While many euro-Amerikans languish and suffer in U.$. prisons, it is those whose land the Amerikans seized and occupy, and those the Amerikans enslaved and exploited, who disproportionately rot here. The First World lumpen are an excess population, that imperialism has limited use for.
One solution to this problem has been using the lumpen to distribute and consume narcotics. Narcotics, and the drug game itself pacify the lowest classes of the internal semi-colonies, by providing income and distracting drama, while circulating capital.(1) Of course, rich Amerikans play a much larger role in propping up drug sales.
Another solution to the excess population has been mass incarceration. Prisons serve as a tool of social control; a place to put the rebellious populations that once spawned organizations like the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party. Meanwhile, imprisonment serves to drain the resources of the internal semi-colonies in numerous ways.(2) This reinforces their colonial states in relation to the Amerikan empire. As an institution, mass incarceration serves as an outlet at home for the racist ideology that imperialism requires from its populace for operations abroad. The criminal injustice system sanitizes national oppression under the banner of "law and order," reducing the more open manifestations of the national contradiction within the metropole that brought about the recognition of the need for national liberation in the 1960s and 1970s.(3)
The following are excerpts from a Minnesota comrade's response to "MIM(Prisons) on U.$. Prison Economy", originally published in ULK 8 currently available in the "13th Amendment Study Pack"(updated 8/10/2017).
"In as much as I agree with MIM's positions in this study pack, I find it beyond the pale of relevance in arguing over whether the conditions We now exist under are in fact slavery or exploitation or rather oppression that revolves around laws devised to ensure that the first class's social, political and economic control is maintained. Mass incarceration might be all of those above or none at all, to those of Us in the struggle. What we all can agree on is that mass incarceration is a machine being used to exterminate, as the imperialists see us, the undesirable sub-underclass.
"...Prisons are being used to remove black and brown males at their prime ages of producing children, going to college, and gaining meaningful vocational training. This loss of virulent males in Our communities does more than weaken them. It removes from the female an eligible male and acts no different than sterilization. Instead of incinerators or gas chambers, We are being nurtured, domesticated, doped, and fed carcinogens. Moreover, prisons have provided us with disease-ridden environments, and poor diets, minimum ambulatory exercise, poor air and water. Lastly, the removal of cognitive social stimuli necessary for the maturation of social skills has created an underdeveloped antisocial human being lacking in compassion and individuality.
"...the reason that the slavery or exploitation argument doesn't resonate for those of Us who are on the front line, I think, is because it's muted by the point that incarceration is an institution created by the oppressor. It will have vestiges of slavery, exploitation, and social control within it. To what degree? is arguable."
So far we have no disagreements with this comrade. And while we have long upheld this point to be important for our understanding of mass incarceration in the United $tates and how to fight it, we do recognize that the slavery analogy will resonate with the masses on an emotional level. The comrade later goes on to reinforce our position:
"Eradication is where slavery and mass incarceration split. Although slaves were punished and victims of social control, they had value and were not eradicated."
A crass example of this was exposed last month when Kern County pigs turned on one of their own and released a video of Chief Pig Donny Youngblood stating that it's cheaper to kill someone being held by the state than to wound them. These are state bureaucracies, with pressure to cut budgets. While keeping prison beds full is in the interest of the unions, it is not in the immediate financial interest to the state overall.
Whereas we agree with this comrade when ey discusses the role of convict leasing in funding southern economies shortly after the creation of the 13th Amendment, we disagree with the analogy to funding rural white communities today.
"The slave, instead of producing crops and performing other trades on the plantation is now a source of work... So to insist states aren't benefactors of mass incarceration is incredulous. Labor aristocrats and the imperialist first class, who are majority Caucasian males, have disproportionately benefited."
The difference is a key point in Marxism, and understanding the imperialist economy today. That the existence of millions of prisoners in the United $tates creates jobs for labor aristocrats is very different from being a slave, whose labor is exploited. And the difference is that the wealth to pay the white (or otherwise) prison staff is coming from the exploitation of the Third World proletariat. And the economy around incarceration is just one way that the state moves those superprofits around and into the pockets of the everyday Amerikan. The "prisoner-as-slave" narrative risks erasing the important role of this imperialist exploitation.
Another reason why we must be precise in our explanation is the history of white labor unions in this country in undermining the liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies. Hitching the struggle of prisoners to that of the Amerikan labor movement is not a way to boost the cause. It is a way to subordinate it to an enemy cause — that of Amerikan labor.
There is a cabal of Amerikan labor organizers on the outside that are pushing their agenda to the forefront of the prison movement. Their involvement in this issue goes back well over a century and their position has not changed. It is a battle between the Amerikan labor aristocracy and the Amerikan bourgeoisie over super-profits extracted from the Third World. In this case the labor aristocracy sees that prisoners working for little to no wages could cut into the jobs available to their class that offer the benefit of surplus value extraction from other nations. Generally the labor aristocracy position has won out, keeping the opportunities for real profiteering from prison labor very limited in this country. But that is not to say that exploitation of prison labor could not arise, particularly in a severe economic crisis as Third World countries delink from the empire forcing it to look inward to keep profits cycling.
While our previous attempt to tackle this subject may have come across as academic Marxist analysis, we hope to do better moving forward to push the line that the prison movement needs to be tied to the anti-colonial, national liberation struggles both inside and outside the United $tates. And that these struggles aim to liberate whole nations from the United $tates, and ultimately put an end to Amerikanism. Selling those struggles out to the interests of the Amerikan labor movement will not serve the interests of the First World lumpen.
Prison labor is an interesting concept. Compared to the enormous expenditures (financial, mental, physical, etc.) the rewards/benefits of prison industrial labor are trivial in the extreme.
Excluding coveted "prison industry" posts, over 95% of prisoners are employed in prison maintenance, construction, administrative/educational labor). [This figure may be accurate in this comrade's state. Our preliminary results across 22 systems in the U.$. show almost 25% working in manufacturing and agriculture. — Editor] Indeed, such work does prove beneficial (in the case of kitchen labor — invaluable) to prison operations. Kitchen work notwithstanding, the sum total of benefits is small. So why do prisons use prisoner labor? Especially considering it does little to lessen the economic burden of penal institutions on society. There are two plausible answers to this question. Surprisingly, neither is directly linked to financial interests.
In the first place, prisoners are employed to reinforce socially acceptable behavior and occupational patterns (by capitalistic standards). While this may sound perfectly justifiable and even admirable; truth is, it is far less altruistic. Reinforcement of socially accepted roles is an integral aspect of the subjection-manipulation cycle (see ULK 52 – An Invaluable Resource? And ULK 54 – The Adaption of Capitalistic Controls), which through an invasive, subtle and constant life-long indoctrination, endeavors to create a homogeneous populace. Prison labor is meant to be a control for inducing conformity in prison which later translates to the same out in society. An objective achieved through subjection (mandatory labor) and manipulation (rewards or reprimands, restrictions and sanctions) in a never-ending cyclic process. A process similar to Pablo Escobar's approach to business — plata o plomo (silver or lead). In simple terms, accept my favor or risk my displeasure. This reality is paralleled throughout society. Contribute to capitalism, strive to become a capitalist, or experience privations, marginalization, ostracization, imprisonment or worse. In a way, prison labor is a form or reeducation, along capitalist lines.
In the second place, labor in prison provides an added buffer against unrest and radical organization among prisoners. Prisoners structure their days around their jobs, giving it importance and prominence in their daily lives. Many would feel lost at sea, wayward, direction-less without it. It gives the prisoner a focal point distinct from and meaningless to their best interests – toppling the penal system. Distracted by menial duties, most prisoners never bother to contemplate their plight, subjection/manipulation, origins of their situation and the oppression, which made it all possible (eventual?); not even mentioning the oppressors who become an abstract "them."
As such, prison labor does four important things for capitalism:
Reeducates deviants (self-determinants)
Drains on and distracts prisoner intellect
Impedes any meaningful development (mental, physical, political and social)
Prisons are gargantuan popular control systems. Prison labor is a system within a system created for the advancement of a thriving capitalist state — inequality and an overabundance of commodities. Considering how many prisoners work prison jobs, join society's labor force and become re-acclimated to capitalist control, the effectiveness of prison labor as a process is quite horrifying. Ignorance is a capitalist's bliss. Knowledge is a revolutionary's power. Understanding reality as it confronts us is the first step to dismantling the penal institute as a whole.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The point that much prison labor is not actually saving operating costs is an important piece to our analysis that we have yet to quantify. According to our survey, some 460,000 prisoners are working in prison maintenance jobs in the state and federal systems at a median of 150 hours per month. To hire that work out at $10/hr would cost around $9 billion, or what would amount to 10% of the money spent on the criminal injustice system.
However, it is not uncommon for state-funded programs to hire more people than they need to complete a job, because profit is not the motive. And it makes sense to pay prisoners for attending schooling and other programming activities when the motivations above are considered. This is another perspective on prisons as social control. Socialist states have and will also use prisons to shape populations in a certain direction. Of course, the state apparatus serves that economic system. In socialism, prisons combat classism. In capitalism, they reinforce it.
The primary problems and concerns I have for women prisoners that reside in Gatesville, Texas are the following:
Extreme deadly heat: The metal walls on our cubicles, metal bunk and tables are burning our skin to the touch (i.e. arm, face, legs, feet, etc.). The building made out of metal and cement is cooking us alive!
Poor ventilation: The hot air that does come in thru the sparse vents and small windows is burning our lungs and cooking our organs, to the point that it feels like suffocation. (The fan that is sold to us on commissary feels like blowing fire to our face and bodies).
Medical neglect: Unethical, unprofessional, abusive, retaliative, cruel, prejudistic, threatening, neglectful, deliberately indifference, inhumane (violating 8th amendment). Note: women are dying due to this medical neglect – none were sentenced to death penalty.
Suicide encouragement by CO staff and security: Taunting, coercion, verbal abusive, bullying, extreme heat, neglectful mental counseling, prolonged exposure to segregation contribute to this problem.
Mal-nourishment and food deprivation: Incorrect amount of portions served to women, excessive amount of "Johnnys" served daily and 3 times per day (with no fruit, no vegetables, nor drink when Johnnys served). The "milk" that is served at chow is not properly made. It looks more like dirty water. Lack of proper nutrition is causing a myriad of diseases, illnesses, bone deficiency and/or death for incarcerated women.
Black mold: Showers/toilet stalls are grossly infested with this killer mold, which causes headaches, ailments, debilitating the already weak immune system that is caused by lack of healthy nutrition. Mold is getting in our lungs and colonizing – this is verified with chest x-rays and shows granuloma.
Sexual harassment: Cameras are pointed directly into cubicles. We are continuously being called bitches, skanks, cunts, hoes, sluts, dope heads, crack whore, dumb ass and fuck you. (Please note, rank and COs equally do this.)
Unsanitary conditions: Captain Dixon, kitchen CO, makes the women combine all the leftover used kool-aid by other women to be drank by women that are showing up to chow hall to eat. This is causing cross-contamination, illnesses, spreading diseases, health put at risk daily. (Note: no gloves, no proper PPE, reusing 1-time-use hair nets, and being served by women that have poor hygiene, carry Hepatitis, HIV and other diseases.) This is illegal.
No outdoor recreation: Due to the claim that there is short staff, or no staff, we are continuously denied sunlight and fresh air. This neglect is causing our health problems to exacerbate, hair fall out, skin develop psoriasis. Our skin is pruning.
Immigrant discrimination: No rehabilitation opportunity, no education/vocational/college opportunity because of our nationality and/or our legal status. No TV channels in our Spanish language, and no interpreters available.
We need your advocacy so that we receive the correct and legal conditions and medical treatments. Please note that none of us women prisoners were sentenced to the death penalty, but yet many women have died due to cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in this unit. We have dubbed these units "the Texas holocaust" because of the horrific and sadistic living conditions.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The horrible conditions listed above exist throughout the the United $tates prison and jail system, in some facilities and states more or less than others. MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within have an analysis of why the U.$. government tolerates and encourages these conditions, namely to perpetuate a system of social control. You can find this analysis scattered through Under Lock & Key.
We encourage our subscribers to also think more deeply about these problems. Reporting on the conditions is just the first step in our struggle. Ask yourself, what do you think are the reasons for the horrible conditions at Lane Murray Unit, and at the facility where you are held. What is it about our society that makes this possible? And what can we do to change it? What has been tried in the past, and what has had relative success? What has failed? Why? What is one thing you can do today to work to the end of the conditions listed above? How does that one action relate to a long-term strategy to resolve the conditions laid out in this letter from Lane Murray Unit?
It is through this sort of analysis that we can build correct revolutionary theory and practice. So we encourage our readers to discuss these questions with others at your unit, and send us your answers to these questions so we can continue the dialogue.
The Western press often aims the diparaging term "labor camps" at Asia and the former socialist countries of the world. Yet, with the largest prison population in the world, it should not be surprising that it is the Amerikans who have more prisoners working for them than any other nation. And their labor subsidizes the cost for Amerikans to maintain a highly structured and institutionalized system of national oppression in this country.
While prisons do "cost" taxpayers money, Amerikans benefit directly, indirectly and psychologically from the criminal injustice system. There is a lot of money being made off the system, not by exploiting prisoner labor, but in the form of public employee salaries. In Pennsylvania, for instance, prison guards are among the state's highest paid employees.(1) And in many states these jobs are so important, the guard unions will successfully fight against any prison closures, even when there aren't enough prisoners to fill the cells. Meanwhile, prisoners are doing much of the maintenance work in these institutions, for little or no pay. In the vast majority of U.$. prisons, the state would need to hire more people if they couldn't use prisoners to help with prison operations.
In this article we will look at the relationship between prisoner labor and the cost of running prisons. Our goal is to understand what work prisoners are doing, what they are being paid, what the impact of that work is, and how battles around prisoner labor can be a progressive part of the fight against the imperialist criminal injustice system.
This winter MIM(Prisons) conducted a survey of ULK readers regarding prison labor, in part in response to many organizations' recent focus on this topic. The results are what we believe to be the most comprehensive dataset on prison labor in the United $tates.
In our 2009 issue on this topic, we reported on prison labor in 11 states and the Federal system, representing over half the country's prison population. In 2018, we received reports from 20 state systems and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. This survey far exceeds our 2009 survey in content and consistency. This article will present our preliminary results, with the full report to come in a later, more in-depth publication on the economics of the U.$. prison system.
How many prisoners have jobs?
Overall, 44% of prisoners have a job assignment, which includes school and other programming in some states. This varied greatly between prisons, from less than 1% to a maximum of 100% where working is mandatory. Of those who do work, most are engaged in work related to maintaining the prison itself.
What do prisoners do?
The chart below shows results from our survey showing at least 63% of prisoners engaged in prison maintenance. There is a significant "Other" category that may or may not fall into prison maintenance. While our survey results so far show 25% of prisoners working in agriculture or industry, this does not correspond with other information available. UNICOR, the state-run industries for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), accounts for less than 7% of those held by the BOP. Yet UNICOR is the biggest user of prisoners in the country, with half the revenue of all other state-run industries combined.
While our results confirmed a majority working in maintenance of prisons, we believe this to be greatly underestimated and will work to refine our figures. Meanwhile the three biggest prison states only use 2-6% of their prison population in their state-run industries.
How much are prisoners paid?
Working prisoners mostly fall into two categories: prison maintenance and state-owned industries. The latter generally offers higher wages. Below are averages for all U.$. prisons from a Prison Policy Initiative survey of state agencies(2):
Our statistical analysis of low and high wages by state matched up quite closely with the Prison Policy Initiative survey, with many states being right on. This helped us confirm the numbers reported by our readers, and substantiates the Prison Policy Initiative data set, which covers every state and comes from state sources.
From our data we can say that almost half of prisoners who work in the United $tates make $0.00. Generally in lieu of pay, 43% of jobs in our survey offer credits of some sort (usually promising time off their sentence). Though states like Texas are notorious for these credits being meaningless or not applied. About 11% of prisoners who work do so for neither pay nor even the promise of credits, according to our preliminary results.
Who do prisoners work for?
The portion of prisoners working for private industries is very small. We've long been frustrated with the outdated, self-referential, or complete lack of citations used by most when writing about private companies using prison labor.(3) Our initial results only returned 4.3% of prison jobs being attributed to a private company, and of those who produce a product, 1.8% being sold to private companies. While we will continue to tally and interpret our results, these are in the ball park of what we can infer from a literature search of what is going on in prisons across the United $tates.
As John Pfaff pointed out in eir book Locked
In, “Public revenue and public-sector union lobbying are far more important [financial and political engines behind prison growth].” These state prison industries are becoming sources of revenue for state budgets. This could be worse than private corporations lobbying for more imprisonment. It's the very state that decides policy that is directly benefiting financially.
A U.$. Proletariat?
Of all the so-called "workers" in the United $tates, prisoners, along with non-citizen migrants, are some of the only people who face working conditions comparable to the Third World. OSHA has no real ability to enforce in prisons, and in some cases prisoners do hazardous jobs like recycling electronics or the tough field work, that many migrants perform. A recent expose of a "Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (CAAIR)" program in Oklahoma documented that prisoners were promised drug treatment but when they joined the program were forced to work in chicken processing plants. The prisoners suffered gnarled hands, acid burns, injuries from machines and serious bacterial infections.(4) While this is only a tiny minority of prisoners, the fact that they are susceptible to such conditions does speak to the closeness this class of people is to the Third World proletariat.
While at first glance the pay rates above clearly put U.$. prisoners with full time jobs in the exploited classes, we must consider that by default prisoners' material needs are covered by the state. However, there are still some basic needs that are not covered in many prisons. Many prisoners face conditions with insufficient food, exorbitant co-pays for medical care, and a requirement to purchase hygiene items, educational materials and other basic necessities. And for the lumpen who don't have money in the bank or families who can cover these needs, pay for work in prison is essential.
Labor Subsidizes State Budgets
But even where prisoners are expected to pay for these basic necessities and are not paid enough to cover the costs, we don't find net profit for the state. In spite of prisoners' work, facilities are still run at a huge financial loss to the state, and profits from prisoner labor are going to subsize the state budget. Sure lots of individual guards and other prison staff are making good money, and corporations are also cashing in by selling products to the prison and to prisoners. But none of this is coming from prisoner labor. Prisoner labor is just helping to cut the costs a bit for the state. Below we lay out our calculations on this question.
Ultimately, we're talking about a criminal injustice system that costs $80 billion a year. There are profits from the 4.3% of prisoners who work for private industries. But most of the revenue comes from state-run prison industries. These state-run industries bring in a revenue of $1.5 billion a year.(5) At a generous profit rate of 10%, that would be $150 million in net gain, or 0.2% of costs. Because some many prisoners aren't paid or are paid very low wages we could even double that profit rate and still have a very small gain relative to the cost of prisons.
Another way to look at this calculation is to consider the costs to house one prisoner compared to the potential revenue they generate when working full time. It costs about $29k/yr to house a Federal prisoner. If these prisoners are leased out to private companies for $10/hr and the state keeps all the money, the state only makes about $20k, still losing money on the deal. Obviously, when the state undercharges for labor, private companies can make a profit. But that profit is subsidized by the state, which has to pay for prisoners housing and food, with the greatest expense being in how to actually keep people locked inside.
We can also calculate savings to the state from prisoner labor using our survey numbers. We chose $10 per hour below as a rough compromise between the Federal minimum wage, and a typical CO's hourly wage. In reality, no U.$. citizen would work maintaining prisons for minimum wage. And a negligible number of COs would bring themselves to do something "for" prisoners, such as cleaning their showers. If non-prisoners were needed to maintain prison facilities, we suspect only migrant workers would be up for this task.
Another consideration is that jobs in prison are mostly used to keep people busy (i.e. keep people not reading, and not organizing). If paying "freeworld" people to do these jobs, they would certainly hire many fewer employees than they have prisoners doing the same tasks.
These calculations are primarily to demonstrate magnitude, not actual budget projections.
62% of 800 thousand prisoners (percentage with state-run jobs) = 496 thousand prisoner workers
150 hours/mo work on average * 12 months of work = 1,800 hours of work
So we estimate that hiring non-prisoners to do the work that prisoners do would cost about $8.9 billion, which adds up to an additional 10% of the overall costs of running prisons. That's a sizeable increase in costs, but prisons are still far from profitable. We can add the two numbers above together to estimate the total earnings + savings to the state from using prisoner labor. That total is still less than $10 billion. Bottom line: the state is still losing $80 billion a year, they're just saving at most $9 billion by having prisoners work and earning back another $150 million or so of that $80 billion, through exploitation.
Those arguing that a massive prison labor strike will shut down the prisons may be correct in the short term, to the extent that some prisons which rely heavily on prison labor will not be able to immediately respond. But that certainly doesn't mean prisoners being released. More likely it means a complete lockdown and round the clock johnnies. And historically states have been quite willing to pour money into the criminal injustice system, so a 10% increase in costs is not that far-fetched. On the other hand, states are even more willing to cut services to prisoners to save money. So the requirement to hire outside staff instead of using prisoner labor could just as likely lead to even further cuts in services to prisoners.
History of Prison Labor in U.$.
In 1880, more than 10,000 New Afrikans worked in mines, fields and work camps as part of the convict lease system in the South. This was shortly after the creation of the 13th Amendment, and eased the transition for many industries which made use of this prison labor. In the North prison industries were experimented with around this time, but imprisonment costs prevented them from being profitable. And in response labor unions began opposing the use of prison labor more and more. By the Great Depression, opposition was stronger and the government banned the use of prison labor for public works projects.(5)
In 1934, the Federal Prison Industries, or UNICOR, was formed as a way to utilize prison labor for rehabilitation and state interests without competing with private industry. This protection for private industry was ensured with strict restrictions on UNICOR including limiting them to selling only to the states. This has maintained the primary form of what might be considered productive labor in U.$. prisons. UNICOR does function as a corporation aiming to increase profits, despite its tight relationship to the state. While state agencies used to have to buy from UNICOR, this is no longer the case, making it fit better into Marx's definition of productive labor. Those running the prisons for the state, whether public employees or prisoners preparing meals, would not fall into what Marx called productive labor because neither are employed by capital.
Starting in the 1970s, there has been legislation to loosen restrictions on prison labor use by private industry.(5) (see Alaska House Bill 171 this year) However, we could not find in our research or our survey any substantiation to claims of a vast, or growing, private employment of prisoners in the United $tates.
The Future of Prison Labor
The key to all of these battles is keeping a focus on the national liberation struggles that must be at the forefront of any revolutionary movement today. There are Amerikan labor organizers who would like to use the prisoner labor movement to demand even higher wages for the labor aristocracy. These organizers don't want low-paid prisoners to replace high-paid petty bourgeois workers. This might seem like a great opportunity for an alliance, but the interests of the labor aristocracy is very much counter to national liberation. They are the mass base behind the prison craze. They would be happy to see prisoners rot in their cells. It's not higher pay for prisoners that they want, it's higher pay for their class that the labor aristocracy wants. On the other hand, the prison movement is intricately tied up in the anti-colonial battle, by the very nature of prisons. And to move the needle towards real progress for humynity, we must reinforce this tie in all of our work. This means we can't allow the labor aristocracy to co-opt battles for prisoner workers' rights and wages.
While U.$. caselaw does not recognize prisoners as employees, there continue to be new lawsuits and arguments being made to challenge prison labor in various ways.(6) We see these challenges to certain aspects of the law on unpaid labor as reformist battles, unlikely to have much bearing on the future of the prison movement. It is unlikely the courts will see prison maintenance as labor requiring minimum wage protection. So if changes are made in the law, we expect them to be very marginal in scope, or to actually encourage more private employment. In contrast, the mass mobilizations that have focused on pay, among other issues, are advancing the struggle for prisoner humyn rights by organizing the masses in collective action.(7)
While half of prisoners work in some form, about half of them aren't paid. And this is because an income from work is not a condition of survival when food, clothes and shelter are provided by the state. However, we have noticed a trend (at least anecdotally) towards charging people for different aspects of their own incarceration. The narrowly-focused movement to amend the 13th Amendment could have the consequence of expanding such charges, and actually making it affordable for the state to imprison more people because they are paying for their own needs. While we concluded in ULK 60 that there has not been a strong decrease in imprisonment in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the rates have certainly stagnated, indicating that we may be bumping up against financial limitations.(8) A scenario like the above could undermine these financial limitations, unless they are accompanied by laws prohibiting the garnishing of prisoner wages.
The delinking of Third World countries from the U.$. empire will create more economic crisis as wealth flow from those countries to this one will decrease. This would create more incentive for forced labor in prisons that is productive, providing value for the rest of Amerikans. This is what occurred in Nazi Germany, and could occur in a future fascist scenario here. While we can definitively say the last prison surge was not driven by profits, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. And if it did, it would be a very dangerous thing. On that we agree with the mass sentiment opposed to prison labor. But to date, in this country, it's been more expedient to exploit value from elsewhere. Even the convict leasing of the late 1800s was the vestiges of an out-dated system of exploitation that was eventually abandoned.
Very few prisoners in the United $tates are close to the means of production. Therefore it is not the role of the prison movement to seize the means of production, as it is for the proletariat. It is our role to build independent institutions of the oppressed. And this has often meant seizing institutions like churches, schools and even prisons in the examples of Attica and Walpole. Ultimately, such acts must build support for larger movements for national liberation. Prisoners have an important role to play in these movements because they are one of the most oppressed segments of the internal semi-colonies. But they cannot achieve liberation alone.
Echándole un vistazo al código penal para ver lo que se ha descrito como asalto sexual por el sistema criminal de injusticias, revela una variedad de ofensas, desde varias faltas menores hasta violaciones graves. En los E$tados Unido$, aquellos que cometen dichos actos atroces son considerados como lo más bajo de lo bajo y las prisiones no son diferentes. Este ensayo intenta abordar el tema de los delincuentes sexuales dentro de las sociedades en prisión y su importancia para el movimiento en prisiones.
En el intento de escribir algo con respecto de este asunto, me vi obligado a regresar a dos puntos principales de debate: (1) la contradicción de la unidad vs las separaciones dentro del mismo movimiento en prisión, como la hizo popular el Movimiento Internacionalista Maoísta. La fuerza de mi argumento proviene de ambos puntos. ¿Qué es el Movimiento en Prisión?
Antes de continuar, es necesario para mí explicar lo que alrededor de qué intentamos construir unidad. El movimiento en prisión se define por varios movimientos, organizaciones e individuos que en este momento luchan contra las muchas caras del sistema de injusticia Amerikkkano. Sea que estos movimientos se den en Georgia, California, Texas, Pennsylvania o cualquier otro rincón del imperio de los U.$., no es de mucha importancia. Lo que es importante, sin embargo, es el hecho de que aquellas organizaciones e individuos se encuentran actualmente desempeñando un papel progresivo y potencialmente revolucionario al atacar al sistema opresivo en las prisiones amerikkkanas.
En las prisiones o cárceles de un estado la lucha puede tomar la forma de una campaña de reclamo, o de acciones de otro grupo dirigidas a abolir el trabajo forzado de los prisioneros. Estos movimientos tienen a ser dirigidos por una variedad de organizaciones lumpen. Algunas son revolucionarias, otras no. algunas son estrechamente reformistas por naturaleza y no irán más allá del ganar concesiones. Otras permanecen estancadas en la mentalidad burguesa del individualismo, mientras siguen engañosamente usando una retórica revolucionaria para conseguir sus metas.
Sin embargo, a pesar de sus objetivos separados, cada una en su propia forma, están tomando acciones colectivas cuando es posible para desafiar sus condiciones opresoras. Además, estos movimientos, organizaciones e individuos, cuando se toman como un todo, representan el despertar de la consciencia política y revolucionaria de los prisioneros, que no se ha visto desde la ronda más reciente de luchas nacionales de liberación de las semi- colonias internas. Esas son las cualidades progresivas del nuevo movimiento en prisiones.
Los aspectos negativos y reaccionarios del movimiento en prisiones se caracterizan por el hecho de que muchas de estas organizaciones lumpen todavía funcionan dentro de líneas tradicionales. La mayoría sigue participando en una economía parasitaria y llevan a cabo actividades en contra de personas, que afectan a las personas mismas a quienes dicen representar. Con respecto al ensayo, la mayoría de estos movimientos y organizaciones también tienen políticas que excluyen a aquellos a quienes el estado imperialista ha etiquetado como “delincuentes sexuales”. No obstante, ¿pueden estos movimientos y organizaciones realmente adherirse a dichas separaciones iniciadas por el estado? ¿Cuáles son las ramificaciones de todo esto?
De acuerdo con el Centro Nacional para Niños Explotados y Extraviados, el número de delincuentes sexuales registrados en los E$tados Unido$ para el 2012 fue de 747,408, con los números más grandes en California, Texas y Florida.(1) Por consiguiente, también son tres de los estados con prisiones más grandes. ¡Todo sexo es violación!
En 1990s, el Movimiento Internacionalista Maoísta (MIM) se volvió poco popular entre los amerikanos de izquierda por dos razones. La primera fue su análisis de clase, que decía que los trabajadores amerikkkanos no eran explotados, pero que en vez, formaban una aristocracia laboral debido al hecho de que les pagaban más del valor de su trabajo. Los amerikkkanos fueron por lo tanto, considerados como parásitos en el proletariado y campesino del Tercer Mundo, así como enemigos de los movimientos tercermundistas.
La segunda razón fue el sostener la línea política de la pseudo-feminista del Tercer Mundo, Catherine MacKinnon, que dijo que no había una verdadera diferencia entre lo que hace el violador acusado y lo que la mayoría de hombres llama sexo, pero que nunca van a la cárcel por ello. MacKinnon expuso la teoría de que bajo un sistema de patriarcado (bajo el cual vivimos), todas las relaciones sexuales giran en torno a relaciones desiguales de poder entre aquellos hombres sexistas y aquellas mujeres sexistas. Así, las personas nunca pueden realmente consentir a tener sexo. De esto, MIM trazó la conclusión lógica: todo sexo es violación.(2)
Esta línea no sólo es radical, sino, revolucionaria por su acusación al patriarcado y a su implicación en el sistema de injusticia. MIM desarrolló aún más la frase de todo sexo es violación, cuando explicó la importancia de las acusaciones de violación provenientes de mujeres amerikkanas contra hombres afroamerikanos y la relación histórica con el linchamiento de afroamerikanos por parte de chusmas amerikkkanas durante Jim Crow. Incluso en la década de los 90, cuando MIM observó las estadísticas para las acusaciones de violación y condenas, pudo deducir que los afroamerikanos aún seguían estando oprimidos a nivel nacional por las mujeres blancas, en alianza con sus hermanos blancos.(3)
Dicho eso, esto no significa que los actos violentos y penetrantes no se comenten contra gente que son oprimidas por su género en nuestra sociedad. En vez de eso, dirijo la atención al hecho de que la sociedad amerikana erotiza las diferenciales de poder, y los medios sexualizan a los niños, no obstante, ambos pretenden abominar ambos. Sin importar quien haya hecho qué, lo que no debemos perder de vista es nuestro enfoque principal: la unión contra el estado imperialista, el enemigo número uno de las naciones oprimidas.
No es secreto que el llamar a alguien “delincuente sexual” en prisión es someter a dicha persona a la violencia y posiblemente muerte. Así mismo, es un hecho histórico que los cerdos han usado las acusaciones de ser delincuente sexual como una forma de desacreditar las voces líderes entre los oprimidos o, simplemente, hacer que los prisioneros tengan en su mira a alguien contra quien ellos tienen un asunto personal. Tenemos que resistir estas tácticas COINTELPRO y seguir uniendo y consolidando nuestras fuerzas, puesto que el participar en estos linchamientos autoinfligidos es sólo otra forma en que los cerdos logran que hagamos su trabajo sucio por ellos.
Mao Zedong dijo, al hacer una auto-crítica, que habían habido demasiadas ejecuciones durante la Revolución Cultural China. En particular, declaró que, aunque podía justificarse el ejecutar a un asesino o a alguien que hace explotar una fábrica, también podía justificarse el no ejecutar a algunas de las mismas personas. Mao sugirió que aquellos que estén dispuestos, deberían ir a hacer algún trabajo productivo, de forma que la sociedad pueda ganar algo positivo y la persona en cuestión, puede ser reformada (4).
Los Maoists creen que los problemas entre la gente se deberían manejar de forma pacífica entre la gente, y por medio de métodos de discusión y debate. La mayoría de prisioneros están encerrados precisamente porque estuvieron involucrados en algún tipo de actividad contra personas, en algún punto u otros de sus vidas. ¿Estas acciones deberían definir a los prisioneros? De acuerdo con el pensamiento de MIM, todos los ciudadanos de los U$ serán vistos como criminales reformistas por parte del movimiento socialista del Tercer Mundo, bajo la Dictadura Conjunta del Proletariado de las Naciones Oprimidas (JDPON). El lumpen del Primer Mundo no será la excepción independientemente del tipo de crimen.
05/05/2017 — I don't know what prisons people are talking about when they say that they don't make a profit, because here the furniture factory is almost all profit. The wood is donated from the free world on a tax write off, they buy glue, paint, nails, etc. And the state pays the guards. The electricity is paid on a scale. They pay a set price no matter how much they use because they couldn't afford to pay for all that they use.
The bus shop where they rebuild buses in the free world is almost all profit because the freeworld people pay $5 to bring it in to get fixed. They pay only for materials and the prison furnishes free labor.
We have thousands of acres of land where we grow our own food plus prisons ship stuff back and forth to other prisons. We have hogs, chickens, cows and slaughter houses so our prisons in Texas are pretty self-sufficient in food. So cost is the guards, the rest is profit here in Texas. The little things like fuel, tractors and such is cost which they are all paid for.
Here's some more examples from Prison Legal News:
"Rep Alan Powell of Georgia says the state gets better results out of a prisoner in 12 months hard labor than sitting in a cell. If the tax payers pay to build roads or pick up trash, they let the prisoners do it. In keeping with that philosophy, Georgia's Department of Transportation is using parole violators to clean up trash on highways statewide. It costs the department millions of dollars every year to pick up litter along Georgia's 20,000 miles of state and federal roads. ...
"In October 2011, Camden County, Georgia considered a proposal to place two prisoners in each of the county’s three firehouses. The prisoners would respond to calls alongside firefighters, who would be responsible for supervising them. It was hoped that using prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses rather than hiring more firemen would save the county $500,000 annually. The prisoners would not receive any pay but would be eligible to be hired as firefighters five years after their release...."
"In Washington, with a $1.5 billion apple crop at risk, state officials ordered prisoners into the orchards in November 2011."
I've been to prison 7 times in 4 states and I have 20 years done. I'm on this side where you can actually see this kind of stuff happening from day to day. They do illegal stuff all the time to cover up stuff, and freeworld people never hear this because they try to keep it all on this side of the fence.
"Colorado has used prison labor on private farms since 2005, when the state enacted stricter immigration laws. Around 100 female prisoners from La Vista Correctional Facility are employed weeding, picking and packing onions and pumpkins under the supervision of prison guards. The prisoners receive $9.60 an hour, of which about $5.60 goes to the state. At least 10 Colorado farmers use prison labor....
"In Arizona, Wilcox-based Eurofresh Farms employs around 400 prisoners through an Arizona Corrections Industries program. The prisoners are paid close to minimum wage. ...
"Florida is another state that has put its prisoners to work on farms, including a program that began in 2009 which uses work crews from the Berrydale Forestry Camp on a 650-acre publicly-funded farm at the University of Florida’s West Florida Research and Education Center. The prisoners grow collards, cabbage and turnips in the winter, while the spring crop yields snap peas, corn and tomatoes.
"The arrangement provides the University with agricultural research and supplies vegetables for prisoners’ meals. In 2010 the farm program resulted in $192,000 in food cost savings at the prison and saved the University $75,000 money that otherwise would have been spent on paid staff."
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is interesting in that it provides an array of examples of what prisoners are doing in their jobs. Just looking at agriculture, the examples from Texas and Florida involve prisoners producing of the food they eat. This is not economic exploitation. But what are the conditions that they have to work under? We would support prisoners fighting for proper sun protection and water breaks at such a job, but do not see a good economic reason to oppose working to produce food for one's own population.
In the other scenarios, the prisoners are producing food for private companies, who are profiting off the sale of their product. In the Colorado example prisoners are being "paid" $9.60, which is well over the U.$. minimum wage, and well over the global average value of labor.(2) So if the prisoner actually received all that money, ey would be participating in the exploitation of the Third World proletariat, receiving superwages. This becomes more true when you consider that the prisoner has food and housing provided.
In reality, the Colorado prisoners receive less than half of the wage, which is less than minimum wage. Arizona prisoners also receive minimum wage. This puts them near the average value of labor. If they were paid, say, $2 per hour, then we could say they are clearly making less than the average value of their labor and being economically exploited.
By virtue of being in the heart of empire, we are all benefiting from the economic system of imperialism. Even to some extent most U.$. prisoners are better off, compared to life in the Third World. It is this reality that makes battles over wages and labor organizing in general rarely a progressive battle in this country. It is only when talking about populations who do not enjoy full citizenship rights, such as prisoners and migrants, that we can even consider progressive wage battles.
2017 DECEMBER — My beloved comrades at ULK, please take whatever steps necessary to convey this information to your readers, particularly those on the Texas plantations. It is my hope this will move a few to join in this all-out attack against mass incarceration, which those brothers on the Eastham Plantation are being persecuted for.
First, we have launched an attack on the totality of the living conditions on this plantation: double-celling, sleep deprivation, extreme heat, contaminated water, no toilets in the day rooms and rec yard, overcrowded showers. At present we have 5 lawsuits filed and hoping to have 5 more by the first of the year. They are listed at the end of this missive for those who might want to obtain copies and/or file for intervention. I would urge each plantation to file because each plantation has different violations, which in their totality are cruel and unusual.
Next, we have launched an at attack on the symbiotic-parasitic-relationship between Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the American Correctional Association (ACA). Last year we sent numerous letters to the ACA headquarters in Virginia with various complaints including the delayed posting of scheduled audits. Apparently someone was moved to do the right thing. Then notices for the January 2018 audit were posted here in October. As a result, we of the Community Improvement Committee (CIC) here on the unit have sent petitions with hundreds of names with numerous complaints of ACA violations and requests for a Q&A in the gym or chapel. This is being done with individual letters as well. Plus, we have sent the actual notice to various reform organizations requesting them to visit the unit during the audit and act as overseers pointing out particular areas of violations such as the giant cockroach infestation beneath the kitchen.
Next we have and intend to continue to urge the public to stay on top of their legislators to change the law, making it mandatory that prisoners be compensated for their labor.
Finally, we have filed an application for Writ of Habeas Corpus requesting to be released immediately due to the fact that the time sheet shows one has completed 100% of his sentence – that even without the good time, the flat time and the work time equals the sentence imposed by the court. In addition we are drafting something similar for those sentenced under the one-third law. We are submitting to the court that these prisoners have a short-way discharge date. The application for Writ of Habeas Corpus was first filed in the state court in Travis County and denied without a written order in the Texas court of criminal Appeals (#WR-87,529-01 Tr.Ct. No. D-1-DC-02-301765A). We are now in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District Tyler Division (McGee v Director, #6:17cv643). This info is supplied so that those with the means may download the info and/or keep track of the case. The following are the case numbers for the totality of living conditions complaint, which is also in the U.S. District in Tyler:
Walker v. Davis, et al., #6:17cv166
Henderson v. Davis, #6:17cv320
Douglas v. Davis, #6:17cv347
Burley v. Davis, #6:17cv490
The Devil whispers: "You can't withstand the storm"
The Warrior replied: "I am the storm." - The Mateuszm
MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades are pushing the struggles to improve conditions inside Texas prisons along its natural course. Countless prisoners have sent grievances, grievance petitions, letters to the Ombudsman, letters to elected officials, and letters to various TDCJ administrators on these same issues. We have seen some victories, but mostly we've had barriers put in our way.
The next step laid out for us is to file lawsuits, which is another kind of barrier. Lawsuits take years and sometimes decades to complete, and innumerable hours of work. When we do win, we then have to go through additional lawsuits to ensure enforcement. And on and on it goes...
If we expect the lawsuits to bring final remedy, we must be living in a fantasy. A quintessential example of how the U.$. government behaves regarding lawsuits can be seen in how it totally disrespects treaties with First Nations. When the U.$. government, or its agencies, doesn't like something, they don't really give a shit what the law says. This has been true since the beginning of this government. We don't see any evidence that this will ever change.
Yet, lawsuits aren't all bad. They can sometimes create a little more breathing room within which revolutionaries can operate. Lawsuits can also be used to publicize our struggles, and to show just how callous the state is, if we lose.
Yet, most importantly, lawsuits keep comrades busy. Before any lawsuit, there needs to be a solid analysis of winability, and the likelihood of other options. While we are relatively weak as a movement, lawsuits are a fine option, and building a movement around these lawsuits will give them strength. But if your legal strategy doesn't also include building up collective power to eventually protect people without petitioning the state to do it, then your legal strategy is as useless as a feather in a tornado.
The comrades fighting these battles inside Texas have done a great job of spreading the word to outside organizations to garner support and attention for their lawsuits. We support their efforts to make Texas prisons more bearable for the imprisoned lumpen population, and we support their efforts to link these lawsuits to the greater anti-imperialist movement. And when they decide that lawsuits aren't enough to bring a real change in conditions, we'll support that too.
The U.$. legal system's role is to keep the United $tates government as a dominant world power, no matter what. The extreme heat in Texas prisons isn't just an oversight by administrators. And it's not even just about racism of guards. It is directly connected to the United $tate's role in the oppression and repression of oppressed nations across the world. If the legal system fails, don't give up. Try something else to bring it down. Lawsuits are not the only option.
For a while now I've wondered why all the conflict between anarchists and socialists/Marxists/Maoists. I mean, we are two revolutionary forces who are committed to the abolishment of capitalism, imperialism and all forms of oppression. We have that in common and that is what's important. I understand that our strategies and ideologies are a bit different, but what's preventing us from getting together in solidarity, agreeing to disagree and focus our energies on the revolution combining our strengths and common ground? Why can't we cease to tear each other down? I don't know about anyone else, but this bothers me! The energy used to tear one another down, discrediting one another, could be used to gain some real headway by picking up arms together to combat oppression. Of course there are more experienced and more politicized people than me that may wish to give me some feedback and critique. I welcome critique, feedback and criticism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good question, especially for building a united movement against imperialism. There are many reasons to build unity with all who can be united. Maoists advocate a united front against imperialism because this format of organizing allows all organizations to freely build their own movements and push their own ideologies, but come together against a common enemy.
At the same time, we do believe there are some very good reasons to refuse to unite with some organizations. Just because a group calls itself "socialist" or "anarchist" doesn't mean it is automatically on the right side of the struggle. In the extreme, we have the national socialists who are really fascists, as an obvious example. But even among those claiming to be progressive revolutionaries there are some organizations that have taken up such wrongheaded and dangerous political lines that we consider them to be more use to the fascists than to the revolutionaries.
In the case of anarchists in general, we do not see them as enemies. In fact we believe that anarchists have the same end goal as communists: a society where no people have power over other people. But anarchists don't have a strong history of success in progress towards that goal. We see their approach of jumpint right from imperialism to anarchism as idealist, because it hasn't played out in real life at even a comparable scale to the socialist experiment.
It's just not realistic to overthrow the imperialists and keep them overthrown, without a period of proletarian state power. We have too long of a history of class, nation and gender oppression for that to happen. The bourgeois classes will need to be forcibly repressed, and culture will need to be radically altered on a mass scale. It might take generations before humyns evolve to live peacefully with no oppression. As MIM write in MIM Theory 8: "Communists know that it takes power to destroy power, whereas anarchists see power itself, independent of conditions, as the enemy of the people."
In the First World, in particular, there are some anarchist (in addition to socialist) groups which are doing work that actively supports imperialism. It's important that organizations clearly work out what are the most important questions of political line that we face today. For instance, we have, in this country, a bought-off class of people who are clearly economically and ideologically in support of imperialism. Yet some so-called socialist and anarchist organizations see these people as their mass base, and call on them to rally for even higher wages and a bigger piece of the imperialist pie. That's not progressive, that's a call to fascism! And so we can't unite with such political stances. In fact if that group calls itself "socialist" or "anarchist" or even "Maoist," we think that's more dangerous than if they openly organized for fascism, because it is misleading people about what is the communist struggle.
I would like to ask your staff a question. I recently received ULK 60 and it made a statement that solitary confinement was abolished in Texas in 2017. When I seen that, it floored me. I say that because i'm writing this letter FROM SOLITARY CONFINEMENT. So did I miss something? And if so, how can I fight from here to rectify the situation?
I let others read that and we all was stunned. I mean stunned. Are we reading this statement in your newsletter wrong?
Also we would like to know what is the Texas Pack and how can I obtain one? Your newsletter has shed light on a lot of things that are helpful for us in this place, and I just would like to say thank you and keep up the good work.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In September 2017, TDCJ announced it would no longer use solitary confinement for punishment, or as a method to encourage good behavior. It would "only" use "Administrative Segregation" (totally different from solitary confinement, right?) for "gang members, those at risk of escape, and those who are likely to attack other inmates."(1) That month, 4,000 people were still held in isolation on these grounds. Consider that only 75 prisoners were actually released from solitary confinement after this policy change.
We appreciate that this writer spoke up, because this is a very common practice. The Department says "we're not using it for punishment," while holding many, many people in isolation. The claim of gangs and security threats is often cited as the justification for the "exception" to their superficially-humanitarian publicity stunt.
Some examples include the Tier 2 program in Georgia, and the indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons that led to the hunger strikes in 2011-2013 and the Ashker settlement.
No matter what you call it, or what "justifications" are given for why it's used, solitary confinement is always torture, and never necessary. We have no doubts that solitary confinement can and should be ended, for everyone, today.
As for the Texas Pack, we are still updating and mailing this out. It's one of our more expensive projects, so we're asking for subscribers to send a donation of $2.50, or work-trade, to get the Texas Pack. This packet contains all our campaign info relevant to TDCJ, including on the grievance process, medical copay, and indigent mail restrictions. Send your donation to the address on p. 1, and tell us first if you want to send a check or M.O. so we can send instructions.
When state-level petitions fail, we now have this petition to appeal to the Department of Justice. This federal level appeal may help put pressure on the state corrections departments ignore our appeals
Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. 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.
Section Chief – Special Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20530
ACLU National Prison Project, 915 15th St NW, 7th floor, Washington DC, 20005-2112 (for those ready to bring class action lawsuits)
Office of the U.S. Attorney General, 1425 New York Ave. NW, Washington DC 20530-0001
Director/Commissioner/Secretary of Corrections (for your state)
Agency or Facility Grievance System Director or Coordinator (for your state)
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140