pass it on to others (already have!) and get more to add to your mailing list.
Please, if it's possible, beg off a little on the SNY stuff! It really turns a lot of our stomachs, to be sure. When I came into the system in the 80s there was no such thing as SNY. Everyone held their mud, even those who got hit (because if they talked, they knew they wouldn't live through the next one.) If you "locked up" you went to the hole, period! No yard, no packages, no programming of any kind, nothing! Now, they make it too easy for guys to be weak and run off to the child molesters, rapists yard!
If you really feel you absolutely must print their filth, please get all the facts correct. Such as ULK 23, p. 13, Hunger Strike First Step in Building a United Front, second paragraph "and Pleasant Valley State Prison is SNY." I know more than a few guys who're going to be none too pleased about this news, as they are still there. I got my case (SHU) off of C yard, then got sent to Tehachapi SHU 4B, which is mostly GP, same for 4A Ad-Seg.
FYI, Pleasant Valley A yard is Level IV SNY, B yard is Level III GP, C yard is Level III GP, D yard is Level III SNY, and Level I is GP! Call CDCR and verify these facts if you will. It's your newsletter, but I would seriously consider (re-consider) who and what you print.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to commend this comrade for recognizing that a few disagreements should not stop us from working together and spreading the revolutionary United Front. In that spirit we want to struggle for greater unity here.
The writer is responding to an ongoing debate in Under Lock & Key about prisoners who escape the mainline for Special Needs Yards (SNY) where they are pushed to "debrief" or snitch on fellow prisoners in return for better treatment (in particular in the context of California prisons, but there are parallel situations everywhere). Many prisoners have already testified that not all SNY prisoners must debrief, a fact that this comrade is not disputing. So the gist of his argument is that it's "too easy" for prisoners who run off to SNY. But prison is never easy, and as long as a comrade is engaging in solid and consistent political work, and not selling out his fellow prisoners, we don't care that s/he got moved to SNY to avoid persynal danger. Prisoners are constantly fighting legal battles to get moved away from dangerous prisons to places they hope will be better. Conditions are so bad in all prisons that this is rarely a significant change, but we won't tell anyone they have to stay in a situation that's dangerous to them if they have an alternative that doesn't involve endangering others.
As for the criticism of the facts in the Hunger Strike article, we take this very seriously. We rely on our comrades behind bars to report the facts about the prisons where they reside, but we do try to check facts wherever we can. In this case we should have caught this error about PVSP. It does not change the point made in that article calling for unity, but it's important we get facts correct.
I've written this missive on behalf of the Black Mass Army. We represent a multicultural group of individuals that is committed to destroying the weapons of mass destruction: imperialism, fascism, racism, police brutality, ignorance, and mental slavery. We support the United Front for Peace in Prisons Statement of Principles. Our political philosophy "to cure the sickness to save the patient" is our goal by liberating one prisoner at a time through education, revolutionary science, human psychology and self-defense.
Oppression is worse than slaughter and this hellish reality of mass incarceration is the culmination of U.$. state power and its constitution. We believe and practice the ideology of Ho Chi Minh. We use revolutionary science and this means we take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them thru study, then turning them into concentrated and systematic ideas. We then go to the masses and reproduce, spread info and explain these revolutionary ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action and test the correctness of these revolutionary ideas in such actions.
We will stand together with you and defend ourselves from the repressive, tyrannical, draconian, ruthless, unjust dictatorship of imperialism of U.$. bureaucracy. This is what we want and this is what we believe so that the oppressed will have a revolutionary knowledge of his/her self and this spirit must never be suppressed or repressed for the exploitation of others because the human whole is geometrical; "the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts." This means that The Black Mass Army wants freedom, liberation, security of our communities so that we can determine the destiny of the world's oppressed people against the controller, thereby uniting the mind with the body.
Because of the United Front for Peace in Prisons Statement of Principles the U.$. prison industrial complex cannot be victorious. The walls, bars, and guards cannot conquer or hold down an idea. We sign on and you have our support 110% x 110%. We are a movement within the Virginia State Prisons.
While reading the last few issues of ULK I have seen a theme which has appeared in the past concerning Special Needs Yards (SNY). Every state has its version of SNY. Whether it is called Ad-Seg, PC or SNY is a matter of the "weak."(1) People end up on SNY for all kinds of reasons. We have a whole pantry full of names for such people: PCs, catch outs, drop outs, victims, rats, rapos, cho-mos, or whatever the case may be.
When a person enters the penal system in the U.S. they are instantly thrown into a chaotic world of racial, religious and gang hatreds complicated by competing interests, decades-old animosities and a complex and contradictory idea system that we call the "convict code." All of that is coupled with the prison administration's coercive nature of "rehabilitation." The continued conversation over special needs yards demonstrates that many of us cannot see past the "institutional personalities" that the prison system forces on us.
The reality, whether one wants to face it or not, is many so-called PCs have been the ones that have fought for and secured many of the "rights" we have as prisoners. In the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Farmer v. Brennan 114 S.Ct. 1970, the prisoner was a so-called "weak" element. Farmer was a long-time prisoner rights advocate. It's ironic that the very people who point the finger at SNY prisoners then cite those same prisoners' cases to protect their own rights.
As prisoner activists one of our first goals should be in protecting the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Sometimes that means you have to overcome your own personal prejudices, fears and attitudes which might have developed as a result of the polluted psychological environment in prison. It also means careful self-examination. Socrates wrote, "do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others."(2) That is a concept we all could stand to reflect on.
Every person has their own cross to bear. We shouldn't add our weight to someone else's burden. I welcome the input of so-called SNY or PC prisoners. I have no interest in making their time harder. The first and primary concern we should have is how to collectively work together to secure rights and improve prison conditions and, second, to further political goals as they relate to the first. What we shouldn't do is victimize each other or conform to an institutional personality that hinders political reform.
I recently read ULK issue 6 in which a comrade out of California discussed his experiences after the election of Obama. This brought back memories I experienced along the same lines, where at the moment it was announced that Obama was indeed the new president there was a roar of applause almost as if one were in a football stadium and your team just scored a touch down! This was in one of California's security housing units (SHUs) so this jubilation was coming from prisoners who are amongst the most "conscious", the most progressive, who are taken off the mainline for rebellious acts against the state. It was a sad sight to see potentially revolutionary prisoners get sucked into the age-old game of bourgeois politics.
I remember having a long beat with my neighbor at the time over the Obama sham and how Obama is like a Booker T. Washington, only worse. Booker T. Washington was used to pacify the Black masses for the Amerikan government but had no power outside the Black nation, whereas Obama is the Commander in Chief and has much more power than Booker T. Yet, like Booker T., Obama is used to corral the Black nation and many others into the realm of bourgeois politics. On the doorstep of imperialism, Obama's presence in the White House is used to "legitimize" the program of Amerika and the actions of the oppressor nation, and to sweeten the bitter pill of repression for the oppressed nations to swallow more quickly.
The upcoming elections have the imperialists once more dressing up Obama, having him show up for a photo shoot at an all-Black Baptist church, at a press conference for Latino rights, etc. But I'll make this real clear real fast - Obama is an imperialist and does not care about the Black nation. Latinos have learned from Obama being in office. Many Latinos were sucked into bourgeois politics, standing for hours in lines beside Black folks and voting for Obama. Now what do they have to show for it? They have over one million Latinos who had their asses deported! Over one million - that's more Latinos deported with Obama as president than with Bush II as president!
Obama and the Democrats feel Latinos have no choice but to support them because of the Republicans being so outspokenly anti-migrant, but this is wrong! Both are anti-migrant and only tolerate migrants when we are picking their baby spinach and heirloom tomatoes, or when we are cleaning their homes, watching their kids and washing their cars. They tolerate La Raza, the people, when it saves them a dollar. They let us work and then a day before pay day they call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on us as happened in the processing plants in the last couple years. It's an old con game that both the Republicans and Democrats use to bamboozle Raza and save a buck in the process. This is a rerun that the Chicano nation has been battling in Aztlán since 1848 and will continue until we liberate Aztlán.
Our liberation will not come from the Democrats or Republicans; it will not even come from any other party in the Amerikan bourgeois political elections. The imperialists will never permit Aztlán to be liberated. It will fight tooth and nail and sabotage any ballot box initiative even hinting about this and neutralize any leaders who built momentum to build any ballot box initiative in this direction. Our liberation will come from the Chicano movement and its struggles outside of bourgeois politics.
I am beginning to hear the same old tired talk about Obama again since the elections are coming up. I heard one Chicano talking about how he wrote his family and told them to vote for Obama so that the Raza will be better off than they would be with a racist Republican. So I got on the tier and asked him "what the hell has Obama or any Democrat during his term done for Raza?!" He had no answer as I figured so I explained how Raza has even suffered more with the Democrats but that they are in fact one and the same; a double-headed monster, a single beast.
The problem is many prisoners who initially take an interest in political science will watch these imperialist propaganda shows on the corporate TV stations and begin to parrot what they hear and swear up and down its true because they heard it on the "news." What they are not grasping is this "news" is controlled by the imperialists. They will not put out views that work contrary to their program, they will not inform us on revolutionary news and analysis, and they will not educate us to rise up as these news corporations are owned by billionaires who protect their bread and butter like a revolutionary protects his/her people. This is why we did not hear much when, on June 7th 2010, the U.$. border patrol shot and killed a 14-year-old Mexican child named Sergio Hernandez as he played on the Mexican side of a canal. This is why the killing of Oscar Grant didn't get proper coverage. Yet we see the same actions played over and over on TV when it's a country that the U.$. wants a regime change in - like the Middle East.
As author/journalist Juan Gonzalez has pointed out, the birth of the Amerikan newspaper was around the need to share information about the movements and behaviors of indigenous people and to rally the white settlers around their genocide.(1) The idea of objective journalism was a myth created much later in history, but the practice has been consistent.
Just as the news supported the control of indigenous and African people during the birth of this nation, the control of la Raza is at the forefront of TV news today. The mass deportations while Obama has been president are not done randomly. Aztlán is growing rapidly and with it Latinos continue to multiply. Seven of the ten fastest growing cities in the U.$. are in the area currently called the Southwest(2) and of these seven cities all are overwhelmingly Latino states. The future must seem very bleak for the oppressor nation. Thus they use their puppets to attempt to curb this "invasion" and "re-conquest" as conservative mouthpiece Pat Buchanan calls it.
Raza need to see Republicans and Democrats as one and the same. We need to educate Raza so that we become our own liberators; national liberation will never come from the ballot box. We need to educate our families, friends and barrios, this needs to be done house to house and persyn to persyn one letter at a time via snail mail if need be, but it is the only way to ween Raza off of putting faith into bourgeois politics.
We can look today at the many [email protected] elected officials and yet the Barrios continue to be occupied and under siege! We continue to be used as target practice by those claiming to protect and serve. Like our Third World counterparts in Afghanistan who suffer "night raids" we also get our doors kicked down in the middle of the night and the barrel of a gun stuck in the face of our children. When the Afghan villagers hear the helicopters they flee to the caves as they know all too well the predators lurking in those chinooks, just as we rush to avoid the spotlight when we hear the ghetto bird. It is a safari in the barrio and we are the prey. The people of Afghanistan are far more oppressed than anywhere here in Amerika yet we face the same oppressor.
The Great Leap Forward of 1958-59 in China was a special period in China's revolutionary history. The essence of which was to build communes. Today in the imperialist controlled media the Great Leap Forward is distorted as a situation that "killed millions" when in reality it was a socialist economic and social development to enhance people's power in the countryside. Here in Amerika we are nowhere even remotely close to that stage of development as Mao's China. But just as early in the Chinese revolution the peasants formed people's communes, I see a future here in Amerika where the people begin to form revolutionary committees. These mutual aid teams will be anchored mainly in the barrios and ghettos but eventually spread out to all areas where the oppressed nations reside. These committees will work to provide the people with independent outlets outside of the capitalist state in order to get the people to begin exercising people's power.
We of course are not at this juncture yet but it is a goal to work toward in our communities, in our barrios and within our lumpen organizations. We need education. Without learning and developing we will continue hoping the Democrats make things better for us and continue being hoodwinked. Now is the time to rebuild the Chicano movement! The past struggles of our gente are not forgotten nor will our martyrs have gone in vain or laid down only for us to stand in a line to vote for an imperialist!