The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Expand ULK. Send us $50 concealed cash with an address and we'll send you a stack of each issue for the next year. help out
[Spanish] [Washington] [ULK Issue 11]
expand

Pandillas Afiliación y Organización

Mi desarrollo ha sido muy parecido al de otros antes de mi, y al de aquellos que comparten las mismas condiciones de vida que yo enfrento ahora: pobreza, amistades, albergues. Mi madre era una drogadicta y mi padre un drogadicto mujeriego. Conocí el sistema mucho antes de que pudiera entenderlo, cada minuto que pasaba me volvía mas rebelde sin saber el por que de esto. Todos mis crímenes me fueron llevando a estar en las entrañas de la bestia.

Antes de continuar debo explicar mi historia; yo solía ser un Crip. Como la mayoría de jóvenes sin familia o hogar estructurado, yo era un joven deslumbrado por el lujo, el dinero, las mujeres, las drogas, las armas y los colores representativos de mi grupo. Como Crips nosotros solíamos disparar a las personas y cosas, nos dedicamos a robar y vender drogas dentro de nuestras mismas comunidades; fui participe de este grupo y estas actividades hasta hace unos tres anos cuando comencé a cuestionarme acerca del verdadero significado de las siglas Crips, las cuales supuestamente deberían significar revolución comunitaria en progreso, o como también, el por que hay tantos miembros de los Crips cumpliendo condenas en las prisiones estatales de Texas? Bueno, continue mi afiliación hasta hace 3 años por la razón de que esta pregunta y similares seguían resonandome.

Actualmente soy miembro de "Las Panteras Negras" de la prisión. Yo soy una persona realista por lo cual entiendo el hecho de enfrentar 6 años de condena. Así en esencia esto no es solo acerca de mi, esto es acerca de toda la comunidad; es por eso que mi compañero LK me dirigió hacia usted.

MIM(Prisiónes) responde: Esta carta es un muy buen ejemplo de lo que nosotros tratamos de conseguir con la actual edición de nuestra publicación "bajo llave y candado", enfocada en el tema de la paz (ULK 7). Este prisionero se encuentra enfrentado un estado de transición el cual es muy común dentro los reclusos que han llegado a desarrollar una conciencia política, la cual puede ser generada desde la formulación de una simple pregunta como, que estoy haciendo?. El habla acerca de como el sistema alimentan las actitudes rebeldes y de los desahogos autodestructivos de los jóvenes en las comunidades oprimidas, para los cuales la prisión es un típico final en su camino.

Ahora, algunos pensarán que si el no hubiera terminado en la cárcel el nunca hubiera cambiado, es más muchas veces escuchamos a los mismo prisioneros decir que la prisión les dio el tiempo para pensar y cuestionarse, esto es cierto algunas veces las dificultades obligan a las personas a superar las adversidades y continuar con el proceso de crecimiento personal. Pero esto no significa que las prisiones estadounidenses sean una fuerza positiva en la vida de los oprimidos. Por el contrario, las prisiones son una fuerza negativa que los oprimidos superan a pesar de todo, no por las condiciones generadas por ellas. Los programas desarrollados por la MIM(Prisiones) son un ejemplo de fuerzas positivas que lleva a que las personas no tomen el mejor camino, por que siendo realistas la mayoría de personas que cumplen condenas en el sistema penitenciario salen discapacitados mental y físicamente, drogadictos, llenas de odio y rabia, etc. Nosotros deberíamos tratar de organizar a los prisioneros que salen con una actitud fortalecida, ayudarlos en su proceso de transformación para que sean miembros productivos en la sociedad.

No es un secreto el por que los jóvenes se unen a las organizaciones de la calle. Lo que es menos conocido es como el gobierno involucra estas organizaciones con el negocio internacional del trafico de drogas y con otras peligrosas actividades criminales. El gobierno hace que estas organizaciones criminales actúen como agentes del estado que mantienen estas comunidades en su sitio, ya que los opresores no pueden hacer mucho para influenciar estas desde afuera. Es por esto que los compañeros concientes ven la necesidad de dejar estas organizaciones criminales por otras organizaciones que realmente ayudan a la comunidad.

Entonces, lo que estas cartas resaltan es como el actual sistema penitenciario falla en la regeneración de los reclusos, y como el sistema desperdicia las vidas y el potencial humano. Los oprimidos quieren ser libres y tener vidas con propósito, es por esto que ellos mismos deben crear instituciones que los ayuden a contrarrestar este sistema. Trabaja con el MIM(Prisónes) para tomar este trabajo importante.

chain
[Middle East] [Economics] [ULK Issue 8]
expand

The Privatization of War: Imperialism Gasps its Last Breaths

profit recruiting
Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater (recently rebranded as "Xe") have all become household names in recent years, and generally with negative connotations. There is much to be said about their corruption that is detailed in the books cited below, and we will draw some parallels to the Prison Industrial Complex in this and other articles. But the bigger question for anti-imperialists is what this signifies for the development and maintenance of imperialism.

The books reviewed for this article describe the two sides of the modern imperialist military of the united $tates. On the one hand you have the state-run military that is buying off amerikan youth with the mall culture they are accustomed to, run by cheap Third World labor. On the other, you have armed contractors, often used for more elite operations, increasing salaries of u$ soldiers by 100% and probably moreso for mercenaries from the Third World. All combined, contractors came to outnumber u$ military personnel on the ground in Iraq. (Chatterjee, p. xvi) The stories of Halliburton/KBR and Blackwater spell out a clear trend: it is costing more than ever for imperialism to keep the personnel levels it needs to maintain global hegemony.

A microcosm of global economy

In Halliburton's Army, Pratap Chatterjee reports that wages for contractors in Iraq are tied explicitly to nationality. This picture is very telling for those who claim that amerikans deserve higher wages because they are more productive. Here you have people coming from all over the world to work on the same site and the pay rates are comparable to what they'd get in their home countries (usually they make more in Iraq). This rule still rang true in the common cases where the Third World persyn had more skills or knowledge than the First Worlder. Contractors from the united $tates who were unemployed and desperate for work started at $80,000 a year plus living expenses to supervise Filipinos who made $200- $1000 per month. One amerikan reported making $130,000 a year to work only 1 day per week. In Bagram, Afghan trash collectors were paid $10 for a 12 hour day, while Indians made $600 a month plus room and board working in fast food restaurants on the base. Filipinos who built the prisons in Guantanamo were kept in horrible prisons themselves, and paid $2.50 an hour for dangerous 12 hour days with no safety equipment. Abuses by contractors got so notorious that India, Nepal and the Philippines all made it illegal for their citizens to work in Iraq. (Chatterjee)

With 35,000 of 47,000 Halliburton employees in Iraq coming from the Third World (Chatterjee, p.142), and comparable wages being paid by nationality, you see a replica of the global economy that most First Worlders defend, even many so-called "Marxists." About 25% of the employees were making exploiter level wages, while the rest were Third World (mostly migrant) workers doing all the hard and dangerous work, for wages below the average value of labor. According to the oppressor nation left, Halliburton wouldn't employ the amerikans at $80,000 plus expenses if they weren't exploiting them. These pseudo-marxists think that an amerikan signing a check produces 10 times more value than a Filipino doing construction work or food preparation. On the global scale there are borders and oceans that somehow make this very same situation even more palatable to the oppressor nation.

The Prison Connection

While Halliburton's and Blackwater's ties to the federal government have long been in question, the government's 39th largest contractor is its very own Federal Prisons Industries (FPI) or UNICOR. (Wright, p. 111) Like the Third World labor behind Halliburton/KBR, author Ian Urbina asserts that the u$ military could not do what it does without the vast amount and diversity of products that FPI provides with prison labor that is paid $0.23 to $1.15 an hour (amounting to $400 million in sales to the Department of Defense in 2002). Franklin D. Roosevelt set up the company using legislation that forced the Department of Defense to purchase from FPI, even when their prices were not the lowest. (Wright, p.113) This move by FDR kept money circulating within the state to further fund its repressive aims, rather than allowing tax money to return to private hands in the form of profit.

This validates the overall patterns that MIM(Prisons) has seen; even the biggest prison labor-powered industry in the country is a subsidy for state repression, not a source of private profit. However we do recognize that the U$ military is not saving money by buying products from FPI - private industries can offer products for as cheap or cheaper. And so we don't agree with Urbina's implication that prison labor is essential to military operations.

Another interesting relationship between the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex is found in Blackwater owner Erik Prince's $500,000-plus in contributions to the Prison Fellowship Ministries(PFM). PFM is an evangelical Christian organization that sends more than 50,000 volunteers into u$ prisons. (Wright, p.130) While MIM(Prisons) is kept from sending mail to prisoners all over the u$ for saying that revolution is necessary to end the plight of the oppressed, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson has cited Thomas Jefferson to imply that Christian revolution is necessary in the united $tates. (Scahill, p. 95) Over 1800 facilities have granted PFM access to run programs inside the prisons that have enrolled over 20,000 people. Once again, we demonstrate that censorship of Maoist literature is about politics and not security.

Wannabe amerikans

Blackwater is busy recruiting former CIA operatives around the world as mercenaries, bribing them with u$-level paychecks. The outcome of this should help demonstrate to our critics the importance of the buying off of a whole nation. Amerikan nationalism provides a much stronger defense for imperialism than a mercenary army. Even if most of these mercenaries are steeped in fascist ideology that is conducive to imperialist militarism, the chances of conflicts of interests developing are significantly greater.

The globalization of the imperialist army is a sign of weakness, not of growing strength. Soon there will be absolutely no way for their army to grow (except with robots).

21st Century Amerikan soldiers

From the Civil War to the Cold War, the u$ national military was not recruited through profit motives. However, while amerikan nationalism provided a strong base for imperialist militarism, the continued increase in demands of the parasitic nation eventually undercut their willingness to fight and die for their nation. They could hire Mexicans to do their housework and manual labor, while hiring East Asians to do their industrial production, couldn't they just hire someone to handle the dirty work of fighting their wars for imperialist plunder? Or to paraphrase Chatterjee, amerikan soldiers went from peeling their own potatoes in tents that they set up themselves to having Third World workers serve them all you can eat dinner buffets. You know, to make it feel more like home.

U$ military public relations explains the need to provide such creature comforts as necessary to maintain an all volunteer army in the 21st century. (Chatterjee, p. 10) But the question of why a draft is not viable is the same question of amerikans not being willing to give up their cush lifestyles, which brings the threat of a draft resistance movement that feeds into anti-imperialism.

One soldier reported,

"It is no exaggeration that I live a higher lifestyle here on a base in Iraq than [I would] in the United States. We have free laundry, apartment-like housing with unlimited, free A/C and electricity, hot water, various American fast-food outlets, lounges, free Internet, coffee shops, and a large PX... Baskin Robbins ice cream... once a week we get steak and lobster... karaoke night, all kinds of sports teams..."

And he goes on to conclude,

"Yet just a few hundred meteres outside the fence, little kids are begging for anything: food, bottled water... The reality is very, very, very shocking. We are truly a pampered and spoiled culture." (Chatterjee, p. 11)

This is not a unique realization for spoiled amerikans to make when sent to war in the Third World. But as this soldier also points out, many are there for the very reason that they get better material conditions in Iraq. So they aren't exactly converting to internationalism in droves, despite the dose of reality.

Far from peeling potatoes indeed, Chatterjee describes the typical dining area with ice cream, waffle bars, lobster tails and elaborate holiday dinners, all free to soldiers. Other facilities on big u$ bases include a "mini mall" with stores like Burger King, KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Green Beans Coffee. He goes on to describe the "Scorpions Den": "one is greeted by almost pitch darkness, the background music from a one-hundred-seater open theater, the soft glow of laptops, and the flickering lights of video games... There are also free popcorn, boxes and boxes of bottled water... and a Dipping Dots ice cream machine." Then there is the "Sandbox" where "Dozens of soldiers sit slumped into fake leather armchairs, playing war games or programs like Guitar Hero and watching a Star Trek movie." (Chatterjee, p.6-7)

We see this as a new stage in the history of military recruitment by the oppressor nations. The brutal occupation forces of colonial powers in the Third World more than a century ago acted in their own direct interest. They were similar to the Conquistadors and settlers of North America centuries earlier, when amerikans stole the land they now occupy. The national unity they subsequently built on their stolen land and wealth, provided for over a hundred years of relatively successful forced military drafts. Today, however, amerikans like to pretend that their prosperity is not built on genocide and slavery. Combined with their very comfortable lives, the idea of going to war often seems not just unappealing, but unnecessary. In other words, historical amnesia may help undercut the oppressor nation as some don't understand what it takes to maintain their positions of privilege.

In the beginning of the 21st century, Halliburton had to double people's salaries to get them to go to Iraq as civilian contractors, not soldiers. But even then, is it worth risking your life when life at home is so comfortable? Amerikans allegiance to u$ imperialism is demonstrated in their politics, but when it comes to going to war, their actions will fall a bit short until they really start to see their material wealth start to diminish, which will happen once the Third World begins shutting of the paths of exploitation as it has in the past.

The military industrial complex will not be stopped by amerikan taxpayers. It is being stopped by resistance fighters who have ensured that only those who really need to be there are going to Iraq. Unfortunately, that includes many Third World nationals, some of whom are being held as prisoners while being forced to work for little to no pay under the most horrible conditions. More and more will learn the folly of trying to work for the imperialists. There is no future for the Third World nations within the imperialist system, only in resistance to it.

The debates about sending more troops or streamlining the u$ military are debates about optimizing u$ imperialism. The interesting part to us is that the struggle appears to be so acute as neither plan is proving viable.

In our criticisms of the prison economy and the labor aristocracy in general, we point to overpaid bureaucrats as a significant part of the problem. But MIM(Prisons) is not Libertarian. If anything, experience seems to show a greater degree of misappropriation of funds when services are contracted out. The cause of corruption is the profit motive, whether ownership is private or public. This is why nationalizing industries or banks does not stop exploitation, nor does it signal a move towards socialism.

notes:
(1) Chatterjee, Pratap. Halliburton's Army. Nation Books, 2009.
(2) Scahill, Jeremy. Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Nation Books, 2008.
(3) Wright, Paul and Tara Herivel. Prison Profiteers: Who makes money from mass incarceration. New Press, 2007.

This article referenced in:
chain
[Prison Labor] [ULK Issue 8]
expand

Direct Appropriation of Labor by Staff

Although the economic exploitation of prisoners may be insignificant on the scale of the greater imperialist economy, it is very real on the scale of the individual prisoners and CO's involved in this abuse.

One prisoner in New York sent us a copy of a claim he made, which read in part:

The complaint/grievance was the result of the claimant's having been enslaved by Mr. Snye, the horticulture instructor of Riverview. The claimant was forced to choose between completing a web-site for one of Mr. Snye's personal business ventures or punitive physical measures (being forced to shift enormous stones and to engage in other extremely demanding physical labor) and, if the claimant continued to refuse, expulsion from the program. Threats of bogus charges and accompanying disciplinary measures were consatntly looming, along with vague, yet clear indications that there would by SHU time, if anyone found out. (1)

Even in California where CO's made an average of $62,230/yr in 2007, with some exceeding $130,000/yr, these amerikans still aren't satisfied. (2) In a couple of recent cases CDCR employees have received additional pay when they were not supposed to. In one case 9 office technicians got raises of $16,530 for 3 years prior to being caught, that they were not entitled to. In another, 2 CDCR doctors scammed an additional $108,000. (3) And as a comrade reported in ULK 6, nurses within CDCR make up to $582 a day for about 2 hours of work. (4) With all that money from the state, you'd think exploitation of prisoners would be the last thing on their mind. Yet, again so-called "vocational" programs are tools of exploitation where prisoners being taught auto body and paint work on the pigs' BMWs, Porsches and Corvettes for free. (5)

How can we expect prisoners to benefit from these programs in any way when they are run for the benefit of amerikan jail keepers?

(1) Slavery and Racism justify SHU time in NY
(2) Bureau of Labor Statistics
(3) Sacramento Bee, October 3, 2008.
(4) Prison workers paid overtime for 2 hours labor
(5) Jobs and rehab in California prisons

chain
[Spanish] [National Oppression] [Florida] [ULK Issue 10]
expand

No soy criminal, soy revolucionario

Compañeros Revolucionarios,

Recientemente acabo de recibir una edición de MIM(Prisons) la cual me hizo sentir lleno de energía positiva y fuerza para continuar la lucha en contra del opresor. El sistema encarselario de los U$ es evidente ha sido formado con el proposito de mantener las personas de los barrios pobres y los inmigrantes que no comprenden las leyes, o mientras fueron a la escuela nunca le hablaron del peligro que los asecha en las calles de sus barrios, la policía, que facir es venir a la prición en este pais.

Yo me encuentro en los U$ desde abril del 1993, diez años de mi estadía en este pais ha sido en las granjas (prisión) por un robo a mano armada. Aunque esta es mi primera ofensa, donde no hubo sangre, ni victimas, fue sentenciado a 15 años en las granjas (prisión), pero no como un obrero sino como un animal.

Aunque para el sistema soy considerado un criminal, yo me considero un individuo que cometió un error en una etapa de mi vida cuando no estaba pensando apropiadamente. Apesar de que este sistema es un negocio que genera millones de dolares para ser gastado en cosas como "la guerra contra el terrorismo" y un grupo de cosas que solo ayudan a los que ya están en poder y no necesitan ningún tipo de ayudar. Es doloroso lo que ultimamente estoy viendo pasar en este sistema, un gran cantidad de los presos nuevos son niños, si niños con una sentencia de vida, muertos, basura en los ojos de este sistema diabolico. Es doloroso cada vez que hablo con alguno de estos muchachos, veo mi imagen en sus ojos, un niño que no va a tener una oportunidad de ser libre, tener una familia, hijos, etc. Y su algún día tiene la oportunidad de salir de este lugar, su mente estará tan doblada y confundida que se convierte en un producto del sistema, un verdadero criminal.

Es facil jusgar, apuntar el dedo y hablar acerca de las cosas que uno no comprende. Yo fue una de esas personas. Este gobierno colonialista, capitalista, nos mantiene ignorante, crellendo que ellos están trabajando para un mejor mañana. La guerra hasta que se da cuenta el verdadero propocito, colonialismo, es el verdadero proposito. Esta gobierno sabe que no importa cuantos niños y mujeres mueran, el mundo cuntinua su curso, mientras el pueblo esta comodo no habra revolución.

Yo soy parte de una organización la cual es catalogada como un grupo terrorista, somos catalogados como STG porque no estamos de acuerdo con las idiologias de este gobierno, porque nos catalogamos como un movimiento revolucionario, porque amamos nuestra jente del tercer mundo, nuestra gente oprimida. No importa el nombre que se nos de, nosotros no morirémos, nosotros nos continuarémos multiplicando, en las acciones de nuestros guerreros es que se puede ver el hombre del mañana.

Yo voy a ser deportado para mi amado pais al final de mi sentencia y promento continual regando la semilla del cambio despertar a todo aquel que se encuentra dormido en el cementerio de la ignorancia. El camino es duro pero mi hambre por revolucíon es más grande.

Viva la revolución! Viva el hombre de nación!

chain
[Prison Labor] [New York] [ULK Issue 8]
expand

New York Prisoners' Report on Labor and Economics

"Neither Slavery nor Involuntary Servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States..."
—Thirteenth Amendment, United States Constitution

History of Legalized Slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified by Congress by the required three-fourths of the States (27 of 36) on January 31, 1865, and declared an amendment December 18, 1865. To understand it in a prison setting, it is important to look at the history after it was ratified until today.

It was during the time of the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment that "slaves", or better yet, the offspring of slaves had heightened their resistance to this torture and inhumane treatment that they inherited by bad luck. Slave leaders like Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman started to educate themselves, assist in the escape of other slaves, and lobby for the rights that they felt they were due. Former slaves, escaped slaves, and others sympathetic to them led negotiations of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Once enacted, what was to be a victory for slaves, the Thirteenth Amendment later became nothing more than a smoke screen. When southern slave owners figured out that the second part to the amendment gave exception "as a punishment for crime" crafty southern lawmakers substituted various equivalents. One of these was "peonage." Peonage is a labor system in which the worker, who owes money to his or her employer, must "work off the debt." The term also can be defined, however, as virtual slavery or serfdom. Southern states enacted a series of laws that required, as punishment, high fines. Poor, now-"free" slaves were forced to borrow money to pay the fines and "work off" the debt, often times never paying off the interest. Some "crimes" included breaking curfews, and vagrancy.

The Freedman's Bureau, a government agency established to help former slaves assume responsibility as free citizens, attempted to replace "Peonage" with contracts. However, southern " Black Codes" prevented much progress. Vagrancy laws were abundant, and slavery was still existent, just under an alias.

In 1867, Congress enacted the Peonage Act in New Mexico, applying it to all of America. Now it was a felony to hold a person in Peonage or to seize or arrest a person to enforce Peonage. This same act outlawed any state law designed to enforce Peonage. In the 1900's the Peonage Act was accepted in full.

As we'll see below, modern laws and policies continue this legacy with many of the same oppressor nation motivations as in the 19th century.

Control those who can't be exploited

Every year, hundreds of thousands of mostly Black and Latino men from the 5 boroughs of NYC go thru the biggest county jail in the united $tates: Rikers Island in New York. After being convicted (which happens 70% of the time), private contractors bus them to state prisons upstate, more than 2/3rds of which are in rural areas with almost all white populations. Most of the officers, nurses, vocational instructors, etc. are from farming populations that lost their traditional economies largely to imperialist expansion into foreign markets in the Third World where they can exploit the people and buy food for excessively cheap prices.

Prisons are now the epicenter around which many towns have sprung up, reviving the dying rural communities. The local populations compete for these jobs, which are unique in their high wages and pension plans, while requiring minimal thinking ability.

No one can deny the stark increase in incarceration of Blacks within the past three decades. This increase is largely due to policies and harsh laws which are racially motivated. One notorious example is the federal guideline that sentences people to 10 years for possession of 5 grams of crack or 500 grams of cocaine, when whites are much more likely to be caught with cocaine. No study has ever proven that crack - cocaine in its coagulated form - is more harmful than its powder form. And though this law was modified recently, its purpose has already been served.

Since the end of slavery's role as a profitable enterprise by the u$ farming industry, the principal question for law officials has been, 'What is to be done about the fast growing population of restless young Black men?' - Prison has become the solution to this never ending problem. A population that is no longer a significant source of labor to be exploited, nor allowed to be junior partners to the imperialists, has no role to play in the modern imperialist economy. Hence, we have seen the growing lumpen class behind u$ prison walls.

Prison serves three valuable solutions, or better yet, prison has been the solution which can be explained in three forms.

  1. Prison is used as a social contraceptive to reduce and control population growth.
  2. Prison is a way to ebb the radical political consciousness of the people. To separate those radical elements among oppressed nations from influencing others to seek change rather than reform.
  3. Prison has been used as a way to deal with rising unemployment and stem entry into the already declining job market. (This is true despite the fact that after years of incarceration, most Blacks and Latinos are released to their communities with little hopes for employment, regardless of any participation in vocational programs.)

As we can see, the prison system is much more than an economic force exploiting labor. This is not to deny economic benefit that is reaped by the corporate elites and the amerikan so-called "worker" stooges. Prison, as a part of the capitalist system, has a further implication beyond jobs; it is also a way to repress other nations of people: the Black, Latino and indigenous nations, as well as migrants from the Third World.

Economics of NY Prisons

New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), has approximately 60,000 inmates. In this system, "programs" are mandatory. Programs range from industry work, to maintenance, to pseudo-rehabilitative or educational programs. Most people work to keep the facility up and running. The five pay grades are as follows:

Grade 116¢ per hour
Grade 225¢ per hour
Grade 332¢ per hour
Grade 438¢ per hour
Grade 542¢ per hour

Each facility is limited to a small number of people being paid grade five, so in all actuality Grade 4 is top pay. Grade 4 is reserved for foremen, who are a special class within themselves where the old rule of divide and conquer prevails. They have proven their loyalty to the system through years of hard work and often report other prisoners if something goes wrong - many of these positions are given to white prisoners.

There are "industries" in several facilities: Attica specializes in making lockers that you find in state office buildings; Great Meadow specializes in manufacturing various chemicals such as liquid soap to clean public transportation and soap that is given to inmates; Coxsackie manufactures bed sheets, pillow cases, clothing worn by doctors and nurses, as well as money bags used by banks. All of these items are manufactured under the name "CorCraft." CorCraft made over $40 million in 2005, while prisoners were paid pennies. CorCraft is a government industry so the $40 million all goes back into the state General Fund, essentially offsetting some of the cost of running prisons or other public "services."

A "bonus" is given based on the individual productivity of every prison. For example, at grade 2 my base pay for a 40 hour work week is $10.00 (all programs other than Industry work 25 hour work weeks). With a 50% bonus I would make $15.00. Unlike all other prison programs, Industry workers punch a time clock and are forced to punch out whenever they leave their shops, even for meals which are in most cases mandatory.

An inmate in DOCS, comes in with a substantial debt to pay automatically: $40.00 Gate Fees, $150.00 Surcharge, $50.00 DNA fee, $20.00 Victims Fee. Additional debts may include restitution, child support, appeals fees, legal fees, processing fees, disciplinary sanctions (if incurred), etc. Oftentimes these amounts run into the thousands of dollars, and higher.

The cost of Commissary staple items, hygiene supplies, stamps, etc., have increased so dramatically that, in proportion, the payment DOCS pays in exchange for hard work becomes virtually worthless. For example, at $0.13 an hour, after a three hour work day mowing lawns in 90-degree weather, an inmate still cannot afford even one $0.42 stamp. The pay deteriorates even more if a percentage of the inmate's earnings must go toward fees, surcharges, fines, or other obligations.

Where it leaves us

Previous challenges to DOCS Peonage system of pay have been unsuccessful because DOCS maintains that they are not "paying" but rather "compensating" inmates for their "program" participation. International Law, such as the Geneva Convention, is pretty clear that prisoners of war cannot be "forced to work" without compensation. However, it does not state what compensation is. The Japanese, for example, compensate their prisoners with food.

In fact, food is one of the greatest incentives for New York inmates to work inside of prison. The Mess Hall is one of prison's more unpredictable locations. While the Mess Hall is mandatory for all meals in some prisons, here in DOCS, attendance is elective. In order to avoid potential conflicts, when possible, many inmates choose to skip the Mess Hall meal and eat a quick sandwich with Commissary items. A positive account balance is required in order to purchase food from the Commissary.

Another great incentive for prisoners to do work is postage. Years of study have proven that inmates who work to maintain family ties strive to do well in general prison populations. Inmates who receive visits do even better, and those who do not maintain family ties are statistically more vulnerable to problems. The ability to correspond with family is usually essential to maintaining family ties. If a person cannot afford a stamp after three hours of hard labor, the incentive for that person to be positive for the remainder of the day greatly diminishes.

DOCS originally established a system to pay inmates, in order to prevent theft and encourage inmates to work. However, by not paying a meaningful wage, what DOCS actually creates is a mirror of the Peonage System. An inmate in prison for ten years, without the assistance of family, may leave prison, not only still in debt, but convinced that hard work is useless and that society is inherently unfair. This is one of the results of a system based on punishing individuals, rather than changing the system that created their bad behaviors. In contrast, a socialist prison system serves to turn those who commit crimes against the people into productive contributors to society.

If the DOCS simply raised the "compensation" from pennies to even just $1.50/hour, this financial outlay surely would pay for itself. An inmate who has no hope of meeting his needs through legitimate earnings is likely to attempt to get what he wants, i.e. stamps, food, cigarettes, etc., by illegitimate means: thievery, violence, extortion, gambling, etc. Such activity increases the likelihood of claims for property, of altercations and of injuries, which lead to civil actions brought against the State.

It is time for the State to increase "compensation" for inmates - compensation that will assist inmates in maintaining hope and in maintaining family ties while inside of prison, and compensation that will convince inmates that there truly is benefit in working hard to earn one's way toward productive life, once they get outside.

MIM(Prisons) supports the application of a global minimum wage under capitalism. Although it would have to be taken into consideration that prisoners are provided with most basic needs before being paid - as poor as they may be.

This article referenced in:
chain
[Education] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 9]
expand

Only the Educated are Free

Back in 100 A.D. a greek philosopher named Epictetus uttered these five words: "Only the educated are free." Today these five words ring true to a lot of us who find ourselves in residence behind the walls of the United States prison system. The U.S. has 5% of the world's population, yet is responsible for 25% of the world's prison population. 1 in every 31 adults in the United States is in jail, prison, or on some sort of supervised release. Now, with that in mind, we prisoners should have a strong voice, and I applaud MIM for trying to help us organize that voice for the common good.

Where do we start? Go back to the quote I opened with, and then take a look at MIM platform plank number one: Primary, secondary and college education free to the whole world. Let's localize that to ourselves for the time being. As "guests" of the prison system, we have lots of free time. In case you have not noticed, the government has no problem with us using all that time to play cards, watch TV, maybe take a few of their so-called "educational" programs and basically kick us out the door no better than we were when we came in. There are a ton of correspondence courses available to prisoners from many different colleges in many different disciplines. Apparently though, a criminal seeking a higher education, to better himself while behind bars, scares those in charge.

In 1994, the government stopped awarding Pell grants to prisoners to pay for their education. Considering that, by the Bureau of Prisons' own statistics, 40% was the average recidivism rate for parolees in general compared to only 5% for those with college degrees. So one would have to ask, why would the government choose to promote recidivism versus education? There are two simple answers: money and fear. The government makes too much money off of prison and the fruits of prison labor.

As for fear, the government is scared that the prison population will become educated, vocal and organized, which is exactly what needs to happen. Groups like MIM are going to make it happen. I encourage all of you to start a writing campaign. U.S. Senator Jim Webb has vowed to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system from top to bottom to "fix" it. Well, here's a chance to let our collective voice be heard. Encourage other prisoners to write, encourage your families to write:

Senator Jim Webb
248 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Ask why only the rich and the white collar criminals are deemed worthy of outside education and a realistic shot at not coming back to prison.

MIM(Prisons) adds: Send us copies of letters sent to Senator Webb so that we can also publicize this struggle. We also point our readers to Under Lock and Key issue #8 where we discussed in detail the economics of prisons. In reality the government is not making money off prison labor, but they are benefiting greatly from the social control provided by the prison system.

chain
[Rhymes/Poetry] [California]
expand

I Stand Tall

I'm a mortal man
I do what I can
Just to withstand
The pressure I feel
From those who wanna steal
All that is real
Through my sensory loss
Attempting to toss
Silence across
My very existence
Waning resistance
Till I break down
Wearing a frown
All beaten down
But I simply refuse
To let them abuse
And give me the blues
I will stand tall
Not ready to fall
That is my call
chain
[Spanish] [Florida] [ULK Issue 9]
expand

Organizaciones callejeras y organizamiento revolucionario

Como joven revolucionario, yo me encuentro acercandome a 10 años de ser miembro de los Almighty Latin Kings (Reyes Latinos todo Poderosos). Ha tenido sus altas y bajas, pero me ha convertido en el hermano que se encuentra aquí sentado escribiendo estas palabras. Algunas veces yo me molesta cuando leo MIM’s y alguien escribe hablando de que era ex-miembro de una Pandilla. Por que una persona tiene que dejar todo en lo que él cree por equis cantidad de años para cambiar su vida? Si yo tuviese que dejar mi nación para hacer un cambio para mejorar, estos ultimos 10 años de mi vida serían nada más que una mentira. Yo no miro a ALKQN como una Pandilla, porque nunca en mis 10 años yo he participado en pandillerismo, ni me he puesto colores. Pero eso no significa que como hombre yo no he cometido errores. Yo he estado viviendo en los campos de concentración de Amerika por una mejor parte de mi vida. Aquí yo he aprendido a leer y a escribir, y como ser un hombre. Sino fuese por la ALKQN, yo todavía fuese un alma perdida, sordo, estupido, y ciego justo como los imperialistas nos quieren.

Cuando yo leo MIMs y eschuo de hermanos en Nueva Jersey que estan enseñando a otros Reyes y a miembros de UBN (United Bloods Nation) a leer y a escribir, y no solo pasando revistas XXL y VIBE, de eso es lo que Reyismo se trata. No pandillerismo. Siendo yo de Brick City, yo se directamente es el NJDOC, asi que mi amor va para todos esos camaradas que se encuentran en el GU, sin importar cuales sean sus afiliaciones. Tu no tienes que dejar de ser tu para mantenerte fuera de la prisión. No los dejes que te engañen, joven hermano.

Como una vez dijó uno de los hermanos más revolucionarios de nuestra bella isla (Albizu Campos) “Despierta Boricua; defiende lo tuyo!”

MIM(Prisiones) responde: Nosotros aprendemos cosas atravez de nuestras vidas que nos lleva a hacer cambios en lo que pensamos y hacemos. Aprendiendo sobre politicas revolucionarias y moviendose fuera de una organización callejera para estar envuelto en organizamiento no hace la historia de uno una mentira. Algunos camaradas trabajando con MIM(Prisoniones) se quedan con sus organizaciones callejeras y otros eligen dejarlas cuando entran en politicas revolucionarias. Muchas veces estas deciciones tienen base en lo que sus organizaciones callejeras estan metidas, y en lo que individualmente una camarada piensa que puede hacer como miembro. Si una persona es miembro de una organización callejera que no soporta el trabajo anti-imperialista, puede ser tiempo de moverse de esa organización callejera. Sin embargo, nosotros respetamos a esos camaradas que quieren quedarse con sus organizaciones callejeras y promover anti-imperialismo dentro del grupo. Hay papeles importantes para ambos acercamientos.

chain
[Organizing] [California] [ULK Issue 9]
expand

Lumpen Organizations Unite

It has come time for all of us who have become politically active to stand together as one united front, proselytizing unity amongst the Black street tribes. It is time for the warriors of our people to lock flags and step into history. It has become increasingly clear that our continued genocidal tendencies are at our own destruction, peril and demise.

We are constantly under attack by the paramilitary style police units in every city that brutally occupies our communities, the very unrighteous injustice and revenge procedures masquerading as a fair and balanced judicial system, and of course the modern day slave plantation known as prison with its oppressive family-destroying, man-breaking psychological warfare. We have endured much pain inflicted by these forces, but it pales in comparison to the pain, sorrow and death we have inflicted upon each other.

Just imagine the beautiful power that is in our uniting against the elements that thrive successfully because of our difficulties and divided strata. It is time for all the warriors of the street tribes to realize that together we are unstoppable. It is time for those of us with influence, stripes, rank and respect to start believing in and advocating the uniting of the lumpen organizations.

Brotha Frantz Fanon said "Every generation has a mission, it is up to that generation to fulfill or betray that mission." I believe our generation's mission is uniting. It is in the best interest of not only our individual tribes, but most important it is in the best interest of our people as a whole. It is up to our generation, this generation, to evolve from so-called criminals, gangstas and thugs, into men, human beings who believe in our ability to be warriors and souljahs in one united front fighting on the front line to ensure the life of our people.

Revolutionize yourself, become new men, liberate yourself mentally. The honorable brotha Malcolm X once said "I do not pretend to be a divine man...I am not educated nor am I an expert in any particular field but I am sincere and my sincerity is my credentials."

chain
[Organizing] [California] [ULK Issue 9]
expand

Prisons Using Agents to Expose Active Prisoners

Being confined in this new millennium has caused me to wonder about the intelligence of prisoners who receive benefits from the theft, conversion and criminal actions of those charged with enforcing laws, rules and regulations. Here you have prisoners who accept from correctional officers magazines, books, and other items of value that belong to other prisoners and smile and grin saying they came up. Basically at the expense of another prisoner. It's the same old practice used by law enforcement time after time on unsuspecting prisoners they see as potential sources of intelligence and are used until they have no further use and are tossed back to the lions with the customary amusement.

I can not, for the life of me, understand why a prisoner will go out of his way to provide correctional staff and officials intelligence that establishes that a prisoner has membership or association with a prison gang, street gang, or other disruptive group which automatically requires special attention and placement considerations which could include being indefinitely confined in a security housing unit until that individual rats out his comrades, dies or paroles, yet there seems to be new acceptance.

It's amusing to me when I see some of these characters bragging and boasting being validated by the prisoncrats as a gang member while making it a point to ask others, typically around the picklesuits, "are you active". It's as if the new concept of the penal system is to not only tell on yourself but trick others to tell on themselves! It's as if prison agent provacateurism has gained tacit acceptance, and some new status symbolism.

When asked if I am active, I have to ask "active in what?" Since as with so many other English language concepts the word has been coopted into supposedly meaning one thing for the dumb down prisoner but in reality meaning something significantly more onerous to the prisoncrats. And it's no secret but many in the prison population have yet to understand or realize the significance and these concepts and ideas are becoming interwoven into the fabric of prison social structure, forcing many real men to adopt anti-social positions in order to stay out of the cross.

Being a general population prisoner of consciousness, I do not miss much. However I have noted that there are so many idiots who are sycophants to an old concept that has morphed and changed into something that is truly malevolent. One has to go back to the number one concept of "trust no one" with anything of any import. Those who are real you will be able to tell, and those who are not will eventually expose themselves. Educate yourselves and pay attention is all I can advise you in this CDCR trap in which many do not seriously consider the reality of the struggle, but instead practice acceptance.

chain