by a North Carolina prisoner November 2011 permalink
This is a cry out for help from the brothers in the struggle at the confinement of Scotland Correctional Institution located in Laurinburg, NC under the ruler and dictatorship of Karen Stanback, Asst. Superintendent of Security. It grieves my heart to know and witness an African American woman, apply rules of oppression to camp populated by 80% minority races. Actions of oppression ordered by K. Stanback are:
To ban all Under Lock & Key publications
No state or local newspapers
No shirt jackets worn in the dinner hall, school, or any religious programs (no matter what the temp is)
No showering from 6pm until 9pm (with a population of 1500 prisoners)
No jobs for close custody prisoners once they lose their assigned job. (All jobs are then referred to medium custody prisoners)
Confining over 145 prisoners in one unit called Green D,E,F or "Gangland". This is where all the gangs are housed at, mixed together, and not giving any opportunity for regular programs or employment like the regular population.
Only 1 hour of recreation. Without proper exercise, fresh air, and movement an individual develops a mentality like a caged in animal.
She and the admins here have created a very hostile environment and seem to enjoy it.
Brothers and sisters please! This is our cry for relief the hammer of oppression being applied to us at Scotland CI under the watch of K. Stanback. Please contact the appropriate resources to aid us in our struggle.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We support this comrade's call for prisoners to stand up against oppression. This prisoner and others are leading the struggle at Scotland and they provide an example to prisoners across the the criminal injustice system who are facing similar conditions.
by a North Carolina prisoner November 2011 permalink
On October 17 I received Under Lock & Key 22 even though I was not supposed to. It was a mistake made by an officer who was passing out mail. Attached to the publication was a notice to prisoners of statewide disapproval of the publication; this particular issue has been banned statewide. I was supposed to sign this notice to verify I've been informed but luckily the officer was distracted by his duty of distributing mail and instead of having me sign the notice attached to ULK 22, he just slid them both under my door.
When I realized what the notice was for, I grew kind of excited. The kind of excitement one has when you feel you just got over on someone in power. This made me even more interested in the ULK publication. First, because I'm thinking I'm the only one statewide who has one. And second I know this publication has material and information the state doesn't want me to know; why else would they ban it statewide?
Before I began to read the ULK, I read over the notice to find out exactly why this particular publication was banned. The notice said: "The publication/material violates Division of Prisons Policy at Section D.O 109 and is disapproved for the reason listed 'violence, disorder, insurrection or terrorist/gang activities against individuals, groups, organizations, the government or any of its institutions.'" With that my excitement grew even more, thinking I obtained material of such nature. The notice went on to say that this "violence, disorder, insurrection..." was on page 4 of the publication.
I immediately thumbed to page 4 and found the headline "Time for Peaceful Revolution" written boldly atop the article. I began to read. I was confused. I retrieved the Notice to Inmate of Statewide Disapproved Publication once again to make sure I read it correctly, and I had. I was so confused that I had to go over the article once more because maybe I misread!
I was confused by the reasons given for banning this material. It was banned because it was supposedly promoting violence, disorder and so forth against individuals, groups, organizations, the government or any of its institutions. But really, one hundred percent honest, the article was speaking of a peaceful revolution. In none of its lines through the article did it speak of violence against anyone. It spoke of unity amongst the many LOs and a little history of Kingism.
It was then that I really and truly realized the power we have amongst us if only we could just unite as one and struggle together. I realized it's not us as individuals who they are afraid of, it's we as a people who they fear. Why else would they ban an article speaking of a peaceful revolution and that urges others to come together as one? And also, it's not necessarily violence that they avoid, it's a revolution, period! It's not how we go about the revolution that frightens them, whether its violently or peacefully, it's simply the thought of a revolution, an end to their domination over us, that unsettles them.
And they will do what they have to do in order to maintain control, whether it's murder, imprison or, in our case, censor mail. If the officer hadn't mistakenly given me the ULK 22 I would have actually thought that maybe MIM(Prisons) was influencing violence. But now the truth is out and it has me in question about the other publications that were banned. Were they really banned because of the reason these prison administrators told you they were? I don't think so.
Our rights are being trashed! We must, I repeat, we must, stand up for our rights. Fight censorship!
Si se puede o no se puede? (Yes, we can or no, we can't?) Which one is it Mr. President?
Beginning in 2008 we started hearing from then presidential candidate Barack Obama that if elected he'd take quick action on immigration reform. During this time he also began straying to the left of the bourgeois mainstream opinion by hinting at a distaste for workplace raids of undocumented migrants. Also, he never bothered to mention anything about the many undocumented people who'd committed a "crime" in crossing the Mexico/U.$. border when he gave his speech at the National Council of La Raza.(1)
Indeed, statements and positions such as these on the issue of immigration reform helped popularize the Illinois Senator amongst Latinos which in turn helped him to wrestle the Latino vote away from then NY senator Hillary Clinton.(2) Yet here we are now three years out from the election of the first Black President of the United $tates of Amerika and time has once again shown us that Barack Obomber, like all other Amerikan politicians, has nothing more to offer the oppressed nations but broken promises and more oppression.
One million people have been deported from the U.$. since the taking of office by Obomber in 2009. That's 400,000 deportations a year with the various Latino nations bearing the brunt of it.(3) It's also important to note that this number of deportations is actually up from the previous Bu$h administration and ridiculously higher than the 500,000 people who were literally "railroaded" to Mexico between 1929-39 in what the imperialists called "repatriation drivers." This despite the fact that not everyone who was deported were Mexican nationals.(4)
More recently the U.$. initiated the mass deportations under the guise of the Obomber administration's federally funded program called "Secure Communities" in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, in conjunction with local law enforcement, searched out the undocumented and carried out raids against them all across the country.(3) The raids are conducted under the heading of "fugitive operations."(3)
At first local law enforcement was given the option of joining Secure Communities but many were hesitant foreseeing the potential problems this might pose to their daily functions as occupiers of the internal semi-colonies as well as to the policing of neighborhoods with a high density populace of newly arrived migrants.(3) ICE however was eventually able to sell Secure Communities to the pigs after telling them they'd only be going after the "worst of the worst."(3)
According to government mouthpieces, half the people who've been deported since 2009 were violent offenders, but investigations into the program have revealed that many of the people deported have actually been deported due to minor infractions such as Susana Ramirez who was arrested by local law enforcement for a minor traffic stop, sent to a federal detention center and was subsequently deported to Mexico from Maple Park, Illinois. All this happened in the span of a few days despite the fact that she had no criminal background and was raising U.$. citizen children.(3)
But was Susana Ramirez actually one of the lucky ones considering the circumstances? The answer is yes.
Tent cities, cramped quarters, no right to attorneys, racism, verbal abuse, mental abuse, beatings and sexual assault, this is the stark reality that awaits the undocumented as they are imprisoned and deported at the hands of Amerikans.(3)
Case in point is the Willacy, Texas Federal Immigration Detention Center where a recent investigation by the ACLU determined that there was "widespread sexual abuse of female detainees and a systematically positioned injustice system with no accountability firmly intact."(3) This information was further corroborated by former Willacy guards and a former Willacy psychiatrist who gave eyewitness accounts of the abuse, contrary to a 2009 ICE audit of the prison camp in which the detention center was given a rating of "good."(3)
During the same period ICE also conducted a survey of the prisoners supposedly to encourage grievance filing. Unfortunately, the survey was nothing but a ruse orchestrated and conducted by ICE officials themselves in an effort to pinpoint those attempting to file complaints and dissuade them from following through.(3)
What's to Come?
So what is in store for the migrant population of the U.$.? Well, if current reality and the number of people currently locked up in Amerika's prisons can serve as indicators of what's to come then we should expect the country with the highest percentage of its population behind bars to now become the country with the highest percentage of foreign nationals behind bars as well. This is more proof of how the U.$. oppresses the world's majority. They are political prisoners indeed.
Liberal critics of the Secure Communities program such as the ACLU have pointed out that it is nothing more than the Bush administration's immigration policies juiced up on Obomber steroids.(5) And while we'd have to agree we'd also have to go further. Secure Communities is the utilization of the Amerikan injustice system as a proxy resolution for its superfluous migrant population which the U.$. directly displaced to begin with! Descendents of the original inhabitants of this land migrate to the United $tates to work at jobs that Amerikans won't do, making less than Amerikans make in wages. But there are only so many of these undesirable jobs that need to be filled, and open borders would result in an equalization of Amerikan wages with the rest of the world — the biggest fear of the labor aristocracy. This economic reality, combined with political threats that an expanding oppressed population inside U.$. borders poses, explains why Amerika targets migrants (particularly those coming across the Rio Grande) for strict control.
At an El Paso speech earlier this year President Obomber was once again telling lies and talking out of both sides of his mouth when he stated that there would be no comprehensive immigration reform because of Republican stubbornness.(3) Bottom line, there will be no comprehensive reform and there will continue to be "enforcement on steroids." And no reform means the requirement under Secure Communities to deport 400,000 people a year, according to an ICE internal memo, will continue to be enforced to maintain funding from Congress.(3)
When asked about the toll these numbers would take on migrant families in the U.$., Cecilian Muñoz, an Obomber administration top official with Interior Affairs, answered in typical oppressor nation rhetoric, that "broken families are the result of broken laws." She then went on to state how it was all just part of the immigration problem.(3)
To that coconut we say quite the contrary. There is no immigration problem, but there is an imperialism problem. As a matter of fact it's the number one problem in the world today: principally U.$. imperialism.
In the wake of Susana Ramirez's deportation there was a push to have a Senate Bill voted on and passed to deny ICE any more funding for Secure Communities. The bill was called "Susana's Law," and it was defeated.(3)
by a South Carolina prisoner November 2011 permalink
I am a prisoner in the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC), where the prisoners are forced to march around in filthy, tattered uniforms, and most are packed three to a cell, with one sleeping on the floor. But in addition to a huge list of miserable conditions here, the state has a sickening carrot-and-stick method of converting prisoners to Christianity.
Our cafeteria basically serves dog food, and even that is withheld from prisoners as punishment for minor rule infractions. The prison only serves real nutritious food to prisoners who have attended a certain number of religious indoctrination programs. This amounts to many prisoners not being able to eat well unless they convert to Christianity and jump through all kinds of Jesus-themed hoops.
Prisoners are also being recruited, in the guise of "education," into an indoctrination and training program that eventually ships them to other prisons to proselytize and spread Christian propaganda. As a requirement, new recruits must sign a paper that declares their willingness to be transferred to any prison SCDC desires. Often prisoners sign up for this program to temporarily escape the violent conditions at other prisons, only to be returned to the same brutal dungeons after completing the program. In such institutions, prisoners are commonly beaten, stabbed, and raped. Who wouldn't sign up for the Christian fascist training program to escape that?
It all amounts to the prisoners being coerced into religious social control programs. And many of us must choose between going to church or going hungry; between being indoctrinated or being beaten, stabbed, or raped.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is typical of the Amerikkkan criminal injustice system to force feed their approved form of "education" on prisoners while denying them real education through censorship or just refusal to offer programs. Religion has a long history of being used as a tool of social control by obscuring the material conditions that determine our reality on Earth.
Many people ask us about religion because they have heard that communism is anti-religion. In some ways communism is the best way for religious people to uphold their beliefs and put an end to the evils of murder, rape, hunger and other miseries of humyns. Some argue that Jesus Christ must have been a communist because he gave to the poor.
An issue with religions, however, is that they uniformly reject scientific thinking. Religions require people to accept on faith that there is a higher power controlling life for humyns. So the first problem with religions is that they are fostering idealist thinking. Even those who do not believe in organized religion often look for answers in ideas, rather than a scientific study of the material world.
In addition, historically many religions have acted as apologists for the oppressor class in power, telling the oppressed people not to worry about their terrible conditions in this life because a better afterlife awaits them if they just suffer in silence. There are notable exceptions to this, including the liberation theologists of Latin America, some Muslim activists, and others.
Overall we see the best of the religious movements and groups as allies in the fight against imperialism. But we still caution people that religion, like television, is an opiate for the mind. Even worse, religion provides a philosophical justification for never searching for real solutions to the problems and contradictions we face. Belief in spirituality or religion is not a dividing line question to work with MIM(Prisons), and we accept into USW all who take up the anti-imperialist struggle. We will be honest in our push for everyone to study materialist thinking and why we oppose idealism.
by a South Carolina prisoner November 2011 permalink
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.
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.
by a Massachusetts prisoner November 2011 permalink
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.
I have much unity with Loco1's piece concerning a strategic retreat and after reading his essay I now have some things I'd like to speak on concerning the strike. However, as I myself am not currently housed in the SHU my words should be taken merely as food for thought, as it is up to those participating directly in the movement to analyze their own conditions.
Firstly, I believe that the SHU prisoners are currently in a crucial period. They have successfully completed the first stage of their struggle but if they are to successfully complete the next stage then they must enter into a period of criticism, self-criticism as it is the best way to avoid any left-deviations or rightist errors. The SHU prisoners are the vanguard in this struggle and it is up to them if the movement moves forward or dies a humiliating death. By moving forward I in no way am implying that the struggle must continue full steam ahead regardless of their present conditions.
Loco1 is correct to point out the fact that this is a protracted struggle, and the SHU prisoners aren't going to go anywhere anytime soon, except to another SHU. This is especially true for the ones that are "validated;" they have all the time in the world to sit and hammer shit out. Or as the Afghans like to say of invading oppressor armies: "you have the clocks, but we've got the time."
Thus, here are some points of attention:
The life and death of the struggle depends on the willingness of the prisoners to remain united. It is essential that contradictions between the oppressed and the oppressors do not become contradictions between the oppressed themselves.
The main force of the movement are the SHU prisoners. The immediate reserves are the general population prisoners. Loco1 is correct to call out specific LOs as they have the ability and influence to organize the vast majority of the prison population. Therefore they should exert all their power and energy into catapulting the masses to complete victory.
It is integral to the struggle that a correct political line should be developed so that the masses may gather round it to find guidance in the movement.
Indeed, practice is principal but this is also the time for studying theoretical knowledge and to concentrate on concrete study, criticism and self-criticism. Weakness in the ideological level will turn into errors in the political field, which will ultimately manifest themselves into mistakes in the organizational level.
"Over a long period we have developed this concept for this struggle against the enemy: strategically we should despise all our enemies but tactically we should take them all seriously. This also means we must despise the enemy with respect to the whole but that we must take him seriously with respect to each and every concrete question. If we do not despise the enemy with respect to the whole, we shall be committing the error of opportunism. But in dealing with concrete problems and particular enemies we shall be committing the error of adventurism unless we take them seriously. In war, battles can only be fought one by one and the enemy forces can only be destroyed one by one. The same is even true of eating a meal. Strategically, we take the eating of a meal lightly - we know we can finish it. But actually we eat it mouthful by mouthful. It is impossible to swallow an entire banquet in one gulp. This is known as piecemeal solution. In military parlance, it is called wiping out the enemy forces one by one." - Mao Zedong
Knowing that the prisoncrats hate to lose ground to the prisoner population, whether it be an inch or a mile, it then becomes the duty of the strikers to focus all of their efforts into wiping out the most debilitating aspects of their oppression one-by-one. One way of doing this is to de-fang their paper tiger (SHU), thereby rendering it next to useless.
Some might argue that the most debilitating aspect of the SHU is the long-term isolation. We must keep in mind that the oppressors will never give up this method of torture and oppression; it's too effective.
Instead We must focus on winnable battles and while We can't at this time shut down the SHUs, We can fight going there.
It is the debriefing process that keeps people sent to the SHUs and locked in the SHUs past their kick-out dates, and it is the debriefing process that turns people into snitches and ensures that more people enter the SHUs rather than leave it.
If and when the debriefing process is finally defeated then the strikers can move on to a secondary and less crucial aspect of the 5 Core Demands which should then be able to gain primary importance, and so on and so forth. It is in this way that the piecemeal solution is applied.
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.
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:
Creating a realistic post-release plan for both practical living needs and political involvement
Participating in required study programs behind bars
Undertaking political work while in prison
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!