Grievances are one of the only administrative remedies we have against unjust treatment and staff misconduct. In Oregon we also have discrimination complaints, the right to attempt petition, a department of corrections ombudsman and (any prisoner in any state or federal facility can also do this next step) the ability to file with no fee a Department of Justice (DOJ) civil rights complaint.
In Oregon, grievances come with two appeals. Then you have exhausted the process and can go to further discrimination complaint with one appeal and then that process is exhausted. Using either/or you can lay the groundwork for a federal civil suit and meet the requirements of the 1997 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) providing you exhaust all administrative remedies available to you. So, you must either exhaust all of your grievance appeals or discrimination complaint appeals to file suit. You may not file a grievance and a discrimination complaint on the same issue. I always advise that you exhaust every grievance and discrimination complaint so you retain your ability to file suit.
You can file a DOJ civil rights complaint at any time with or without exhausting either administrative remedy. However, showing you have tried to address the issue with no satisfaction will help your DOJ complaint. Always create a paperwork trail. Always!
If you are having ongoing issues of some type, but can A) document a new incident of the same type has occurred and B) have new information about the issue, you may file another grievance under OAR 291-019-0140 (6) or another discrimination complaint under OAR 291-006-0015 (6). However, expect the grievance coordinator will try and stop you claiming you have already filed a grievance/discrimination complaint on the same issue previously. This is one of their tactics to keep you from proving an issue is persistent and is ongoing. This is currently happening to me at Two Rivers Correctional Institution. Ms. Reynolds, the grievance coordinator is stopping valid grievances and discrimination complaints when I can clearly prove the Oregon administrative rules are being properly followed.
Always know the rules and laws you are evoking. I suggest you read up on them and copy them so you can cite them in your grievance/discrimination complaint process.
If your process is blocked you can take it to the Oregon DOC ombudsman or internal affairs - or both, to keep the issue alive. Make copies of everything you do and make sure you have followed all processes to the letter of rule before you go to this level. As a last resort per OAR 291-107, you can attempt a petition process as well.
You may face uphill battles but if you are going to use the grievance/discrimination complaint process, so do it right the first time and be persistent. You may not win but you can keep the struggle alive.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Information like this is key to push forward our battle demanding our grievances be addressed. We don't yet have a petition for Oregon, but for many other states we have petitions prisoners can request to push this grievance battle on the political front while filing administrative appeals and working your way into court. For those states that don't yet have a petition, request the generic version and help us customize it to your state.
In the course of my imprisonment at this facility we've been on a perpetual lockdown induced by the administration to conserve the limited resources and money appropriated to operate the facility. We're currently in our cells 24/7 and are only afforded escorted showers every few days. We have been denied yard, dayroom, phone calls, visits, law library access, adequate and nutritious food, education, and work.
I recently came in contact with a camarada who referred me to your organization and I would like to contribute any way I can to unify peace in prisons. Over the last few months, I've organized a campaign to bring change to our conditions and have been utilizing the administrative process to seek relief, which has been otherwise unsuccessful and only brought about the "privilege" of purchasing items from their canteen and the order of items through package companies who extort our family members by making them purchase luxury items at a 500%-1000% mark up, so that their private industry of capitalist pigs can profit from our poor families. I'm moving for a boycott on such items and to not put any more money in their fat pockets.
I've also been educating those who wish to learn and build up their minds. Since coming in contact with your newsletter, I've taken the liberty to expand your mailing list by assisting a few comrades in contacting you and have shared ULK with comrades who have been interested.
Greetings from the graveyard! We salute MIM(Prisons) as our foundation of awareness and revolutionary consciousness from the teachings of the greatest revolutionist in our century, comrade Mao Tse-Tung and his principles of applying the science of Marxism-Leninism. Every day prisoners tell me how this literature has helped to make them free even though they may be shackled and entombed physically in these concentration camps. It has awakened their minds. We are studying and upholding the five principles from the United Front for Peace. History is our guide for a new future. The oppressors have all the weapons of mass intimidation, these include fear, ignorance, and apathy which creates inactivity which fosters despair and self-hatred. But we've got heart and life and I believe that now is a time for the kind of quality self-leadership, vision, and sacrifice that inspires those around us to really begin thinking in a new way.
Sun Tzu, in the Art of War, mentioned "put them on dying ground and they will live." The Ninth Ground, a term derived from the ancient military text The Art of War, refers to the last of the nine grounds being the dying ground. If someone were trying to kill you, would you use every means at your disposal to defend yourself? And if someone took everything you owned would you start the process of rebuilding? Well, your response to being sentenced to a long prison term, life, or even death, should be the same as your response to defending yourself from attack or great loss. You should fight comrade!
We view the prison environment as dying ground and "fighting" as a metaphor for self-determination. One of the biggest mistakes many prisoners make when coming to prison is that they don't initially comprehend the extremity of their circumstances. Instead we jump into the flow of the environment and fail to productively utilize those first crucial three to five years in prison for acquiring knowledge and building the necessary foundation that will sustain us for years to come.
Self-determination should never be relegated to "just getting by." From the moment we step into the prison system we need to begin a program that organizes our energy toward productive goals. We have to kick start the growth process. In prison our back is even more up against the wall than ever, so it's important to immediately see the place for what it is - Dying Ground. Since prison culture is a gross extension of the street culture most of us come from, there's a tendency to merge with it even though the pitfalls are so obvious. We have to begin to think strategically as if we are always on the battlefield. When we take this type of approach to our situation we stop wasting time and move with a profound sense of mission. Our life in prison doesn't have to rotate around waking up and hanging out. It should involve the total employment of all of our faculties geared toward enriching our lives. It doesn't matter where we find ourselves be it in prison or free, we should engage life, not retreat from it, we should become even more committed to learning, taking the initiative, building resources, and never giving up.
A life without purpose and direction is the life of a walking corpse. Comrade Mao Zedong said "The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the party's line is correct, then everything will come it's way, if it has no followers, then it can have followers, if it has no guns, then it can have guns, if it has no political power, then it can have political power."
Liberation & Freedom. Long live MIM. The Black Mass Army will help build Maoist revolutionary nationalists and people's army!
MIM(Prisons) responds: Those looking to expand their educational opportunities in prison should work with MIM(Prisons). We offer political literature in exchange for political work or stamps/money, and we run study groups through the mail. These are tools you can use to form your own local study group and help spread knowledge while also advancing your own education.
Currently I'm on a level 5/5 maximum security yard in Florence AZ called central unit, and here we only receive two meals a day, a sack breakfast with 6 slices of bread and 2 or 3 slices of some processed meat, maybe peanut butter, 2 slices of cheese and a state tea, salad dressing and mustard pack around 6:45 a.m. Then we get a hot dinner with small portions around 8 p.m. at night. That's 10-14 hours almost between meals.
We get recreation in single man recreation cages for two hours every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and receive showers on the same day. The rec cages are filthy. Some filled with bird (pigeon) feces and have been swept out only once my entire year at this facility. We can only take one water bottle to rec with us, and we never see another correction officer until rec is over; which sometimes lasts 3-4 hours in the heat due to shift change or count movement.
We don't get any chemicals to clean and sanitize our cells (which are one man) or toilet and usually have to use our own store bought or indigent soap to do so, and for those of us without money that's a costly procedure. I've been sitting in this cell for a minute and this yard is fucked up. My ceiling is cracked and falling apart, my paints peeling and these pigs always say "I'll put in a work order" and we never hear from them again unless we stay on their asses. These pigs got many convicts scared to act in any way (unless it's a racial offense) and scared to lose their good time or eligibility to go up in phases, or get STGd.
MIM(Prisons) responds: These conditions, which amount to nothing short of torture, in prison control units are common across the country and a driving force behind our campaign to shut them down.
I am writing to ULK to keep readers informed about what is going on inside the federal prison system. After receiving the last issue, I was enlightened to the status of a movement that is going on in South Carolina state prison system. I have spent a long time in the lock units of the SC state prisons and know them very well.
I have firsthand knowledge about the very beginning of the United Gangster movement that is growing in the prison system of that state. I am glad to hear that it's becoming more organized because I didn't have good expectations that it would make it this far.
I know how fearful the administration was about a movement taking place inside the prison, and how the SHU was used to stop prisoners who were supposed to be involved in this movement. I will continue to fight censorship of everything associated with anti-imperialism and the prison industry.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are many lumpen organizations with origins in the streets and prisons focused on getting what they can for their members, often at the expense of the people. But these organizations can refocus and develop correct political leadership. We look to unite with all LOs who can get behind the five points of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. This does not require organizations to take up Maoism, but the points are a minimum basis for anti-imperialist unity in our prisons organizing.
Recently there was a victory for Oklahoma's prisoner population, with respect to the difficulty of having grievances heard and adequately addressed. On February 29 2012, a magistrate judge held that Director Justin Jones "wrongfully established, maintained and enforced the grievance policy and authorized punishment for inmates who show disrespect to staff." The magistrate further held that Director Justin Jones had: "failed to establish an available administrative remedy on the claim involving the policy on grievance restrictions and disregarded the claim against Mr. Jones for the disciplinary policy involving disrespect to staff."
On February 2 2011, the Plaintiff in this case filed a grievance challenging his placement on a grievance restriction. Five days later, the grievance coordinator returned the grievance and checked the box for "Not an issue grievable to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (Private Prisons property, misconduct, see OP-090124, Section 11.B.1.), litigation pending, not within/under."
In response to a complaint made by the Plaintiff, Director Jones argued that the he had "failed to exhaust his administrative remedies." Director Jones's argument consisted of the following sentence: "Here the prison's administrative records demonstrate that Plaintiff has not filed any grievance/grievance appeal regarding his being placed on 'Grievance Restriction.'"
Director Jones relied on an affidavit by Debbie Morton, which stated that the Plaintiff had not appealed the February 7 grievance decision to her office. Presumably, the Plaintiff did not appeal the decision because the grievance coordinator has told him that the complaint was not grievable.(1) Even at the time of the magistrate's report and recommendation, Director Jones still did not submit any evidence to suggest that the complaint would have been grievable.
"The plain language of the [Prison Litigation Reform Act] requires that prisoners exhaust only available remedies." Tuckel v. Grover, 660 F. 3d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C. 1997e(a)). The Oklahoma Department of Corrections's (ODOC's) special report includes excerpts from the grievance policy, but those portions do not identify the matters that are grievable. The magistrate held "thus, Mr. Jones has failed to satisfy his burden of demonstrating an available administrative remedy to contest imposition of a grievance restriction or punishment for disrespect to staff."
In his conclusion, the magistrate stated as follows: "When the Defendant's evidence is reviewed favorably to [the Plaintiff] as required, one can reasonably infer that there was no available administrative remedy to contest his placement on a grievance restriction or the punishment for disrespect to staff. As a result, the court should reject Mr. Jones' argument for dismissal or summary judgement on the basis of exhaustion."
As stated and shown above, my fellow comrades in Oklahoma prisons have no available administrative remedy to contest a grievance restriction or punishment for "disrespect to staff," due to an erroneous establishment of a grievance policy or disciplinary policy. The above outlined lawsuit was filed on March 17 2011 against the Directory of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. If comrades in Oklahoma have been placed on grievance restriction, follow the policy while on that restriction and see to it that the oppressor is dealt with justly.
Further, if comrades are housed at private prisons, know that the ODOC and private companies are in cahoots with each other in an effort to deny you a Constitutional right permitting you to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Corcoran prison officials have been retaliating and harassing the prisoners. They started feeding us on small paper trays, leaving us in our cells for days without exercise yard, and openly telling us it's because of people going on hunger strike.
Institution Gang Investigations (IGI) has been harassing everybody, even me. They came and took everything out of my living cell claiming that I am a suspected BGF member. That's crazy! I'm not from any gang at all. Corcoran prison officials got me going back to court facing 10 years to life. They wrote up several false reports on me stating I assaulted staff and the Hanford County DA picked up all the cases.
They are retaliating and punishing everybody. And get this: the prisoners are running scared. They stopped filing complaints against the police, saying: "I don't want IGI fucking with me." Man! It hurts bad to see my own comrades laying down and giving up.
I have been really pushing hard to shut down the Security Housing Units. I have been telling everybody to stop taking a cellmate. Can you imagine the panic that will come over head officials if everybody with a cellmate said no, I'm not taking a cellie. Imagine that. Then ask yourselves should we push for another hunger strike and hurt our health and become too weak to fight these pigs? Or should we push for a big movement to stop all comrades from taking a cellmate? I'll give these pigs 30 days and they will shit on themselves and give up whatever we demand.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We know that the California prisons have been retaliating against prisoners who participated in the recent hunger strikes, and this comrade raises a good point in pushing forward the discussion about best tactics for next steps.
I recently returned from a trip to federal court in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. As I re-entered these battered walls of this prison I cringed and rejoiced because the conditions of the temp prison I was at are far worse than Huntingdon. SCI Camp Hill "AKA White Hill" is known for beating, starving, humiliating, and much more. I was housed in the SMU portion of the jail. It's a long-term disciplinary unit. I was banged off every door from booking to the unit, which was no surprise. There we got three cold meals a day, no yard, no shower. That place is crazy. I passed your address along and let the brothers know that there are people who care about these conditions of the PA prison system. These pigs, all ex-military, are overweight, out of shape, and relentless.
As I entered back to the RHU part of Huntingdon I was greeted with "there he is!" "That's the Rat!" I was puzzled, I've never told on anyone in my life. I did a little research and learned that while I was away a couple pigs were telling other prisoners I was ratting on them for passing stuff. We came to the conclusion that my letter to the Department of Justice made these pigs mad. I wrote a letter to the Department of Justice in Washington naming several COs chewing snuff and spitting it in our food, the mice that run this place, the lack of heat, and the neglect of a young Spanish boy who hung himself. The boy survived only because we were kicking our doors and yelling for help. He was in a camera cell with 24 hours live feed to a screen in the RHU bubble, but the pigs were watching TV and playing on the computer while this young man was trying to end his life. So I'm a rat for helping my fellow man. We straightened that all out, and now the pigs are our target once again.
I try to stress to these young brothers, we can't oppress each other. We are already being oppressed by the PA DOC. I tell them if you feel like oppressing another prisoner, take it out on the pigs. I'm spreading copies of all you send me, I'd like to know about how to start a study group here. I want to push your theory it seems to be positive growth material.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for taking on the "Rat" label head on and clearing his name with his fellow prisoners so that he could continue his organizing work. As point 2 of the United Front principles states, "To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts." To help prisoners like this one, we run a study group through the mail that provides basic political education, and we also have a guide to forming study groups in prison, so that people can take what they learn and share it with others and have discussions in the yard or wherever else it is possible to gather and talk. Write to us for more information.
The conditions under which we prisoners suffer must not go unchallenged by the public. I am targeted by prison staff with cold food, half portions of food, many times 1/4 portions of food, false incident reports written against me, and kept bound under the strict and harsh maximum security classification. I am a revolutionary, I study different methods and test theory from different schools of thought.
I was an activist in society (revolutionary) and I've helped to organize many communities. I now teach and organize the prisoners here, those who have a will to struggle against our current conditions. The organizing I teach is to serve our daily needs/human rights. The air conditioner is blowing full force half the winter, keeping it a cold and icy season. I openly work with all prisoners around our daily needs including protection from beatings by prison officials.
I use mostly methods from revolutionary books by mostly the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, David Hillard, Bobby Seale. These people gave their lives for the struggle. The text from this material has the power to transform minds. Education is a must.
Prison high ranking officials force prisoners to have sex in exchange for fair/humane treatment. I challenge all my fellow prisoners to stand against this oppression to join me in legally fighting it. Once again the prison officials increase the level of abuse, retaliation and torture against me to isolate and discourage others.
MIM(Prisons) replies: Retaliation against prisoners organizing for their rights is a common practice in the criminal injustice system. The best way to fight this is by building our movement. This comrade is right that we must educate and organize because the larger our forces the more difficult it will be to single out organizers for retaliation. The Black Panther Party literature provides important historical material that has relevance today. We encourage our comrades behind bars to also use MIM(Prisons) literature as an organizing tool. Under Lock & Key contains news and analysis to help educate and inspire prisoner organizing. Form study groups with others, share the newsletter, and contribute articles to help build this important resource.