Why are we so blind to seeing things we need to see Why do we let those who hate us tell us who we're supposed to be Why do they tell us that our big lips & noses seem to be awkward Then they turn around, get breast implants, silicone, lip shots & ass jobs Why are we coerced into armed forces to do the government's dirt They turn us into killing machines, mental patients, or inmates And lie to our loved about how we are hurt I pledge allegiance to the united snakes that I'll expose you to the fullest even if it seals my fate I'll expose your horns & bloodshot eyes & tell the world you are a liar, a cheat, a thief & a fake Long ago you planted seeds of hate And stripped our culture If you're watching but still can't see I recommend that you look closer Cause there's much more to see Stand strong in liberation for nations to be
There are two specific challenges we face with our comrades who get out of prison and want to stay politically active. First, the difficulties of balancing work, school, politics and general home life. Second, the overlap between friendship and politics. It is important that we address these challenges to help our comrades follow through on their pledges to serve the people after gaining their freedom.
So far we have been less than successful in this regard, and many comrades fall out of touch with us, only to re-emerge when they are locked back up months or years later. In a country with such a relatively low number of active, committed anti-imperialists, losing these comrades to the streets is a significant blow to our work. As we expand our Re-Lease on Life Program, we are working to address specific challenges with life on the streets in the belly of the beast.
Meeting Your Basic Needs
There are few resources for released prisoners, and without family or friends to provide support it's very difficult to find housing, get a job and provide for basic necessities. There are few studies of homelessness among released prisoners, but those that we've found suggest that at least 10% of parolees end up on the streets without housing after release.(1) The numbers are probably higher; sleeping on a friend's couch is not a long term solution but it won't get you counted as homeless in these studies.
Unfortunately MIM(Prisons) doesn't currently have the resources to provide much help in the area of basic needs for released prisoners. We do have some resource guides for some states, and we can help you think through the best plan for your circumstances. But our ability to help in this area is limited. The rest of this article focuses on people who are released and are able to meet their basic needs. If you have a release date coming up, let us know so we can help you make a plan for the streets.
Time Management on the Streets
Behind bars life is very regimented, with little room for any decisions about how to organize your day, except when you are locked in your cell. And even there, your options for how to spend your time are very limited. You don't have to keep a schedule because the prison keeps it for you. So one of the problems prisoners face when they hit the street is the vastness of opportunities and choices, and the lack of structure.
Many comrades will want to pursue some education, while also finding a job, and attempting to reconnect with family and friends. This means a lot of choices and opportunities, and structured days are necessary to make them fit together. The demands of family and friends can be especially difficult during the initial months post-release after so long with social interactions closely monitored and limited.
Friends, family, school and work are all institutions that are deeply ingrained in and supported by our culture. There is no support for doing revolutionary organizing. That is why Re-Lease on Life is so important. People have a hard enough time doing the normal things they need to do to get by as former prisoners, especially as felons. If you just go with the flow, you'll find your time just flies by and you don't put in any political work.
To participate in the Re-Lease on Life program you need to make a commitment to political work upon release. But most people will need to keep this commitment minimal at first, so that you can focus on getting established with a plan for meeting your long-term needs as an individual, while keeping a connection to the movement.
It's important to think about the future. If you get government assistance, or have a part-time hustle when you get out, how long can that last you? If you don't have job skills or a college degree you should consider school and look into scholarships. On the other hand, it may be worthwhile to focus initially on just making some money before you consider starting school.
Think about where you want to be in a year or two. If your political work is limited by time now, how can you free up more time in the future? One way is by getting into a career path where your income will grow with your experience. Another consideration when looking for jobs is, how can it support my bigger goals? If you work in food service, you save money by bringing home leftovers. If you work at a copy shop, you get discounts on fliers and literature. Getting a manual labor job might help you meet your physical fitness goals. If you work at a security job you get paid to do your political study, leaving your free time to do outreach work.
Whatever your plan is, you need to start thinking about your time as a budget. You have only so much each week, each day. Determine how much you really need for the necessities in life and then schedule that time.
A week has 168 hours in it. If you sleep 8 hours a night that leaves 112. If you need 2 hours a day to cook, eat and take care of persynal hygiene, you are down to 98 hours. Take at least 5 hours a week to deal with other persynal stuff like finances, cleaning, and organizing. You want to work out at least 4 hours per week, maybe more like 8. Now we have 85 left. If you work full time you've got 45, plus transit time, so make that 40. If you're going to school too, you could probably use up most of that 40. If you have regular appointments with your parole officer, doctor or counselor, that will take a few hours. In your best case scenario you might have 40 hours to spend on socializing, relaxing and doing political work. Realistically, finding 15 to 20 hours a week to do political work with a normal bourgeois life is an ambitious goal that requires discipline and good planning.
Keep in mind that even if you only have 5 hours a week free for political work, that is 5 hours of work getting done in the interests of the oppressed. Any time you can set aside for this work is good. And when you first hit the streets this will be easiest if you can set aside that time on your schedule so that it is always the same day/time. For instance, you could say that Tuesday and Thursday nights you will do political work from 5-8 p.m. Block it off on your calendar and tell your friends you have appointments or classes at those times (see below). Working this into your schedule as a regular thing will make it much easier to maintain your activism. If you give up and stop doing political work, chances are good that you will never take it up again. The revolution can't afford to lose good activists like you, so don't let that happen!
Money is Time
Just as challenging for many former prisoners as managing time is managing money, and the movement needs both. Don't fall into Amerikan consumerism. Imperialism has kept itself going by building a consumerist culture at home to keep capital circulating. What that means is that a typical Amerikan lifestyle involves far more consumption than is necessary (or even healthy). Having your own apartment, your own car, a cell phone plan, and others preparing your food for you are just some obvious examples of things considered to be "necessary" expenses justifying the so-called "high cost of living" in this country. Seek out others who you can share expenses and cost-saving tips with. Extravagant spending is often a social behavior. Many recreational things like cable television, alcohol and cigarettes become habitual expenses. Rest and recreation are important, but try things that are more healthy and cost less, and if you do want to splurge, make it a special reward, not a daily expense.
One of our strengths in this country is that Amerikans get paid extremely high wages. By keeping expenses low, you'll find that you can get by on a part-time job, leaving you with more time to do what is most important to you. Remember, even if you're making minimum wage you are in the top 13% income bracket in the world. Don't use poverty as an excuse, when your wealth and privilege are really what's holding you back from doing political work.
The Persynal vs. The Political
Related to the challenges you will face with managing your time on the streets is the social demands of family and friends. The overlap between friendship and politics is something that most people don't consider. In fact, in this country we are encouraged to think about politics as something we must share with family and friends. But MIM(Prisons) does not agree with that view.
We live in a country where most people have a very strong material interest in the status quo, and so they will oppose anti-imperialist politics. The chances of winning them over to the side of the revolution are very minimal, and there is generally no need to destroy relationships with family and friends in the name of this struggle when there are so many other people out there we can try to recruit. Also, because of security concerns in this country, exposing your politics to family and friends can put you at a real risk, especially if you are on parole. If there's one thing you should have learned being locked up, it's that snitches are everywhere.
There is nothing wrong with having friends who don't share your political convictions, you just need to avoid talking about politics with them or only talk about smaller points of politics, without raising suspicion. This doesn't mean you can't share your political views with friends and family who show that they are likely to be interested and agree, but be careful because once they know your views and the work you do, you can't take it back.
Basics About Security on the Streets
When you are locked up in prison the government has a lot of information about you and knows your every move. So behind bars you can only control your security to the extent that you keep your mouth shut on the yard and don't share information about the political work you are doing with people who might use it against you.
On the streets things are a little different. Although you might have to report in to a parole officer or allow the state to track you in some other way as a term of your release, you have a lot more freedom about what information you do and don't share with people and with the government. You are under no obligation to tell anyone about the political work you do, and in fact you should do your best to keep this private from people you know unless you have a reason to believe that they would be supportive. And of course you want to keep it a mystery from the state. This is NOT because we are doing anything illegal, but rather because the state does not like anti-imperialists and will use this as a reason to find or create an excuse to lock you back up. So don't make this easy for them.
Just recently on the John B. Connally unit drastic changes are being made. The administration has been coming down real hard on the already oppressed masses. Not only do they house all the STG (security threat groups) on Building 4, but have divided the whole unit. The dorms which comprise Buildings 18 and 19 house all non-STG and those prisoners who work around the unit. Building 3 houses non-STG prisoners and those in the religious program. Building 7 houses all those not yet qualified to move up on the unit to A-side. Building 7 also houses those prisoners who are less than 10 years into their life sentence and that have over 50-year sentences. Building B houses a mixture as well but they stay on that building with the less fortunate who are kept housed all day in their cells. They eat in the building now that a chow hall was built to accommodate.
This division with the unit capacity of 2,800 prisoners has not only stagnated the progress or process to organize effectively, but has caused those who got it better on A-side to not give much attention to the sufferings of those who experience it much more on B-side. They are ready to cause wars and riots with each other rather than direct that misguided energy towards establishing a union to grieve concerns and make administration hear and act on our behalf.
In expressing such observations, I also know that it is not an easy task, but it can be done even if we are divided. As a whole we are only segregated until we can find better ways to network and communicate and this is why I am encouraged and empowered by your articles and newsletter. There is hope! And it is right here right now!
[The following is in response to a United Front (UF) statement from a group calling itself "Revolutionary Gangstas." Unfortunately, due to almost extremely widespread in South Carolina, we have not been able to get a response from them. On our website we continue to print solidarity statements with the UF, one of which is from the United Gangsta Nation, who was also sent some of these criticisms, but has not responded. We are printing this belatedly to voice the concerns brought up, and further all of our efforts at building a United Front. As with most letters we receive, the author's words below have been edited for brevity and clarity.]
Confusion most often is the agent provocateur's most precious tool to plow furrows in the soil of a lumpen formation, so to plant the bacillus seeds of annihilation.
This process is done by three means: (1) Those agent provocateurs who willingly work with the oppressors. (2) Those unconscious agent provocateurs whose behavior is so reckless and contrary to their formation or movement that they kick up enough dust and problems for the oppressor to use their actions to either plant and kill or as justification for more oppression and suppression. (3) The third type, while not agent provocateurs, can cause just as much damage. This third is "uneducated members" of a movement or formation who misrepresent that movement by stating or doing things inconsistent with the official position.
The brothers in ULK 21 from South Carolina state they are founding members of a formation they call "Revolutionary Gangstas." However, on the 21st line they also say they are "members of the Gangster Disciples," which is GD's former nomenclature.
I have a serious aversion with the misinformation, confusion and incorrectness that's being presented. First, if these brothers are "learned men" in that former nomenclature, they would not step into this LO revolutionary vita theater using defunct nomenclature that's inconsistent and contrary to the leader of that defunct LO's official position.
Secondly, they would know that LO is now officially and publicly moving within, and a vanguard in, the same principles of the United Front for Peace in the Vision of the Growth and Development Movement. Therefore, no "new" interior formation is required to be part of the UF for Peace. If these brothers wish to be part of the peace front, do so as believers of the Vision of Growth and Development, not as Revolutionary Gangstas.
As a secondary note, almost anyone can and has come to be "gangsta;" however being "gangster" as in Gangster Disciple (when it was in operation) was a privilege and entitlement that one had to learn and earn. It was not no fad or cartooning. Too many died for it to be cheaply commercialized into the hip hop distorted concept of gangsta. Cease and desist.
If someone was educated in the Vision of Growth and Development, they would know that that whole gangster concept was put into the box of self-defense and selective reactionary response because our visionary teacher and his trusted companions recognized prudently how inferior that gangster could be in respect to our vision for real and true Revolutionary Growth and Development.
As men and intelligent thinkers and doers, we know that being gangster has its limitations that go against our vision. Therefore being gangster became a contradiction in practice and principle and needed to be put in its proper context, i.e. self-defense and selective reactionary revolutionary response only.
Our uniqueness is sublimated because we have been there, done that, and perfected that. Anyone who still holds such attachments are still asleep. Our visionary teacher has made it clear and has supplied us with the blueprint and tools to become that reclaiming power and force we need to be to matriculate within the formations of the struggles of USW and UF for Peace.
Way before the UF for Peace came into play, our vision has been instructing us through the Universal Laws of Existence that the "Love" of "Life" and the correct "loyalty" to it by applied "dedication", "determination" and "discipline" will produce in us a "knowledge", "wisdom," and "understanding" that will bring an inner peace and will be able to have unity and from there some "growth" and independence. And by implication, internationalism comes naturally because our vision is universal.
So if these brothers are serious, then do so by being properly educated and live, act and be all you can be as one within the vision.
I leave, as I come. One in the Vision of Growth and Development and a vanguard in the USW and UF for Peace. A student's teacher.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are printing this discussion to work on two of the principles of the United Front for Peace. The first is unity, which requires communication and true facts. In addition, the principle of growth requires that we all strive to educate ourselves and each other. While we are still in the beginning stages of building united front, we are not the first to walk this path. Those with experience to share should submit their analysis of that experience to ULK so that others can learn from it.
From day one MIM(Prisons) has been aware of the many problems we would face printing statements from individuals or small groups that claimed affiliation to larger organizations. We are wary of the problem of prisoners using ULK's prestige to launch new pet projects with no real leadership, while recognizing that we are in a stage where small, isolated groups of anti-imperialists are stepping out to join forces and dialogue with each other. At our last congress we made a self-criticism for promoting anarchism around ideas of the cell structure and united front. We corrected this deviation with the resolution Building New Groups vs. Working with USW and MIM(Prisons). This resolution should also be considered in relation to lumpen organizations (LOs) by their members. The lumpen class has contradictions within it, and we should not dismiss the successes that LOs independent of the state have had in overcoming these contradictions and uniting large numbers of people over extended periods of time.
In the statement from the Revolutionary Gangstas in ULK 21 they make a criticism that could be extrapolated to a whole, large organization. While "Revolutionary Gangstas" is providing an alternative, it is not one with a practice MIM(Prisons) can vouch for. To the extent that printing their statement suggested that they were a better alternative to Growth and Development, MIM(Prisons) was misleading the masses.
We addressed a similar issue in ULK 17 when a former Latin King wrote us to criticize those affiliated with the group in his area. There we wrote, "For the lumpen to be internally critical is a necessary step for the development of a proletarian consciousness among the oppressed inside U.$. borders. However, to print public criticisms without providing real alternatives and leadership does more harm than good."
As our comrade expands on in subsequent writings, we do need better leadership and we do need to develop our analysis. But we should not criticize existing leadership until we have a viable alternative and existing leadership has rejected it. Our class analysis tells us that the oppressed nation lumpen organizations are our friends, and we should approach them from the standpoint of unity-criticism-unity.
As we recognize Growth and Development for their leadership and experience in this arena, we would not use the word "vanguard" to refer to them as Ras Uhuru does, as we reserve this term for those organizations that uphold the most correct proletarian line. Part of developing correct political leadership means taking up true internationalism. Ras Uhuru refers to internationalism being inherent in a vision that is universal. But organizations of various class interests too easily claim "internationalism" via identity politics or just vague phrases as in the example above. As stated in the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, internationalism means that "We cannot liberate ourselves when participating in the oppression of other nations." As citizens and residents of the most powerful country in the world we have a long way to go to prove our own internationalism.
In the spirit of unity-criticism-unity we appreciate the feedback we continue to get from our allies in various LOs who are working to make the United Front a reality.
The downloadable grievance petition for Texas has been updated to consolidate the recipients to those who respond to prisoners, and to comply with current Texas policies and procedures. Please download it here. Click the link below for more information on this campaign.
Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure, or mandatory polygraph testing. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.
Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.
Mr. Tom Clements, Executive Director Colorado Department of Corrections 2862 S. Circle Drive Colorado Springs, CO 80906
U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section 950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, PHB Washington DC 20530
Office of Inspector General HOTLINE PO Box 9778 Arlington, VA 22219
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
MIM(Prisons), USW PO Box 40799 San Francisco, CA 94140
*Petition updated July 2012, October 2017, September 2018*
The downloadable grievance petition for Arizona has been updated to include some more relevant addressees that were submitted by a comrade. Please download it here. Click the link below for more information on this campaign.
Most of us have lost our old world ways in Amerika's miracle whip consumer culture. For white people this is particularly true. Our grandparents or great-grandparents came to Amerika and abandoned their ancestral old world customs. Most did so in the belief they had to leave behind the old ways in order to succeed in Amerika. They even kept old world customs and mythology — essentially their native cultural practices — away from their children. Old cultures were forgotten for imperialist, capitalist greed.
Eventually we all search for identity. Unfortunately all too often when our white youth seek identity, they find it in the false belief of their supremacy in the color of their skin. This is because the white imperialist elite actively push this notion. Often whites seeking identity come from the lumpen class. The lower classes of all peoples tend to want to seek an identity because they are disenfranchised from the upper classes who are ignorantly content to unquestioningly follow the U.$. consumer culture.
Because we have not taught our white youth about being proud of their ancestral cultural heritage, white supremacist and separatist groups are quick to jump in and teach them the only thing they have to be proud of is the color of their skin and the false notion of supremacy that comes from living in a society controlled by a white imperialist elite.
As responsible citizens of the world, if we were to teach our white youth the value of their ancestral cultural heritage, it is my experience that we teach them to value other peoples' cultures as well. This would alleviate white cultural envy, which in my experience is one of the driving factors that leads young whites on a search for identity. If we responsible and sensible members of the world recognize this and teach our white youth the value of their native culture and the value of other peoples' native cultures before the white imperialist elite can turn them into foot soldiers fighting blindly for their cause, then we can begin the steps of destroying the false notion of white supremacy.
If we are going to be successful revolutionary comrades in our fight against this oppressive system, especially our prisons, we all need to unite peoples from all ethnic backgrounds. We all have native cultural practices to be proud of, and that includes whites. Though re-educating those who believe in their supremacy or in separatism may be difficult, it is essential that it happens and that we attempt the process with care and compassion, not threats of violence.
As a former racist skinhead I know what I've written to be true. I had to re-educate myself. On the outside, I formed an organization whose goal was to combat hatred using peaceful non-violent tactics. I have worked with dozens of racist skinheads, helping to re-educate them, and have witnessed drastic transformations creating informed and educated revolutionary comrades. I continue my work from my prison cell. Drugs and robberies may have taken me out of society, but I have found ways to keep my eye on the prize even while incarcerated. The goal to unify us all is too great to be forsaken.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We share this comrade's goal to eliminate white supremacy, and we agree that it is often the poorest whites who end up taking up these fascist positions. But this writer misses a key reason behind this drive to racism for poor whites: the economic system of imperialism has created a parasitic labor aristocracy out of the white nation within imperialist borders. This labor aristocracy rallies around the ideology of social democracy, which for some manifests as overt white supremacy. Those on the economic bottom of this labor aristocracy are most easily turned against the oppressed nations with racism.
Even as prisoners, whites have typically developed close ties to their "brothers" who run the prisons that hold them. That said, we organize the imprisoned lumpen as a class, and work to unite with as many white prisoners as we can around resisting the oppression of prisoners.
While there is some interesting and important cultural history among whites in Amerika, who came from a variety of European countries, the overwhelming cultural history is colonialist and not something to celebrate. The invasion of this country, massacre of indigenous people, enslavement of oppressed nations, and plunder of the world is the unfortunate legacy of the white nation. We don't want to encourage white youth to embrace this history and culture, rather we want to help them reject this reactionary legacy and take up work on the side of the majority of the world's people. We study the past to understand the world, to transform the present, and to determine the future.
In this issue on release (ULK24), we are featuring United Playaz in San Francisco, California, to give our comrades inside an idea of what some formerly-imprisoned people are doing to contribute to the struggle for peace since they've been out. Many staff members and volunteers with United Playaz (UP) have spent time in the prison system. MIM(Prisons) got the opportunity to interview one such staff-persyn, Rico, who spent 25 years in the California prison system. Rico is a former-gangbanger-turned-peace-advocate; a lifestyle change that many readers of Under Lock & Key can relate to.
United Playaz provides services to youth, including after-school programs and tours inside prisons, in an attempt to pull them out of the school-to-prison pipeline and (the potential for) violent activity, helping them refocus on their education. UP's mission statement reads,
United Playaz is a violence prevention and youth leadership organization that works with San Francisco's hardest to reach youth through case management, street outreach, in-school services, recreational activities at community centers, and support to incarcerated youth. United Playaz is committed to improving the lives of young people surviving in vulnerable environments, [who] show high incidence of truancy and low academic performance, or have been involved in the juvenile justice system through direct service and community collaboration. United Playaz believes that "it takes the hood to save the hood".
Rico explains how he first got involved with United Playaz,
In 1994 I was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. And at the time Rudy [UP's Executive Director] was bringing a bunch of troubled youth and youth that are involved in the juvenile system and kind of just showed them a glimpse of what's the result of making a bad decision. And that's where I met Rudy. And Rudy saw me work with the kids, and then he found out that I lived in the neighborhood that he was serving the youth and he asked me, "When you get released I want you to check out our program and see if you want to work with United Playaz." So like in 2005 I finally got out after 25 years of incarceration and first I volunteered. And then once there was an opening, a job opening, Rudy hired me as a CRN, a community response network. It's a job that at night we go and do outreach, and drive around the city and just talk to the kids that are hanging out on the street.
MIM(Prisons) asked Rico about the importance of building a United Front for Peace in Prisons, and the challenges faced by such an endeavor.
Back in 1982 we formed a protest while I was in San Quentin. You know, prisoners used to have rights. We had the rights to see our family when they come see us. We had the right to get an education. We had a lot of rights. But slowly they took that away and now they have no rights. If you wanna get a visit, you have to work. If you don't work, you don't get a visit.
So anyway the Asian, Latino, the African American, the Caucasian, we all got together and say, "You know what? Let's all sit down. Nobody goes to work, nobody go to school, nothing." And prison really depends on prisoners. Cuz you have jobs there, that requires like maybe $35,000 a year job, they let the prisoner do that job and get paid like $18 a month. So they're saving a lot of money using prisoners to run the prison system, right? So when we sit down, when we shut down, man, they gave us what we want and everything like back to normal and everything smooth.
There's always incident in the pen, like prisoners hurting each other, but that's a good example that when, how do you say - together we stand, divided we fall. So you know if we are united man a lot of violence in here will probably diminish tremendously, right? Cuz the people inside, they'll preach peace out here. And a lot of kids that are doing bad behavior out here, they're influenced by a lot of prisoners inside the pen. But right now there's no peace. There's no peace. ...
Well, there is [organizing for peace and unity inside prisons] but you have to do it on the under because one thing administration, prison administration don't want you to do is to organize and try to bring peace. In prison they want us to be divided. You know what I mean? So there's ways that we can organize but it has to be on the under.
It is ridiculous that prisoners have to discuss how to go about not killing each other in secret, so as to not upset the prison administrators' paychecks! But this is not the only anti-people development to come from the evolution of the criminal injustice system, which is designed solely to protect capitalism and its beloved profit motive. Rico explains some of the consequences of deciding who stays in and who gets out in a capitalist society,
The more you treat a prisoner like an animal, when they come out they act like animal out here. I mean one time I was in segregation unit, in the hole. This guy he was so violent that he can't be out in the mainline, right? Anyway it was time for him to go. So when they let him out, he was handcuffed out the building, across the yard, in a van, right? And they drop him off outside. When they drop him off they just uncuffed him, "You're free." How can we help someone like that, to be out here? If he's so violent inside that he needs to be segregated, how can they let someone out like that? So if he commit a crime out here, that's gonna look bad on a lot of prisoners. And they have more power to say, "See what happens when we release these guys out?"
But there's guys in there that are doing better than I do - that they can do better than what I do out here, and yet they still locked up in the pen, because of politics. There's a lot of em, a lot of em man. I know some of em personally that should have been out you know and giving back. And they can do a lot of contribution out here to bring peace. How can we get those guys out?
Our answer to Rico's question is that the only way to get all those guys out, for good, is to organize for socialism and then communism. Any reforms we make to the prison system as it is now may let some people out, but as long as capitalism exists people will be exploited and oppressed. This leads to resistance, both direct and indirect, and prison is for those who don't play by the rules. In socialism, everyone has a role to play in society and state oppression is only used against those who try to oppress others.
When the economic system changes to value people over profit, prisons will also change. In China under Mao, Allyn and Adele Rickett were two Amerikan spies in China who wrote a book titled "Prisoners of Liberation" about their experience as prisoners of the Communist Party of China. Their experience taught them that when prisoners have completed self-criticism and are ready to contribute to society, they will be released. On the other side, when prisoners are doing harm to society (such as organizing to reinstitute a capitalist economic system) they are not allowed to be released just because their term is up. Instead they are encouraged to study, read, discuss, and do self-criticism until they become productive members of society.
Anyone with a sympathetic bone in their body can tell what was going on in China under Mao is a much more useful mode of imprisonment than what we have at present. The difference between the liberal and MIM(Prisons) is we know the only way to get there is through socialist revolution so that the prison system is in the hands of those currently oppressed by it.
Another present day challenge we discussed with UP was its goal to be financially self-sufficient in the future. Rico explains the current limitations that come with getting state funding,
If it's up to us, we're gonna go hard, and really fight for peace. But because we're fund[ed] by DCYF [San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, & Their Families], they limit our movement. We can't even participate, or like rally. If there's a Occupy rally right now, we can't go, cuz our organization are prevented from doing things like that. And I think that's important, that we're out there with the rest of the people that are trying to fight for change. Every year we do a Silence the Violence Peace March. That's okay, you know, Martin Luther King, marches like that, we're okay to do that. But when it's like budgets, and crime, and about prison, you know, rally to try to bring those those things down, we can't really participate. ...
What's going on outside the youth can affect them in the future if things don't change. And why wait til those kids get old and take em to expose them to march and fight for your rights? You know I love to take these young adults to a movement like that, cuz that gives em knowledge of life, that there's more than just hanging out on the street. But unfortunately we're not allowed to participate in that kind of movement.
We have learned from history that these limitations aren't unique to UP's financial situation. For the non-profit in the United $tates, similar to "aid" given to Third World countries, capitalists always ensure their money is working in favor of their interests. This is why one of the points of unity of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is "Independence." Money is too easy to come by in this country, while good revolutionaries are too hard to find. Liberation has always been powered by people. So we agree with Rico on the importance for striving for autonomy.
Until then, positive steps can certainly be made within these limitations. There are many levels to our movement and many roles to play in building peace and unity among the lumpen. And without groups like UP reaching the youth on the streets, efforts like the United Front for Peace in Prisons will be too one-sided to succeed.
To close, Rico shares these words with comrades preparing for release,
The only thing I can say is that as long as you're alive there's hope. And if they really want to go home, then do the right thing, regardless. And they gotta stand up for their rights man. And they have to just try to get along with each other and think about peace, because they are needed out here. The experience they have in the pen, they can save a lot of lives out here, with their younger brothers and sisters that look for real guidance from someone who's been there and done that. Good luck, I hope they get out and be out here and help our system change to a better place.
As a "free citizen" you have much greater freedom to organize on the outside compared to in prison, even on probation or parole. Your activism shouldn't end with your prison term!
"La brutalidad del encarcelamiento Supermax" Comité en Derechos Humanos Internacionales del Colegio de Abogados de la Ciudad de NY Septiembre 2011
Este reporte se abordó el crecimiento dramático de las facilidades de encarcelamiento "supermax" en los Estados Unidos durante las últimas tres décadas y destaca las condiciones de tortura y violaciones de las leyes domésticas e internacionales. Como una introducción al aislamiento a largo plazo en las prisiones de los Estados Unidos, y un resumen de casos y leyes pertinentes, este reportaje es un recurso excelente.
El reportaje cita cálculos que 80,000 prisioneros "…sufren condiciones de extrema depravación sensorial por meses o años sin fin, una experiencia agudísimo en lo cual el prisionero se mantiene aislado de cualquier contacto humano." Artículos en Under Lock & Key regularmente testifican a esta tortura que los prisioneros confrontan en aislamiento de largo plazo. Los autores observan que los cálculos son abiertamente variables y los números totales de gente en Supermax no se conocen. MIM(prisiones) ha dirigido su propio estudio para recopilar estadísticas en prisioneros de unidades de control y estimamos que hay cerca de 110,000 prisioneros en este momento en aislamiento de largo plazo.
Los autores concluyen correctamente sobre estas condiciones tortuosas: "La póliza del encarcel-amiento supermax, en la escala en la cual se ha estado aplicando en los Estados Unidos, viola derechos humanos básicos." Aunque MIM(prisiones) haría la pregunta cómo esta póliza estaría bien si la escala fuera menor. Esta advertencia de la "escala" es posible porque los autores fallan en dirigirse al sistema que determina quien se encarcela en aislamiento y porque son puestos allí.
Como parte de un resumen de casos legales y leyes pertinentes, el reporte nota que las cortes han fallado en dirigirse a esta tortura, la cual los autores consideran una violación de la octava enmienda: "con tal que el prisionero reciba comida y refugio adecuado, la extrema depravación de sentido que caracteriza supermax encarcelamiento deberá, bajo los leyes presentes, casi siempre será considerado adentro del límite de tratamiento permisible." Demuestran algunas de las dificultades legales en probar una violación de la octava enmienda, incluye la adición de la carga legal de la Acta de la Ley para la Reforma del Litigio Penitenciario (PLRA) la cual requiere que prisioneros presenten daños físicos antes de someter una acción de daños sufridos en custodia.
Los autores describen cómo el encarcelamiento supermax viola las leyes internacionales basadas en la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos, La Convención Americana de Derechos Humanos, La Norma Mínima de Reglas para el Tratamiento de Prisioneros de la ONU, El Convenio Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos, y La Convención contra la Tortura, entre otros. Ellos notan que la ley internacional no ha sido un factor para cortes estadounidenses en estos casos y llaman por cambio en este aspecto.
El reportaje concluye con las siguientes recomendaciones:
1) Las provisiones en la PLRA estipulando que los prisioneros demandantes no pueden recuperar daños "sin demostrar daño físico primero " debería ser revocado; 2) Prisioneros con enfermedades mentales serias nunca deberían de ser sujeto al encarcelamiento supermax; 3) Las condiciones de aislamiento extremo y restricción deberían ser impuestos sólo cuando una amenaza extrema y seria a la seguridad de la prisión ha sido establecido, y aun así en dichas circunstancias el encarcelamiento supermax debería ser por el tiempo mínimo posible, y los prisioneros se les debe de proporcionar con el procedimiento debido, y la oportunidad para disputar el encarcelamiento y apelar el encarcelamiento; 4) Cualquier forma de vivienda segregada debería de proveer formas de estimulación significante mental, físico y social; 5) Una agrupación nacional debería ser establecida para que reporten de pronto los números de prisioneros siendo detenidos en encarcelamiento supermax en prisiones estatales y federales y sus condiciones de encarcelamiento, y proponer legislativa adicional y reformas administrativas.
Como filántropos, decimos aislamiento a largo plazo es tortura y debe ser anulado inmediatamente, y como hemos discutido en otras partes, no estamos de acuerdo con punto 2 como campaña en que justifica el uso de tortura contra los resistentes más fuertes mientras malinterpreta la relación verdadera entre aislamiento de largo plazo y enfermedad mental.
Si implementado, las recomendaciones del comité reduciría ciertamente el número de prisioneros sufriendo en aislamiento de largo plazo, y son por lo tanto recomendaciones progresivas por un Colegio de Abogados que trabaja dentro del sistema de justifica que utiliza el encarcelamiento supermax como una herramienta de control social. Pero este mismo sistema, que ellos han apuntado ha demostrado su voluntad de ignorar la ley y actuar afuera de las normas de decencia común establecido por la octava amienda, seguramente no se puede confiar para determinar "cuando una extrema y seria amenaza a la seguridad de la prisión se ha establecido."
Los autores ignoran el amplio contexto del encarcelamiento supermax y su uso en los Estados Unidos. Como hemos reportado en un artículo en la historia de unidades de control: "La verdad detrás de las razones que estas unidades de control son necesitadas es que son un recurso político, económico y control social de todo una clase de opresos y gente privados de sus derechos. Estos incluyen especialmente africanos, latinos y gente indígena que son una parte desproporcionada en poblaciones de unidades controladas." Prisiones en los Estados Unidos son un suelo de crianza de resistencia contra el sistema que injustificadamente encierra segmentos de su populación y las unidades supermax se necesita para controlar aún más la educación y la organización inevitable que se produce entre los que se enfrentan cara a cara con la injusticia criminal del sistema
Mientras que este reporte es útil por las citaciones legales y el estudio de los daños causados por el aislamiento de largo plazo, es importante que lo pongamos en un contexto más amplio del sistema de injusticia criminal y entender que la tortura supermax no se puede reformar dentro este sistema. Esperamos hacer algunos mejoramientos significantes que tendrán un impacto particular en las vidas de nuestras camaradas políticos detrás de rejas que son el blanco de encarcelamiento en estas celdas de aislamiento, y en esa batalla nos unimos con el Colegio de Abogados de la Ciudad de NY y muchas otras que claramente miran la injusticia y inhumanidad del aislamiento supermax.
Prisioneros interesados en una copia de este reporte deben contactar la New York City Bar Association a 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036