We have one small victory on the censorship front on admission that ULK is not on a restricted distribution list and subscriptions will be delivered. Though this was issued in January, one issue still never arrived. That is being grieved. Aside from that a recent ULK subscriber received a Prison Legal News "survey" concerning censorship which appeared to be a precursor to litigation against the NDOC by PLN concerning censorship.
The principle problem which we encounter now is unofficial censorship, such as mail being withheld/not delivered without notice, mail being returned without notice (such as happened with ULK) and not stamping the received date on our mail, which is then not delivered on time.
In one extreme example, a kid got a letter form his family who had not been able to locate him for a couple of years because all of his incoming/outgoing mail to family had "disappeared" and they were just recently able to locate him. Apparently officials wouldn't explain why or where he was.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is on top of fighting censorship in his prison, and provides a good example for others who are experiencing similar problems. We need everyone to grieve censorship whenever it happens, pursue all administrative remedies, and attempt to contact outside organizations that might also be fighting censorship or willing to help with a lawsuit. If you have experienced censorship in your prison, write to us for a guide to fighting censorship, and be sure to report all mail (both received and rejected) to us so that we can accurate track censorship.
As I believe you are aware, I have been involved in several battles with the prison system to secure your publications, and am now receiving them without incident. Therefore, I was surprised to read that prison authorities were claiming that Under Lock & Key was on the "banned list." The next time that I am at our law library, I will examine the banned list, to see if the zine is on it, but I rather doubt that it is, as this facility would not have given me it if it were.
For all of your Illinois readers, I would suggest the following actions if they are having difficulties in receiving any of your publications:
Regularly examine the "banned publication list" which is available in every prison library.
It should be noted that only the Central Publication Review Committee can actually ban a publication; a prison can request it, but only the CPRC can approve it, and there will be a paper trail if anything is banned.
The following documents spell out a prisoner's rights regarding publications; all are available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, if they are available at the prison's library, they will tell you to review them there. (Any person in the free world can obtain them.)
a. Illinois Department of Corrections Staff Development and Training Office of Inmate Issues Publication Review Procedures
b. Departmental Rule 525 Part 525 - Rights and Privileges Subpart C: Publications
These documents can be obtained from:
Ms. Lisa Weitekamp FOIA Officer Illinois Department of Corrections 1301 Concordia Court PO Box 19277 Springfield, IL 62794
Systemic and severe violations of international human rights law are an endemic feature of prison conditions in Pennsylvania. This is why the PA Department of Corrections is being investigated by the U.S. Deptartment of Justice and a class action lawsuit has been filed by the Disability Rights Network challenging PA's mental health practices of warehousing prisoners with serious mental illnesses in solitary confinement causing this class of prisoners undue suffering. The treatment amounts to a punishment nightmare where they cannot receive treatment, but receive disciplinary infractions and sanctions for behavior directly related to their mental health issues.
During the past 30 years or more, Pennsylvania has embarked upon a project of race and class based incarceration unlike anything Pennsylvanians have ever seen. In my almost four decades of incarceration, I have witnessed the annual state prison budget increase from under $100 million for the fiscal year 1980, to $2 billion today. Not coincidentally, prison construction and prison population increased with the passage of the law that created the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing in 1982. The prison budget has increased even more because the General Assembly authorized three new prisons and built cells at 17-existing prisons to imprison another 9000 prisoners in the next 3 years. Additionally, PA leads the nation in juveniles serving life sentences, the overwhelming number of them being of African descent.
Pennsylvania is one of many states that are building more jails and prisons at the same time that they are closing schools. While states have an abundance of funds to build jails and prisons, more and more school districts are facing funding and program cuts, furloughs, and hiring freezes. Is it not more sensible to invest in schools than jails and prisons? Schools will help to improve quality of life, education and values; jails and prisons will continue the pipeline to prison and increase the penal population.
Just like I have witnessed the state's annual prison budget increase tremendously, I have witnessed a perversion of the priorities in education that in the long run criminalizes poor blacks and poor people of color in general, institutionally robbing public education to feed the prison industrial complex.
The National Center for Education Statistics affirms that 68 million people read below basic levels, but less money in education is spent. It uses the state of Texas as an example, where they have eliminated close to $4 billion of the budget and also the financing of programs that served 100,000 at-risk children. Other cuts have included the closing of hundreds of schools.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We appreciate this comrade for taking the time to write this article, which concisely points out many of the problems with the current system. While we print it here for its useful content, we disagree with the reformist line of the article. Long-term isolation is torture for all people, whether you are mentally ill or you are a political prisoner. We've watched as reforms around who gets put into control units only justifies using them against some of the greatest leaders of the oppressed. So we do not report on these efforts uncritically.
As proletarian internationalists, spending more money on schools or prisons for Amerikans is a crime as long as people (whose wealth they've stolen) are dying of malnutrition and basic medical care. Segregation in public schools is an ongoing problem in the United $tates. And the educational disparity, which leaves oppressed nations within U.$. borders with far less than adequate education, feeds into prison. Taking money from prisons to put into education will not solve this problem. While we do support cutting prison budgets as a means to discourage the ridiculously high incarceration rate in this country, as long as the imperialists control the budgets, they will find ways to spend money on furthering their goals. Reforms to spending will just move things around a bit, but not make fundamental and lasting change we will need to end the system of imperialism which prioritizes profit over the life of the oppressed.
Since early April there have been at least three prisoners shot, all in the head/face, and other shots fired resulting in lockdowns, two institutional lockdowns, and a number of pig assaults on prisoners including one in the seg unit I was released from and two on prisoners in the unit where I am currently housed. Most recently (last week) a Black comrade was assaulted in retaliation for exercising his first amendment right to expose pig misconduct. All of these assaults have been on Black prisoners by white pigs.
Amidst the above the food issue has been revived but has met textbook excuses - all of which boil down to:
A prevailing sense of hopelessness among prisoners here
A prevailing attitude of complacency among prisoners here and
Fear of retaliation against prisoners here
The common factor? The state of mind of prisoners.
The Texas brothers demonstrated that victories are possible even with the grievance system, and history teaches us that: "In all ages and under all circumstances there will always exist abundant reasons not to fight but that will be the only way not to obtain victory." (Fidel Castro)
History teaches us that our victories are always the result of the work of a few against the many. It teaches us that we will never be a majority so we must fight that much harder and with greater determination and not allow few numbers and temporary failures to terminate the struggle. At this moment there are a few of us here fighting for proper food, proper medical treatment, and an end to staff abuse, assaults and retaliation and theft/censorship of mail. We are simultaneously trying to bring unity within the prisoner class. This will not happen today, but there is always tomorrow, as our Texas brothers so accurately noted in ULK 32, we are all fighting for tomorrow.
Program for the Aggressive Mentally Ill Offender (PAMIO) — the name sounds innocent and by reading the thirteen page information packet, almost promising. But the truth behind the smoke screen is anything but innocent and promising. I am currently admitted to the PAMIO program under advice from my psychiatric case worker and I would like to shed light on the inhumane torture and psychological abuse the prison calls rehabilitation.
On 21 May 2013 I was processed into PAMIO and taken to my living quarters with no incident. On May 26 porkchop Hall made sexual remarks and advances towards me and a few other prisoners. He then took it a step further by denying me a shower because I would not show him my genitals. I then encouraged my fellow prisoners to write him up to document all incidents. This is not all Hall has done, he is also known for refusing to feed a prisoner he doesn't like or whose religious or political views he disagrees with. A prisoner who is Muslim and provided proof of his religious convictions told Hall he needs a pork-free diet. Hall smirked and knocked his tray to the ground and closed his slot, saying that the prisoner is now meal free. His cronie Mclaen just laughed and walked off, both proud of themselves.
I was personally targeted by porkchop Frost with threats of physical violence and an unnecessary gassing because of a grievance I filed. Frost asked me why I filed a grievance on Hall and I told him it was none of his business. He then asked "what are you doing?" and I answered "minding my own business" and he said "sixty two cell put down the razor." He then pulled his gas can out and shook it up. The nurse then came through the side door with another guard who asked what the deal was, Frost looked at me and said "nothing I was just messing with him."
I was targeted again, this time by an unknown porkchop who accused me of stealing his handcuff key and then threatened to have me slammed and gassed. However the other guard found the key nowhere near my possession.
The last major incident still sickens me. The porkchops on both cards and shifts got together and targeted a prisoner for over two weeks. In this time they cut off his water, denied him necessities, denied proper hygiene for an indigent prisoner, denied him a mattress, denied him medication, verbally harassed, gassed, and went through other methods of torture and degradation. This prisoner was mentally ill and could not help himself. Instead of pulling together against the porkchops, the other prisoners on the section this prisoner was housed whooped and hollered and rode with the porkchops. The said prisoner has since been transferred, thankfully because he surely would have died due to criminal negligence on the part of PAMIO security staff.
I will now address one more note to all comrades wishing to come together at PAMIO. The porkchops have a clique called the Wolf Pack on both day and night shifts. The Wolf Pack has been responsible for prisoner beatings, rapes, gassing, starvation, denial of necessities, dehydration, and deaths among other injustice and corruption. I am in the process of gathering the names and leader of this Wolf Pack and I will report back with further information.
I am using this as a call to arms for all politically active comrades within Texas to come together in United Struggle from Within to fight abuse at PAMIO. I am requesting both militants and educators to request admission to PAMIO. The program is located on Clements Unit.
Reading the June issue of "The Rock," a recurring theme kept on popping up. That theme was the raising up of prisoners' consciousness. This is a very good thing as the majority of prisoners lack the consciousness and ideology of a revolutionary.
The demands being put out are good, but as a 23-year old prisoner I can't help but shout that the same demands we are asking for we already had, and more so, they shouldn't be privileges but rights! Fighting for positive reforms is good in itself, but one shouldn't miss the forest for the trees. It's said best by Lenin:
"People always were and always would be the foolish victims of deceit and self deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interest of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes. And there is only one way of smashing the resistance of these classes, and that is to find, in the very society that surrounds us, and to enlighten and organize for the struggle, the forces which can, and owing to their social position, must constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new."(1)
I quote this in length because it screams at me. "Owing to their social position", and what is our social position? Second, third class citizens? What's to keep prison 'gangs' form forming into political parties? Swapping our old ideas for new ones? To dismantle our old selves and transform into a force of change not only in prison but society at large?
We have the 'fuck you attitude,' we have brass, now the question is do we have the will to organize, agitate, analyze and act? To learn something you don't know is a difficult task, I could attest to that. Putting a burden on us (prisoners) more so is the culture we cultivate and the ideology that we act out. That is the coming up on people; robbing, selling drugs and trying to conquer every female we come across. The majority of the time when we do this we do it to people who are in our same "social position." They're in the pit just like us.
Good thing for us there's the ability in humans to change, whether it be consciously, mentally, spiritually or ideologically. The main thing though is to bring it into practice. Karl Marx observed that "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness."(2) Again what is our "social being?" Bluntly, it's shit! We need only to look at the environment we grew up around. Liquor stores are in overstock, drugs are roaming freely, homes have no foundation or stability. most have grown accustomed to this way of life. With this deadly (literally) way of thinking, it ain't no surprise our consciousness is lacking in many areas of life.
There's a striking notion that says prisoners now-a-days lack the backbone their predecessors have. Sad to say this statement is slightly true. I have numerous books, but urban novels and novels period got a strong hold on my brethren. Many feel that there is no oppression, genocide or killing of our people and other acts of aggression from the government, but just as one sees a movie or TV show and can't see the camera, that doesn't mean it's not there.
Taking a passive or neutral stance is taking a stance on the side of the oppressor, it seems that you're OK with the status quo. Activity and agitation is taking the side of history as Marx viewed, "...freedom is the recognition of necessity. Necessity is blind only in so far as it's not understood."(3) As history shows times always change. We could look at it as it passes by, we could hop on board or we could go even further and build the vehicle of change, start it up and drive it. Closing my humble thoughts, I'll let Karl Marx do it, as he said it well: "There is no royal road to science [or learning] and only those who don't dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits."(4)
As numbers are straight we can use all the able bodied men to join ranks in our battle for dignity. The strike is more than the demands being met. This is also a call for we, as prisoners to be treated with respect and humanity. However, the consensus is that a good portion of SNYs feel like this battle doesn't pertain to them. News flash, it does! I came to realize the dumbness of judging someone by a "classification" as GP, SNY, active or non-active. These are labels that have been placed on us to further divide prisoners as a whole. Someone's character is a better yardstick to measure them. The guards have no difference or division of opinion when it comes to fucking us up, so why should we when it's time to battle with them?
Simply put, I ask that prisoners on "that" side choose the side that is with them in this fight. Join the stoppage in work and food. Rise above the labels and make a better place for all prisoners, and more so, the world.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade's position that the classifications handed out by the prison system should not be the basis of our judgement of prisoners. SNY status, validation status, and other labels are far less important than the actions people take. We should judge individuals by their actions. Those who take up the cause of the majority of the world's people, anti-imperialism, are on the side of the people.
First I got a response from the third level (Sacramento), J.D. Lozano (chief), saying they received my complaint. I had checked 3 boxes in the petition for: 1) screening out appeals to delay, 2) detaching documents and refusing to process 602 due to missing documents, and 3) using dishonesty to screen out 602s. In fact one 602 filed kept getting sent back for 3 months until I had to water it down!
A while later I was interviewed by a Lt. E. Noyce. Word is he was a former IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation). Well at first he asked me about the grievance petition: where did I get this "form" and did I make it. He had never seen it before so it astounded him that a prisoner could get something like this. After this he went on a tirade saying the people who sent me this are making money and I should have sent this petition to the institution appeal coordinator instead of Internal Affairs, and how I should just ask staff to "solve" the problem. That is the problem, but he's too deep in oppression to care. Finally he told me I am not a lawyer.
When I was returned to my cell I wrote to internal affairs again but this time I put it on an Inmate 22 Request Form. This way I can have a copy of what was said and if they didn't act I could move forward with 'legal' action. Always leave a paper trail!
I wrote internal affairs and told them that Lt E. Noyce had intimidated me, chilled my right to redress or file a grievance and I'd like to talk to someone from internal affairs. Days passed by and I was approached by a Sgt. and asked if I'd like to add anything to my "citizen complaint." I told him that everything's on the paper.
So to wrap this up the petition seems to rattle some piggy nerves. I recommend it to be used when applicable. And at least here in Tehachapi we're getting responses now.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is interesting that the interview of the prisoner included a criticism of him for not being a lawyer. That's the point of the grievance petition: it makes these battles accessible to prisoners who don't need to know the details of the law. This is a key contribution that jailhouse lawyers participating in the Prisoners Legal Clinic can make to United Struggle from Within organizing work. If there is no petition for your state, write to us to get a sample that you can customize for use there.
We know these individual battles to address grievances will only gain small victories, at best. But the fight to improve conditions for prisoners, especially conditions that impede prisoner's ability to organize and educate themselves and others, is a critical part of building the anti-imperialist movement. Through campaigns like this one we plug new comrades into broader education and ultimately build communist leaders.
A Prison Diary: Volume 1 Bellmarsh: Hell by Jeffrey Archer 2002 Macmillan
Jeffrey Archer is a well known fiction author and former member of Parliament in Great Britain. He was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party for a year (1985-86). Archer was still active in government politics as Conservative Party candidate for mayor of London in 1999 when he was convicted of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and sentenced to four years in prison. Archer kept a daily diary in prison and released it as a series of three books. This review covers the first book, which is about his stay in Bellmarsh, where Archer began his prison sentence.
On the positive side, this book is written for a general audience unfamiliar with prisons, and exposes many of the injustices and failures of the British prison system. These same failures, on a much larger scale, exist in the Amerikan criminal injustice system. For instance, British prisons have drug testing regulations that actually encourage marijuana users to become addicted to heroine. Archer documents his interactions with some very intelligent, resourceful, and humane prisoners in Bellmarsh, a high security prison associated with violent criminals. He repeatedly points out the lack of opportunities for prisoners, and the screwed up system that pushes people locked up for minor offenses into a life of crime.
Archer also does a service to the fight against the imperialist prison system by documenting the failure of day-to-day rules and regulations to serve any purpose but torture and isolation. From the lack of access to edible food and water, to the many long hours locked up isolated in cells with no activity, to the restriction on cleaning supplies, Archer details many failures of the British prison system. These conditions, bad as they are, when compared to the Amerikan prisons, seem almost luxurious. In particular, there are restrictions on prisoner abuse by staff, which seem to be actually respected and followed, at least where Archer is concerned.
Archer, however, is a firm believer in the government. And he repeatedly appeals to the leadership of the British system to pay attention to what he is writing so that appropriate reforms can be implemented. Archer never questions the fundamental basis of the criminal injustice system, and in Britain where the imprisonment rate is 154 per 100,000 (compared to the 716 per 100,000 in the U.$.), there is a less compelling story of prisons as a major tool of social control by the government.(1) However, Blacks in England make up 15% of the prison population and about 2.2% of the general population, a disgraceful discrepancy which Archer only touches on in passing when discussing the good prison jobs going only to white prisoners. Even this discrepancy is small-scale compared to the percent of Black's in prison (40-45%) relative to their population size in the U.$.(12%).(2)
Overall, this book is useful as a contribution to bourgeois literature on prisons because it no doubt was widely read by people who otherwise have little exposure to conditions in prison in England. However, it does not expand or contribute to the revolutionary analysis of prisons in any way, and so it leaves its readers hoping someone in power in the government takes heed of the problems and decides to make some changes. We recommend readers interested in learning more about prisons in the United $tates read the more revolutionary books and magazines distributed by MIM(Prisons). Or at the very least, for a more mainstream but still very useful analysis, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, is a good starting place. We are not aware of revolutionary literature on the prisons in England and welcome suggestions from our readers on this subject.
I have been locked up in a Texas State Prison for the last 4 years and I have to admit they do things very different in this state and in their institutions. The administration treats the prisoners like cattle, but I have strategized against their schemes from the very beginning. I have lost some battles but I am winning the war.
About a month ago two guys got into a fight in the chowhall and after they put handcuffs on both of them they began kicking one of them and hitting him with night sticks when he was on the floor. The whole chowhall came together and approached the ranking Lieutenant and officers and questioned why they were unnecessarily beating him up, and even told them that was enough. The Lieutenant started cursing and screaming, telling people to "get the fxxk back." He was a new Lieutenant and hopefully he learned never to put himself or his staff in danger like that again cause what happened after that amazed me. The convicts set it off!!! That Lieutenant got beat pretty bad and split open seriously. This was the first time I have seen us come together in Texas for what's right.
Yesterday the administration tried to jack us for our dayroom time, and the TV and the fan in the dayroom didn't work the whole time we were out there. The dayroom is already small and over capacity so you can imagine how hot it was. We only get 4 hours a day out of our cells so we couldn't let them get away with this injustice or they would have thought they could handle us on the regular. So everybody refused to rack up in our cells. The Sergeant tried threatening us, saying if he had to call higher rank then he would lock us down for 23 hours, but we didn't budge, we stood our ground. The Lieutenant on shift came down and asked us what the problem was. One person at a time spoke and we represented our argument and cause respectfully, united and firm. He clearly respected the movement and he said "since y'all stood together like this you guys can get another two hours." Everyone began clapping for another victory against the oppressor for a cause.
Now today, the very next day, we were in the dayroom about to watch a very good game everyone was looking forward to when we witnessed a Sergeant who is known for beating up prisoners, beating up a prisoner handcuffed on the floor after tackling him. We went bananas and again together we stood up for one of ours. We couldn't physically help but we let our voices be heard and we were furious. They came in our line and tried to rack us up but we refused and challenged them because they were wrong. We were just doing what we were supposed to do: taking a stand. The Captain ended up giving us his word if we racked up he would let us right back out. He was true to his word like we knew he would be. After things calmed down we were let out. But now they know we aren't gonna sit back while they do us wrong. That's the only way your condition will change: if you take a stand, together.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade describes well the Peace and Unity principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons in action. The UFPP provides a principled basis for organizations and individuals to come together to fight for real and lasting peace. Only by implementing these principles can we have any power over how we are treated in prison.