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Under Lock & Key

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[Release] [Organizing] [Political Repression] [Stateville Correctional Center] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 24]
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Illinois Uprising Parallels California Hunger Strike

I have been a prisoner of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for more than 11 years and am scheduled to be released within the next 2 years. But with no family left in this world, no place to go, no clothes other than the ones on my back, and no support system established... the odds are stacked up against me way before I am even released back into society and the only thing that the IDOC is going to provide me with before releasing me back into the so-called "free world" is a $10 check.

I am really interested in the July/August 2011 issue of Under Lock and Key because there's an article in there about a prison strike [in California]. A lot of people around the world aren't aware that the prisoners at the Stateville Maximum Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois had a similar prison uprising in February and March of 2011. It was swept under the rug by then Director Gladys C. Taylor and Governor Patrick J. Quinn. This movement wasn't just a particular gang or a particular race orchestration, we all came together as one mass body (Blacks, Latinos, and whites) to protest the condition that we've been subjected to ever since the Richard Specs video leakage in 1995. In fact, I'm enclosing a copy of my adjustment committee's final summary for your entertainment.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This prisoner gives two examples of how the state will not serve the needs of the oppressed. When prisoners try to work together and quash beefs to do something positive they are targeted for repression (see below). Then, after over a decade in prison, people are sent to the streets with no resources or support. This is why it is only by building institutions independent of the imperialist state that we can begin to address these complaints.

What this comrade describes happening in Illinois is also playing out in California in the second phase of the hunger strike. Both examples show the potential for organizing against oppression when prisoners are united. This is why we are working to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons which unites around the 5 principles of peace, unity, growth, internationalism and independence: "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."

Final Summary Report
Click to Download PDF


THIS REPORT IS THE RESULT OF AN INVESTIGATION CONDUCTED BY STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER INTELLIGENCE UNIT, INTO A CONSPIRACY TO ORGANIZE AN INMATE DRIVEN PROTEST AT STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER BY OFFENDER XYZ AND OTHERS. DURING THE COURSE OF THE INVESTIGATION APPROXIMATELY 110 INTERVIEWS WERE CONDUCTED AND 30 CELL SEARCHES WERE CONDUCTED BY STATEWIDE INVESTIGATORS. THE INVESTIGATIONS UNIT WAS ABLE TO OBTAIN FIVE COPIES OF THE DETAILED LETTER THAT WAS BEING CIRCULATED IN THE INMATE GENERAL POPULATION REGARDING THE PROTEST PLANNED TO TAKE PLACE BEGINNING MARCH 1, 2011.

THE PROTEST LETTER BEGINS WITH THE FOLLOWING: "THIS MEMO IS FOR THOSE HERE IN STATEVILLE WHO ARE READY, WILLING, AND ENTHUSED WITH ANTICIPATION TO RISE TO THE OCCASION TO LEAD US AND USHER IN A NEW ERA. THUS CEMENT OUR NAMES IN HISTORY..." THE PROTEST LETTER IDENTIFIES SEVERAL ISSUES THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BY ADMINISTRATION AND LISTS THEM. THE LETTER GOES ON TO SAY AFTER THE PROTEST AND GRIEVANCES HAVE BEEN FILED THEN THE INMATES WILL REQUEST THE WARDEN ISSUE MEMORANDUMS DETAILING THE CORRECTIVE ACTION THAT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED. THERE ARE INSTRUCTIONS FOR ALL INMATES TO STOCK UP ON COMMISSARY BECAUSE BEGINNING MARCH 1 THE INMATES ARE NOT TO SUBMIT ANY COMMISSARY SLIPS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE FOOD TO GO BAD. THE LETTER THEN INSTRUCTS ALL THE INMATES TO BAN THE USAGE OF THE PHONE FOR ONE WEEK, NOT GO TO RECREATION FOR ONE WEEK, AND FILE GRIEVANCES ON ALL ISSUES STARTING MARCH 2011. THE LETTER THEN INSTRUCTS THE INMATES TO HAVE NO CONTACT WITH THE POLICE, IA OR ANY STAFF BECAUSE SILENCE GIVES THEM POWER AND WILL STRIKE FEAR. THE LETTER THEN REQUESTS THE INMATES TO HAVE THEIR PEOPLE ON THE OUTSIDE TO PROTEST WITH PICKET SIGNS IN FRONT OF STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER.

WHILE CONDUCTING A SEARCH OF CELL XXXX INVESTIGATIVE PERSONNEL CONFISCATED HANDWRITTEN DOCUMENTATION IN XYZ's PROPERTY DETAILING EVENTS OF THE PROTEST. THE DOCUMENTATION WAS FIVE PAGES TYPED AND ONE HANDWRITTEN PAGE.

DURING AN INTERVIEW XYZ CLAIMED OWNERSHIP OF SAID DOCUMENTS. XYZ STATED THIS DOCUMENT WAS BEING PASSED ON THE GALLERY AND HE KEPT IT. XYZ ALSO STATED THE PROTEST IS GOING TO HAPPEN AS SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 1, 2011.

ON MARCH 1, 2011 THE INMATES AT STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER PROCEEDED WITH THE PROTEST AS INDICATED IN THE PROTEST LETTERS THAT WERE BEING CIRCULATED IN GENERAL POPULATION. STATEVILLE WAS PLACED ON RESTRICTED MOVEMENT DUE TO THE INMATE PROTEST.

OFFENDER XYZ WAS POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED BY INSTITUTIONAL GRAPHICS

...

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

FINAL

1 Year CGrade
1 Year Segregation
Revoke GCC or SGT 1 Year
3 Months Audio/Visual Restriction

This article referenced in:
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[Control Units] [Campaigns] [California Institution for Men] [California]
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15 in Chino Strike til PBSP Demands Met

Today (September 26) about fifteen comrades, so far, in the California Institution for Men in Chino, CA began an indefinite hunger strike and we will not stop until the Pelican Bay SHU demands are met for our comrades!

Push, pull, strive, struggle! Give Ruchell Magee, Hugo Yogi Pinell, and the SHU comrades my love! And long live the Guerrilla!


MIM(Prisons) adds: Other than Pelican Bay and Chino, the Hunger Strike Coalition has reported that prisoners in Calipatria, many of whom are in isolation awaiting space to open up in SHU, will also restart their hunger strike today. People on the outside need to step up the pressure again to support these comrades who are putting their lives on the line for basic rights for all California prisoners.

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[Organizing] [United Front] [ULK Issue 25]
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Build the United Front to Address LO Contradictions

This papyrus is to all United Front (UF) lumpen organizations (LOs) who are plenipotentiary strawboss [this refers to chiefs who claim complete authority over their local group]. And some items will have a unique affinity to those who strive and struggle in a Growth and Development pose. And in that case, I will be specific to whom those items are geared towards.

Some serious questions have been presented to ULK on matters that will either keep or further dissimulate any form of umoja [unity] among the LOs that have expressed an interest in UF.

Umoja over Dissimulation

[Biographical info removed per security policy. In contrast to those who are "plenipotentiary strawbossing," the author claims deep history in a disciplined structure. We will let h credentials speak through what h has to offer in the form of ideas. - Editor]

In a 9 November 1999 column in the Final Call newspaper, my lumpen chief reiterated a previous call for unity and peace among the LOs, specifically in the mid-west. However, in laying out his nationwide peace and unity initiative in book format in 1996, he let it be known that our "vision" for Growth and Development was one for universal unity and peace. Hence, this United Front (UF) project is consistent with my brother's vision.

In the 26 September 2011 letter to United Front members from MIM(Prisons) the proposition set forth was the struggle certain LOs are having in putting their differences to the side. It should be understood that grown women and men have to make tough decisions. Significant among them is the making of personal and collective sacrifices being asked for that don't merely serve you and a few of your homies or comrades. The sacrifice here is for collective LO unity, which will benefit the future of all of our collective kith and kin. This is what it means to become part of a class struggle, the lumpen being a class. In signing on to the UF, you have to join the collective interest.

In ULK 17(November/December 2010), UF was defined for all: "United Front is the theory of uniting different groups across class lines for a common goal or interest, while maintaining independence where those groups disagree. The application of united front theory is about recognizing different contradictions in society and utilizing them in the interests of the international proletariat."(p. 1 "Building United Front Surrounded by Enemies")

In that same issue of ULK, and on the same page, under the title "Lumpen United Front: Its Basis and Development" it stated "The basis for unity among lumpen is class. The lumpen are the disenfranchised who derive from the economically depressed areas — the Barrios and ghetto projects — and are for the most part oppressed nations people. The lumpen are known to the oppressor nation as the 'criminal element' which is code word for persyn of color. The lumpen usually come from a lumpen organization that the oppressors call a 'gang,' or survive as some type of parasitic hustler."

In ULK 22 (September/October 2011) the United Front principles were enunciated and have been reprinted in each issue since. The five principles were direct and extremely clear. LOs started writing to be with it. So no LO should be confused as to what is expected of them and what is required of them based upon their own pledges of unity and peace.

Historically Long and Deep-Rooted Feuds

Those who have or are dealing with this issue should do one of three things:

  1. They can settle their differences among themselves (the two conflicting/feuding LOs) which should be done as expeditiously as practical.
  2. Call upon a congress of six. The congress of six (C-Six or C-Six Session) will be composed by each feuding LO in the conflict picking three LO reps from a neutral LO not involved in the issue, to represent that particular LO's interest. And the other LO in the conflict shall pick three for theirs. That C-Six shall bring a resolution to those LOs' problems and it shall be binding upon both and all its members and factions, based upon umoja, or unity pledge each LO gave upon the second principle of the UF mission and goal statement.
  3. If one, two, or more LOs cannot bring resolution to their beefing and feuding employing any of the former two offerings, a UF congress shall be called by any UF LO reps and all LOs who signed on shall bring a resolution to those two LOs' problems. If the resolution is not embraced by the feuding LOs the UF congress should take exclusion measures or other UF fealty measures.

If we are serious about this, these suggestions shouldn't be a problem. I know from personal experience and universal education and training that many of the LOs already have such conflict resolution policies in play in the streets and behind enemy lines of the oppressor's machine. So this is not utopian in nature.

Ideally these C-Six resolutions should first be attempted in-house and regionally before going multi-state and nationally. Let's not be remiss that the opposition to lumpen cohesion is reading our solutions and resolutions. So it is to be expected that that same dynamic will put all kinds of tools in force and effect to break the chain of unity. Among them, their ease at censorship and suppression. That's why it is imperative LOs must be very judicious in how we are politicking this movement in ULK. For this is a medium we cannot afford nor permit to be short-circuited. So we should refrain, if possible, from placing problems on the national stage if it's possible to be resolved in-house or in-state.

Baseless and petty allegations that cannot be judged and weighed across the nation serve no good other than becoming the ham's fodder to rationalize oppressive-suppressive censorship programs. So it's not good to throw this on MIM(Prisons)'s or ULK's door without proof.

Rebuilding Organizations

Now let's move on to the contradictions within. If we aim to be truly successful with this endeavor, all LOs must do some self-analyzing and self-examination. Every formation, like the communities and families we come from, have bad juju in their midsts. And we know this project is not about transforming the economics of LOs (though we hope that the good eventually have such an effect).

I think I can speak for all and say we wish to keep that kind of debatable aspect of the LOs' habits away from what we are striving to do here. For contamination and cross-transference can happen very easily and it's something that quarter hams are greedily waiting for to not only discredit us, but shut the movement down.

Here I will paraphrase Atiba Shanna from the "Vita Wa Watu" and apply his ideas to our LOs: Each LO must emphasize re-building. We must re-orient and re-organize based upon in-house examinations of our LO and based upon what aspects of their mission need to be improved or omitted. Because the self-destruction LOs engaged in in our previous structures, and the reasons for it, wasn't of a mere quantitative nature. That is, the movement and our organizations didn't suffer defeat (the mass incarceration of each LO's members, loss of lives and material and political gains, schisms etc.) and set backs simply because of the state's repression, but also, primarily, because our "minds" aren't right for a vast majority of LOs and their governing bodies and rank. We are wrong in thinking that we can resolve all our problems by doing counterproductive/counterrevolutionary hustles and resolving all conflicts among ourselves with not only the sword but the hammer and anvil that built sword and spear. Our practice isn't up to par.

And as another of my great teachers taught me: "If one plants an orchard on a chemical dump without first digging it out and replacing it with good soil, it will produce poisonous fruits."

We have two million plus strong, oppressed beings in these county and state psyche incinerators. We have some purchasing power. And we have political power abstractly through the family unit. As field marshal of the struggle, George Jackson stated: "A good deal of this has to do with our ability to communicate to the people on the street. The nature of the function of the piston (system) within the police state has to be continuously explained, elucidated to the people on the street because we can't fight alone in here... We can fight, but if we're isolated, if the state is successful in accomplishing that, the results are usually not constructive in terms of proving our point. We fight and we die, but that's not the point, although it may be admirable from some sort of purely moral point of view. The point is, however, in the face of what we confront, to fight and win. That's the real objective: not just to make statements, no matter how noble, but to destroy that system that oppresses us."(Cages of Steel p. 179)

All scientific knowledge and experiments must evolve. Things that may have or were once working for an LO may not cut it in today's world. Conditions are changing. Just look at the amount of power and force being aimed at the LOs.

We cannot stay stuck in the same old "spear over gun" syndrome/mentality that got Shaka Zulu killed. He and others refused to fight with guns at first, but instead insisted on fighting guns (in the enemies' hands) with Zulu specialized spears in colonial Afrika. Similarly in the dawn of the civil rights movement we saw this approach reintroduced by promoting prayer over protest. Later protest had completed its role, but people still promoted it over "self-defense" and "self-determination" in the late 60s and 70s. Now it's greed over respectable and righteous hustling; the individual over the collective LO; dissimulation over unification.

Most of all the older LOs have some chimera elements in regards to their political philosophies, and those have evolved to the point where capitalism is the end of all means. Even loyalty has a price tag. The nationalism and anti-establishment fight against oppression is relegated to their lit of old and passing stories of the old homies and history books. With "getting money" the ends of all means, no cohesive political line can be drawn. So we must, under the UF banner, agree to some basic principles that we can unite around.

We have witnessed where and what tribalism (in excess) and wars bring. It permits others to oppress and disrespect us more than any LO I ever knew has done to me and my LO. Yet we don't fight the oppressors with the same zeal and hatred we direct towards each other for lesser disrespect and abuse. Therefore, UF should be the highest priority among the vanguard of each lumpen, and the women and men steering said LOs.

We would be fools to believe that designs are not in play to do away with those who are moving to end oppression. According to a news release a week or so ago, the department of just-us claims that the U.$. has 33,000 LOs nationwide with 1.4 million members. It's not known if they are counting those behind concrete and steel or not. Regardless of the truth in the numbers, these figures serve one thing: a notice that they see a problem to be addressed. When you release propaganda or statistics like that, they serve a greater point.

We know they take our existence very serious, united or not. The question to all LOs is whether we are going to take our existence serious or not, and act. There is a saying attributed to Nat Turner and his struggle that "we can either all hang together for fighting or hang separate as comrades who did nothing."

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [California]
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Support the Statewide Mobilization

[Excerpts from a Statement of support for the August 23rd Statewide Mobilization to Sacramento]

"The humaneness of a society can be judged by its prisons." - James Doare

On August 23rd, San Francisco Rep Tom Amiano and the Public Safety Committee in the state assembly held an informational hearing on conditions and policies at Pelican Bay - SHU (and we assume the SHUs here at Corcoran and Tehachapi as well). The NCTT Corcoran-SHU wishes to express our support for the people and organizations who have mobilized to lend their voices to this vital human rights initiative which began with our July 1st hunger strike and will not end until the 5 core demands have been appropriately addressed, the fundamental human rights initiative which is acknowledged, and the basic inhumanity of the prison industrial complex's use of sensory deprivation torture units is exposed and abolished.

But why should you care? Why should you care - men are being systematically subjected to psychologically torturous conditions in your name and with your tax dollars? The answer to that question requires you to have certain facts and accept some inconvenient truths. Prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society itself; a concentrated reflection of the contradictions of it's myriad socio-economic and political relationships, composed primarily of the surplus labor segment of the U.S. population. The SHU is a prison within prison, and the ultra-high security isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-short corridor and Corcoran-SHU's 4B1L-C section are CIA style, experimental, psychological torture units.

Following the temporary halt to our peaceful protest on July 20 to give CDCR time to make some meaningful changes in line with our 5 core demands, Scott Kernan's first act was to publish a statement in the Sacramento Bee characterizing us as "violent gang leaders who've committed horrible crimes against the people of California", as though we are not a part of the people. I think it is of vital importance that this, as well as the actual motive force underlying such thinking be addressed.

Over the last 20 years there has been a successful campaign to demonize those convicted of a crime in the U.S., and a degree of social indifference in how they are treated. Through the successful efforts of such lobbies as the California Correctional Penal Officers Association (prison guards union) and it's front groups such as 'Crime Victim United,' and with the assistance of mainstream media programs covering everything from America's Most Wanted to Cops; from Dateline to your local news. The public has been systematically indoctrinated to not merely fear "prisoners," but to effectively dehumanize us as some subspecies of not quite humanity.

Your entertainment programming is 75% crime and punishment content, from the Law & Order franchise to CSI, from Justified to Hawaii 5-O, which not only brings in millions of viewers and sells billions of dollars in products annually via advertising, but divorces the so-called "criminal" from the human condition and casts him/her in the role of perpetual villain in the subconscious mind, deserving neither rights, compassion, or basic humanity. This was not some unconscious effort on the part of your elected officials, public servants, and corporate entities, no, this was a conscious program to dehumanize a specific segment of the U.S. population in order to ensure the speculative profits of the burgeoning - and now well established - prison industrial complex would go unchallenged and unprotected.

The fact is the origin of crime is relatively simplistic: the origin of all crime can be inexorably traced to the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege, and opportunity in a society. So what we find here is not a matter of public safety proponents versus criminal fiends or "gang leaders", but more accurately an internal contradiction of the state itself which pits public safety versus social control and profit.

Contrary to the propaganda of politricsters such as Mr. Kernan, California SHU's are not inhabited by the "worst of the worst," and especially not in these ultra-high security isolation torture units like Pelican Bay SHU's D-Corridor or Corcoran SHU's 4B1L-C section. In fact a significant segment of this population has been consigned to these dungeons decades on end solely based on their political ideology and world views. Left-wing political ideologies and revolutionary scientific socialists are labeled "gang members" and tossed in the SHU with no thought to the contradiction this presents to the constitutional basis of freedom of speech, thought, and expression.

The truth of the matter is most here in Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor and Corcoran SHU 4B1L C Section haven't had a rules violation, let alone broke a law, in decades. Institutional gang investigators claim to seek to mitigate the violence and socio-economic damage allegedly caused by "gangs" - yet the NCTT in Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHU over the course of the past 2 decades alone has developed and attempted to initiate numerous programs that would effectively do just that, and even more.

This hearing was a prime opportunity to declare, if the state will truly make rehabilitation their primary objective they may:

  1. Meet in full the 5 core demands of the SHU human rights initiative,
    acknowledging the dismal failure of their "lock em up - lock em up" philosophy and its fundamental social and economic unsustainability
  2. Restructure the entire correctional system and approach to imprisonment.
  3. Mandate safe, clean and healthy rehabilitative environments where higher education and viable wage job skills are offered to all prisoners ensuring they can compete in today's technology society, ensure parole suitability, and make meaningful contributions to the community, institute community based parole boards, where the communities prisoners hail from decide when they can return to them.
  4. Re-institute media access and transparency
  5. Re-institute community ties programs such as social and family visiting for all prisoners, especially those in SHU-indeterminate units
  6. Develop community reintroduction programs where prisoners have a community based support network that helps them re-acclimate to society and be re-integrated successfully.
  7. Disband the CCPOA's stranglehold on elected officials which range from DAs and judges to the governor himself.

If this were to occur, crime and recidivism rates would drop, prison populations would decrease drastically (as would the violence which plagues them), thus failing to justify the fiscal expenditure for all these prisons, cops, guards, prosecutors, judges and many industries which serve them. The CCPOA's power would wane as it's membership and dues decreases. The state will not make rehabilitation (which begins with humane conditions of existence) their #1 priority because this is not in their economic and political interests.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This NCTT statement does a good job exposing the criminal injustice system as a tool of social control with no real interest in actually addressing crime or rehabilitation. We do disagree with one point here: while the vast array of people working in and around prisons certainly are motivated to protect their high wages and benefits, prisons themselves do not make a profit and so can not be working to protect their "speculative profits." As this article notes, those working on the side of the prison system do have a strong motivation to sustain and even grow them, but this is for social control fundamentally.

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[Release] [International Connections] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania Transfers Prisoners Far from Family

Beginning in February 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections decided to transfer 2000 prisoners out of state due to overcrowding in Pennsylvania prison system. The two states Pennsylvania sent its prisoners to were Michigan and Virginia. I was one of the prisoners they sent to Virginia. We all were just snatched in the middle of the night and transferred out of state. It was almost like being kidnapped, being taken from your family and being sent to a southern prison from a northern prison. Not even having a chance to call your family to let them know about the transfer.

It was said that we would only be transferred for three years, but now all the prisoners transferred to Michigan have been transferred back to Pennsylvania because Pennsylvania now has new prisons and room for its prisoners. My problem with this is that all of the prisoners transferred to Virginia, including myself, are still in Virginia, with no plans for us to be transferred back to Pennsylvania. What about us? Don't we have family in Pennsylvania who love us? Why are we being kept in Virginia, when the other prisoners have been sent back? It's almost like Pennsylvania does not care about us. The Virginia Department of Corrections says there is no plans to move us back to Pennsylvania. And one sad thing is that there was a large number of prisoners who are serving a life sentence who were transferred here to Virginia. I mean men who have been incarcerated for 15, 20 or 30 years just transferred out of state away from their families. It's just not fair.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just one of many examples of actions taken by prisons demonstrating that the Amerikan criminal injustice system has nothing to do with rehabilitation. It has been shown that ties to family and community are important to the ability of prisoners to stay on the streets once released, but Pennsylvania (and many other states) are more concerned with the economics of running their prison system than the well being of the prisoners. Prisons are a tool of social control in this country, and we should not be surprised by these callous actions by prison administrators. On a bigger scale, the system of imperialism displaces millions of people all around the world. Comrades isolated by out-of-state transfers should feel unity with refugees and migrants all around the world, who share a common interest in tearing down imperialism and rebuilding their communities. There is strength in numbers, and hope in unity and organizing.

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[Censorship] [Political Repression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Censorship: Epic Battle in PBSP

I have recently been hit with censorship of your mailing sent on 9 September 2011. I did receive prior to that the letter you sent to activists, but then on September 9 I got two 1819 forms indicating disapproval of mail. I have previously won two 602s [grievances] on this very issue, yet they cite the old 2006 memo [a ban on MIM's mail that was overruled years ago].

What happened is the regular Correctional Officer (CO) already been 602'd by me and has seen the 602 granted at the Director level, but he only works five days a week. The other two days a floater works and is not aware of my granted 602. The floater sends it to Institution Gang Investigations (IGI), who says to deny me. I guess the temporary CO is not very fond of MIM. Anyhow, I am sure I'll win the 602 I am submitting, but I know if I do it will take months. If possible, can you send whatever it was again? It seems I'll be having problems getting my mail from MIM Distributors on the regular CO's days off.

I showed my previous 602 that was granted, but was told by the temp "I don't know. They tell us one thing and tell you another. We need to get it straight." This is obviously B.S. because when a 602 is granted, especially at the Director level, it is obviously "straight."

This is a constant barrage of censorship. It's nonstop. I get a 602 granted and then someone comes who don't like MIM literature and then I'm forced to wait months appealing this and missing out on my studies. It is a protracted effort to censor MIM. But nothing MIM(Prisons) says is bad; it's political literature! And why send it to the gang unit when it's political? In Amerika this is how political literature is handled; by labeling it "gang material." This only confirms what MIM(Prisons) says, that there are no rights in Amerika, only power struggles! What happened to the so-called "freedom of the press?"

This prison's population has just gotten done with a three-week hunger strike and now it seems, as one of the participants, I'm now being retaliated on by censoring my political science correspondence course. But I thought the administrators from Sacramento came saying they would work on bettering our conditions if we stopped striking and ate? And now this is the repayment — censoring the ability to think outside this cell, controlling my thoughts, and preventing me from learning anything besides the state's perspective. I can get all the Forbes, Wall Street Journal, National Review, USA Today, etc. that I want, but let me get something that speaks in the interests of poor people and I'm deprived.

This does not surprise me one bit, and I know how to go about the process of appealing. What pisses me off is thinking of all the prisoners across Amerika who also get this Gestapo-like treatment and who won't know how to appeal, or become discouraged and don't try. This is what pisses me off the most. But I know I got to go back to the legal front and go in for another legal battle.

This censorship in prisons is part of the reason prisoners went on hunger strike. This is why people starved; because of the years and decades of not being able to read history books, not being able to take correspondence courses, not being allowed to grapple with ideas. And when prisoners do try to understand critical thought, we are repressed. And when we protest torture, we are repaid with further repression! A society that creates dungeons and employs sadists to unleash all their sick methods on captive poor people, to torture and experiment on with their psychological abuses, is a society that is warped and morally bankrupt.

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[United Front] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 23]
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S.O.B. Joins United Front

I am writing on behalf of Soldiers of Bondage (S.O.B.). We are a movement within the Illinois State prisons that fights the oppression by our government.

We fight obscurantism, opacity, and refuse to abnegate to our oppressors! Like any real movement we fight with every resource that we possess; instinct, intelligence, conviction, and (when necessary) violence.

Our mission is to free everyone from their chains of bondage so that they may be free and that we, as a unified people, can live under equitable conditions.

After reading and digesting the July/August 2011 issue of Under Lock & Key I have decided to unite with my comrades in order to better achieve the goals of S.O.B.

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[Campaigns] [Organizing] [United Front] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 22]
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No Real Change, Hunger Strike Continues

Pelican Bay Food Strike - Isolation Sucks

On September 26, prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison will resume their indefinite hunger strike after 2 months of hiatus, during which they negotiated with the state. The strike began on July 1, sweeping across California, and was put on hold by organizers on July 21, after 3 full weeks of fasting. Multiple prisoner negotiators from Pelican Bay have confirmed that Scott Kernan of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) promised the 5 demands would be met, but that they needed 2 to 3 weeks to comply. That window of time has long since passed, and comrades are gearing up for what promises to be a longer stretch with no food.

In a statement from one strike leader announcing the September 26 restart, he stated:

I appreciate the time and love you all have given to us and you can believe that we will not yield until justice is achieved. We went into this trying to save lives, if possible, but we see now that there will have to be casualties on our side and we all know that power concedes to no one without demands.(1)

On August 23, state legislator Tom Ammiano headed a hearing on conditions in California's SHUs and on the validation process that gets people placed there. It echoed previous hearings that did not stop torture in the SHU. He promised he would push the issue further than it has gone in the past, but like the reforms given by the CDCR, this is too little too late as comrades who have faced decades in these torture cells take this struggle to the next level.

The Truth About the Negotiations

The strike didn't end over some beanies and calendars. Letters that came from the leaders after the message was sent that the strike ended were very clear that they were only giving the state time to meet their demands before they would restart the food strike. Those in D-Corridor and other SHU prisoners aren't done yet.

The initial story that came out of limited communications between the inside and outside negotiation teams was that the strike had ended, period, in return for beanies, calendars, proctored exams and a promise to investigate the major complaints of the strikers. The extreme limits put on the outside negotiation team, who were only granted access to the strikers on a couple brief occasions, allowed the state to control how the negotiations were portrayed. As a result, many across the state were let down by the misleading reports that first came out, because the strikers had pledged to strike until all 5 demands were met.

It has since come to light that Scott Kernan circulated a fake version of the five demands,(2) and that prisoners received notices that they had broken the rules by organizing against the abuse that they face and that they will face "progressive discipline" in the future for similar actions. The latter contradicts CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton who stated on record, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(3) In typical repressive fashion, the state responds to complaints of torture committed by state employees with outlawing any form of protest by the victims. It just goes to show that their efforts to maintain "security" have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with social control.

It's also important to note that the best public offer coming from the state right now is that they might move away from gang affiliation charges and focus on actual rule violations as justification for throwing someone into a torture chamber. Within U.$. prisons the First Amendment is generally ignored and any form of expression or organizing not sanctioned by the state is considered against the rules. But even this reform has been on the table for a long time with no action. According to the 2004 Castillo court decision, which took 8 years to litigate, the CDCR committed to providing logical justification that evidence used to put someone into SHU was criminal in nature. Yet nothing has changed, as the lead attorney on the case, Charles Carbone, asserted at the August 23 hearing.

As Carbone pointed out, with exasperation, we already went through the whole song and dance of having hearings around the SHU with Senator Gloria Romero and the United Front to Abolish the SHU years ago. Another testifier at this year's hearing made testimony in the 70s and 80s about the detrimental effects of isolation, but they still went on to build Pelican Bay State Prison. It is clear that the state sees the SHU as an important tool of social control and cares nothing for the destruction they cause to oppressed people.

Scott Kernan was very clear at the hearing that the CDCR would continue with the debriefing process, using confidential informants, and that they will not allow prisoners to appeal secret evidence used against them. He also said gang validations will likely continue to bring indeterminate SHU sentences. Kernan did not stick around for the public comments, and remaining CDCR staff were not given an opportunity to respond when a public commenter asked when the 5 demands would be put down in writing, after Kernan promised it would only take 2 to 3 weeks.

Lessons in Organizing

Through this process we are all learning how to organize in our conditions and what limits we face.

One of the successes of the California hunger strike was the demonstration of United Front to the masses, which inspired many to the possibilities of prison-based organizing. We do not know the details of how groups coordinated on the inside around the strike, but we do know that many groups would not be willing to sacrifice their independence to others, and yet they worked together. This example should be followed by those on the outside. We need to recognize the strength that comes in uniting all who can be united at any given time on the most pressing issues that we face. Coalition organizing strategies have held back support by not allowing a diversity of voices to come out in unity in support of the hunger strike.

Having outside pressure during a food strike is crucial to ensuring that the state just does not let prisoners die, as they are more than willing to do if there isn't too much noise about it. Outside organizations also played an important role in spreading word about the hunger strike that was initiated by some of the most isolated people in the whole state. But, ultimately, the state controls our communication with prisoners. Despite all the work put in by the coalition to develop an outside negotiation team, the only role the state allowed them to play was to announce when the strike had ended and ensure that everyone knew to stop. The state realized that a memo from the CDCR was not going to be convincing. Other than this, the negotiation team was not allowed any access to the prisoner negotiators.

In ULK 21, we made it sound like the strike was over for beanies, calendars and proctors and some empty promises of change. This was the information coming from the outside negotiating team and the best information anyone seemed to have. Frustration with the outcome immediately started coming in and we fear that disillusionment may have followed. But this is what the SHU is designed for. This is why SHU inmates can't call people on the outside. This is why the press is not allowed in California prisons. Misinformation would be much harder to spread otherwise. So overcoming these barriers is part of what we need to learn here.

We need to learn to build protracted and sustainable battles. There are no quick fixes, and prisoners can't rely on the mainstream press or outside organizations to come in and rescue them. Recently, Pelican Bay censored MIM(Prisons)'s study pack on organizational structure. They recognize the importance of such information for prisoners to really get organized and exert their rights. As much as they want to label us a "security threat group" for doing it, MIM(Prisons) continues to struggle for our right to support prison-based organizing. For it is the prisoners who have the drive and determination to make the changes that need to be made to end this oppressive system.

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