by a North Carolina prisoner February 2012 permalink
I have spent the last 60 days in the hole for writing an administrative remedy on the superintendent. He turns around and has me placed in segregation and charges me with an offense due to my political activism. I am what they call a trouble maker because I teach others with our knowledge. But that's what I do. I was taught by the old heads to do what I do.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This response to prisoner's fighting for their legal rights against repression is all too common. It is one of the driving forces behind our expanding campaign demanding grievances be addressed. While we organize and educate for broader anti-imperialist change, we can use this campaign to fight for greater freedom to carry out political organizing behind bars. Write to us for a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or to help expand the campaign to your state by customizing the generic petition to your local conditions.
Greetings to you no matter your affinity, association, involvement or activities in LOs or case status. There is a higher cause that demands our attention and support than being side tracked by petty conflicts or lack of prioritization.
As a result of some censorship by prisoncrats here at the infamous Corcoran SHU, only yesterday did I receive ULK23 after a two month delay. In the pages of ULK I see that the sensibilities of some SNYs have been ruffled.
This is not about attacking anyone's sensitivities, nor is it about why any person chooses or allows themselves to be subjected to the indignity and dishonor of being classified as SNY while still trying to allude to being solid, which is illogical and demonstrates confusion.
Let's be clear about the fact that whatever excuse one chooses to justify their conditions does not mean that I should sympathize or empathize with that individual's decision or choice.
I take issue with the premise that General Population (GP) prisoners created SNYs since prisoncrats did that and CCPOA created prison politics and has nourished the growth. The fact that so many so-called GPs are quick to say in the presence of picklesuits or other informants that they are active for some false sense of machismo plays into the ploys of prisoncrats.
When I last sought to address this issue an SNY prisoner took offense even though nothing was directed at only SNYs, as I pointed out the fact that there are and have been a plethora of agent provocateurs and quislings in GP who are traitors to their own LOs working in lock step with the picklesuits.
As a prisoner of the state, it is not my job to inflict punishment on any other prisoner for the crime prosecuted by the state, that's what a sentence is for and I am by no means a surrogate prisoncrat. In this day and age I do not draw a distinction between open SNY prisoners and undercover ones who suck up to prisoncrats and are motivated for the same reasons. Some supposedly solid comrades went to SNY supposedly to receive a release date, which to some may sound like a strong argument but to me is muddy water.
I do not have a duty or responsibility to provide IGI intelligence or a means of controlling the way I may think in exchange for a parole date; that is not freedom. Why concern ourselves with whether a cat hails from the north, south, east or west! I say white, black, brown, yellow or green! Why should I concern myself with what LO he/she claims to belong?
In most cases the need to publicly profess or denounce the appellation is a mental/emotional need, or a result of official intimidation to make decisions that individuals must live with. It does not mean that anyone has given up their usefulness and ability to support a prisoner's cause!
Trust is not a given, nor do I give anyone the benefit of doubt just because they claim to be this or that. Trust is a hard won concept and only fools expose their personal inclinations and assume such will not be used against them by some character who is motivated by self-serving greed or malevolence. Even cowards, traitors, rats and deviants can try to make amends, but that does not mean such will regain trust and respect lost as of a result of ones choices.
The CDCR has found that the practice of intimidation, deprivation and manipulation works well on prisoners who allow themselves to become susceptible to such tactics and motivations to betray their comrades' confidences. In my opinion this is inexcusable, but such is a mental/emotional weakness that's identifiably been around since the beginning of civilization.
In these prisons many fail to acknowledge that 75% of the officially validated disruptive group members are based upon self-admission and/or public display of such affiliations, which include but are not limited to cats telling prisoncrats that they are this or that and so and so is my homeboy!
It is not for me to tell other prisoners what to do, and I do not have any qualms with sticking to morals and principals I grew up with, which means I will not take others down with me and I do not volunteer/provide the prisoncrats with intelligence on myself, family, friends, or people I may know. Why should I? What special consideration or privileges are that important? The problem is too many prisoners focusing on privileges rather than rights.
I am pursuing my own kind of sacrifice in that my prison term has been over since April 15, 2011. Parole is "an established variation on imprisonment of convicted criminal: the essence of parole is release from prison before the completion of a sentence on condition that a prisoner abide by certain rules during the balance of a sentence..." Yet prisoncrats have corrupted and confused the concept of parole to mean something more which while the Federal Bureau of Prisons jurisdiction adds a period of supervised release, such is not parole by definition.
Many prisoners tend to assume that my refusal to sign a parole contract is because I presumably have nowhere to go or have burned all my bridges. I have served all the time doubled and enhanced thus I should be allowed to leave the state and country if I so choose.
I am not at war with other prisoners and I am not into who-riding/who-banging or talking smack about others in what I see as intentional perpetuation of conflict and ethnic biases that keep us from maintaining a United Front in the face of the true demons who constantly attack and abuse prisoners with no real accountability, continuing the erosion and loss of civil and human rights.
I cannot and will not compromise my intellect and principals in exchange for a bigger prison where threat of re-imprisonment is used to try to end my activism for prisoner rights, justice and accountability of prisoncrats/picklesuits. This is my sacrifice in this multifaceted struggle, so GP/SNY whatever your circumstances may be there are many ways to contribute to the struggle and affronts to human dignity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Overall this prisoner's letter makes a good case for the point that prisoners in both GP and SNY need to be judged by their actions, not their prison-imposed label. And that we need to fight snitching and self-labeling everywhere. But we disagree with the conclusion that prisoners who accept SNY classification can't be solid revolutionaries. There are those who move to SNY without ratting anyone out, to preserve their own life. They accept the SNY label as the lesser evil to the alternative of danger or even death in GP. We never know all the facts of these decisions and so we can only look to people's actions, wherever they are, to judge whether they are true revolutionaries on the side of the world's oppressed.
I recently came across your newsletter and found it very interesting. I am in Ironwood State Prison - Administrative Segregation (ISP Ad-Seg). All should be advised that Hispanic prisoners are being targeted by Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) in ISP for validation. Many of us were told to either inform or be validated. Myself and many others are validated on informants alone, and some on cultural drawings alone. It seems the state's agents (Office of Correctional Safety) are rubber-stamping anything submitted by ISP-IGI.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Gang validation is just one of many tactics used by the prisons to divide prisoners and target activists. The threat to inform or be validated is common, and then false information is used to validate those political activists that the prison wants to isolate. This is another example of why MIM(Prisons) says that prison classifications do not define a prisoner's revolutionary potential. Many informants walk in GP freely without anyone knowing what they did while solid activists are falsely validated or retreat to SNY. We must judge our comrades by their actions, not their prison-imposed classification.
I recently received ULK24, thank you. I share your newsletters with more than twenty people and an article (Correction on SNY debate) caused quite an uproar. I recognize the opinion of what people perceive Special Needs Yards (SNY) is (deviants, rats, etc.) but have major disagreement with the flawed perception.
The first of a few salient points is the strongest. In buying into the SNY/GP separation a fatal flaw emerges in ideology. The idea that SNY refugees who pursue personal safety are filth comes from a criminal mindset of values and morals. This needs correction and as a solution I offer education. SNY refugees are getting away from criminal mindset organizations and street gang policies. 99 percent of conflict within the walls isn't political struggle. It's not being able to pay for drugs, tribalism, promoting racial hatred and warfare for earlier lost battles, revenge for street gang violence, manipulation by imperialist agencies, and good old "I can't do my time so I'll make everyone else miserable."
As a mainline and SHU veteran of fifteen years traipsing across New Folsom, High Desert, Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Chino, San Quentin, and Old Folsom, the idea that I should prepare for death because a corrupt criminal organization declares it so is sheer idiocy. The idea that I could crawl under a rock in a hole somewhere and meekly keep my head down and not try to "make" my situation is sheer childlike fantasy. Convict (criminal) justice isn't blind, it is premeditated power struggles, envy, greed and the law of the jungle coming to fruition. The reality of prison politics is simple, dope is shotcaller. Greed, self-aggrandizement, negative cultural and educational values run rampant like a virus. Split by race, geography, imagined fifty year old slights and insults, the semi-ignorant masses huddle on their claimed patches of territory on the yard and build up walls of separation that tower far above the actual prison walls that confine them. Imperialists stand watching; laughing, and profiting. The convenient high noon-middle of the street showdown of physical combat isn't a noble ideal and it has replaced rational thought as the tool of necessity in the concrete culture.
It needs to be said that Republicans and Democrats don't care if you're SNY or GP, creating a mental separation to divide and conquer is proven COINTELPRO strategy. It makes moving the herd easier.
Bear this in mind please. Just because you are in a cell in prison you are not a political prisoner. As an individual you must make peace with why you're in the cell in the first place. Responsibility for your life is first. If you choose to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do that then wipe away the veil and quit dividing the world in to race, geography, and location, quit dividing your world into SNY and GP, become more than a convict.
SNY was a choice I made that I must live with. To believe that I have no redeemable value is ludicrous. I didn't testify against anyone, no one went to the hole, I did not become an oppressor of my own people. I did not leave my morals on the mainline. I do not live, associate, or do business with deviants, rats, or oppressors. I am vigilant in knowing who and what they've done in my life. I simply now walk stronger alone in my stride.
If you are still on the path of separatism you're stagnant and if your doctrines espouse convict vs. convict violence, drug profits, or control of the mass. You are not a revolutionary, you are an oppressor, as your desire is simply to be king of the mountain. Please do not don the guise of righteousness simply because of a designation the system created that you choose to use.
It is every day actions that define you. if you're still gangbanging, slinging, separating, wake up you're stuck in the matrix like Neo was.
Do something revolutionary, walk across the yard to that semi-familiar face with the ink work of a different tribe on his sleeves. Embrace the viking king, the African warrior, the Aztec warrior and realize that if you can't do it you are by choice dividing and separating, and you're the one who doesn't get it.
My heart and mind are guiding my moral compass true and I cannot see exploiting another for self-gain. Where do you stand really? It doesn't matter in the physical sense as it isn't a physical question. What is in your heart will show up in your everyday life. If I'm just talking, blowing smoke, what I've written above makes me another windblown hypocrite and false seer uttering borrowed phrases and aping the intelligent conversations of my learned betters. But if it resides in every beat of my heart and my stride matches my hearts intentions, recognize, wherever I may be.
Just because you read the little red book and you're on a mainline doesn't make you a revolutionary. Educate yourself, enlighten others, uplift all.
MIM(Prisons) adds: MIM(Prisons) does recognize all prisoners as political prisoners because who goes to prison is determined by the politics of those in power. But there is a difference between why you are in prison, and what you are going to do with your life. So we agree with this comrade that political consciousness must be learned through study and work, and is not given to you the day they close you behind a cell door.
This debate over whether there can be any revolutionaries on SNY has been raging in the pages of Under Lock & Key for 2 years now. MIM(Prisons) comes down on the side of all revolutionary prisoners. We judge people by their work and not by their state-determined classification. There are revolutionaries on SNY and there are rats on GP. And we know the rats in all units like to pretend to be revolutionaries. We can only look at people's actions to determine where they really fall.
I recently completed an assignment as a prospective USW leader. The topic of dissertation was of revolutionary Fearlessness, Scientific Strategy, and Security. The study offers a primary discourse on issues such as applying the scientific method in strategy, rather than being passionately or emotionally driven. The "fear factor" is addressed, and how it can be effective or reckless in issues like security.
I got a lot from the study personally. I understand as materialists we aren't supposed to be influenced by ideas of "the divine," metaphysical, or spiritual intervention in human affairs, or in any context for that matter. Maybe it's the strong indigenous traditions passed on for generations in my family and culture that lead to such first impressions and perceptions. Whatever the cause may be, within the time frame of me receiving and responding to the above referenced assignment, things were happening on the ground level directly associated with the lessons in our assignment. Maybe a Christian or Muslim would believe it was God allowing their faith to be tried and tested by satan or his legions. Or a pagan may have believed it was a fusion of Mexican and Roman war gods, Vaitzilopochtli and Mars somehow interfering with material conditions on Earth in order to sharpen and refine his skills, strategy, tactics, and security in struggle. But such convictions, regardless of how firmly believed, have no scientific basis and cannot be interpreted as truth. Yet the life lesson and the message has been conveyed.
Back in the 80s in the Texas prison colonies known as "ranchos" there was a spontaneous combustion within the social relations of Chicano prisoners. It spread like wildfire, like a virus. A true example of dialectic materialism in a controlled environment. Like Phoenix rising out of the flames, ashes, and blood, rose a democratic prison society claiming to stand together against negative activities in prison. By the late 90s, entering the new millennium there was a loose confederation of Latino tribes, regional and autonomous in nature, in virtually every one of the over 100 Texas ranchos. These regional autonomous tribes are now a dominate factor in almost every correctional institution in Texas. No longer are they confined to the Ranchos either, but have spread into the hoods and barrios, infecting our youth. There is ample evidence that the state has played an effective instigating role in a long and bloody war of attrition that has been going on for over two decades uninterrupted, in a now hidden, now open fight, a fight kept from the public eye. A war between the tribes and organized Texas families. This evidence could be used to substantiate a claim that the government has encouraged, even created the conditions for this anarchistic tribal take over of the social structure amongst Texas prisoners. Similar to how the U.S. has continuously done in the Third World, funding and provoking civil wars in the Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East in order to divide, conquer, and maintain hegemonic control of economic interests and security.
Within the tribes there is no constitution, rank, or central command structure. They're divided into regional districts, and are purely democratic and autonomous in nature. What's so important and phenomenal here is the material dialectics in action. How the tribes are a natural development, the structure, principle, and form naturally developed over time under conditions of extreme oppression by more than one force. Notice how at the beginning it was a Chicano based movement, but has since embraced the Latino concept.
It should be very well noted that by no means is the tribal structure revolutionary, nor is it structured as a family. It's distinct in nature, a security measure so to say. But it's phenomenal to me. Almost any criminal, political, religious, or economic ideas can be retained by the individual, yet they cannot be instituted as a form from top down. This is anarchistic and ineffective at times, and leads to much conflicting interest, but these are the material conditions.
I happen to be a progressive individual. I believe in developing my mind, body and soul. I'm constantly studying, reading, working out, collecting my thoughts and energies, and focusing them in a productive and creative form. This is what I do, it's how I've learned to adapt to my environment and pull through these wasteful conditions. Yet I'm surrounded by negativity and destructive individuals. Other tribesmen are stuck in a state of mental and physical decadence and decay. They're manipulative, oppressive and dictatorial, straight criminal by nature. I understand these too are only character manifestations of these wasteful conditions. And something I strive against. These two separate and distinct classifications are both allowed within the context of the tribe. Of course they oppose each other and conflict at times.
Recently conflict arose between the tribes and ALKQN. What resulted from the conflict wasn't good for any of us, nothing positive or progressive was attained. In fact what resulted was the loss of solid braves, continuous lockdowns, strategic hits, and "mediation" by the rancheros to keep the steers in line. As a deterrence, the administration began rounding up tribesmen. The tribes have the larger numbers and are often perceived as the aggressors regardless of the circumstances. Anywhere from 16 to 20 tribesmen were rounded up at different times during the conflict, seed as collateral, systematically subjected to punishing intimidation, subjugation, and humiliation, all in order to psychologically inhibit the young braves, and break their will and resistance. Of course it was effective on the youngsters who average out to about 20 years old. Left for weeks without anything, in a bare cell with only enough soap to wash our ass. No writing, legal, or correspondence materials. No books or literatures with which to stimulate our minds. After 3 weeks they gave us our bibles, which we all know to be pacifist literature telling us to turn the other cheek and obey our masters. We were systematically served disciplinary cases for nonsense. Sadly it wasn't my first, and won't be the last time I go through such conditioning. I was a part of the final round up, all my property was confiscated before I was herded into the holding pen "corral." 16 volumes of legal transcripts, including legal notes and work product was seized and inspected for weeks. The round up lasted from Dec 6 2011 through January 12, 2012.
The very next day after being released onto the pasture, not any time during the "investigative" lockdown, but after my release, the Rancheros called a coup of tribal representatives, to show them a letter that was found in my property. This letter was correspondence to one of my kin on the Rancho. A written analysis of our social relations and conditional circumstances as Chicanos under this neocolonial order. It included strategy and tactics regarding pending and future litigation addressing family and communal lands stolen from our direct ancestors after the Texas revolution. The royalty and mineral rights to raw crude being pumped and refined on a particular island off the Southern coast of Texas. The letter was detailed and passionate. It was revealing and exposing. Nothing that should have fallen into agency files. Truthfully, I don't even know the full context of the letter.
Somehow the Rancheros convinced or influenced these two representatives that I had intentions of waging and leading a guerilla assault against other tribal bands. This has no logical or reasonable basis. The context and substance of the letter was written in a language of resistance. These leaders are steeped in the criminal programming and traditions, which is only a natural response, I understand. I evolved from these perceptions myself. Somehow they agreed with the Rancheros that the content of the letter was a threat to the structure and security of the tribal alliance. Council was held, both sides brought their points to the fire. The determining factor was how these so-called gangsters and criminals were allowing themselves to be used by the rancheros, and using the word and influence of the Rancheros to substantiate a claim against a tribesman. Many other subjective and objective factors played a role in the democratic process. But the objective truth is that I'm still here. I'm almost 100% sure that had this issue been brought up on a weak-minded, unrefined, undisciplined and fearful mind, the situation would have played out differently, and that individual may not be here to share the experience like this.
What's amazing to me is that this whole experience happened to coincide with an assignment on "Fearlessness, Scientific Strategy, and Security," that I received from MIM(prisons) while these very events were unfolding. The experience was very humbling. I learned a very valuable lesson: "gots ta be mo' careful."
To all you would be progressive individuals with a revolutionary vision, who happen to be involved with LOs who do not follow a well formulated line, or uphold the principles they claim to represent, be careful. Limit yourself and your activities, don't be so careless in expressing your views and concerns around ignorant unlearned individuals. People fear what they don't know. Above all, if your views and beliefs can be based on science and conditional/material facts, if you feel these scientific views to be pure and true, be loyal and stay true to them to da fullest. Stay committed and stare down adversity with a fearless spirit. Understand your material and social conditions. Please don't let no law enforcement elements interfere with your relations and influence your views to the point they become reactionary against your own. Their intentions may be all in good faith to maintain peace and security on the unit level. But their interests and security does not comport with yours in the objective long term. Proceed with caution.
U.$. citizens are said to comprise a nation which embraces freedom. Freedom is said to be such a fundamental element of our nation that we insist on forcing our concepts of it upon other countries. The government coined a military mission "Operation Enduring Freedom." The colonists declared war on the British in the interests of freedom; freedom was a major element in the fuel for the civil war; and the U.S. invaded Iraq to "secure" Iraqi freedom. Freedom seems to be the fuel to the fire of many struggles over the centuries in U.S. related matters.
Justice is also something that's supposedly held dear in this nation. This Justice Department, along with its affiliates, is among the biggest governmental agencies in the nation. Our courts supposedly produce justice. People are murdered by the government, via capital punishment, in the name of justice. People are killed on the battlefield in the name of justice. Unarmed men are shot down in the streets by police, in the name of justice. Justice, as we know it here in the U.S., seems to be a grim reaper with a thirst for blood.
Sometimes what one says about their character is not always in harmony with their actions; the same is applicable to a nation. As the old saying goes, "Actions speak louder than words," and I believe that the actions carried out by a nation's government are the true indicator of what that nation's principles and values are. Governmental action here in the U.S comes in the form of legislation, policy, enforcement, and rulings.
So despite what we say as a nation regarding how important freedom is, the question becomes: Are our actions in line with what we say? I think not and here's why. We say that we cherish freedom. In fact our Declaration of Independence says that man's freedom is an unalienable right, yet we have a larger number of people incarcerated than any other nation in the world. People will have many rationalizations as to why this is so, but from a purely objective analysis none hold up. Being the number one wielder of human captivity, while supposedly holding man's freedom in the highest regard, are two totally irreconcilable positions.
Additionally, even as the Declaration was written and for years afterward, slavery was an accepted institution in this country. So while freedom was being formally recognized as a man's inalienable right, certain men were being denied that very right. How can those two positions be reconciled?
Freedom, as defined by the Black's Law Dictionary is: Quality or state of being free; liberty; independence
And Free is defined as: Not in bondage to another; enjoying liberty; independent.
Prisoners, slavery, excessive laws, our government seems to be the personification of the anti-freedom. Surprisingly many citizens seem oblivious to this paradox.
And who defines justice, being that it's such a fluid concept. I mean, one person's justice can be another's injustice. In the interest of having a formal gauge, I'll refer to the "Webster's" dictionary for definition. Justice is defined: Uprightness; equitableness; fairness.
Now consider some of the actions committed by our government.
During the westward expansion of this nation, the government continuously laid claim to lands that they had previously agreed to leave to the First Nations. The First Nations were, for the most part, patient as Buddhist monks when facing these recurring betrayals. But even a priest can reach his boiling point, and when the First Nations reached theirs, the government resorted to forcefully taking the land. To take the property of another by means of force or fear is robbery. Robbery is a crime punishable by imprisonment/fine. This is not very much in line with justice is it?
Then think of the governmental approval of slavery in this nation. Not in regard to the actual practice of slavery but the fact that our government once deemed it acceptable and now denounces it. The key here is that despite the reversal, the government has made no restitution for this crime. No formal apology, no monetary compensation, or any "peace offering" to the New Afrikan nation.
In contrast, the German government has formally apologized and committed monetary compensation to the Jews for the Holocaust. And even in the United Snakes of Amerika, the government has started providing compensation to the First Nations. But I suppose that the decision makers in the government feel that Amerika is above any measures to make amends to mere "niggers." (No offense to anyone in the New Afrikan nation, to which I belong. I simply use the word that the imperialists would in their reasoning). Yet they still boast Amerika as a justice loving nation.
And moving right along into more modern times, a focal point relevant to this subject is Amerika's criminal justice system, which is contrary to the meaning of justice. For starters, studies have shown that Black nations and Latino nations receive harsher sentences and more severe charges in comparison with their caucasian counterparts. This is in regards to the very same or similar criminal acts.
A good example of this is the sentencing disparities between crack cocaine (mostly found in inner city, oppressed nations, neighborhoods) offenses and powder cocaine (generally associated with suburban, caucasian, neighborhoods). Despite the fact that the powder form of the drug has more of it than crack, five grams of crack will get one the same amount of time as about one hundred grams of powder cocaine. How absurd is that? There's nothing just about a system that harbors racial disparity.
In the interests of promoting a safe and healthy society, the government has instituted the position of prosecutor. In their prosecutorial duties, the prosecutor is supposed to be bound by moral, ethical, and legal restraints. One of the main legal restraints supposedly binding the actions of a prosecutor is the constitutional "guarantees" that every defendant is supposed to have. In theory, a prosecutor must respect a defendant's constitutional rights.
In reality, Amerika's Supreme Court has deemed a prosecutor's violation of certain constitutional "guarantees" acceptable. Therefore prosecutors don't feel very obligated to respect a defendant's constitutional rights. Add to this the fact that prosecutors have been granted immunity from civil liability in relation to their on the job misconduct. This basically give them license to disregard the law, having nothing upright, fair, or equitable about it.
There are plenty of instances which can illustrate precisely how unjust the so-called justice system is. Biased/racist judges and prosecutors, intentionally ineffective defense attorneys, discriminatory laws, all of these things help shatter the facade of legitimacy and justness of what is called the justice system. And ironically New Afrikans, the same people who were subjected to the inhumanity of slavery, are disproportionately targeted by the criminal "justice" system. It appears that the main facet of justice in Amerika is overt oppression. Amerika is the enemy of both freedom and justice.
MIM(Prisons) adds: A recent book review further highlights the true injustice of the prison system in Amerika. And overall this comrade makes a very important point about the hypocrisy of the U.$. claim to support freedom and justice. We will, however, point out that in order to achieve a society that truly affords everyone freedom and justice, we must first dismantle capitalism. And that will not happen overnight. For this reason, we support an explicitly repressive society called the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which is a transition period between capitalism and communism where the government is run by the people and actively represses the freedom of the former bourgeoisie. We can not be idealists and think that it is possible to just magically conjure up a society where all are equal when those in power will fight to retain their power, and our culture teaches people to work first for individualist selfish goals. We will need years of retraining and re-education for people to truly work in cooperation for the common good.
In order to file a §1983 prisoner complaint, one must exhaust the facility grievance procedure on any issues beforehand. The pigs here claim procedural defect, frustrating the exhaustion requirement of the PLRA. Now that the institution has been made aware of my pending §1983 suite, they block the third and final grievance process. I am submitting a revised complaint with denial of access to the court added, and I will keep you informed.
I passed two grievance petitions on down the line. Colorado chain gang is just as messed up as you might think, but I do help those who at least show some heart. I pass all of my info on to other people, to maybe spark some fight.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The grievance campaign is spreading from its start in California to Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. Write to us for copies of the grievance petition for your state. If you are in a state not currently covered by the grievance campaign you can use the current petitions as a format, but will need to look up citations and policies specific to your state for reference in the petition. If you do this research and send us what needs to be rewritten for your particular state, we will gladly send an edited, accurate copy to other USW and Legal Clinic folks in your state.
Why are we so blind to seeing things we need to see Why do we let those who hate us tell us who we're supposed to be Why do they tell us that our big lips & noses seem to be awkward Then they turn around, get breast implants, silicone, lip shots & ass jobs Why are we coerced into armed forces to do the government's dirt They turn us into killing machines, mental patients, or inmates And lie to our loved about how we are hurt I pledge allegiance to the united snakes that I'll expose you to the fullest even if it seals my fate I'll expose your horns & bloodshot eyes & tell the world you are a liar, a cheat, a thief & a fake Long ago you planted seeds of hate And stripped our culture If you're watching but still can't see I recommend that you look closer Cause there's much more to see Stand strong in liberation for nations to be
There are two specific challenges we face with our comrades who get out of prison and want to stay politically active. First, the difficulties of balancing work, school, politics and general home life. Second, the overlap between friendship and politics. It is important that we address these challenges to help our comrades follow through on their pledges to serve the people after gaining their freedom.
So far we have been less than successful in this regard, and many comrades fall out of touch with us, only to re-emerge when they are locked back up months or years later. In a country with such a relatively low number of active, committed anti-imperialists, losing these comrades to the streets is a significant blow to our work. As we expand our Re-Lease on Life Program, we are working to address specific challenges with life on the streets in the belly of the beast.
Meeting Your Basic Needs
There are few resources for released prisoners, and without family or friends to provide support it's very difficult to find housing, get a job and provide for basic necessities. There are few studies of homelessness among released prisoners, but those that we've found suggest that at least 10% of parolees end up on the streets without housing after release.(1) The numbers are probably higher; sleeping on a friend's couch is not a long term solution but it won't get you counted as homeless in these studies.
Unfortunately MIM(Prisons) doesn't currently have the resources to provide much help in the area of basic needs for released prisoners. We do have some resource guides for some states, and we can help you think through the best plan for your circumstances. But our ability to help in this area is limited. The rest of this article focuses on people who are released and are able to meet their basic needs. If you have a release date coming up, let us know so we can help you make a plan for the streets.
Time Management on the Streets
Behind bars life is very regimented, with little room for any decisions about how to organize your day, except when you are locked in your cell. And even there, your options for how to spend your time are very limited. You don't have to keep a schedule because the prison keeps it for you. So one of the problems prisoners face when they hit the street is the vastness of opportunities and choices, and the lack of structure.
Many comrades will want to pursue some education, while also finding a job, and attempting to reconnect with family and friends. This means a lot of choices and opportunities, and structured days are necessary to make them fit together. The demands of family and friends can be especially difficult during the initial months post-release after so long with social interactions closely monitored and limited.
Friends, family, school and work are all institutions that are deeply ingrained in and supported by our culture. There is no support for doing revolutionary organizing. That is why Re-Lease on Life is so important. People have a hard enough time doing the normal things they need to do to get by as former prisoners, especially as felons. If you just go with the flow, you'll find your time just flies by and you don't put in any political work.
To participate in the Re-Lease on Life program you need to make a commitment to political work upon release. But most people will need to keep this commitment minimal at first, so that you can focus on getting established with a plan for meeting your long-term needs as an individual, while keeping a connection to the movement.
It's important to think about the future. If you get government assistance, or have a part-time hustle when you get out, how long can that last you? If you don't have job skills or a college degree you should consider school and look into scholarships. On the other hand, it may be worthwhile to focus initially on just making some money before you consider starting school.
Think about where you want to be in a year or two. If your political work is limited by time now, how can you free up more time in the future? One way is by getting into a career path where your income will grow with your experience. Another consideration when looking for jobs is, how can it support my bigger goals? If you work in food service, you save money by bringing home leftovers. If you work at a copy shop, you get discounts on fliers and literature. Getting a manual labor job might help you meet your physical fitness goals. If you work at a security job you get paid to do your political study, leaving your free time to do outreach work.
Whatever your plan is, you need to start thinking about your time as a budget. You have only so much each week, each day. Determine how much you really need for the necessities in life and then schedule that time.
A week has 168 hours in it. If you sleep 8 hours a night that leaves 112. If you need 2 hours a day to cook, eat and take care of persynal hygiene, you are down to 98 hours. Take at least 5 hours a week to deal with other persynal stuff like finances, cleaning, and organizing. You want to work out at least 4 hours per week, maybe more like 8. Now we have 85 left. If you work full time you've got 45, plus transit time, so make that 40. If you're going to school too, you could probably use up most of that 40. If you have regular appointments with your parole officer, doctor or counselor, that will take a few hours. In your best case scenario you might have 40 hours to spend on socializing, relaxing and doing political work. Realistically, finding 15 to 20 hours a week to do political work with a normal bourgeois life is an ambitious goal that requires discipline and good planning.
Keep in mind that even if you only have 5 hours a week free for political work, that is 5 hours of work getting done in the interests of the oppressed. Any time you can set aside for this work is good. And when you first hit the streets this will be easiest if you can set aside that time on your schedule so that it is always the same day/time. For instance, you could say that Tuesday and Thursday nights you will do political work from 5-8 p.m. Block it off on your calendar and tell your friends you have appointments or classes at those times (see below). Working this into your schedule as a regular thing will make it much easier to maintain your activism. If you give up and stop doing political work, chances are good that you will never take it up again. The revolution can't afford to lose good activists like you, so don't let that happen!
Money is Time
Just as challenging for many former prisoners as managing time is managing money, and the movement needs both. Don't fall into Amerikan consumerism. Imperialism has kept itself going by building a consumerist culture at home to keep capital circulating. What that means is that a typical Amerikan lifestyle involves far more consumption than is necessary (or even healthy). Having your own apartment, your own car, a cell phone plan, and others preparing your food for you are just some obvious examples of things considered to be "necessary" expenses justifying the so-called "high cost of living" in this country. Seek out others who you can share expenses and cost-saving tips with. Extravagant spending is often a social behavior. Many recreational things like cable television, alcohol and cigarettes become habitual expenses. Rest and recreation are important, but try things that are more healthy and cost less, and if you do want to splurge, make it a special reward, not a daily expense.
One of our strengths in this country is that Amerikans get paid extremely high wages. By keeping expenses low, you'll find that you can get by on a part-time job, leaving you with more time to do what is most important to you. Remember, even if you're making minimum wage you are in the top 13% income bracket in the world. Don't use poverty as an excuse, when your wealth and privilege are really what's holding you back from doing political work.
The Persynal vs. The Political
Related to the challenges you will face with managing your time on the streets is the social demands of family and friends. The overlap between friendship and politics is something that most people don't consider. In fact, in this country we are encouraged to think about politics as something we must share with family and friends. But MIM(Prisons) does not agree with that view.
We live in a country where most people have a very strong material interest in the status quo, and so they will oppose anti-imperialist politics. The chances of winning them over to the side of the revolution are very minimal, and there is generally no need to destroy relationships with family and friends in the name of this struggle when there are so many other people out there we can try to recruit. Also, because of security concerns in this country, exposing your politics to family and friends can put you at a real risk, especially if you are on parole. If there's one thing you should have learned being locked up, it's that snitches are everywhere.
There is nothing wrong with having friends who don't share your political convictions, you just need to avoid talking about politics with them or only talk about smaller points of politics, without raising suspicion. This doesn't mean you can't share your political views with friends and family who show that they are likely to be interested and agree, but be careful because once they know your views and the work you do, you can't take it back.
Basics About Security on the Streets
When you are locked up in prison the government has a lot of information about you and knows your every move. So behind bars you can only control your security to the extent that you keep your mouth shut on the yard and don't share information about the political work you are doing with people who might use it against you.
On the streets things are a little different. Although you might have to report in to a parole officer or allow the state to track you in some other way as a term of your release, you have a lot more freedom about what information you do and don't share with people and with the government. You are under no obligation to tell anyone about the political work you do, and in fact you should do your best to keep this private from people you know unless you have a reason to believe that they would be supportive. And of course you want to keep it a mystery from the state. This is NOT because we are doing anything illegal, but rather because the state does not like anti-imperialists and will use this as a reason to find or create an excuse to lock you back up. So don't make this easy for them.
Just recently on the John B. Connally unit drastic changes are being made. The administration has been coming down real hard on the already oppressed masses. Not only do they house all the STG (security threat groups) on Building 4, but have divided the whole unit. The dorms which comprise Buildings 18 and 19 house all non-STG and those prisoners who work around the unit. Building 3 houses non-STG prisoners and those in the religious program. Building 7 houses all those not yet qualified to move up on the unit to A-side. Building 7 also houses those prisoners who are less than 10 years into their life sentence and that have over 50-year sentences. Building B houses a mixture as well but they stay on that building with the less fortunate who are kept housed all day in their cells. They eat in the building now that a chow hall was built to accommodate.
This division with the unit capacity of 2,800 prisoners has not only stagnated the progress or process to organize effectively, but has caused those who got it better on A-side to not give much attention to the sufferings of those who experience it much more on B-side. They are ready to cause wars and riots with each other rather than direct that misguided energy towards establishing a union to grieve concerns and make administration hear and act on our behalf.
In expressing such observations, I also know that it is not an easy task, but it can be done even if we are divided. As a whole we are only segregated until we can find better ways to network and communicate and this is why I am encouraged and empowered by your articles and newsletter. There is hope! And it is right here right now!