Religion was part of the impetus that went into the creation of modern prisons in the United $tates of Amerika. With the opening of the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829 in Philadelphia, the experiment of molding human behavior with confinement and a bible, the idea was isolation and self-reflection would lead to penitence and a corollary eradication of sin, or criminality. However, the seeding of religion within such a volatile atmosphere never took root as designed, but has nevertheless served a persisting role behind the walls, bars and fences of condemnation and incapacitation, with positive and negative consequences. This short article visits the phenomenon of Black religion as it occurs from a materialist perspective within the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), and its implications relative to Black life inside and outside the walls.
Social organization within the MDOC is controlled by Black men from the enclaves of cities hosting large segments of Black denizens. Power dynamics on the prison yards were determined by crews and cliques from these enclaves, with the inhabitants of Detroit overwhelmingly determining the direction and atmosphere of the prison yard; but the power of crews and cliques would start to diminish as a result of the Black power movements of the 1960s and 70s which had serious implications on how social (power) dynamics would be reformed. This reshaped the inner prison structure within the MDOC.
The prison system witnessed an exodus of Blacks from Christianity into the bosom of Black Muslimhood (Islam) for many Black cons – often infused with a radicalism endemic of the times. As prisoners from the cross-section of Michigan cities with the largest Black neighborhoods adopted membership into religious organizations like the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA), Orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam (NOI), and lastly the Melanic Palace (and Islamic Palace) of the Rising Sun (MPRS/MIPRS), the diversity of the crews/cliques coagulated into unions of these religious folds. The yard was now structured, for the most part, by these four religious blocs who set the rules of compliance and how prisoners related to the powers that be: prison guards and administrators.
These Black religions served multiple functions from individual protection and a greater collective security in the face of growing quantitative and qualitative changes characterized by violence; a sense of belonging; quasi-familyhood and a material support system, however loose; an avenue to educate oneself and engage in character edification for self-betterment; an alternative power base to offset, counter and resist the state agency of the MDOC and its forms of repression, oppression, and aggression typical of a white political body utilized to isolate, control and dominate potential Black rebels, societal dropouts, and the politicized elements capable of organizing and fomenting direct opposition to white racism and anti-Black hate and containment.
During the onset of the 1980s, the Melanic Islamic Palace of the Rising Sun caught fire with its inductee membership [soaring] to rival other Black religious groups. But what set the Melanic Islamic Palace apart was their willingness to inflict violence on prison guards and staff. This, too, would prove to have both positive and negative consequences. Positive in that energy was invested in degrees of political education and the building of a requisite consciousness steeped in Black nationalist rhetoric, which spilled over and was consumed primarily by the NOI, and to lesser degrees the MSTA and Orthodox Muslims. Negative in that the State, like any serious sociopolitical entity, started focusing attention on these groups which would later bloom into a tsunami of backlash and repression that would blast the political and radical elements out of MDOC religious groups, pushing them to take up a near exclusive God-centric and moralistic brand of religious practice.
The Melanics would eventually be repressed, banned from group service, and branded a security threat group which is tantamount to free society’s terrorist designation. The ripple effects of this move would fuel the aftershocks for decades to come to this very day. Political content and its verbiage are now nearly obsolete among the Black religious groups for fear of repression and possible banishment of group worship. Radical activism has not only largely died out, but can also be frowned upon by Black religious adherents. The yard structure and its rules based compliance has all but evaporated with exception of a few prisons. And with those older prisoners from the 1970s and 80s having returned to society, become frail seniors in prison or having died off, a leadership vacuum was opened to be filled by the incoming street gangs of the younger generation who would steer asunder the remaining residue of rule by structure. A by-product of this alteration in yard power has been that the Black religious groups have become old in age relative to its membership, have become socially and politically ineffective, and have reverted to existing as mere prison social groups who sometimes operate as prison yard gangs.
In the midst of the expiring decades in prison from the 1970s to the 2020s, the move towards Black Muslim-ism in prison has had some serious uninttended consequences, mainly, a lost and/or move away from Afrikanism (consciously and unconsciously). Plagued by anti-Afrikan bias as a result of post-slavery cultural, spiritual and mental colonialism (mentacide), with the exception of few, the Black Muslim groups argued instead for an Asiatic and/or Arab identity that didn’t require them to identify with the savage, barbarian, backward, uncivilized Africans who had no history and remained primitive, as their white masters had intentionally misinformed them during the breaking process of Afrikans to Niggas. And when/where a colonial based Blackness was expressed, unbeknownst to its propounders, it was delivered from a religious package that actually vitiated Blackness as it grew out of a Eurocentric conceptuality birthed during the Hellenistic epoch.
This contradictory pro-Black western (Eurocentric) religious conceptuality carries itself from behind the walls into open society as one of the nails in the coffin to serious liberation struggle advanced by Black people inside the imperialist center of North Amerika. Unfortunately, Black has proven to be ineffective as a sole basis for unity in this country as its nuanced nature cultures fragmentation, and Black western conceptualized religion only fuels the fractures of Blackness into an extreme polylithic substance that rejects a collective Black consciousness that’s bound for, or even focused on liberation.
But does there exist any light to dispel this dark period of irrelevant prison-religion utility? With the 2022 revision to the MDOC religious policy permitting the group service of the indigenous Afrikan Ifa spirituality, and the often radical Hebrew Israelite religion, one might argue the cusp of change is potentially present, and a new day may be dawning. However, I am not convinced. The perpetual distortion of indigenous Afrikan spirituality with western conceptuality spells doom to prospects of Black religion being utilized for liberation purposes. And like education, if a subject is not used for liberation, despite whatever radical nature it may acquire, and pro-Black or anti-white rhetoric it protest, its final product will prove to be a pro-Amerikan assimilationist one.
So the problem with Black religion in prison, speaking in the context of Blackness, no different than Black religious experience in the free world, is it’s devoid of power politics, is Eurocentric (laden with western [Hellenistic] concepts), and is reformist-integrationist-assimilationist (pro-Amerika). These three elements fight against the ability of the Black body to develop a monolithic character (collective consciousness), at least as it concerns Black unity as necessary for our capacity to adequately struggle for liberation or an activist model and mentality that is capable of loosening the screws and weakening the bricks of the prison complex structure.
Prison religion, or Black religion in general has made Karl Marx into a prophet where they serve to actualize his quote: “religion is the opium of the people.” And while I am certain over time many brothers within the MDOC will be exposed to Ifa and even grow to appreciate and practice it, no different than those brothers who have acquired knowledge about Kemeta, it will yet remain tethered to western monotheistic conceptuality through which brothers will be taught to practice it. In this way, it’ll be of little consequence as the receiving receptacles will fail to decolonize their minds of western conceptuality. Instead, the example of the Haitian revolutionaries must be followed by marrying our spirituality to struggle for power. Otherwise, Ifa will function as a mere symbol of Afrikanism, and brothers will be lying to themselves about being Afrikan-centered while actually promoting an inconsequential cultural nationalism that does absolutely nothing to foment a consciousness that could serve as models to alter prison conditions to their benefit. Ifa will be a mere badge of knowledge; a gold chain or Rolex shown off as a fetish, and will soon be denigrated to the margins of irrelevancy on par with the rest of black prison religions within the MDOC.
In my final analysis, drawing from more than two decades inside the cage, I conclude Black religion in the MDOC has been regressive. And contrary to some external beliefs outside the walls, Black prison-religion is not progressing towards Afrikan-based religious affiliation. Black Islamism is still the preferred go-to as it has successfully positioned itself as the popular vehicle for black intellectualism, freedom and expression of Black pride. In the end, however, Black religion in the MDOC is failing Black convicts and has betrayed and continues to betray authentic Black activism and struggle.
It’s uncanny how books fall into your hands at times. Recently my circle has been discussing the subject of prisoners of war (POW’s) in the United $nakes and, what do you know, a comrade slides me this book on a POW who died imprisoned, the Chiricahua Apache Chief Geronimo.
Going into the book I treaded lightly as biography type books are quite biased. Many of the tomes written on leaders of the oppressed within the empire tend to be heavily biased slander that amounts to imperialist propaganda. This book was written as an “Interview” by Barret while Geronimo was a POW at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I went into the book bracing myself for a book that would attempt to tell Geronimo’s story while promoting Amerikkkan ideals if even unconsciously. I was not wrong.
The subtitle of the book itself is an error: “The True Story of America’s Most Ferocious Warrior.” Geronimo was a First Nations warrior. America is the name of the white nation who stole the land it now occupies. The subtitle thus describes Geronimo as a member of this white settler nation which is ridiculous, as he fought against Amerikkka.
The first part of the book focuses on general Apache life with an emphasis on the mythology of the Apache creation story of origin. Steeped in the metaphysical ideas of a “God” and how a talking dragon would visit early ancestors. Sadly many of the world’s societies have such creation myths that are passed down. It highlights the need for a materialist approach to all we do and gives a glimpse of how the world would think if we were without dialectical materialism.
Part two, “The Mexicans”, answered a lot of questions I had. Here it describes how at one point Geronimo and his tribe traveled into “old Mexico” – as he calls it – and while the warrior went to trade in the town they returned to a massacre where it was reported that Mexican troops had killed everyone including Geronimo’s aging mother, wife, and three children.
I had often heard of Geronimo’s anti-Mexican sentiment, now I know why. Contradictions among the people continue today where oppressed nations fight for crumbs and leave devastation on either side. It’s disappointing to hear, knowing Geronimo’s passion for fighting Amerika it would have been beneficial for the oppressed to join forces and fight Amerika as this was in 1858, ten years after the U.$. war on Mexico and the birth of the Chican@ nation. Surely there was much resistance sparking and embers of resistance still burning.
I can’t stop to wonder had a united front of oppressed nations come together and resisted the U.$. how it would have resulted, add Black folks in the mix and it would be even better.
The first half of the book seemed to exalt Geronimo’s raids and murder of Mexican people. The first half has almost no mention of his war on the white nation, on which much of his reputation is built on.
Part three titled “The White Men” depicts various attacks and treachery when U.$. troops would call “peace” only to meet up and murder the Apache forces. At one point the Apache Chief Manigus-Colorado was called by the U.$. military for peace talks and assassinated. Geronimo seemed to be the only one who did not trust the U.$. troops or “white men” and thus never attended peace talks during that time period and lived through the treachery.
Chapter 16 titled “In Prison And On The War Path” was chilling to read. Here Geronimo contemplates war on Amerikkka and death. This portion of the book struck me more than any other of the passages. I feel his words and taste them internally. To me it’s as raw as it gets for those of us who are prisoners of war.
"In the summer of 1883 a rumor was current that the officers were again planning to imprison our leaders. This rumor served to revive the memory of all our past wrongs, the massacre in the tent at Apache Pass the fate of Mangus-Colorado, and my own unjust imprisonment, which might easily have been death to me.
“We thought it more manly to die on the war path than to be killed in prison.”
So much to unpack here. The mention of the leaders being imprisoned brought back memories of Pelican Bay SHU. The SHU was where leaders of the imprisoned oppressed nations in Califas were kidnapped and “imprisoned”. Taking leaders is a common practice of the oppressor nation. For Geronimo it triggered the Apache when they heard that their leaders would be kidnapped again. That’s a very traumatizing experience. I feel it. For those who have never been captured, tortured or kidnapped I can only say that the closest example I can give of Geronimo’s words here is that of a child who was kidnapped by a stranger, taken from their family and returned as an adult and then one day this persyn was either snatched again or told that another person would be kidnapped. Imagine the trauma this persyn would feel: the memories of being taken. The trauma likely became unbearable to the point that resistance, even resulting in death, must have seemed welcoming.
It seemed that every few pages Geronimo or his tribe would sign another treaty with Amerikkka. A lack of political investigation resulted in decisions based on subjectivity. As materialists we know that the oppressor will not relinquish power willingly, hystory has taught us that. Had Geronimo been a dialectical materialist he would have come to that realization much sooner.
Reading how the U.$. Army General Miles told Geronimo he would build Geronimo a house and give him access to cattle and provisions if he would simply stay in his place on the reservation was really revealing. Geronimo was a prisoner of war and knew it. Today many Chican@s and other oppressed don’t even know that we too are prisoners of war, for the U.$. war on Aztlan continues. We too are in a reservation called the United Snakes.
A low intensity war continues on the Chican@ nation. The U.$. government has always maintained an offensive on the colonies since the invasion was first launched, the offensive simply changes names, vehicle, and nationality, but its vision and operation remains fully intact. On April 20th, 1886 U.$. troops stationed in Arizona and New Mexico were issued this order by the U.$. War Department:
“The Chief object of the troops will be to capture or destroy any band of hostile Apache Indians found in this section of country and to this end the most vigorous and persistent efforts will be required of all officers and soldiers until the object is accomplished.”
If one were to substitute the word “Chican@s” instead of “Apache Indians” this statement could have been written last night. Insert the dreaded “gang member” which the colonizers love to use to vilify oppressed nations youth survival groups and the statement may be even more authentic to today’s mission. The pigs are tasked with accomplishing this mission in their war on the poor. Political groups or parties claiming to work in the interest of the oppressed here in the Snakes who do not move in ways that acknowledge this program of protracted soft war on the oppressed while conducting their work in the field in the so called interest of the colonized reduce their efforts to crass concerns of proletarian morality.
Today the state is resuming its offensive to “capture or destroy” hostile indigenous people (Chican@s, not First Nations in this context) and as the statement says they are obligated to do so “until the object is accomplished.” “Their vigorous and persistent” efforts today amount to the KKKourts, three strikes, “gang” enhancements, hyper-policing, and of course murder and assassination to none but a few.
It is not that Chican@ people are dimwitted and without comprehension to grasp that we are being attacked and targeted. What muddies the water is to see Chican@ or Black pigs carry out this program of “capture or destroy.” This works in the state’s interest to disguise the ONGOING onslaught on our people, that has not stopped since 1848 and before. As one long chain of oppression the state may employ Chican@ Toms and Black Uncle Toms as actors, but it is a state operation, that is: a program of white supremacy to maintain white power.
At the end of this book it’s a shame to read about Geronimo converting to Christianity to which he describes associating with Christians will “improve my character”. A warrior reduced to surrendering to the oppressor. Metaphysical thought like Christianity has not “improved” the character of the oppressed, rather, it has worked to subdue and pacify even one of the “ferocious” warriors like Geronimo. There’s even a picture of Geronimo in his Sunday best with the caption “ready for church” at the end of this book.
This was an interesting book that teaches one of the injustices committed by Amerikkka against indigenous peoples; but there are also lessons of how a warrior can (through the brute heel of the oppressor) become broken and surrender, and in doing so lead much of eir people into the abyss of plantation-minded Amerikan apologia. I needed to read this book at a time of extreme repression in my own life to re-energize and I think you need to read it as well. To die on the war-path for liberation . . .
The minimum security prisons out there afford some freedom of movement. To the 85%er this freedom of movement, no matter how limited, is interpreted to the 85% as freedom in its totality. This is partly due to the knowledge that he doesn’t have a free-dome. So let’s now focus on freeing the dumb by giving them the correct knowledge. So far the one who isn’t “free” mentally, we’ll now explain the difference between freedom and the illusion of freedom.
True freedom means liberation. The illusion means reforms. Liberation is an exodus or a migration from the system that it springs from – slavery. Reform is an adaptation to the slave system that makes it seem that since you received a trinket, you have received freedom. The difference is based on the truth vs the illusion. The world over, there are still struggles that stem from a lack of freedom. This lack of freedom is different for those who aren’t free, I’ll explain.
You see physical freedom does not preclude mental freedom. But mental freedom can only come from a free-dome. Ask yourself this, will the person who enslaved you free you? If you look at the history, the role between captor and the captured only changes when those who were captured unchain themselves. So the question answers itself. In Amerika a so-called war for the emancipation of Blacks was fought. However, we know that Ol Abe Lincoln only freed the slaves because ey had to not because ey wanted to. In fact Texas celebrates Juneteenth because they were the last state, 2 years after everyone else, to free their slaves. The North, who wanted to industrialize Amerika, saw that the South if it had the manufacturing industries like cotton gin etc. that they could take over Amerika because of its free slave labor. So they fed on the moral factor of the slave as an incentive to fight for the cracker. But what happened after the war?
Well let’s see, vagrancy in Amerika was illegal because you couldn’t pay taxes, so whitey invented black codes and then came up with convict leasing camps for anyone who couldn’t pay taxes. Brothers were right back where they left and convict leasing led to the legislation of the 13th Amendment that put us back into slavery in the penitentiary. So are we free or were we ever free? The answer must be no.
Yesterday marked the 52nd year anniversary of the assassination of comrade George L. Jackson. George bravely gave his life to the revolution. Let’s not let his legacy die. In the spirit of George and all our other beautiful comrades, let us usher in the true freedom, not the illusion but the true freedom. First acquire knowledge of self so that you can mentally be free and then once we acquire mental freedom we can physically take back what is ours. If we don’t know what to fight for we’ll keep ending up in prison well the maximum security prison. To change that we must transform our communities from minimum security prisons to people’s collectives. Get the devil out & destroy him.
Power to the People
MIM(Prisons) responds: Peace, Comrade. We thank this comrade for covering the importance of the subjective forces with regards to the liberation of the oppressed.
We would like to comment shortly with regards to the Civil War. This comrade states that the Civil War was fought between the North and the South due to the former’s rivalry to the South and its fear that the South’s industrialization would beat the North quickly due to the latter’s chattel slavery. However, we would say that the chattel-slavery mode of production of the U.$. bourgeois dictatorship in the South was an impeding factor for the development of the productive forces (what is often called industrialization) and that the U.$. empire found out that this backward relations of productions far out-lived its usefulness and need. Not only did it keep the South in a backwards agricultural economy, it also bred the new Black nation inside the U.$. borders which would to this day remain an intense problem population for Settler-Amerika.
There are many discussions today in U.$. society of what the Civil War was over. The neo-confederate fascists obscure the line and muddy the waters by saying that the Civil War was a war over “state’s rights.” The bourgeois Liberals say that the Civil War was a war where Amerika’s democratic values were restored to the fullest and united the empire. As Marxists, we see the class forces behind these conflicts rather than the psychological state/goals of individuals participating in it. The truth is, that the chattel-slavery relations of production was more bad than good for the U.$. empire by the time the war erupted. The class forces that wanted to keep it in the South such as the landed aristocracy (i.e. family bloodline plantation owners) and the agricultural bourgeoisie (i.e. modern capitalists who operated in cotton and other various industries of agriculture) were in antagonistic contradiction against the industrial bourgeoisie of the north who was leading the development of the productive forces in the country. We tell the fascists that if there was no slavery, then there would have been no Civil War. We tell the liberals that enslaving oppressed nations for parasitic superprofits is as Amerikan as apple pie. The Civil War helped release the New Afrikan masses to become a true proletariat, selling its labor power on the market.
And as the author above alludes to, the empire continues its war against the internal semi-colonies within the United $tates as well as the oppressed nations around the world, and the only solution to this contradiction is liberation.
Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” is an overnight viral hit, accumulating millions of listens and ranking as the most streamed song on iTunes in Amerika and right now 28 million views on Youtube plus over a million likes. With that catchy southern twang, and a message speaking to workers directly, it is clearly resonating with a lot of people – but what does this mean?
Let’s look first at the lyrics to get a sense of what this song is all about. There’s two main parts of the song that i think really get to the root of what Anthony’s trying to convey. Ey points out:
“Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat And the obese milkin’ welfare Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground ‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down.”
So there’s two matters here: one is the issue of fat people milking welfare, and the other is the plight of the Amerikan workers. Welfare is no doubt a gift of imperialist parasitism paid with super-profits, and MIM pointed out a long time ago how Amerikan minds and bodies are rotting on imperialist parasitism, highlighting the contrast between affluent imperialist countries and the poor exploited countries.
MIM said basically that overcoming imperialism is the only way to reshape food production and consumption, to address the disparity in obesity rates with an equitable distribution of resources to effectively tackle the issue. But so long as imperialism remains, so does parasitism which always fattens up the unproductive of the empire and feeds on the hard working poor of the world. So now here’s the other issue, that question of the plight of the Amerikan workers. Factually, the U.$. government safeguards its labor aristocracy (most of whom are unproductive workers in the service industry) through a multifaceted approach, utilizing OSHA guidelines, mandating minimum wage laws, regulating maximum working hours, and ensuring collective bargaining rights. This is all ensured with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Department of Labor (DOL), and so on.
In terms of safety, the U.$ is among the safer of countries for workers as it pertains to workplace fatality – still far from perfect. Our most dangerous industry is agriculture, forestry, and fishing with a fatal injury rate at 20 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Migrants from south of the U.$./Mexico border make up around 75% of U.$. farm workers so it is no surprise that the most dangerous industry affects Amerikans the least.
But back to the song. The refrain goes:
“These rich men north of Richmond Lord knows they all just wanna have total control Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do ’Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end ’Cause of rich men north of Richmond.”
These are your typical Amerikan’s grievances with the system: the government is too big, and the feds won’t keep their greedy hands off your money. Considering Biden’s new plan for 87,000 new IRS agents and his incessant drive to intervene in the affairs of crypto currency companies and his promotion of a new IRS rule to require anyone who earned over $600 on payment apps (like Paypal, Venmo, etc.) to file a 1099-K form to ensure taxation is being paid by lower classes – yeah, maybe this resentment is understandable. But really, Amerika is ranked 32nd out of 38 OECD countries in terms of the tax-to-GDP ratio.(1) Belgium (42.8%), Germany (39.9%), Denmark (38.9%), etc. pay higher taxes, and also receive better social programs. Even the tax rate in Hungary (35%) is higher than in the United $tates (16.4%), which is just above i$rael (15.5%). Since the top 25% of earners pay 89% of all income taxes, and since virtually all Amerikans make more than 90% of the rest of the world in income, is the dollar really worth shit, are Amerikans really taxed to no end, as Anthony claims? [editor note: Not to mention U.$. dollar values being propped up by interest rate hikes that are decimating the value of currencies in exploited countries that must pay debts in U$D.]
No, so what are Amerikans complaining about? Taxes in the U.$. contribute to funding programs such as education, healthcare, social security, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, food assistance, veterans’ services, infrastructure projects, environmental protection, and public transportation; Amerikans have access to clean water, electricity, smartphones, cars, internet connectivity, modern healthcare, education, reliable infrastructure, well-stocked supermarkets, and recreational facilities, which are often unavailable to many in the third world.
So again, what are Amerikans complaining about? Typical Amerikkkan tears over the incompetence of their imperialist leaders who are unable to share the super-profits from the neo-colonies effectively. This is why we rely on science, not frog-in-the-well subjectivism, to inform us about the world.
In recent years the labor aristocracy has been shook. The 2016 and 2020 elections show deep-going upset in different segments of the population, which is leading to strange ideological currents among the youth (including a return to religious dogma on the one end and a clinging to nihilism on the other). Some people have just given up on society, so a kind of Kaczynskian primitivism is also making a come-back.
We’re seeing some class problems blow up too, with unions taking more action across the board (with the rail workers, the baristas, and now the script writers and actors in recent months). The crypto-Trotskyite “left” is capitalizing on these grievances to pick up speed and organize, especially among students and younger workers who want a bigger piece of the Amerikan-bloodsuckin’ pie.
Inflation has driven up prices and this month it was revealed how Amerikans have racked up more than $1 trillion of credit card debt.(2) While high credit card debt in general is an indicator of high access to consumption, the recent increases seem to be linked to higher prices. The student debt crisis is also haunting the Amerikan consumption rate, because Amerikans own $1.77 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of the second quarter of 2023. That’s serious, and students have gotten to the point of just saying “hell no, we ain’t paying that.”
The government, or at least some forces in it, are responsive to that, with the Biden regime talking about “student loan forgiveness.” But it hasn’t been successful. The first time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of Education did not have the power to waive student loans under the HEROES Act. So Biden is now trying the Higher Education Act of 1965 to justify it, and ey just recently was able to perform an IDR Account Adjustment for 800,000 borrowers. This still doesn’t make the youth all that happy, and a large percentage of the older generations opposed the attempt at debt forgiveness.
Aside from class issues, there’s still heat picking up with the abortion issue and the question of censorship, and other things regarding your typical sex and drug issues. There’s a clear polarization between the youth and the old when it comes to how they approach this and see the world, the former seemingly liberal and the latter seemingly conservative. Generational disputes are all too common a sight now, each generation blaming the other for all the problems we face in the world today.
There is clearly a LOT of frustration, a LOT of unease and anger too – but is that really enough for a revolution? We will have to see the historical forces that the youth (especially the oppressor nation youth movement in the 1960s) and how to discipline this force for non-adventurist and scientific forms of resistance than individualist hedonism.
The proletariat’s more than the working-class, it’s defined by a more precise relationship to the ownership of the means of production, consumption, and relations to other classes. It’s the class that is not only dispossessed (without private property), it’s the class with nothing to lose but its chains. Do Amerikans now got nothing to lose but their chains?
Let us look at it from the standpoint of material comfort. Homes built in the last 6 years are 74% larger than those built in the 1910s, an increase of a little over 1,000 square feet – the average new home in the United $tates now spreads over 2,430 square feet.(3) The Biden regime is claiming that the bourgeoisie added 236,000 jobs in March(4) and a solid 187,000 jobs in July(5), and that the unemployment rate has fallen to just 3.5%, matching the lowest level in half a century. They’re claiming also that wages are rising faster than inflation. These claims would indicate that the situation for Amerikans isn’t really all that bad.
In 2019, MIM(Prisons) explained in “Economic Update: Amerikkkans Prospering in 2019” that amerikans are prospering with a stable economy and low unemployment, increased average wages and leisure time, more homeownership and accumulated wealth, etc., all kinds of indications of economic prosperity. There were some issues in 2020-2021 because of the pandemic and surely an economic crisis of big proportions is bound to crop up, but right now the tides seem to have stemmed – at least temporarily.
There is really no sign of proletarianization on the horizon. Maybe it will happen soon, but Comrade Mao said “Marxists are not fortune-tellers.”(6) To speak of lumpenization is perhaps more accurate than predicting proletarianization, i think both are possibilities with the decline of Amerikan capitalism.
While the contradictions described in MIM(Prisons)’s article on the expected recession in 2023 have not been resolved, the crisis has still not hit here in the heart of empire. The self-destructive nature of capitalism-imperialism will lead to wars and other man-made tragedies where these parasitic economic privileges we have will eventually end. Some examples of “fortune-telling” by Mao would be what time, date, and year a recession starts or an imperialist-war breaks out. Maoists do not concern ourselves with this type of prophecy – it is actually the labor aristocrat and petty-bourgeoisie movements of fascism that loves conspiracies and finding prophecies (such as the fascist nonsense promoted in the Elders of the Protocols of Zion and the reactionary QAnon Movement that seems to love Anthony’s song).
In Amerika, the left of capital and the right of capital divide themselves on the issues of culture war but functionally have the same vested political interests in maintaining the status quo of capitalism-imperialism. Occasionally some of these people on the left wing of parasitism present themselves as radicals, anarchists, even sometimes Maoists, but the truth of it is that these are not communists.
The digital landscape’s been churning out a lot of these personalities in recent years. MIM(Prisons) has commented on some of these trends in Some Discussions on Bad Ideas (ULK 79), with attention to how
“communist groups are far outshadowed online by memes, twitch streamers, tik tok spheres, instagram pages, internet forums, and the likes when it comes to converting kids to communism than communist organization internet presence. This has given rise to the problem of communism becoming more akin to a sub-culture talked about on social media sites like twitter and reddit than a political movement. Different political stances from Maoism, Trotskyism, all the way to Stirnerite Anarchism cease to become guides to action, but a thing to put on your bio. Various people’s wars and nations at war become more akin to fandoms for TV shows to obsess and argue over rather than a movement to popularize and create awareness for. Political line ceases to become a belief and action that one takes, but a take one has so they can get on the algorithm. Line struggle turn into flame wars with no purpose of uniting with others, but exist only to express one’s individual self for the cathartic feeling of having the correct line.”
One of these recent digital trends has been known as “MAGA Communism,” with notable support from the likes of people named Haz Al-Din and Jackson Hinkle. This camp has positioned itself against the left and the right, opposing liberalism but also conservatism, taking bits from both sides. [MIM(Prisons) previously referred to Haz in the intro to our review of Pao-Yu Ching’s *From Victory to Defeat for eir meaningless definition of socialism, saying that every country in the last 100 years has been socialist.]
When it comes to songs like this one, it is seen as a message of class struggle by this camp. Haz claims “this song about class struggle by @aintgottadollar, a working class Virginian has gone viral overnight with millions of views from ordinary Americans. The masses are far ahead of the current right wing and leftist grifter ideologists who benefit from dividing the people!”(7)
Similar sentiment from a like-minded camp, calling itself “Patriotic Socialism,” is echoing much the same; you will find this view all over social media, especially the cesspool of Twitter where these ideological currents permeate. Opportunistically, they’re all invoking class struggle.
Well yes, the song is about class struggle but what kind of class struggle? Comrade Mao pointed out “this question of `for whom?’ is fundamental; it is a question of principle.”(8) i don’t see any real concern for the international proletariat in this song, i don’t see any mention of how this dying empire treats the rest of the world with diseases, bombs, sanctions, subversion, and other ways to bring death and destruction to fatten up the Amerikan ticks. So who does this song serve?
Comrade Mao said “all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines.” That’s why when analyzing literature and art, ey said, “the first problem is: literature and art for whom?”(9) This song is serving the interests of the labor aristocracy, albeit a disaffected branch of the labor aristocracy that has elements of both the right and left-wing of white nationalism.
Anthony eyself has said that “both sides serve the same master – and that master is not someone of any good to the people of this country.” This is conveniently being ignored by the MAGA right, who have taken Anthony as their savior and prophet. For example, here is what the right is saying:
“Rich Men North of Richmond is a key example of the populist-nationalist vs establishment paradigm. The anti-establishment message is gaining traction right now, and explains the dynamic we see in the GOP primary where career politicians are struggling against outsiders.” – Jack Posobiec (10)
“You might notice a theme there… [speaking of both Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” & Jason Aldean’s “Try that in a Small Town”] People are starved for music that speaks to them about today’s problems.” – Rogan O’Handley (11)
“Oliver Anthony is a star […] inside of the hearts of the people […] millions of us, with whom he has touched with his music, as somebody who is just desperately searching for a better world in a place that has been strip mined by our elites, and we are angry about it.” – Benny Johnson (12)
Ben Shapiro also praised the song, calling it “the cry of a lot of people in the United States” who feel “there are too many people who have their hand in their pocket, particularly elites in the federal government.”(13) So why ain’t the mainstream left vibing with it? Well a main reason is the song’s attack on the fat people (which they’re calling “fatphobic”) and Anthony’s denunciations of the “welfare state,” but i also think a contributing role is the general anti-southern chauvinism that is characteristic of the liberal-subjectivists in our country. Anthony is from the rural Appalachians, specifically North Carolina.
MIM(Prisons) notes that “there are various groups of people in the United States who share the physical misery of these rural masses – American Indians, Chicano farm laborers, Black tenant farmers in the South, the dispossessed whites of Appalachia. But most of these groups are scattered and weak, living on the fringes of capitalist society, away from its vital centers.”(14)
While the urban petty bourgeoisie’s reaction to Oliver Anthony is partly based in a disdain for southerners, the question is, how do we transform the thinking of those with gripes against the system? How do we get them to drop their vested material interests in parasitism, militarism, and conservatism? That requires more investigation, more practice. To speak of Anthony as this enlightening Buddha of the century is not scientific, his thinking is still backwards and merely reflects some tussles between the labor aristocracy and the imperialist bourgeoisie, but it is not great enough a leap to really consider this some kind of revitalization of Joe Hill or Woody Gutherie.
I think the most important thing to grasp in light of this song is that imperialism is basically in crisis and there’s a lot of discontent at home, and this is fueling contradictions of all kinds. Comrade Mao made it extremely clear that “there is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist.”(16) The question we need to deal with is how to tackle and wrangle with these contradictions.
The key to contradictions and their resolution is practice. Comrade Mao conceived of it in this way: Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. Stepping up practice is a big leap along the way of figuring out problems and having our thinking correspond to really-existing laws that govern society. As fascism and social-fascism step up to the plate and imperialism crashes into deeper peril, advancing our work as Maoists is key to ensuring our survival and our ability to meet the challenges that come ahead.
The challenges ahead are gonna be difficult but we are taught not to fear hardships or sacrifices, not even death. Focusing on ideological unity, strengthening our organizational bond, digging deeper, and keeping at it, more answers will reveal themselves about the nature of what’s going on and what we need to do. More practice is what we need. That lofty criterion of practice is our compass to success and our life-blood.
With practice, we gain insight, we gain consciousness, we gain unity, and we gain struggle and pain too. It ain’t supposed to be easy. We are up against a big ass labor aristocracy serving a strong imperial empire and its representative drones in the White House. But they won’t win. That’s what strategic confidence is all about. This is all a paper tiger, and practice proves that empire ain’t all that.
So long as the proletariat of the Third World is revolutionizing, and the empire is dying, the situation is excellent in my eyes. Our day is coming, don’t let the grifters, tricksters and swindlers fool ‘ya.
27 January 2023: At about 5:30-6:00 PM the nation watched the horrific video of 5 policemen who beat a man literally to death weeks prior. The man, Tyre Nichols, was handcuffed and had no way to defend himself as 5 large officers beat the man far beyond what anyone could call humane. Dogs don’t get beat this bad.
I saw this in my dorm from USP Tucson, in the day room. Of the seven televisions in the dorm, four was on the CNN broadcast of the vicious beating. At least half the dorm of over 100 prisoners in here watched in horror and shock, witnessing the same thing the rest of the United $tates (and the world) was viewing. I have never seen such interest in a television event outside a sports event.
I sent an email to the Warden of the prison, challenging him if he approved such methods. This could be seen as an insult, but what we see on the streets of America is simply a reflection of what commonly happens in the prisons of the United $tates. For decades staff brutality has been common, and often overlooked in prisons, because many may believe that the victim probably deserved it, or the prison staff will lie and cover up the act.
I have to believe that what happened to Tyre Nichols that horrible night, which resulted in his death a couple of days later, could have happened in part here at USP Tucson… multiple times, and happens in many jails and prisons in our country.
I believe this likely happened to a prisoner here back in November of 2022, shortly after an incident in a nearby camp, where a prisoner managed to acquire a gun. He would have likely shot and killed an officer were it not for the fact that the bullets did not match the gun. We at USP Tucson went on a lockdown for 3 days, although we had absolutely nothing to do with that incident. That was a different facility, yet we were punished anyway, which led to a second incident.
A few days later, on November 18th, we went on a month long lockdown because we heard there was a “staff assault.” If this was the case then the usual protocol for prison staff is to beat that prisoner physically, then throw him in the SHU until the wounds heal… it is what they do.
How bad did they beat the prisoner here? Did they cuff him, and like cowards, beat that man with sticks, tase him, kick him and slam him on the walls? It’s pretty easy to beat a man if you outnumber him 5 to 1, and cuff his hands behind his back.
We have to compare what happens in prisons to what happens in the streets. We seem amazed that what happens to George Floyd, Rodney King or now Tyre Nichols, is so unusual. This is very common in the prisons, and you have to ask the staff here at USP Tucson if this is the method they approve of.
It must be, if it continues to happen.
Why would law enforcement treat humyn beings so horribly? And to be stupid enough to do it with a BODY CAM on? Did they not know that this would be viewable to anyone in time? Why would you beat a man to death, with the cameras on?
This is an idea that prisons fear greatly; they fear that if society knew what happens in prisons, coupled with how law enforcement is clearly losing the ethical training they have, there would be such a cry for justice that the country may not be able to contain it.
But consider: some don’t sympathize with prisoners being brutally beaten because in some way, they think that the sentence of prison comes with the brutality of abuse. Yet the Constitution clearly disagrees. No human being deserves to be treated like that, to be beaten by another officer. No officer working in the United $tates is given a green light by the government to beat prisoners. Yet, it happens, and many excuse it because maybe we believe that deep down, the prisoner must have deserved it.
So reflect back to Tyre Nichols, why would those cowardly officers beat a man to death? Could it be that maybe they felt that Tyre “deserved” to be beaten… but if so, why?
Here’s one idea, one I have seen from the prison point of view: In prisons, where there is a disturbance, they call it “hitting the deuces.” When this happens, for example from a fight, officers come running from everywhere. In seconds, you can see up to 50 officers on the scene.
But note, when this happens, these officers get into a different frame of mind. The adrenaline rush puts many of these officers in an almost rage. Once that rage sets in, that officer is looking for a reason to release it. They are almost HOPING for a physical altercation, so that they can release that rage that is created because the situation could be a violent riot where a life may be lost.
The problem here is that once an officer gets into that adrenaline they don’t know how to come down, and so they are looking for a release. This happens very often in prisons, and no doubt, it happens in society. The problem is that these officers are not taught to TALK down to de-escalation, rather they are looking to make demands and argue.
Prisons prove this happens all the time, and many prison officers are not trained to de-escalate a situation; they are left to act on their anger and rage, which results often in physical violence, most times on defenseless prisoners.
So, I asked the Warden, does he approve of the methods we saw in Memphis… based on how staff treats prisoners, I think we know the answer. Their advantage: they don’t wear body cams, so they can get away with murder, literally. All they have to do is blame it on the prisoner, lose the footage and lock everyone down for a few weeks, so they can clean up the mess.
The Warden, as of August 10th, never responded.
UPDATE: On 12 September 2023 the five pigs were indicted on federal civil rights charges in addition to the state charges of second-degree murder they are already being tried for. The four-count indictment charges each of them with deprivation of rights under the color of law through excessive force and failure to intervene, and through deliberate indifference; conspiracy to witness tampering, and obstruction of justice through witness tampering.
The blackest pupils you’ve ever seen Es mi hermano A man who wore his emotions on his sleeve Angu ndugu i’ve only touched his finger tips & even that violated the policy of no human contact But it’s mi hermano … i’ve never seen a grown man cry That’s how I remember those blackest eyes i literally sob at the feet of the giant his mattress rolled up at the front of the cage & me sitting cross-legged on the tier it’s how I spent my hour, every hour I was ever allowed to be out my cell. Had to beg the officer, almost like saying yesa massah At least that’s how I felt it to me But at that moment there’s no place in the world i’d rather be than with mi hermano His enemies think they got the last laugh & you should’ve seen how the badges danced … The captive told the captor that’s a captive that’s better off dead But it’s mi hermano & this is something i never will forgive!
My Black and Brown brothers know this prison system entrapment Huey said die for the people like Fred Hampton So many comrades left oppression in the Angola Slave Plantation Box Long live the spirit of a freedom fighter “Albert Woodfox.”
My eyes see the systemic racism of the U.$. capitalist We will never let them break our spirits and sanity The power’s in the Black fist.
We believe our cause is noble throughout the 44 years of solitary My people have spent decades in the dungeons but still stand in solidarity They have deliberately tortured us in torment but our hearts is still barbarity We have rose above the muck and the mire of the real clarity.
Never should we forget the “Angola 3” It’s political blood shed for you and me We fought for freedom for Mutulu Shakur and Ruchell Magee
This a dedication to the black liberation We have inspired our spirits of resilience We strive to free the land for equitable liberty and cease violence.
My brother’s legacy is revolutionary some are still alive and some in the cemetery I thank NAPO and MXGM the pillars of strength from the torch we carry
As previously predicted by myself and various others within the prison movement, the trend around the nation’s prisons towards intrusive digital mail policies has now officially made its way to Texas state prisons, the biggest prison system in the country.
According to a public service announcement released by TDCJ on 7 July 2023, beginning on 17 Jul 2023, units will no longer accept general correspondence. Instead general mail must be sent to the digital processing plant at:
TDCJ [inmates full first and last name] + number P.O. Box 660400 Dallas, TX 75266-0400
The public and official justification for this move towards more intense surveillance of the mail is the current drug epidemic within TDCJ. Each incarcerated persyn reading this and many out in the public have direct experience with the effects of this sad daily occurrence of overdoses, drug induced suicides, the drama daily instigating violence and intimidation amongst people in prison, the walking zombies, the toon attacks. the loss of morals and character to drug addiction. We can not act as if this isn’t occurring, and it is not my intent to justify these occurrences within this writing. However, my intention is to state that the states’ official justification (the drug epidemic) isn’t sincere.
The new policy doesn’t come as a shock to many of us. Frankly, for most of this decade prison departments across the United $tates have been doing the same thing utilizing the same justification (inmates getting drugs through the mail). The courts for their part have upheld these intrusive policies, under the pretext that departments provide alternatives for receiving mail, books, and other functions of prison life.
The sincerity of the state’s justification must be questioned due to their own actions. The daily inattentiveness regarding drug culture exhibited by the staff allows the epidemic to function. Daily, every staff member from wardens to the lowest officer on the totem pole can see, smell, or otherwise experience the elements of the drug epidemic within each TDCJ unit.(1) Most times, officers and staff look the other way for various reasons. For their own safety and security while doing a potentially dangerous job certainly is one of them, and another is certainly that officers and staff, to a very large degree prefer an intoxicated prison population. I’m not speaking about the executive branch of the agency. The people in business suits are not in tune with the attitudes and mindsets of the employees on the ground. If they were, they would know what each inmate does through observation. Prison officials choose the lesser of two evils, feeling that the drugs act as sedatives and will calm tensions within the prison which is somewhat true.(2) They opt for this instead of the contrary largely sober-minded prisoner which is more often than not harder to control.
The policy will allow legal, media, and subscription mails to still come to the unit. All other mails will be received at the warehouse or will be returned to sender. This policy extends the distance between families and their imprisoned loved ones, straining relationships on top of the genocidal sentences a lot of us are serving in TDCJ and around the country. These police-state policies are helping to destroy our families.
And for those of us within the prison movement, how does this policy affect us and those on the outside who support us? I propose that organizations develop communication funds which will go to alternative communication lines. These funds would be invested towards proven cadres who can make their individual work spread amongst the people. These new communication lines would be autonomous and clandestinely utilized to forward serious organizing work.
As the state continues to clamp down on illusionary elements of democracy, we must organize ways around their various intrusive sanctions while developing the capacity to reconstruct the power relations of this society.
The time has come to liberate Our political prisoners. There have been decades of conversation, of litigation, and other passive acts of resistance with little to no results.
GENOCIDE! This policy perfectly depicts how the health and future of Our families and as a result Our peoples is at stake, under attack and reeling.
Courts have thus far upheld similar policies elsewhere. Saying that realistic penological interests are being met, as prisons use the pretext of the current drug epidemic as the reason for this policy, and the courts further assert that prisons are offering a viable alternative (the tablets).
The first units that will experience this policy are: Allred, Coffield, Polunsky, Powledge, Plane, Garza West, Clements, Halbert, Robertson, and East Texas ISF, with more to follow in the following weeks, according to the public service announcement.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As soon as this policy was implemented, the attacks on prisoner communication have started. A prisoner in Stiles Unit in Texas reported on 25 July 2023:
“We were recently given tablets and our e-messaging, phone through the tablet. I’m on Ad-Seg, in Restrictive Housing (RHU). On 10 July 2023, my wifi and e-messaging, as well as my phone were taken from me for no reason. According to TDCJ, all mail will be digital now, since 17 July 2023. But certain people were taken by surprise to wake up with none of our mail or phone. Without any explanation. We have been asking and sending I-60’s grievances about this, but still no one will give us an explanation. What can I do?”
The comrade asks if the censorship rules mentioned on the first page of ULK would apply to this situation. And it’s a good question. These prisoners mail is effectively being censored, so it would seem so. But we are not lawyers. And it is likely that this would need to be tested via the courts.
Some prisons in Texas, like Polunsky and Allred Units, are just returning to sender all mail from MIM Distributors sent to the prison, including media which according to the rules is supposed to be sent there.
Another problem comrades are facing is when we send them forms in the mail, they cannot print them or fill them out, because they are only given to them in a tablet.
“This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.”(4)
Notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2017, “Epidemic of K2 Overdoses at Estelle, Throughout Texas”, Under Lock & Key 59. 2. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, “TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop”, Under Lock & Key 73. 3. MIM(Prisons), June 2022, “FL, TX Censor Revolutionary 12 Steps Program”, Under Lock & Key 78. 4. A Virginia Prisoner, January 2022, “A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones”, Under Lock & Key 76.
A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.
Part One: What Happened?
It is imperative to recount the details of an event that happened many years ago here at USP Tucson. At about 2:15pm, Thursday, July 21 st, an incident happened which begs this question: Did an officer here at USP Tucson use excessive force against a prisoner?
First, the details At about 2:15-2:30pm: a friend and I were sitting against the fence on the soccer field yard, near the corner of the yard. From where we sat, it was close to the sidewalk, which led into the hallway that was close to Education. We were the closest prisoners to the vantage point.
About that time, it was the Northside Program move, when the prisoners here can leave the dorm and go outside, or go back inside, or go to the Library, Indoor Recreation or other places, so there was movement of the prisoners, but also of staff as well, since it was also shift-change. As my friend and Isat in the shade, we saw volunteers from religious service leaving the building from the door closest to Education. They were coming from the Chapel, which was in the same building as Education. There were also two officers, one being the officer in question. Let’s call him Officer Burt, although Officer Coward could be a better name. The other officer I do not know.
At the same time, there was an elderly prisoner, Mr. Montgomery (his name I would learn later) who came down the walkway and headed towards Education - or that area. Normally prisoners don’t use the sidewalk to go to Education, they are supposed to go through the prison yard; but for whatever reason, he did not.
My friend and I saw Montgomery go in, just as the volunteers were leaving, through the same door. He went in, then we heard some exchange of words: someone was asking Montgomery why he didn’t go through the yard as he was supposed to. He was then told to leave; and as he came out, Officer “Burt” first told him to leave. Then he changed his mind, telling Montgomery to put his hands up, because Burt was going to put cuffs on him.
Montgomery… a 60+ year old man, turned to Officer Burt, and put his hands in front of him. I saw very clearly this action, and perhaps it might took like Montgomery was being aggressive; but he did EXACTLY what Officer Burt told him to do. Montgomery thrusted his two hands up in front of him, much like one would after running their hands through a bowl of water, pulling the hands upwards. But Officer Burt paused for a split second, then immediately went and grabbed Montgomery and slammed him into the fence.
Among the endless profanities Burt spoke - while the volunteers of the religious service looked on - Burt proceeded to roughly put Montgomery on the cement, breaking his glasses and drawing blood from his nose or lips. It was very clear that Montgomery wasn’t resisting, yet Burt roughly forced the prisoner face down on the cement… on a 105+ degree day, while the volunteers looked on.’
Montgomery showed no reasonable signs of resisting; an elderly man (or any man) slammed on the fence, then on a hot cement sidewalk while profanities are spewed over him, while forcing his arms to his back, will naturally resist a LITTLE: it’s a “fight or flight” reaction.
The second officer helped Burt subdue him, as help was called. It was shortly canceled, as Burt told them it was under control. The volunteers were held away by another officer, while Burt and the officer pinned Montgomery down, and put cuffs on him, as a bleeding Montgomery cried.
I then heard Officer Burt say, “He lunged at me”, to which I felt immediate contempt. He told the officers arriving on the scene that Montgomery LUNGED at him, which justified his actions. After cufﬁng him, they picked Montgomery up off the cement, and took him inside, Burt cursing continually.
Later, my friend and I sat there, furious at what Burt did to that old man. From the same doors to Education, a couple of staff members came out, looking at the small area of blood left by Montgomery. My friend and l were still there, in fact moved closer to see the blood spot. I overheard the two staff members talk about the incident, but tried not to be too nosy. One said, “i can’t believe he did that in front of those people”.
Who was he talking about? Montgomery… or Officer Burt?
So, I saw what happened, and was sickened by Officer Burt’s response to the situation. Naturally, when the other prisoners on the yard saw what happened, they came over to see the situation. They asked us what was going on, and I was adamant in saying that Montgomery did NOT lunge at the officer. One of the other prisoners said that the officers told Montgomery to go through the yard, and he refused. He was stubborn about it, and decided to take his own route to Education or Psychology. I heard he was trying to go to Psychology, so he could get his medication.
So—excessive force? Was Officer Burt’s actions necessary, or was this based on a man with a quick—temper? Consider the factors: USP Tucson — although a penitentiary, is almost non-violent. One case manager once said, “this is the softest penitentiary in the country.” Most prisoners are non—violent (at that time, because MUCH has changed in the last few years), or ex gang members trying to leave that life behind. So relaxed is this prison, that during rec move, the softball field, the middle yard, and the soccer field can be full of prisoners, with ZERO guards, because it is not needed. This was not an “active” yard, so aggressive confrontations with officers are minimal; hardly existent at all.
So was this exessive force? We’ll explore that in the second part.
Part Two: So Was it Exessive Force?
So, what are we looking at? A situation where an elderly man, in his 60s, is taken down by an officer when he “went the wrong way” here at USP Tucson. The officer (let’s call him Officer Burt) told the old prisoner to put his hands up because he was going to cuff him.
The prisoner, named Montgomery, did as he was told, and in the action, he put his hands up straight in the air. Officer Burt paused, then roughly pinned Montgomery to the fence, then took him down to the hot cement… all this while visitors to the prison for the religious service stood mere feet away.
Is this “Rodney King 101”, where an officer can justify rough and excessive treatment of an elderly prisoner, who happens to be on psyche medication? How will the prison justify this action? Normally this is a simple task for the prison to do; they’d just ignore the prisoner complaint and discredit anything we say. After all, nobody believes prisoners: that’s the running theory.
But there’s a problem with that this time: there were witnesses from outside the prison. Those volunteers for religious service came from ministries outside the prison, right here in Tucson. Will the prison say that those people didn’t see what they saw? Or, will those visitors believe Officer Burt’s story, and make Montgomery the villain? I might wager the latter, but it depends on what those people from religious service is willing to believe. I mean, I know what I saw; they saw the same thing.
So now the problems in society; the abuse of authority by officers, now reflects in this prison (which has always been an issue). This isn’t new: officers have been roughing up prisoners for the longest time, but the prison never took accountability, because it’s always our word (the prisoner) vs their word (the prison). But now with about 5—6 visitors from a ministry, looking on while Officer Burt virtually assaults a 60+ year old man, breaking his glasses and drawing blood, the prison has to find a way to spin this.
It was also interesting to note: I saw officers running to the scene when the “deuces” were hit (a call on the hand unit for help). I could be wrong, but when some of them arrived, they were hesitant to physically get involved because they saw the visitors. Had they NOT been there, would they have been more aggressive? Even the second officer with Burt seemed hesitant to assist Burt, possibly having a moral check; was he thinking, “is this the right way to go about this?”
So, what happens now? If I know this prison, they’ll defend the shield and do the wrong thing. An officer with a quick-temper showed poor judgment and excessive force on an elderly man on medication in front of a group of volunteers from outside the prison: witnesses. There is no question that in my eyes, my friend’s eyes, the prison surveillance and the volunteers who saw the incident that all the facts were congruent. It all matches.
So, IF the prison chooses to side with Officer Burt, they are wrong, and no different than abusive police officers who beat people or kill them, then justify it to the victim. Something has to be done to restore respect to these officers, and I fear that this prison may not be capable of doing that.
Proverbs 17:15 says:
“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord”.
I don’t expect the prison to do the “right thing”, because it would be an admission that they make mistakes. And they’d never admit that to prisoners. They’d rather cover it up, discredit or forget the valid points of view we give. Yet in doing this, prison abuse flourishes. Just two weeks prior to this incident, a man was murdered in the SHU (Specials Housing Unit) based squarely on prison ignorance and neglect. Officers have been accused of discrimination, yet the prison has been slow to act, if at all.
Bad behavior by officers is ignored, or even rewarded, since many get promotions; but half questionable behavior by prisoners have been met with full frontal condemnation.
Where does it end? Sadly, at this rate, it won’t. Prisons don’t learn from their mistakes, even if it is shown on television shows a hundred times. Prisons believe they can do what they want to prisoners because it’s some given right; and if (when) they do abuse people, it’s like Las Vegas: “What happens in [prison] stays in [prison].” Besides, who believes prisoners anyway?
But I didn’t lose my humanity when I got locked up. I still have values, so I will stand strong on this, regardless of what people say or think. Prisoner or not, people should be treated with a level of respect until something critical changes the situation. Officer Burt is known for having a temper; I had a run in with him before, and I am not a fan of his tactics at all. That doesn’t make me prejudiced against him (from one black prisoner to a black officer). I think he’s a bad officer, and persecutes prisoners because he can get away with it; and nobody working at USP Tucson has the intestinal fortitude to hold him accountable. Lots of officers here are like that: not ALL, because there are a couple of “good” officers here, but people like Officer Burt make prison so much harder than it needs to be.
The punishment is to BE in prison, not the abuse done by any officer. So, this incident which happened several years ago, as I look back at it. Montgomery got his family to sue the prison for abuse, which I helped by documenting what I saw. I hope it got Burt fired. But, years later, not much has changed. Bad officers get promoted, while the good ones leave, going elsewhere.
USP Tucson has gotten worse since then, so, I have to keep writing.
I have written and spoken extensively over the last couple years about the impact that recent heat waves have had on incarcerated people housed in non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia and in the Criminal Injustice System in general. I even drafted and disseminated a proposal for the creation of a state-wide, coalition-based movement to shut these prisons down. As of the date of this writing, none of the so-called prison justice and prison abolitionist organizations I sent it to in Virginia responded or expressed interest in it.
A comrade of mine then created an online petition in 2022 to raise public awareness about this issue and build momentum for shutting these prisons (i.e., death traps) down. Last checked, the petition had 560 signatures. Buckingham Correctional Center alone houses 1,091 people, so there should be more signatures on this petition.
Since I began writing/speaking about this issue, the dissemination of my proposal and the creation of the online petition, historic heat waves have increased exponentially, both in frequency and in record high temperatures. And with these increases must be increased pressure and organizing to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down.
Since the beginning of summer, the U.$. and most of the rest of the world have been gripped by deadly and historic heat waves. Science and medical experts the world over have warned that deaths caused by extreme heat will only increase each summer without some sort of action to mitigate climate change. They say that elderly people, obese people, and those with diabetes, heart disease and other serious health related issues are the ones most at risk. Time and time again, people confined to prisons, jails and detention centers with poor ventilation, substandard medical care and partial or no air conditioning are left out of the category of those most at risk during these record heat waves.
I just read that in Texas, which incarcerates more people than any other state in the country, the temperature inside its prisons regularly exceeds 120 degrees during the summer and as result, hundreds of incarcerated people have died there from extreme heat exposure in the last few years. Predictably, Texas prison officials have denied the number of deaths and the deaths they have acknowledged they falsely claimed were not caused by extreme heat but by other causes. So, on July 8, loved ones of incarcerated people and other community members attended a rally inside the Texas state capital demanding an emergency session be held to address the issue and for funding to be allocated to install AC units inside all Texas’ prisons. We need similar rallies to take place here in Virginia every summer when it is the hottest and not later in the year or the beginning of the year when the temperature and the issue of extreme heat inside non-air-conditioned prisons both starts to cool down.
SOME ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW:
Sign and share the following petition to close three main non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia at: https://chng.it/T5hzhPsJXM
Call/email Virginia’s Governor, Secretary of Public Safety, and Director of the Department of Correction at the contact information below demanding these prisons be shut down due to the extreme heat suffered by the people incarcerated there and that housing people at the named facilities under those conditions constitutes torture and cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Glenn Youngkin, Governor of Virginia Tel: 804-786-2211 Email: governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office
Robert “Bob” Mosie, Secretary of Public Safety of Virginia Tel: 804-786-5351 Email: [email protected]
Harold Clarke, Director of Virginia Department of Corrections Tel: 804-674-3000 Email: [email protected]
Help build a statewide, coalition-based movement specifically to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down. The proposal for the creation of such a movement can be found on my blog at https://consciousprisoner.wordpress.com/2022/10/01/preliminary-proposal-for-a-statewide-campaign-to-close-shut-down-non-air-conditioned-prisons-in-virginia/.
Please reach out, get involved and help build this movement before incarcerated people in Virginia start dying on a level like they are in prisons in Texas.