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Under Lock & Key

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[Prison Labor] [Utah]
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Utah prisoner labor

Here at Utah’s plantation they’ve cut jobs that used to pay $60 a month to just $7 a month and thrown out a lot of positions. So one guy does the work of what used to take several. The prison does manufacture houses in their carpentry program, and UCI commisary has convicts making sweats and shorts down in Gunnison, then selling these products back to the U.$ and community. I’ve been out of population for a year now but the above is what I was seeing at that time.

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[Education] [Texas]
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Sharing the Revolutionary Message, Opening Eyes

To my komrades at MIMs, I would like to thank you all, firm and true to our cause members, seeing and making progress with the lumpen and other oppressed groups. I just received your Under Lock & Key March 2009 issue, and I was pleased to read the many different views and struggles around Amerika (prison system) which not only inspire me but allow for me to understand that this octopus of a capitalist system is still at war oppressing people and nations. The revolutionary mindedness that I have built upon since receiving your publications, going on two years strong, has given renewed strength and encouragement not only to me but to all those seekers wanting to be and who are a part of your movement. My highest respects!

I myself have been reaching to the masses in here and out in the free world trying to maintain unity and strength and by doing so I’ve come to see that so many prisoners who are locked up with me don’t have that kind of support from outside people. So what I have come to do in light of that has been giving your information so that they may find encouragement and mental support through your organizational work.

Not everyone I’ve come across understands the oppression that they face because for some reason they truly believe they are given this life of pain and slavery behind the choices they have come to make. I try my best to express to them that it is the fucked up politics of this government that has us doing these things, and some come to see and understand and others choose to ignore and accept everything that comes their way. Man! It’s crazy how some people think in here.

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[Prison Labor] [Federal Correctional Complex Coleman USP II] [Florida] [ULK Issue 8]
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Federal Prisons and Prison Labor

I am a federal prisoner confined to the Coleman II United States Penitentiary. In most federal penitentiaries there are approximately 1500 prisoners in the general population. Approximately 90% of general population prisoners hold prison employment working jobs that range from being cooks in the kitchen, providing janitorial work throughout the prison, working in the maintenance department as electricians or plumbers, or in the most coveted of prison jobs: the UNICOR factory.

Prisoners are compelled to work in two ways. First, the administration utilizes the Financial Responsibility Program to coerce prisoners to work. All convicted Federal prisoners are assessed $100 per count for the crimes for which they are convicted. Many others are given fines, restitution and other "criminal monetary penalties" at sentencing. When a prisoner arrives to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, s/he is required to pay these "financial obligations" during incarceration through the Financial Responsibility Program or face loss of privileges such as commissary, telephone, visitation access, etc. A prisoner must obtain prison employment to meet these so-called obligations in order to keep his/her ability to maintain community contacts through visits and phone calls and to supplement the horrid diet through the commissary.

The second means of lawful but unjust enslavement of the prison population is through disciplinary action. A prisoner who refuses to work is, under prison rules and regulations, "refusing to program." Violating this rule also results in loss of privileges but has additional adverse consequences such as loss of "Good Conduct Time," time in disciplinary segregation, impoundment of personal property, and other sanctions.

It is without doubt that if the federal government had to pay wages to unincarcerated laborers, the cost of cleaning, maintaining and repairing prisons would be extraordinary. It is much easier to run the gulags of America when you prey upon the incarcerated poor and offer them $12 a month to work 8 hour, 5 day workweeks.

This does not account for the UNICOR laborers. UNICOR, also known as Federal Prison Industries, manufactures uniforms, kevlar helmets, furniture, armored cars, and other materials for the U.S. military. Prisoners are paid a maximum of $125 a month but can make hundreds in overtime. To the average prisoner such wages are too tempting to pass up. They don't realize they are fuel for the capitalist military industrial complex which saves hundreds of millions of dollars making military material and products in prisons.

Prisons may not reap profits but they do save costs with prison labor which, considering the amount saved, is tantamount to profits. It is certainly a basic tenet of the criminal injustice system and helps the government run its oppression camps by not having to tax the average citizen to run these torture chambers. Nothing grabs the attention of Americans more than taxes, more prison labor means more prisons without more taxes.

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[Political Repression] [Legal] [U.S. Penitentiary Florence] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 9]
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Fighting the Real Gangs with Paperwork

I got a hold of your March 2009 No 7 issue. It was the first time I ever saw a MIM(Prisons)'s Under Lock & Key newsletter. One of your articles really reached out to me, about the administration being the real gang. I’m in the feds at USP Florence. I’m currently going through the administrative remedy process for 2 reasons. #1 is my case manager not doing his job. I was supposed to be out February 12th but my case manager has messed my paperwork up so bad, and on more than one occasion, so that I won’t be out until May 14th. The only reason I’m even getting out in May is because my family on the street applied pressure to the proper offices. And my derelict case manager doesn’t even have so much as a reprimand in his file. Just to give you an example of his shoddy work, check this: I’m from Washington DC, and when Mr. Pacheko presented me with my initial release papers they were for an address in Southern California.

The second grievance I’m filing is in relation to a shakedown. I’m currently in SHU on admin-seg. The captain and riot squad came and took everybody to the rec cage area and made us all strip and spread eagle. This took place on 3-25-09 when the temp was below 30 degrees. This strip search was in direct violation of FBOP program statement 5521.04, the 6th circuit ruling in Cornwell v. Dahlberg, and the 4th amendment to the US Constitution. Since I’m in SHU I have to wait for a member of my unit team to respond to get administrative remedies. Since I filed the first remedy, nobody from my unit team has been to see me. Effectively they are killing my ability to file anything further.

To any prisoner anywhere who reads this, I want you to know that prison guards and administrators don’t care if you have a violent outburst to staff misconduct. That’s exactly what they want you to do. So then they can gas you, assault you, and then write you an incident report. The only things these people care about is filing paperwork. I’ve been put out of two institutions for “disrupting the orderly running of the institution” because I file lots of paperwork on behalf of myself and others. Remember, if you do something wrong they write you up. So you have to write them back up.

MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that it's important we use the legal system to fight the abuses of the criminal injustice system. When you take on the system you can also use the pages of Under Lock and Key to expose the injustice and publicize your battles.

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[Control Units] [Texas] [ULK Issue 9]
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Real Revolutionaries Locked Down in Texas

It’s been nearly 17 years since I was removed from the streets of San Antonio, Texas. In many ways I truly consider it a blessing. I was a gang-banger in every sense of the word, til one day I was arrested for a gang-related shooting. Even within the confines of the Bexar County Jail on into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system I continued to represent my hood to the utmost.

Somewhere along the lines deep within my soul I began to view life from a different perspective. I began to see others for who they truly are, my human brothers. I elevated my understanding from being Mr. Do-Dirty loc to Mr. Shakwamu. Through all of this I pursued further education so now I hold three associate degrees and I’m awaiting unit transfer to begin work on my Bachelors degree.

The reason for my correspondence is because after reading several articles which were published in your periodical I notice an alarming trend among people who write in (in particular Crips and Bloods). Many brothers feel the unnecessary need to reveal who they are in these organizations, not truly understanding that they've marked themselves for the administration. I can’t speak for other states, but in Texas I don’t care who you say you are, you will not get locked up unless you are a serious threat to the system. I look in the dayroom from my cell and see the brothers who claim to represent these revolutionary ideas and none can accurately tell me what it means to be a revolutionary.

This is why many Crips and Bloods are not in segregation in Texas. In truth they are treated like kids. It’s appalling how a brother can openly declare himself an enemy of the system (only in title) and yet the system doesn’t feel the need to protect itself from him. Brothers need to do some serious soul searching and self-evaluation and find who they truly are. It’s only a matter of time before we find that who we perceive we are now is merely a façade.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is right that the politics behind who gets put in segregation is very much tied to who the system sees as a threat. At the same time, various prison systems are pitting different oppressed nation groups against each other and against whites, and locking people up selectively in solitary to fuel these battles. All revolutionaries should strive to make the best use of their time behind bars. This means not giving out information to the pigs that they can use against you. Being a revolutionary is about work and study, and revolutionaries can make the best use of their time in general population.

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[Control Units] [California] [ULK Issue 9]
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Turning from Violence to Progressive Organizing Gets Prisoner Validated and Locked Down

It is a sincere pleasure to receive the open letter detailing the progressive actions you all have been taking. As we see with Obama, it is not enough for us to continue down the line of just using titles such as capitalism, racism, imperialism, fascism, colonialism, classism, and oppression. We must call them out one by one. For example: when capitalist/fascist Dianne Feinstein presents legislation that further targets the lumpen/proletarian class, we must send out operatives in the area to challenge her by contradicting the very policies she’s introducing. We have enough public record information to use against these politicians who continue to draw up policies that line their pockets with corporate profits at the expense of humanity.

We have New African politicians such as the Congressional Black Caucus who are affected by the fraud and control. They must be sought out and called out on the very oppressive policies that they support like when Rep. Maxine Waters was in support of legislation that authorized a one million dollar bounty on Assata Shakur, who is in exile in Cuba after escaping from the imperialist state that sought to murder her. When she was called on it she said that she didn’t know her by that name!

We are dealing with spineless individuals who not only support all these draconian laws but don’t inform their constituents of what these racist policies will do to them, like when Bill Clinton was made to be seen as the first Black President. He is responsible for passing the Prison Litigation Reform Act which is an extremely anti-prisoner policy. Lawyers' incentives were taken away which had encouraged lawyers to take prisoners cases. He was also responsible for the Death Penalty/Terrorist Act in 1996 sealing the fate of thousands of poor disenfranchised New Afrikans, Latinos and poor whites to life in prison. This made it next to impossible to challenge criminal cases in the courts after one year.

We must challenge each and every one of these sell-out politicians when they support policies that are anti-human in nature. We must hold them accountable by voting them out of office.

Most of my life I’ve been incarcerated. I had a reputation as one of the “leading Bloods” in the prison system. My fate was sealed until my mother was killed in a car accident in 1996 and it was a letter she wrote to me that I received about 3 days after finding out she was killed. This letter was ironically a brief biography of her life that revealed to me all these things I didn’t know about her, like she was a Sgt. of arms in the Black Panther Party, and that she was responsible for introducing the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program. She assisted in the escape of Angela Davis. It was an honorable surprise because it explained why our childhood was so radical for my brothers and I, where the FBI kicked in our doors routinely and we moved constantly. Therefore my disdain for authority that abuses its position is strong.

I was already questioning my past actions because even as a misguided youth I tried to be rooted in a moral sense where I would justify my actions by saying that those individuals who I wronged were wrong. Yet looking back, I never liked what I saw and it’s really crazy because I found out my mother was a revolutionary when I always thought she was a gangster of some sort because of what I saw with the FBI and others constantly harassing her and my step-father when I was a child.

I learned that law enforcement does’t just go after bad guys, but also good ones. This led me to redirect my energy toward the interests of my people. If you could see my past history in the penal system, where I was extremely destructive from 1976 to 1996, it wasn’t until I became productive/constructive from 1996 until now that I became a threat. All the stabbings, assaults on prisoners, and a couple of staff, didn’t seal my fate in these gulags. It wasn’t until I became a progressive in organizing prisoners towards their own interests that I was validated as a prison gang member and placed in SHU indefinitely in 2000.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is yet another excellent illustration of why we say that revolutionaries are the real advocates of peace while the criminal injustice system punishes those who oppose violence. We also agree with this prisoner that it's important to point out the bad policies enacted by politicians, but we disagree with his suggestion that we vote these politicians out of office. Voting won't change anything, because the only people who can get elected are those who serve the interests of the system. Changing the face of the oppressor will not put an end to oppression. Only the overthrow of the oppressive imperialist system will truly bring peace to the majority of the world's people.

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[Organizing] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 9]
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LOs Must Organize for the People

I'm writing this letter as a growing New Afrikan prisoner and gang leader and founder of the NC State East Coast Consolidated Crip Organization (ECCO) prison group. What prompted me to write this particular letter was the March 2008 #7 Under Lock & Key interview with Comrade Mfalme Sikivu. Even without having an affiliation with the Ujamaa Field Dynasty, I can agree to their message and that of their doctrine from what was given in the interview.

I believe there comes a time in our lives for those of us who live our life illegal, or gang members, prisoners, etc., that we realize what oppression is and how we take active roles in repressing ourselves and our communities. Not for all, but for most of us, I'd say it's natural to want to contribute to productive change and liberation from what ignorance has bound us to. I encourage all my comrades in Lumpen groups to contact the UFD to have a better understanding of the UFD and their goals as to realize their struggle is our struggle, their liberation is our liberation. It takes all of us as responsible adults to fight for what we know is right and to learn from each other.

We can be gang members and still identify with the set and hoods we're from while deprogramming ourselves and killing our own for rank and a name in some cases. There's no sense to it. Anybody with common sense should realize violence for any number of reasons normally is responded to with equal or greater violence. As a Hoover Crip I've killed or harmed more Crips from rival chapters than the United Blood Nation. I'm not justifying or advocating my actions, I'm making a point from what I know. We each have the potential to do right, if we make a dedicated attempt. While I do agree with the statement Mfalme made that lumpen will not fundamentally change, I do so because I don't feel we have enough educated leaders and programs in and out of prison to help us come to a new understanding.

The Crips and the Bloods have decades of bad relations and bloodshed between us that has spread all across the United States, Africa and South America. A 6 month to a year program, half run by capitalist and police who don't know or care about us, who in most cases entice us to kill each other, can't be expected to change the damage.

Remember, it's on us to defeat our criminal mentalities and create a future for our families. No one can break our bad habits for us and for us as gang members, pimps, drug dealers, etc., to continue down the same path is self-destruction for us and those who care for us, or depend on us. Each one, teach one and we will obtain the light we seek. And support the UFD goals, if not the UFD, learn from them and apply what's taught to your own groups to help our communities grow and prosper.

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[Legal] [Abuse] [Mule Creek State Prison] [California]
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Retaliation for Fighting for Legal Rights

When last I wrote I shared my struggle to get typewriters in our prison law library. Makes sense to have typewriters in a law library, doesn’t it?

Well, for my efforts I was thrown in the hole when I was attempting to use the law library facilities in order to finish some work for a case that was scheduled for a telephone hearing the following day.

Now similar to my brother’s situation in North Carolina (ULK #7, March 2009) I was placed in a “security cage” (California prisoners are familiar with these) and left there from 6 am until 2 pm and I had an abscessed tooth at the time (documented and since crowned) and medical refused me my antibiotics and pain medication. By 2 pm I was so delirious with pain that they felt the need to cover the security cage I was in with a wool blanket and dump two fire extinguishers full of chemicals; one of them is known as 505 (lethal).

The next thing I recall was waking up in a cold bare cell with no means of comfort (mattress, blanket, nothing).

Since that attempt on my life I attempted to file a board of claims to the state, but it disappeared after my CCI got it from me. I had to give it to him because I had to get a registered trust statement from him to file with the state. California keeps her “ducks” in a row.

So, as a result of my injury, the state of California’s prison at Mule Crrek accommodates their medically assigned bottom bunk prisoners to bare naked cells in the hole. No property, no bunk, just a mattress on the floor. This is common practice, my neighbor is a seventy plus year old man, forced to sleep on the floor!

If a nation is judged by the way she treats her prisoners, this country is damned.

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[Organizing] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 9]
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Lumpen Organizations and Revolutionary Organizing

As a young revolutionary, I find myself coming up on 10 years of being an Almighty Latin King member. It has had its ups and downs, but it's made me into the brother that is sitting here writing these words. Sometimes, I find myself getting mad when I read MIM's newsletter and somebody writes talking about they were x gang members. Why would a person have to leave all they believe in for years to change their life? If I would have to leave my nations to make a change for the better, these last 10 years of my life would have been nothing but a lie. I don't look at the ALKQN as a gang, because I've never in my 10 years gangbang'd or put on colors, but that doesn't mean I haven't made mistakes as a man. I've been coming to Amerika's concentration camp for a better part of my life. I've learned how to read and write here, and how to be a man. If not for the ALKQN I would still be a lost soul, deaf, dumb and blind just like the imperialists like us.

When I read ULK and hear of brothers in New Jersey who are teaching other Kings and the UBN how to read and write and not just passing XXL and Vibes around, that's what Kingism is all about. Not gangbanging. Me being from Brick city I know first hand how the NJDOC is, so my love goes out to all your comrades in the GU no matter what your affiliations are. You don't have to stop being you to stay out of prison, don't let them fool you young brother.

As one of the most revolutionary brothers of our beautiful island once said (Albizu Campos), "Despierta Boricua!; Defiende lo tuyo!"

MIM(prisons) responds: We learn things throughout our lives that lead us to make changes in what we think and do. Learning about revolutionary politics and moving out of a Lumpen Organization (LO) to be involved in revolutionary organizing does not make one's history a lie. Some comrades working with MIM(Prisons) stay with their LOs and some choose to leave when they come into revolutionary politics. These decisions are often based on what their LOs are into, and what the individual comrades think they can accomplish as a member. If a person is a part of an LO that is not supportive of anti-imperialist work, it may be time to move on from that LO. On the other hand, we respect those comrades who want to stay with their LOs and promote anti-imperialism within the group. There are important roles for both approaches.

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[Prison Labor] [Choice Moore Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 8]
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Work, Money and Good Time in Texas

I live in a "transfer facility" known as the Choice Moore Unit, in Bonham Texas. This facility houses 1,200 prisoners in eighteen 68-man dorms. Being that this is a transfer facility, people will stay here about 2 years before we are actually integrated into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's prison system. This facility is known as a "farm" because it's main operation is the farming fields around our facility. The majority of the prisoners work either in the fields, kitchen, laundry, or go to school.

There are only a few classes here, and all of them are not vocational. The classes provided are: cognitive thinking changes, GED, and voyagers (which is a religious class). The rest of the jobs here are: supply room, kennel/horse worker (for trustees), dorm janitor, administration helper, inmate commissary, and that's about all. None of these jobs pay us and from what I understand, TDCJ does not pay any money to prisoners. The TDCJ pays us by gaining us "good time" credits and "worktime" credits.

People in the TDCJ system are really forced to work, and here's why: If a person refuses to work, they get a written major case for not working. Once brought to a disciplinary hearing and found guilty, you lose commissary privileges, recreation privileges, and go down in line class status (line class is what gives you privileges, % of work time/good time credits, and is used for classification reasons also.) If after a period of time you were assigned another job and refused to work again, you would be written up for a major case again and the consequences continue to get worse. If continued refusal to work happens, you may end up on a max unit in the "hole" doing all your sentence. Here's another aspect of what happens to us here. Any major or minor case will be forwarded to your parole board. The parole board uses major cases (any case whether petty or not) to give offenders one year set offs, up to 3 year set offs, until they can be up for parole again. So basically any case write-up in here is like being sentenced another year.

Let's say I make 100% of my work time credits and I go up for parole and never had a write up for misbehavior. Now I get a 2 year set off from parole, even with no cases and 100% of my work credit done. Now let's say a guy had 30% work time, 25% good time credit and 2 major cases and he's up for parole. Somehow they let him go home on parole. Parole here does what it wants and all the good time and work time is just for show on paper. They do not actually honor it.

Now for crimes considered "aggravated," they make people do half their time before they are eligible for parole, but they do not get good time credits. They do, however, get work credits. But like I said, it's all for the look - we really don't get shit. A person can get 100% work time and be at half his sentence and not get released on parole (so there's no pay). People can have 3/4th of their sentence done flat time and have 150% work time credits, but still be made to serve all their sentence (there's no pay again). My point is, we do not actually get any pay or reward for working and are therefore slaves to this and for this system.

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