The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Organizing] [National Oppression] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 7]
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Prison Leader Steps Up

I'm currently an acting lieutenant of the Hoover Crips in NC state prisons. I've been working towards building better relationships with rival Crip sets in prisons in hopes of bringing solidarity within my nation. I'm working towards a new concept within the Crips and I have gained a following. I'd like to overcome the stereotypes and propaganda so we as an organization with publicity utilize our image to show that liberation is gained from education. The search for truth is often unsettling and if acquiring knowledge was easy we would all have it. I'd like to see my organization help with overthrowing racism, classism, sexism, and oppression. Instead of us damaging our standing as a minority-based group we need to vow to never again serve a system content to exploit us as commodities. I'd like to see us in the struggle for civil rights and humanitarianism. It's no easy task to bring stability from chaos but I've gained a following with a lot of inspiration from the Maoist Internationalist Movement to overstand the struggle is bigger than my personal issues - bigger than one particular race, creed or gender.

MIM(Prisons) adds: We applaud this comrade's work to bring rival groups together and encourage him and others to work towards unity across any and all organizations willing to work for real peace for the people. This means not only rival Crip groups, but also other oppressed nation organizations. Any oppressed people fighting other oppressed people is a waste of energy and essentially work for the imperialists. As this comrade points out, the struggle is bigger than persynal issues.

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[National Oppression] [Texas] [ULK Issue 7]
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Gang Affiliations and Organizing

My upbringing was a lot like others before me and those who share the same living conditions as I do now: poverty, boys home, foster homes. My mother was a junkie and my father was a junkie/womanizer. So I grew to know the "system" well before I could understand it. Well as time moved on I became more rebellious by the minute. But I did not know why I was so rebellious to begin with. My crimes landed me in the belly of the beast.

Before I go any further I must explain my past affiliation. I used to be a Crip. As most young men with no family no structure at home, I was infatuated with the bling, money, females, drugs, guns and colors. But doesn't Crip stand for Community Revolution In Progress? But here we are shootin' things and people up, robbing and selling drugs. All within the confines of our community. Crips are without question the most numerous group in Texas state prison. How can this be so? Well I continued my affiliation until 3 years ago due to the fact that this and similar questions kept nagging at me.

Well now I am currently a member of our prison chapter of the BPP. I believe myself to be a realist. So I understand the reality of the 6 years that I face. So in essence it's not about me anymore. It's about the people. That is why a LK comrade directed me to you.

MIM(Prisons) responds: As we work to push the Peace Issue of Under Lock & Key, this letter is useful as an example of what we are trying to enable. This prisoner is at a transitional stage that is common among our comrades who have gone thru the process of developing political consciousness that begins with asking the simple questions of 'What am I doing?'. The system pushes the rebellious attitude he talks about in his youth into certain outlets that involve self-destruction of oppressed communities. Prison is the typical end of that path.

Now some will point out that if this comrade was never sent to prison he would have never turned around. In fact, we often hear from prisoners themselves that prison gave them the time to think and ask questions. And it is true, that struggle forces people to overcome adversity, and in the process they will grow. But that does not make u$ prisons a positive force on the lives of the oppressed. It is a negative force that the oppressed succeed in spite of, not because of. Programs run by MIM(Prisons) would be examples of positive forces that help people take this path. Because if we are real, there are more people who come out of the system mentally damaged, hooked on drugs, full of hatred and rage, physically handicapped, etc. We must organize the few who make it out stronger now, so that we can all become stronger, more productive members of society in the future.

It is no secret why youth join street organizations. What's a little less well known is the government's role in getting these organizations involved in the international drug trade and other serious criminal activities. They need these orgs to act as agents of the state to keep the oppressed communities in place because the oppressors themselves can only do so much to occupy these communities as outsiders. To the extent that the state has been successful in this strategy, conscious comrades will find it necessary to leave these organizations for ones that serve the community.

So the lesson to take from letters like this is that the oppressed want liberation and purposeful lives, not that the prison system can kick some people into shape. The current system wastes humyn lives and potential. It is up to the oppressed to build institutions to counter that trend. Work with MIM(Prisons) to take up this important work.

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[Prison Labor] [Texas]
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Prison Labor Stats in Texas

How many prisoners (slaves) at this facility: 500, it's a so-called transfer facility. More like a large holding cell or big shoe box where you stay for up to 2 years.

How many of them work?: All except the medically unassigned, seg and medium custody.

What do they work for?: To avoid negative retaliation by TDCJ (example, I am currently in seg becaues I refused to work in TDCJ forced labor.)

What work do they do?: Kitchen workers, SSI, Broom squad, laundry, over half of them work in the "hoe squad". Field work is all forced labor.

How much do they get paid? What is that question, some kind of joke? Sorry. Nothing. No one gets any type of compensation other than to please parole (like a rabitt with a carrot typed to the end of a stick) or to avoid catching a case and being placed on discipline.

All TDCJ offenders are forced to perform labor under one type of direct threat or another. How they are able to keep the lid on this I don't know.

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[Abuse] [Texas]
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No services and much abuse in Texas

I am writing to report the dehumanizing situations that we face here every day in this legalized injustice slave camp. Every day the food gets smaller. Now they are feeding the same food 3 and 4 days in a row. They lock us down for no reason at all, make us get on our knees just to receive our food and then they throw it on the floor and kick it in our cells.

I had officers daily threaten my life on multiple times and still been denied my amendment rights. They have given me empty pens so I can’t write out, denied me access of my 1st amendment when I tried to mail my cousin and her kids a handkerchief for valentines day, and had officers call me a racist to my face because I stand up for myself and refuse to allow them to call me all kind fo derogatory names and animals. I had officers blackmail me on cases so they can make my record look worse than what it is.

I have been denied parole three times because of crimes that were dropped when they found me guilty of my conviction. They are using my childhood mistakes and refusing to talk to me face to face and see if I have changed.

They have a Texas workforce commission which is supposed to help you get aquainted with finding a job but they deny you entry because you are somewhere, where they dislike, period, or a certain person they dislike.

I have been given no chance at getting in school. They have refused me my rights to attend my own religious services (Islam) and been denied adequate protection of the law. They even have certain prisoners who work for them to undermine the ones who are fighting to making corrective change with in america. They water down or deny you and opportunity to have access at legal or other knowledgeable information. It is a hard and long fought battle to just earn a little respect for our race and the ones that want to see equal injustice.

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[Prison Labor] [Texas]
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Fighting for good time in exchange for slave labor

Here is a copy of my timesheet. This is one of the topics I feel should be looked into. See a prisoner filed a lawsuit to get the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to either pay the prisoners for working or give them good time for working to help the prisoner be released early for good conduct. Well that was a Federal ruling and he won the case and agreed to good time for working instead of pay for the slave labor they make us do.

Well a few years later the state of Texas changed its policy to that ruling so that it overrode the federal ruling and made it discretionary to the release of a prisoner. So here in simple terms is what that means. The federal courts say when a prisoner's flat time, good time and work time equals his/her full sentence you have to release that person to mandatory supervision. Well by Texas making it discretionary they have overridden this federal order and made it where they can deny the release and it's wrong as you can see. I have 203% of my time done.

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[Prison Labor] [California]
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Calculations on Prison Population and Labor

At this prison, a prisoner who is on full program who works one of their job or education or vocation schemes is classified as A1A. For an A1A prisoner the CDCR gets $45,000 a year. A prisoner who is programming and is eligible for a work or education position but none are available are classified as A2B. For an A2B prisoner the CDCR gets $35,000 a year. A prisoner who refuses to program or is in ad-seg or the SHU is classified as C-Status or D1D status. For a prisoner of C-status or D1D status the CDCR only gets $22,000 a year.

There are 37+ CDCR prisons. Each prison has 4 prison yards. Each yard has 5 buildings plus a gym full of captives. Each building has 100 cells (doubled up - two prisoners per cell). That's 200 prisoners in the cells per building. Each building also has 40 dayroom bunks and each gym has 220 bunks. All total per prison yard that is 1,420 prisoners. And multiplied by 4 yards that is 5,680 prisoners per prison. With 37 prisons that would be 210,160 prisoner captives.

Now here's where everything gets very ambiguous. The CDCR won't give a clear number of prisons. They always say 37 (plus) prisons. It's the "(plus)" that is so ambiguous. It's what ex-pres Bush called fuzzy math that only a politician could understand.

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[Prison Labor] [National Oppression] [New York] [ULK Issue 8]
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Slavery Without Capitalist Exploitation

UPDATE: On 9/17/2009 the comrade who wrote this letter was killed in Attica Correctional Facility

I received the January 2009 issue #6 of Under Lock & Key, for which I was most grateful. I salute the Mexican comrade for his excellent and exemplary contribution to that issue ("Misplaced rejoicing in prisons over Obama victory"). I am a Black man, the son of an Eritrean emigrant and a descendant of First Nation peoples and Africans enslaved and transported to the Amerikas. The comrade was right on target, especially when he wrote: "... How can there be real change if the system is never changed, only its leaders? For those of us who are convinced that we are 'soldiers' ask yourself, who's soldier are you? Are you some common criminal's soldier? Do you fight and work for greed, power and lust of recognition? Or will you be the People's soldier?..." Yes. I salute the comrade for his courage and determination. Palante, siempre, hermano!

I am responding as well to your request for feedback on your assessment of the prison labor/economics situation. I have been aware of the reality of MIM's findings for some time, and am in agreement with you wholeheartedly. I perceive that prisoners' disagreement with MIM's assessment is not rooted in an analysis of the facts on the ground but rather is due to their misunderstanding and confusion regarding the nature of our enslavement.

It seems that prisoners who disagree with your findings do so actually because they fear that such assessments will confound the acknowledgment of U$ imprisonment as slavery and a capitalist enterprise. U$ imprisonment is certainly slavery and it is certainly a capitalist enterprise whether prison labor is a source of great profits or not. Forced or coerced labor is not the most defining characteristic of slavery and such labor within U$ imprisonment is hardly the source of the real lucrative profiteering that stems from U$ imprisonment in general. The depraved creatures who crafted the language of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution understood this all too well.

slave n. one owned by another: one completely subject to another or to some habit or influence;
slavery n. the holding of persons as property;
(The New International Webster's Pocket Dictionary of the English Language, New Revised edition. Trident Press International 2002)

And it is enough for the state and government to "own" us to profit from us, whether we are sweating away in their industries or not. Much of the elaboration that follows is adapted from "Prison Town", by "The Real Cost of Prisons" project:

During the 1980's and 90's many jobs and sources of income evaporated in the rural and farm areas of this country. Federal, state and local officials were then tasked with discovering a new type of "growth" industry that would revive and sustain the dying economies of the municipalities, districts and sectors they were elected or appointed to serve. Prisons were touted as a viable growth industry with significant potential. Perhaps it was for this reason that former New York State legislator Daniel Feldman stated, "When legislators cry 'lock 'em up!', they often mean 'lock 'em up in my district!'" Certainly it was for this reason that Texas judge Jimmy Galindo said:

"We live in a part of the country where it's very difficult to create and sustain jobs in a global market. [Prisons] become a very clean industry for us to provide employment to citizens. I look at it as a community development project."

Some private developers build prisons in states like Wisconsin without legislative edict from officials and then "sell" the prisons, prompting people like former Wisconsin state corrections chief Walter Dickey to declare,

"... It flatly introduces money and the desire for profit into the imprisonment policy debate, because you've got an entity in Wisconsin, a private entity, with a strong financial interest in keeping people in prison and having them sentenced to prison."

Investment banks, construction companies, private developers, real estate agencies and many others stand to profit immeasurably from prisons in innumerable ways. Federal, state and local officials are then lauded for bringing financial security and economic prosperity to their respective regions and lobbyists.

This phenomenon was complemented by another phenomenon, namely the "mandatory sentencing", "three-strikes-you're-out" and "rockerfeller-type drug" laws introduced by legislators during the same aforementioned period of rural economic decline. It is no secret nor is it debated that such legislation contributed to a 370% prison population growth since 1970. Small wonder, then, that there are more prisons in America than there are Wal-Mart stores.

Thus it matters little whether the imperialist slaveowners can glean profits from our work on their institutional plantations. Their ownership of us prisoners ensures a diverse profit source, whether by accommodating the labor aristocracy or enriching corporate entities.

Thanks to MIM(Prisons) for providing a venue where revolutionary-minded prisoners can connect and exchange ideas. Among other things, Under Lock & Key certainly accomplishes that. I hope that the information in this letter will be useful towards compiling the upcoming issue on prison labor/economics.

MIM(Prisons) adds: As we explain in the introduction to this issue of ULK, we prefer Marx's definition of slavery to the one found in Websters and so conclude that imprisonment is a system of oppression distinct from slavery. We agree with this prisoner's discussion of the ways that corporations, labor aristocrats, and Amerikan imperialism benefit from imprisonment. In addition to the points discussed by this comrade, the lockup of oppressed nations by the U.$. prison system also prevents the self-determination of those nations through their own labor. So, while capitalist profits are not generally extracted from the 2.3 million locked up, that is a huge chunk of labor that is being denied to the oppressed that otherwise could utilize their people locked up to further the development of meeting the needs of their respective nations, and the oppressed people of the world in general.

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[Political Repression] [Abuse] [Texas]
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Brutality in Texas Prison

My mail is being illegally withheld. I have to hold on to my mail and mail it out whenever I go by the mailbox myself. This is only when I'm taken out to the mail hall for reasons that suit the corrupt administration. The mailroom supervisor, Glenda F. Vandiver, gives my mail to the titular officers. The unit OID Jeffery W. Armstrong also works along with the administration and has told me this.

I've been beaten up four times since I sent those grievances out [to MIM last month]. I was beaten up on 11/17/08 by 2 titular officers, Hicks and Hopkins. I sustained a blackened left eye, swollen shut; swollen left cheekbone; knots and bruises all over my face; and cuts on my left upper chin. RN Mary Gribble saw all my invoices and refused to report it. OIG Armstrong sat face-to-face with me as I filled out a witness statement about the violent attack and beating. He told me the titular officers who attacked me are his true friends and that he's going to protect them, and not report what he saw. Sgt. Betty J. Myers, "Safe Prisons ACA Coordinator," refused to take photos of my face, but took photos of my back while I was fully dressed. They are conspiring and covering up a criminal assault. They're all working together to hide and conceal the criminal activity, and the cruel and unusual punishment they subject me to daily.

My food is being contaminated with a noxious chemical. An officer told me that every one of my food trays is being laced with windex or ammonia. The officer no longer works here; he told me this before he quit. The chemicals in this windex cause me to lose consciousness, pass out. I have excessive vehement vomiting, dizzy spells, migraine headaches, blurred vision, starvation. I am deprived of showers and recreation.

I have reported all of this to the following staff countless times, and these ranking officials call me "cry baby" or "nigger bitch" to name a few: Wardens Dawn E. Grounds, Devery W. Mooneyham, and Kenneth L. Dean; Capt. Richard Pillot, Lt. Donna S. Jennings, "Compliance Sgt." William E. Lyon, Sgt. Dan Griffin, Lt. Kurtis Pharr, Lt. Robert M. Presto, Lt. Oriando Flecha, Lt. Steven W. Schumacher, Stg. Steven L. Harris, Sgt. Morrison, Sgt. Michael Kluck, Sgt. William A. Burroughs, and Sgt. Brian Pollock. More over, they are the orchestrators and authors of all my problems: the death threats, beatings, starvation, deprivation of recreation, medical. The aforementioned employees are the very crooks who make it possible for the non-ranking staff to do all these terrible, inhumane, evil, unconstitutional things to me daily.

When anyone calls this unit, they all claim to "look into it" or "investigate." They're not going to "investigate" themselves; no one will. The Director of OIG, John Moriarty, and Executive Director Brad Livingston, and Chairperson of TDCJ Christina Melton Crain, and [TDCJ Administrative Review] Ombudsman Kathy Cleere can have me transferred if the right pressure is applied. I have a huge stack of grievances to prove that I've contacted every office in TDCJ all the way to the Executive Directors. I'm not being protected in any way, shape, form or fashion and therefore need transfer to a completely different prison unit in this system because this is cruel and unusual punishment.

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[Political Repression] [Abuse] [California] [ULK Issue 7]
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Who are the Real Gangs?

I have been accused of this gang allegation but actually it is the prison guards at the prison, especially ISU and IGI, who are a gang, always oppressing and beating people up at their desire. I’m not sure if you have heard about how ISU operates at this place. In an attempt to catch prisoners off guard when they’re about to search for contraband, they rush into buildings and go straight to specific cells with huge pepper spray canisters on hand. When they reach their target they first start emptying out their canisters at the occupants inside, then ask questions later.

Now, when they do these raids they’re not supposed to enter the cells, but wait until the prisoners themselves put their hands out through the food port to be handcuffed or get down prone on the floor. Then they can open the door and pull them out. (They are not supposed to even use their pepper spray cans unless somebody’s safety is at risk or in immediate danger but they do it anyway.) This is a CDC policy throughout California’s prison system but it’s not what they do at this prison.

Right here they just barge in and after beating down the prisoners and cuffing them up, they literally drag them out of the cell. Also, while they’re restraining them, they always yell out loud for everybody to hear “stay down, quit resisting!” when they’re not resisting, in an effort to excuse their excessive use of force.

Later on you can hear them bragging about their abusive actions or making fun of how the prisoners were screaming. Needless to say, at the time they file their reports they always omit the part where they barge into the cells and beat down the prisoners. This is exactly what happened to me and my cell mate at the time back in December 2007, but when I filed a formal complaint against ISU they shot me down saying I took too long, that I only had 15 days to file.

The fact is, I did take longer than 15 days. It was several months actually. However, the appeals coordinator has the discretion to accept a late filing on a showing of good cause. When I explained my reasons (fear of retaliation, among other things) they simply responded that my appeal had been reviewed by the chief deputy warden in accord with AB05/03, and further suggested that I “research this in the law library” knowing full well that prisoners in ASU do not have law library access unless they have a court ordered deadline. Just another form of oppression by higher ups…who is actually the gang in this picture?

But they want to cover up their wrongful acts by locking us away indefinitely, in spirit breaking lockup units until we parole, die or become snitches. The worst part of all is that the so-called gang allegation doesn’t even have to be proven at all. All they need is “some evidence,” under their own standards, which they often fabricate. Or like in my case, use someone else’s on somebody they want to get rid of for any reason. It’s a convenient tactic they have been using for many years and since it has given them results, it doesn’t seem like they will be changing their ways any time soon.

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[Prison Labor] [California] [ULK Issue 8]
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Prison Labor and Economics in California: Who Really Profits?

There's a little over 4,200 prisoners at this institution. About 200 or more of these prisoners are level one. They are housed outside the gun towered perimeter, in what they call the minimum support facility. All of these prisoners have jobs consisting of laborer positions, from warehouse workers to clean up crews and landscaping, their wages are at a maximum of 13 cents an hour. Other jobs include dump/garbage truck drivers and car/truck maintenance. These other prisoners cannot earn more than 32 cents an hour. The rest of the population is level IV prisoners housed in A, B, C and D facilities, and two ASUs (D facility is SNY). With the exception of facility D, which has a joint venture program where about 100 prisoners earn the minimum wage. There are no other type of jobs in any of the other facilities, with the exception of support services positions such as yard clean up crews, kitchen, chow hall and a few clerical positions in education, program office, canteen, and law library. There would probably be somewhere around 150 job positions per facility with only about half of these positions being pay numbers earning anywhere from 8 cents to 32 cents an hour.

Yes, pay numbers are a joke throughout California prisons, and yes, we are being exploited to a certain degree, but not in the way that you may think. Profits are being made not so much from prisoner labor but from filling up the bed space in all of these prisons. Each prison creates more than 1,000 job positions with prison guards and medical staff being the highest number and receiving payment at about close to $50 an hour plus overtime. And it is my belief that besides the heads of the CDC, it is the prison guard's union that is profiting the most from our incarceration.

It is no wonder they always spend millions of dollars to kill every proposition or assembly bill that goes on the ballot concerning reduction of prisoner sentences or amendments to modify their biggest accomplishment, the three strikes law. Many people benefit from crime (police officers, public defenders, district attorneys, judges, etc.), and from incarceration in state prison, the matter at issue here. All these people in turn spend money and contribute to the imperialist economy. Then, there come the contracts each warden has with many different food suppliers where a lot of money is being handed down under the table. Also, the contracts with the phone company and package vendors where a lot of kick backs go to wardens or other head officials within the CDC. So as you can see, everybody's a winner in this game except us of course. With the biggest winner being the imperialist government, followed by CDC head officials and the prison guard's union being the ones getting the biggest piece of the pie.

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