I am a strong brother who is currently living on a Special Needs Yard (SNY). I am writing this letter in response to several articles about the many individuals who are or who have chosen to live inside of an SNY yard. I know that I am an exception. I have never been in prison before. I have never testified on anybody or been victimized by another human being. I chose to lock it up or become an SNY yard prisoner despite the stigma because of my experiences as a gang banger. I wanted to give up continuously putting myself into danger and stop standing up for a code and structure that served no purpose other than to steal, kill, beat down and destroy myself, my family and my community.
I won't pre-judge those brothers and sisters in the mainline who believe that everyone on SNY is a snitch, a bitch or a tattle tell. But there are a lot of good and bad brothers everywhere who can and may contribute to this cause. We have to figure out a way that we as a people can use our common sense to focus on who our real oppressors are within and beyond these walls.
We need to address our fears and really look deeply into what are we all really fighting for. Is it to end all oppression or to continue allowing ourselves to oppress our people. Whether we are on SNY yards or on mainline yards, prison is prison and oppression is oppression.
I have started work groups and study groups with all types of individuals around me here, something that structures and constant distrust has prevented many of us on the mainline or in society from doing. I came to SNY for better opportunity, a better way for me to do my time positively and productively. Despite the stigma, I think that it is a better environment to begin to work in, and reprogram our minds from our years and years of brainwashing.
MIM(Prisons) adds: There is little question that the expansion of the SNY program in California that has been long debated in the pages of ULK is part of an effort on the part of the CDCR to weaken lumpen organizations. And this is why SNY receives much ire from prisoners of many political persuasions. While they see the expansion as a plague spreading across the prison system, we have not seen any practical antidote to this come from those who consider SNY prisoners to be absolute enemies. The structures are too rigid and are not adapting as the masses begin moving in another direction. Granted this "new direction" is still largely guided by the CDCR itself, but it has a basis in real contradictions within the imprisoned class. We see plenty of people in GP working with the CDCR in anti-people activities and we see people in SNY supporting independent institutions of the oppressed.
The oppressed need organization, with structure, discipline and security. We should work to maintain these aspects of current organization where they exist. But most importantly, we need organizations that serve the people. And this is why we welcome the work of comrades like this one who are bridging gaps and organizing where others are not willing.
MIM(Prisons) position on the SNY debate remains one of looking at each individuals actions around the revolutionary struggle to judge their value to the movement. The larger problems that led to the current levels of SNY populations still need to be addressed by comrades with a common vision in all populations.
The recent article in ULK23 titled Hunger strike strategy: tactical retreat or advance? raised some good ideas on how to move forward in the struggle for human rights in Amerikan prisons. We need to propose ideas and theory on the situation with the strike movement now more than ever. We need to develop a clear path on how to better strengthen our efforts. This development needs not just California prisoner's attention but all prisoners across the United $tates to lend their voice to this debate no matter where their cage is at as oppression can be found in every gulag from sea to shining sea.
When prisoners participate in this discussion, many are able to take from this debate, learn and hopefully add to it in a real way. Some may use the ideas for their own battles or modify other ideas to work in their efforts. In this way ULK will serve as a message board or chat room for the captive masses. All this is of course good and healthy for any movement to grow, and I look forward to read up on new theory and add to the mix as well. It is expanding on thought for all and a "win win" for the people.
One of the things that came out of the article "Tactical Retreat or Advance" was calling on certain people or LOs to provoke their participation. Had ULK been a strictly internal document that only prisoners read then I would think 'yea right on.' The problem is that ULKs are read and heavily scrutinized by prison officials and law enforcement agencies, thus what may mean to be simple criticism becomes a serious breach. In California prisons - and I suspect it is the same everywhere - if prison officials find letters, prison kites, etc., with prisoners names and affiliations this can be used as "confidential information," "proving" what they will call gang association. This will go into one's file to be used as a point toward validation. By naming aliases along with the name of a LO, all investigators need to do is punch in the alias and the database will list those suspected of affiliating with a certain LO and connect the dots. So listing names and LOs of people other than oneself is feeding intel to law enforcement which will be used to later put people in SHUs for decades or life. To name names and LOs is harmful being that ULKs go through kops hands before reaching prisoners. We should find ways to criticize our fellow prisoners while protecting their identity, it's not hard to do so.
Someone who may be new to ULK may read the naming names and wonder, is this writer sabotaging these prisoners ability to remain on the mainline? Is he trying to get them snatched up? So we don't want to give mixed messages to people picking up a ULK of what we're about.
I know many people who were validated because their last point was someone else wrote something about them, that they were affiliated with this or that group, and so I was surprised this was allowed to take place.
I read awhile back in a MIM Theory about a comrade who was at a rally or event, and this comrade spoke about how someone walked up and said something like "hey you're from MIM, I knew the founder so and so." Well this comrade and MIM wrote something about security and how we shouldn't name comrades as this information gets in the hands of agents. Of course I know the difference between a LO and MIM, yet a LO faces repression in prison in the form of SHU.
If there is a "pig question," I think it begs the question of can there be a "pig statement"? It's something we need to look at and see if there really is a breach in naming prisoners without their knowledge in ULK. What is the damage that can come out of this? And should MIM(Prisons) allow it or partake in the same? I don't think so. I remember another article a while back where someone did the same and called out people and identified their LO but I believe it was in NY. I'm not sure how prisons in NY deal with intel such as this but I am certain of how California prisons deal with it and I am sitting in SHU for stuff like that.
I think MIM(Prisons) has an excellent policy of not putting peoples real names in its publications. MIM(Prisons) says rightly it does not do so to protect prisoners from more repression by the state. I believe this should also pertain to prisoners writing about other prisoners as well.
I think there is a way to call out LOs without naming prisoners, and it is right to call on certain folks to encourage participation, but naming names is just too harmful. When we write we must always keep in mind it is being read by not just guards but the larger state as well. I myself would not want someone to write about me by name if they are putting an LO beside my name. This is why MIM(Prisons) does not print real names. It's a matter of security. The pigs get a lot of intelligence on prisoners from their snitches who help them out, they shouldn't get more help from prison revolutionaries nor revolutionaries out in society.
I think criticism is a good thing for all prisoners and this includes LOs who are a huge part in what occurs in many prisons. Revolutionary prisoners need to develop ways to criticize without doing damage. Writing is not just succumbing to subjectivism no matter how stressful it becomes. I fully understand the frustration that arises when people are right at the ledge and all they need to do is make that leap to freedom and here we are the prison revolutionary nudging and showing the path and yet it moves at a snails pace and so we put pen to paper to jump start what seems like a stalled engine. I get this and see where we need to go but still we must remember ULK is not an internal cable, it is literally on the world wide web. Let us move forward in our efforts while staying alert in all areas. People's Power!
Editor of MIM(Prisons) responds: We thank comrade Cipactli for calling out this error in Under Lock & Key, and as editor i fully accept the criticism made. While any potential damage in that instance has been done, we are printing this publicly to correct any bad impressions it may have given people and remind all comrades of the importance of these issues. This was an opportunist error on my part that risked pushing away people that we hope to ally with, who never asked to have their names in ULK.
MIM(Prisons) agrees that it is dangerous practice for ULK to include people's LO name and affiliation and we will edit articles in the future to remove this information. While we have never printed people's real names, as Cipactli points out, this doesn't matter if the prisoncrats can make the connection between a prisoner and their LO name. We don't need to be helping the state with their repression, and feeding them information can have a real impact even when we are printing common knowledge.
This doesn't mean people should stop calling out LOs or writing about them, but ULK writers need to be careful to never use a name that can be associated with an individual. We can talk about groups without connecting them to specific names, and we can address lines and practice without naming groups. As we build the United Front for Peace in Prisons this is particularly important: we must build unity, not divisions, amongst the Lumpen Organizations.
I just got my issue of ULK24 today. Not sure if it's the one they tried to deny or not. But I got it. I wanted to write to ask about this grievance campaign on page 12. I see Texas listed here, but have not heard of any inter-state attempt to rectify the grievance problems. So, could you please tell me of this and possibly who to contact?
I am struggling to keep our basic rights here. Yet, our prisons have been known to steal grievances (as they did to me last February on a solid case against them), scratch out lines written on step ones, hold step ones for extra time to ensure it's impossible to file a step two, and lastly they grade/investigate step two grievances here instead of sending them up the ladder to Huntsville, as policy says they must.
So I would like to hear more of this Texas campaign. Can you help me gain a better understanding of this and who I need to contact? I'm up for release this year and will take this fight to the outside world with me.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This grievance campaign has been growing since the initiation in California. We now have petitions for seven states, including Texas, which comrades are using to fight unjust grievance systems. Write to us for a copy of a generic petition that you can customize for your state if we don't already have a campaign in your state.
Greetings Comrades. I'm reporting from the Correctional Institution for Men in Chino. The fascist pig COs (correctional officers) are trying to validate a fellow comrade because of books he had in his possession. First they attempted to get him to snitch on who gave him the books. Now Investigative Services Unit (ISU) is holding him in isolation "pending an investigation" accusing him of being a member of the Black Guerilla Family. All behind books he was reading! The books he had were on the Black Panther Party, anarchism, Che Guevara, the Symbionese Liberation Army, etc.
MIM(Prisons) adds:Recent struggles in California have focused on the so-called "gang validation" process used to put people in torture cells for years and even decades. This is just another example that the process is a thinly veiled tool of political repression. While the carrot offered to Blacks in the United $tates has gotten quite tasty for our generation, the state continues to target Blacks who are seeking political education or doing political organizing.
In December 2011, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual reports on the correctional population in the United $tates.(1) The reports cover people under adult correctional supervision in 2010. For the second year in a row, this population declined; the first decline since the number of people in jail and prison began growing in the 1970s.
At the end of December 2010, the total number of people in the correctional system, including probation, parole, prison and jail, was 7,076,200. The prison population in this country dropped .6% from 2009, the first decline since 1972. The number of federal prisoners actually increased by .8% but the state prison population dropped by that same rate. Because there are more state prisoners than federal prisoners, there was a drop overall.
The imprisonment rate for new convictions has been declining since 2007, but this is the first year releases exceeded admissions of prisoners, leading to the small drop in the prison population. But release rates were down 2.9% in 2010, so these numbers don't reflect an increase in releases. In fact, time served by state prisoners remained about the same.
These latest numbers may indicate that the prison population has finally reached its peak in Amerika, possibly because of the heavy economic burden of maintaining such a massive criminal injustice infrastructure in this country. But even if the imprisonment rate continues to drop, it will take many years and huge changes before it gets low enough to be comparable to other countries. The U.$. holds over 30% of the world's imprisoned people and has the highest imprisonment rate in the world.(2)
The report gives two possible explanations for the drop in prison population in the United $tates: "either a decrease in the probability of a prison sentence, given conviction, or a decrease in the number of convictions." Unfortunately, data on these measures are not yet available but either would be a good thing. However, as mentioned above, it is likely these changes are a result of financial requirements, not a shift in politics around imprisonment.
There are some interesting trends by nationality demonstrating a continued commitment to national oppression by the criminal injustice system in Amerika. Blacks and whites both had a drop in imprisonment rates, but the decrease for whites (6.2%) was much bigger than for Blacks (.85%). In recent years migrants have been the fastest growing population in U.$. prisons. While 2010 saw a 7.3% increase in the "Hispanic" imprisonment rate, non-citizens actually saw a slight decrease, probably due to a massive increase in deportations. Black men remain the largest sector of the prison population and are imprisoned at a rate almost 7 times white men.
In early February we received a report from a family member that Scotland Correctional Institution had been on lockdown for over 2 weeks. All the time prisoners were getting out of their cells was 5 minutes to shower with handcuffs. They were not allowed to use the phone to call family, so mail has been the only form of communication.
On February 21 a North Carolina prisoner reports:
I'm on lock down for something that happened on January 19, 2012 which I had nothing to do with. The prison placed us on an institution-wide lock down for a small gang riot, which was handled and shut down quickly. They still got us locked down, just trying to break our spirits.
They've not given any religious service, no school, no visits, no sick calls. I placed a sick call 2 weeks ago and they still haven't called me in.
Grievances are not being addressed. I'm so tired of being oppressed. I want to overcome this oppression and I know it's a struggle.
On February 16 ULK correspondent Wolf reported:
Other closed custody facilities went back to regular operation after Prison Emergency Response Teams (PERT) searched and stayed on each unit for about 2 weeks. But the oppressive Karen Stanback and her assistant Capt. Covington has continued the oppressive conditions at Scotland. Details of this oppression include:
On 20 January 2012 we were searched by PERT at 6:30 AM. No shower, recreation, TV, phone calls, religious services, canteen, etc. that day. Taken to the shower on 23 January 2012 in handcuffs and made to shower with handcuffs on. Only had 10 minutes to shower escorted by 2 COs in handcuffs, one inmate at a time in a block of 48 people. PERT searched us again on 25 January 2012.
After grievances and receiving complaints from family members and other outside sources, we received 2 hours in the dayroom, 24 prisoners at a time. During this period we must shower, make phone calls, or try to cook or prepare a meal using 1 hot water sink in the dorm. Prisoners must become bootlickers or snitches or their jobs are being given away to medical custody.
All the guys who participated in the actions that occurred that night are on segregation or were sent to long-term lockup. Still these conditions continue to be enforced on us. Brothers don't realize they're used as pawns in a dirty chess game played by this administration to finally have a reason to bury us alive in these cemeteries. However, Resistance Number 1, aka Wolf has entered the fight against the oppressive imperialistic system of justice and joins MIM. We the Resistance Number 1 realized our fight is hard and difficult, but someone must speak out against the laboratory of injustice here at Scotland CI.
Fremont Correctional Facility (FCF) was recently supplying labor energies (human cattle) to 2-3 other correctional facilities within the Canon City Industrial Corrections Complex to cook, clean and do maintenance (and previously build) these maximum security facilities, and paying us very low wages. We were driven back and forth daily to maintain these other facilities, which included daily strip-outs and other various degrading experiences.
Due to administrative budget cuts and pressure from passive resistance labor strike movement protestors, FCF prisoners will no longer be forced into working and maintaining those job assignments as of (approximately) 21 February 2012. But, those facilities are opening up for "incentive" living units: single cell occupancy with a TV. Hobby work items such as color pens and pencils are also being added to the monthly catalog canteen and we are no longer in need of special "hobby permits" in order to obtain those items.
On the down side, I was just recently released from "punitive segregation" and am being charged $122 for two bursts of OC [pepper spray] that were sprayed on me and fogged my domicile, and which also saturated an FCF library book, for which the library has charged me $29.95 to replace. I am also being charged for lost and/or destroyed (missing) bed sheets, not accounted for with my personal and private property withheld from me during my wrongful stay in punitive segregation. I was occupying my domicile sanctuary in protest against administrative corruption and for the inalienable rights to vote on all matters concerning my liberty interests.
Also while in punitive segregation I had mailed out many letters to other comrades within the facility and many of those letters were never received and CDOC did not notify me or the addressees of their interception.
MIM(Prisons) adds: These local protests that lead to improvements in conditions for prisoners are a good example of what is possible with greater unity. We stress the importance of building a United Front for Peace in Prisons to expand our ability to fight for legal rights while building a broader movement to educate and organize the prison population for fundamental, revolutionary change that will bring an end to the criminal injustice system in its entirety.
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.
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2012 permalink
I just received my ULK24 with the article Overcoming Release Challenges. I have 67 months until I am released. For me education, experience and pain/love for the proletariat is my driving force. Chairman Mao stated about political work "ideological education is the key link to be grasped in uniting the whole party for great political struggles. Unless this is done the party cannot accomplish any of its political tasks." (April 24, 1945) Mao's Little Red Book, The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital Vol 1, and What is to be Done? by Lenin are just a few works that we should be intimate with.
A revolutionary is more than anti-imperialist/anti-establishment. Comrade Ernesto "Che" Guevara said "the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love." So if we truly tremble with indignation at every injustice and believe in what we together can change through scientific socialism and faith in MLM then why or how would I choose to not continue once released? We can't depend on the parasitic, sadistic bourgeois.
Now I would like to say that the UnUnited $nakes of Amerikkka is the aggressor toward Iran. History has shown that the U.$. does not invade unless it can capitalize from the invasion. Iran has a hold on the Strait of Hormuz, where a nice percentage of oil comes through.
Further, nuclear bombs currently held by many countries including: U.$.A. 8,500, France 300, Russia 11,000, China 240, U.K. 225 and the imperialists known as the Zionists 80. It's alright for these countries to possess nukes but not Iran. President Obama stated in his State of the Union address, "let there be no doubt, Amerikkka is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal." Rick Santorum in his foreign policy statement said, "first and foremost publicly embrace the opposition and call for regime change." Who's really the threat? Hasta la victoria siempre!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We urge all comrades behind bars to let us know your release date and work with us towards a practical plan for staying active after release. As this prisoner points out, there are many important reasons to continue the fight on the streets, but desire is not enough to ensure your success. It will take hard work and planning, along with a strong dedication, to stay political once you get out of prison. Work with us to put together a release plan when your date is getting close.
This missive will be brief but informative on the level of state repression being executed by the authorities down here in West Valley Detention Center. It seems that my interest in researching history by receiving your MIM Notes newsletter has rubbed the police the wrong way. On February 16, 2012 I got a visit from a federal agent who wanted to know why I was receiving such information. The agent reveled to me that they were contacted because a package had MIM material inside of it.
Although the package was given to me it was quite unusual in the manner it was presented. Being that it wasn't classified as legal mail, I was called out of my cell and instructed to bring my ID. An officer who did not work in my unit handed over the package after scrutinizing my I.D. The package was open and was obviously inspected. Now none of this I would consider misconduct on their behalf, but suspicious in how they did not give the package to me in the regular way they pass out mail, which is through the unit officers who pass out all books, mags, and first class mail after 8pm count.
The only logical conclusion that I can reach on this matter is that they were making a threat assessment of me which would be considered absurd for receiving a publication that reports on global events. But when looking past the surface of this event, it is quite obvious that our so-called rights to the press and "individual sovereignty" are denied when we are discovering the skeletons in this nation's closet. On that note I will end this missive with a message to the masses: learn the facts of everything, don't let the authorities intimidate you.