The deeply appreciated efforts of MIM inspire me to see with a different view the same circumstances. Let's look at the current election:
Both candidates have an utterly failed platform. The Amerikkkan elections are about Amerikkkan hegemony; keeping Amerikkka the richest and most militant/violent nation on earth.
There is no revolutionary voice or worthy candidate. Have we heard anyone say "All the wealth of the world belongs to all the people of the world?" That's the revolutionary voice.
Have we heard any candidate say "The goal of humynity, including politics, is to solve the problems of hunger, lack of shelter, cure diseases and end oppression across the globe. Politics is NOT meant to exploit people beyond national borders or to see that we have 'more and better.'" If you heard such a speech you heard a revolutionary voice.
Have you heard a candidate say "This is my plan to assist other nations to work in harmony with us to end world hunger, child mortality, lack of medicine and education, and dire poverty. Some candidates speak of the upper 1%, but I'm here to tell you that if you live in the United $tates you are the upper 13%. It's past time for us to see all people as our family. The Haitian in the slum is your sister, my sister. The Nepalese man living in the street is our father. The infant who died in Bangladesh from a treatable fever is our daughter, yes, one of us humyns."
When you hear that voice, then vote. Until then, ignore the candidates and work together for the day when your political power comes from the barrel of a gun.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade nicely summarizes where our priorities should be as world citizens: focused on ending oppression for people suffering under imperialism around the world. We know that the capitalists will not peacefully give up the power they use to generate great wealth from the majority of the world's people. In fact, even after a communist revolution that seizes the government for the interests of the world's oppressed, we can expect that the former bourgeoisie, and even some new bourgeois recruits, will attempt to take back their wealth and power and they will need to be kept down with force until they can be re-integrated as productive members of society.
We call this phase of the revolution the Dictatorship of the Proletariat because it still involves a government with power over people, but that government is acting in the interests of the proletariat, unlike our current government which is really a Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. There will be a long period of socialism while we remould society and our culture to educate people in treating others humanely and working for the greater good rather than for individual gain at the expense of others. During this process we can expect to see a new bourgeoisie attempt to take power from the proletariat, as their goal and culture will not disappear overnight.
We learn much from looking at the histories of the Soviet Union and China under socialism, both about this bourgeois counterrevolution and the cultural revolutions necessary to build towards communism. In imperialist elections we recognize that changing the face of the government doesn't change the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and we stay focused insist on overthrowing this dictatorship rather than adjusting the makeup hiding its evil face.
I greatly regret to have to inform you that my Under Lock & Key No. 51 (July/August 2016) was denied and appealed here on the unit level on 14 September 2016. That said denial was upheld on 3 October 2016. I look forward to each issue of Under Lock & Key and I already miss this one dearly.
I would like to inform you that I have tried several things listed in the Texas Pack but to no avail. As for the Offender Grievance Program/Administrative Remedies, there are no such things in existence. But what we do have is Administrative Criminal Victimization. I have written the U.S. Department of Justice concerning many issues and I get the same response letter every time. No help.
I've also tried going through the ARRM Division Administrator concerning the denial of a Step 2 grievance but got no response. I have also written to several of the contacts that are listed in the Texas Pack and have gotten no response from them either. I have also filed a Sworn Complaint with the District Attorney here in Coryell County and got no response.
You have educated me a great deal on how to stand when nothing else I have tried seems to work, and these people are not open to reasoning of any type. I just wanted for you to know that I haven't been sitting in here doing nothing after requesting the information that you have sent me to date. I am one of the very few that are willing to stand up for themselves when his or her Rights are being violated and here is the situation that you just have to understand: today's inmate/offender is broken. The State has broken the spirit of those that had one to begin with and they are content with the way things are and the way that they are being treated. And that, I am sorry to say, is a cold, hard fact.
In Solidarity, Spark Plug
MIM(Prisons) responds: The U.$. prison system has been somewhat effective at breaking the fighting spirit of people it deems threatening to the status quo, as this writer and many others in Texas attest. But our present system just can't help pushing the limits of how much it abuses people. In response to this abuse, new people are turned into revolutionaries every day. And once you know, you can't unknow. Texas comrades need to be there to direct the discontent into productive projects as it arises, lest these potential comrades fall to defeatism.
We knew going into it that the tactics in the Texas Pack are likely ineffective on an individual level. But some people have seen some relief, even though it's sporadic. An important aspect of this project is that everyone who signs up for a Texas Pack also gets a subscription to this newsletter. While they are seeking remedy through the administrative and legal channels outlined in the Texas Pack, they also have the opportunity to learn more about the reasoning behind the project, and the other campaigns United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons) are working on. Then through the pages of ULK we can develop our struggle on a broader scale than just filing grievances and writing letters. Keep on struggling! Keep your input coming!
In 2016, actions on and around the 45th anniversary of the historic Attica prison uprising were the most widespread we've seen. For the last five years, September 9 has been a day when comrades in the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) come together to commemorate Attica by fasting, striking, studying and building peace and unity for the anti-imperialist movement. The UFPP was initiated by a number of prison-based lumpen organizations across the United $nakes in 2011, with dozens of organizations and cells signing on to the statement since then. This year's activity was so great because another protest was also underway on September 9th in prisons across the United $tates. This one, initiated by the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) and promoted by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a project of the Industrial Workers of the World, affected at least 57,000 prisoners in 31 prisons where lockdowns or strikes lasted at least 24 hours.(1)
All of this comes on the heels of a summer in which we reported on the hunger strikes in Wisconsin, Ohio and Louisiana calling for an end to the torturous practice of long-term solitary confinement. In addition, a North Carolina hunger strike gained some concessions around mail censorship. These impressive displays of unity and activism are a good sign for the prison movement.
Events this September 2016 have been historic in themselves. As we continue our reporting on the Day of Peace and Solidarity, here we will highlight some of the events not led by UFPP signatories. The work strike and peaceful protest at Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan was the largest incident the Michigan Department of Corrections has seen since 1981.(2) We had received a report from Hiawatha Correctional Facility in Michigan, which was also locked down on 9 September, though there were no actions there:
"Ever since 9am we have been on a lockdown. The comrades in Level II [most of the prisoners] in Kinross have done a protest because of the living conditions, the food, and no fans and heat, and this actually started on September 9. Prisoners walked out of their job assignments, so the unsecured Level I prisoners who work in the kitchen served the Level II prisoners brown bag meals."(3)
The action at Kinross started as a peaceful march of 500 people protesting conditions. After the prisoners had returned to their housing, 100 pigs attacked them with shotguns firing pepper spray.(4) This led to substantial property damage and Michigan DOC are now moving about 250 activists to higher security prisons to repress their protests.(5)
Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama was the origin of the work strike against "slave labor," initiated by the Free Alabama Movement. MIM(Prisons) has been cut off (censored) from Holman for some years now, despite attempts to reach comrades there. On September 1st a pig at Holman was murdered by a prisoner in an act of rebellion. The unsafe conditions led to staff going on strike while the prisoners were still on strike in late September. Many guards have since quit, leaving the camp short-staffed to manage the population. We have often pointed out that if there is one thing that pigs and prisoners might have unity on it would be safety. While often times the staff takes up the state's position that pitting the prisoners against each other is a good management strategy, this does take a toll on the sadistic pigs who do such things and sometimes the violence is turned on them. The CO must ask emself, do i really want to die over a plate of food? This is exactly what happened at Holman, where it is reported that striking COs notified FAM ahead of time and expressed support for their peaceful demonstrations against human rights violations at the prison.(6) This is a rare occurrence in the United $tates and speaks to the disfunctional status of the Alabama prison system.
In South Carolina, prisoners at Turbeville Correctional Institution reportedly fought back, gaining control of the prison for some hours. Triggered by an uppity pig, it came the day after a prisoner was murdered by staff.(6)
In California it's reported that, "Over 100 prisoners have gone on hunger-strike starting September 9th, demanding the firing of a brutal guard, access to basic food, and an end to solitary confinement at two county jail facilities in Merced, CA."(6) We do not have any contacts at either Merced County Jail. In recent years California has decentralized its prison system due to overcrowding in the state prisons, sending many people to local county jails. Overall, this has reduced the connectedness of the California prison population and made accountability more difficult. As these facilities are often less prepared to house the growing populations of long-term prisoners, we might expect conflicts there to continue to increase.
We are currently fighting an apparent ban on all mail from MIM(Prisons) to prisoners held at Chuckwalla Valley State Prison. The CDCR has not yet acknowledged an official ban, but rumors there are that it is a result of September 9th organizing.
A comrade in Pelican Bay State Prison in California sent documentation of censorship of mail from the IWOC because it included "Plans to disrupt the order." This comrade, along with others, began a hunger strike on September 9th. They submitted a list of demands signed by 12 prisoners on B-yard including oversight of rules violations, a wage increase, and a number of demands to improve conditions of the oppressed nations outside of prisons.
We should also mention a series of actions on the outside, in many cities, organized by those supporting the prison-led strikes to both attract attention to the strikes and to pressure the administrations to listen to the reasonable demands of the prisoners.(6)
In the last issue of ULK we discussed our lack of interaction with those in wimmin's prisons. It is worth pointing out that the one state-run prison in California that has reported participating in the work strike was the wimmin's prison at Chowchilla where a strike with full participation was carried out. Events over the last month point out that wimmin's facilities are not our only gap in coverage. We have long been aware of our lack of access in prisons that hold migrants because they are so segregated from the general population, often face more repressive conditions, and face a language barrier. On top of that there are whole segments of the men's prisons that we are not plugged into. Sometimes repression and censorship, like at Holman, can cut us off. And if mail is cut off to us, then people can fall off our mailing list quietly. This demonstrates the need for more volunteers to work with MIM(Prisons) to better focus our efforts regionally so censorship isn't allowed to persist due to lack of administrative capacity.
In California where county jails have suddenly become long-term prison facilities, and they are institutionally separated, USW comrades working on the inside to spread ULK and other materials can play an important role in reaching more populations.
While there are common threads that connect the whole criminal injustice system in this country, conditions vary from state-to-state and prison-to-prison. Because of how the government is structured, focusing on statewide organizing is important. That means identifying the principal contradiction within your state and developing campaigns that will mobilize the masses there. We expect states to have similar campaigns, but as we can see from the list of actions above, some populations are motivated by ending solitary confinement, others see a need to focus on breaking down divisions between prison organizations, others over mail censorship, and others over wages. We must assess what will move the masses, as well as what battles are strategic in gaining ground towards liberation.
We have great unity with those trying to demonstrate the continued national oppression of New Afrikans by Amerikkkans today, and demonstrating the historic linkages with slavery. However, when FAM says "The State and the [Alabama] DOC are profiting hundreds of millions of dollars off over the approximately 10,000 free labors who report to work each day inside of their prisons, to jobs in the kitchen, maintenance, runners, road squads, laundry, libraries and gyms, to stores and sandwich shops, yard crews, infirmaries and dorm cleaners etc." we have to disagree. How can the state profit off of prisoners preparing food for other prisoners when no money is exchanged for that food; when the food is paid for by the state itself?
It can be a good tactic for prisoners to engage in work strikes as that will impact the operations of the prisons: many do rely on prison workers to keep things running. And it certainly would increase the cost of incarceration if prisons could no longer use free (or super cheap) prisoner labor. But we shouldn't mislead people to think that prisons are profitable. They are a huge waste of government money! Money that the imperialists and the Amerikan people have agreed for decades now is well-spent. If we fool ourselves into thinking this is just about economics and not about national oppression and population control, we will end up on the wrong path.
We did not get much first-hand reporting on the actions inspired by FAM's call to end prison slavery. But it is inspiring to hear of all the organizing that has been happening lately. There's more going on than we can keep tabs on. This reinforces the need to expand the number of people working with USW and MIM(Prisons)! We need our volunteers to continue to step up. We need our released comrades to come out and support those left behind. We need comrades behind the walls to build independent institutions of the oppressed, and reach the broad masses so that all of these struggles can be better connected and we can continue to strategize to win!
by a North Carolina prisoner October 2016 permalink
As the comrade whom recently filed an civil case against NCDPS stated “there are no rights, only power struggles.” Currently a prisoner entrapped in the cages of North Carolina, I testify his comment as truth. Censorship within NC prisons has been expanded from safety examination to harassing and illegal.
Censorship has become as a tool to cover up the corruption, tyranny, and oppression. Not only outgoing and incoming mail, but also phone calls. When an incident of corruption occurs, these facilities will not allow prisoners to utilize commissionary to purchase stamps, envelopes, or paper. Following the stoppage of canteens, warehouse officers will cease the issuance of paper and envelopes for those of us who are indigent.
The continuous banning of ULK, and similar publications is a problem, but not our only problem. Those of us who are experiencing these conditions, we have to create a vanguard. And the comrades in Texas, California, and the like, we must create a voice. Where is the unity? Where is the solidarity. We have to construct a united front. It doesn’t only occur in North Carolina. Maltreatment of prisoners occurs all across Amerika. We must step up to cease these problems. Our sons, daughters, the future generations, we must fight so they aren’t subjected to these circumstances.
Censorship in North Carolina has risen to the point where it’s an impossibility for my loved ones to receive a letter. Censorship in North Carolina has elevated to the plane where legal documents are not reaching their intended destinations. NCPDS has become so oppressive to where there isn’t a law library in any correctional facility throughout the state.
NCPDS attempts to counter-attack, more appropriately worded as prevent, a rise of consciousness. The preventative measures began with stripping us of the tools which was used to enslave us: politics, economics, and jurisprudence. As the historic figure Fredrick Douglass wrote to Gerril Smith, the abolitionist, in his letter entitled "No Progress Without Struggle":
"The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions, yet made to the august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
Mr. Fredrick Douglass continues:
"Those who profess freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are he who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand."
Is the prison industrial complex not the contemporary plantations? Are those of us who are locked away in the penal systems of Amerika, denounced, then deprived of their rights? Dr. John S. Rock, an accomplished physician and lawyer, who was the first New-Afrikan attorney admitted to the bar of the United $tates Supreme Court said, "The greatest battles which they have fought have been upon paper."
We are stripped of our rights according to their principles, laws, and constitution. North Carolina this is the time to support each other, to unite and form organizations, on the inside and outside to voice against the oppression. You are not alone. For all of those whom are oppressed, we have one common objective: to end it! Comrades, please aid your assistance by advice.
The first step is organizing!
One for all, all for one!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We previously reported in ULK 52 on a former prisoner's lawsuit against North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) for censoring Under Lock & Key. Since that article we have not seen any updates on this front.
In the meantime, Director of Rehabilitative Programs and Services Nicole E. Sullivan recently responded to our appeal of the censorship of ULK 51. In eir response, Director Sullivan acknowledges that ULK has a policy against violence and insurrection in our newsletter, ey still says peaceful protest when no other administrative avenue has provided any relief is a threat to safety and order. The real threat to safety and order is the deplorable conditions of confinement that prisoners in North Carolina and across the country are forced to live in. It seems Director Sullivan sees prisoners as inanimate objects rather than people.
As ridiculous as this response is, we need a lawsuit to get NCDPS to budge on its censorship of ULK in the short-term. Getting ULK into the hands of prisoners is one major way we work toward addressing the long-term problems of oppression that NCDPS is able to operate under.
Also as part of our long-term strategy, we need to go beyond Frederick Douglass and the "prison industrial complex" analysis. While Douglass did provide inspiration for many, when it was time to decide between New Afrikan self-determination and integration with Amerikkka, Douglass affirmed eir loyalty to empire and was even appointed U.S. Marshall of the District of Columbia. This was at a time when others, including Harriet Tubman, were organizing separatist movements and independent institutions for New Afrikans, post-Civil War.(1)
We oppose the line that prisons are set up for profit (the analysis of the "prison industrial complex") because not only is it simply not true that the prison boom is motivated by profit from prisoner labor, it also glosses over the primary purpose of prisons: to control oppressed populations.(2) When we have our historical analysis ironed out, we will be better able to take on our oppressors and win!
by a South Carolina prisoner October 2016 permalink
Within the last six months at this institution there has been at least one riot in the unit where I was housed, and several assaults by officers upon prisoners, which resulted in officers getting stabbed and/or beat up.
This particular institution has a long history of racism, oppression, and repression directed towards Blacks. In the past, it was basically one-sided, as far as the violence - only officers assaulting prisoners. However, that dynamic has changed drastically.
Needless to say, these people have been shipping prisoners to different institutions throughout the state. I haven't been shipped, but I've been moved a couple of times.
A little over a week ago there was almost a lumpen-on-lumpen situation, but some of the elders were able to obtain peace, since that particular situation I made it my personal responsibility to hold some classes to help educate these youthful lumpen on what it means to have unity.
I am also sad to inform you that on the September 9th Day of Peace & Solidarity there were several prisoners who stabbed each other up - thankfully none of them were killed. Since then, we have been mending the different fractures that exist among the lumpen organizations here; we've been using the ULK newsletters as tools to teach, education, and unite the various groups.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This was one of a couple disturbances that occurred in South Carolina on or around September 9th that were not actually part of either of the major countrywide organizing efforts made for that day. This goes to show how hostile conditions in the state are. We commend this comrade for making the most of the difficult situation. It is in times of strife that change can often come.
For the second time in about one month over 900 prisoners at River North Correctional Center were given piss tests. Now if a prisoner is causing problems that indicate drug abuse, it's perhaps reasonable to test him. But testing the entire prisoner population is a fishing expedition just hoping to catch someone.
Do the prison pigs have some admirable goal? No. They just catch people to make lives miserable by taking jobs, suspending visits, confining in seg, etc. If each test and lab fee is just $30 then the pigs spent over $54,000 in a month on the off chance they might get to punish someone for using drugs that were not prescribed.
For thousands of years humans have used mind altering substances. The "soma" of ancient India, the mushrooms of the Incas, peyote, opium, reefer, and alcohol are but a few examples. Only recently — within 100 years — have governments made the "drugs" illegal. What have these laws done to stop drug use and abuse? Nothing, as we see drug abuse at an all time high. These imperialist laws only target people, ruining lives with jail/prison while lining the pockets of the pigs with money for funding of the "war on drugs."
A few generations ago a community had cobblers and tailors, blacksmiths and silversmiths, lamp makers and other craftspeople. The cobbler knew the people and knew the kids had warm, dry feet due to his skill. The lamp maker knew she gave them light. Today, how many of our household items are made by people we know? Our shoes are made in a factory by a kid operating a machine at exploited wages. The store with neighbors who called us by name was an imperialist casualty, destroyed by greed.
Imperialism, with its global capitalism has destroyed us. Drug abuse is merely a convulsion before death. But you can be revived. You can join us in re-structuring our communities, our form of government, our lives. That's the call of revolution. Are you willing to die in order to feel alive? Let us use the things you make and let us make the things you need. In revolution every person has an essential part and there's no time for addiction or drug abuse.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We like this author's point about the waste of time that is drug abuse, and the reality that this abuse comes from the alienation fostered by capitalist culture. We sent some feedback to this author on eir first draft of this article because it took up an anti-corporate line that seemed to promote small scale capitalism rather than anti-imperialism. We know that we have much unity with this author and so suggested ey rewrite it. This rewritten version is an improvement but still we want to clarify that small scale capitalism is still capitalism. It is true that huge corporations are a product of imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. But we don't want to promote nostalgia for petty bourgeois businesses because that's a reactionary approach; trying to go back to another time. Another time that of course never really existed, since even the early days of capitalism were full of war, oppression, slavery and land grabbing. As this comrade explained, we need a revolution to restructure society, and when that happens we will be able to build a new society where people engage in productive labor, which benefits their community. But it will not look like the capitalism of a few generations ago. We will eliminate the system of profit-driven work, instead allowing all people to work for the betterment of society.
In the course of our discussion with this author over eir article ey correctly noted that Walmart will die when imperialism dies in North America: "Walmart exploits laborers around the globe and is a foundation of Amerikkkan imperialism with revenue that exceeds the gross national product of many small oppressed nations. Yet its foreign laborers are paid pennies per hour. Most of their products are from India (semi-fascist regime) and China (state sponsored kapitalism) where workers are exploited. Not patronizing Walmart and not purchasing products manufactured by exploited workers is an 'attack' or at least a 'stand' against imperialism. ... The corner deli or the local mom/pop shop isn't exploiting workers in any nation."
While this comrade is right that big corporations like Walmart are doing far more exploitation of Third World workers than small shops, we don't agree that the corner shop isn't exploiting workers in any nation. They are selling the same products or using the same raw materials that everyone else in the United $tates is selling/using: most of it comes from Third World labor at base. Most products in Amerikan stores are manufactured in other countries. So we shouldn't mislead people into thinking the stuff they buy in a smaller store is exploitation-free. Further, the companies that promote "Made in America" products are not off the hook. Many of them are still buying raw materials and machinery from labor in Third World countries and just assembling products in the United $tates. Finally, most of the U.$. economy is not even productive industries. The service and financial sectors employ most Amerikans, distributing the wealth within U.$. borders, exploited from other nations via trade and extraction of real goods. There is no way to escape participating in the economy of exploitation.
So we don't tell people to boycott Walmart because we don't want to mislead people into thinking that they are going to make a difference under imperialism by favoring one type of exploitation over another. If the exploited workers in another country initiated an action against Walmart (or any other corporation) and asked for our support with a boycott, that would be a different story because that is not Amerikan consumerism feeling good about itself by switching where we spend our ridiculous wealth. That would be internationalist solidarity for exploited people rising up against imperialism.
"America cannot exist without separating ourselves from our identities."
The fight began in 2011, with a lucrative proposal from a Canadian company to access tribal lands to transport crude oil to the Gulf of Texas. The construction they say will help create permanent jobs, the money given to the tribal councils will help meet the needs of the people. In reality, this pipeline will create an environmental disaster. America can't even fund its own infrastructure, how can anyone expect maintenance of a pipeline on sovereign tribal lands?
Take into consideration how all of the government spokespeople go ballistic at any violations of any treaties bestowed upon foreign governments by the U.S. government, why are they quick to dismiss the rights that tribal nations have been granted?
We went to war for those treaties. Yes it's 2016 and the rhetoric is that all "indians" should function like regular Americans. But by initiating a treaty it provides us recognition, and stipulates bilateral agreements that all parties must honor. Unless, in fact, our treaties are just "pieces of paper," and if that is the case, Russia should overlook the United Nations resolutions with the United States and just bomb Israel. Is this not the same? Article 6 of the U.S. constitution and the rider clause of 1888 say different. Both recognize the permanent power of all Indian treaties and all Indian nations. Just because the times have changed doesn't mean the words have.
The U.S. government has been pushing all tribal nations to genocide for the last 298 years. Poverty, bad water, polluted air, nuclear waste, uranium mines opened, alcoholism, no job infrastructure for starters. Suicide among young men has grown to an epidemic. We are just pandered to in words when government officials want to feel good, then they rip our children from us, take them state-side and throw them to "white people" to be civilized — violating yet another federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act.
This land is more to us than just land for all tribal people, just as in 1848 when the United States annexed all of Aztlán from Mexico and erected the largest paramilitary border in the world, much is being done to separate tribal nations from our lands. In 1973 we fought and died for our land. If need be, mark my words, we will rise up and fight again. This land is our identity. It holds the blood of our ancestors, and the pipeline will kill our people.
In this issue of Under Lock & Key MIM(Prisons) set out to report on revolutionary organizing in wimmin's prisons in the United $tates.(1) Self-determination for the internal semi-colonies won't be won by males alone, and yet our subscriber list is overwhelmingly male. As a prison organizing group, we wanted to look at what is our role in resolving contradictions along gender lines, in our struggle toward national liberation and an end to Amerikkkan imperialism. The lumpen class has a strong training in male chauvinism, and prisons are an even more extremely masculine environment. If we are going to contribute to the resolution of gender contradictions, we need to consciously put effort into it.
We solicited articles from many current and former prisoners on this topic, but in the end we received very little response. This coincides with our overall reach into wimmin's prisons: while about 7% of the population in prison is locked up in wimmin's prisons, we do not have close to 7% of our subscribers located in these institutions. In this article we will explore the current state of imprisonment of females and some potential reasons for our limited reach and lower political involvement in institutions for wimmin.
MIM(Prisons) has long talked about gender oppression faced by prisoners in the United $tates. Gender is distinct from class and nation, and located within leisure time activities. Usually gender oppression is something suffered by biological females. But in prison, where the vast majority of the population is male, we still see significant gender oppression. When male prisoners are sexually assaulted by guards this is obviously gender oppression because it's based in "leisure" time. But there are other aspects of this gender oppression, including the Amerikan legacy of lynching New Afrikan men for supposedly raping white wimmin, which is an example of white females having gender power over New Afrikan males. So it's not so straightforward as just looking at biology to determine who is gender oppressed. And as on the streets, gender interacts with nation to complicate the situation in prisons.
Females make up 18.4% of all people under supervision of the adult correctional system (prison, jail and probation).(2) They are 6.7% of federal prisoners(3) and 7.2% of state prisoners.(2) The higher percentage of females in jails and on probation reflects the lesser severity and shorter sentences compared to males. Because our reach is mainly in prisons, that is what we will focus on here.
Many have commented on the dramatically increasing female prison population in the United $tates, especially as the recent growth rate was so much higher than the rate for males. Between 1995 and 2005 the number of male prisoners grew 34% while the number of female prisoners grew 57%.(4) Overall, females went from 11% of all arrests in 1970 to 26% in 2014.(5) However, the U.$. prison population peaked in 2009 and has been dropping slowly since then. The total change between 2004 and 2014 was a 1% drop in prison population. Over that same period the male prison population dropped 1.2% while the female prison population increased 1.4%. Since 2004 the number of females in prison has bounced up and down every few years with a peak in 2008, a drop from 2008-2012 and then an increase in 2013 and 2014. The dramatic increases in incarcerated females prior to 2004 seem to have leveled off, and there are no clear trends since 2004.(2)
What we can conclude from the numbers above is that the imprisonment rate for females is growing faster than the rate for males, but the growth is relatively slow in recent years and the overall number of females in prison is so much smaller than the number of males that it would take many many years of significant growth to get close to equal incarceration rates between males and females. It is still true that when we talk about prisons in the United $tates we are overwhelmingly talking about prisons for men.
New Afrikans and Chicanas are disproportionately locked up compared to white females (twice the rate for New Afrikans and 1.2 times for Chicanas). But these statistics mean that a much larger proportion of people in female prisons are white than in the male prisons which locks up New Afrikans at almost 6 times the rate of white males and Chicanos at more than twice the rate of whites.(6) And in female prisons the disparity has been decreasing in recent years with incarceration of white females increasing at a faster pace than other nationalities.
Below we examine two possible explanations for MIM(Prisons)'s limited reach into facilities for wimmin. 1. We are not doing a good job addressing issues that are important to this population and so they're just not interested in working with us. 2. Females in prison are less political than males in prison. If the former is true, we hope that this ULK will inspire readers to write to us and tell us what we're missing. We do, however, see some solid evidence that the explanation is the lack of political interest among female prisoners.
We need to consider what might cause female prisoners to be less interested in our work than their male counterparts. Those who do write to us often comment on the complete lack of interest among their fellow prisoners. And while we hear this plenty from men's institutions, we also hear many more stories from the men's prisons about activism and interest. In addition, some of the wimmin who write to us are transgender and held in male institutions, with this experience contributing greatly to their political awareness.
Based on our experience and what evidence we can find from studies of prisoners, we believe that wimmin are less likely to be locked up long term, less likely to be put in solitary confinement, more likely to have family waiting for them on the outside, and less likely to have been active members of a lumpen organization prior to or during their term. These are mostly conditions of wimmin in general in the United $tates, and so reasonable assumptions to make. We are by no means suggesting that imprisonment of females in this country is free of abuse or anything other than a product of a system built for social control. But females who are swept up in the net of widespread incarceration are often not the primary targets of the system. The stats on nationality make this clear.
One might argue that gender oppression in wimmin's facilities is scaring people locked up there into unwillingness to reach out to MIM(Prisons). However, we see that increased repression in men's prisons generally results in increased political interest. We get many letters describing threats resulting from political activism or even just education leading people to greater interest in men's facilities. And historically, on a global scale, greater oppression has led to greater resistance, by nation, class and gender.
Overall we think the lower percentage of people in wimmin's facilities reaching out and getting involved with MIM(Prisons) validates our theory about what leads prisoners to becoming politicized. Significant factors include: solitary confinement, lumpen organization involvement, significant repression, censorship and conditions of abuse. Essentially, repression breeds resistance (as long as the repression isn't so extreme that prisoners face total censorship, or health conditions so bad that they are unable to function). We regularly hear that widespread access to TV and other privileges really does buy prisoners out of political interest and activism. This is not a surprise in a country of wealth and privilege where the vast majority of the population enjoys petty bourgeois lifestyles.
Further supporting this theory is our anecdotal experience that trans wimmin are interested and active behind bars. We know they face significant repression distinct from the general prison population. So it is not surprising that trans prisoners are driven to political awareness and activism.
Unique Challenges in Wimmin's Prisons
While material conditions, as analyzed above, play a role in the appeal of proletarian-led communist revolution to any population, we also need to look at our own attempts, or lack of, to organize with this population. MIM(Prisons) has not made a concerted effort to connect the struggle for national self-determination with struggles in wimmin's prisons. With this ULK we hope to spark that conversation.
With that said, we need to look at what unique challenges are faced by people locked up in facilities for wimmin. This will help determine if we are not addressing the issues that are important to these prisoners.
The battle to maintain or regain custody of children is one issue more prevalent in facilities for female prisoners. In 2006 (and other studies suggest this number is pretty constant in recent years), more than 65% of females in state prisons and 55% of males in state prisons had children under 18 years of age. 64% of these mothers lived with their children before prison, compared to 44% of fathers.(7) While this is a pretty big difference, the overall magnitude of the impact of imprisonment isn't close: there are so many more fathers in prison than mothers in prison. One possibility is that mothers who fear losing custody will do anything they can to keep clean and get out quickly, and this focuses them more on doing their time quietly than fighting abuse.
Sexual assault is another potential issue that may affect female prisoners more than males. In a PREA survey of former prisoners from 2008, 10.5% of females reported prisoner-on-prisoner sexual assaults compared to 2.7% of males. Staff-on-prisoner sexual assault was also more commonly reported by females (2.5%) compared to males (1.1%).(8) We are skeptical of these numbers, especially since the taboo against reporting sexual assault is even greater for males and so it's hard to say if these statistics represent a meaningful difference between the experiences in wimmin's and men's prisons. Even if it does, we wouldn't expect this abuse to lead females away from political activism. But it is perhaps an issue we need to expose more often to address the large portion of wimmin who are facing this abuse.
The Path Forward
It is important to connect our political line with our strategy and tactics, and engage in the scientific process of developing that line as we learn from our practice. While in this article we have focused on facilities for wimmin and organizing of females behind bars, this is a bigger question of how we mobilize females on the streets to join our revolutionary struggle. We are fighting against class, nation and gender oppression on a global scale, and this battle requires uniting all who can be united. Around the world we have examples of wimmin joining struggles for national liberation, taking up leadership in communist organizations, and historically in leadership positions in Communist China. While we see the national liberation struggle as principal at this point in history, we can not neglect the gender contradiction, both in the general fight against imperialism and in our own political practice.
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
One that has many young brothers and sisters missing
Stuck behind walls gated in a warehouse
Amerikkka's criminal injustice system
full of brothers and sisters they won't let out
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Hurry you must hurry you can easily become the next victim
Another nameless soul thrown into the pen turned into a number
All in the goal of breaking you and making your spirit crumble
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Revolution we must demand to overthrow these people's trippin
Planting evidence, misconduct, lies all for political motivation
We must band together, Revolutionaries for freedom of our nation
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Power to the freedom fighters through means of resistance
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system!
It's been 50 years since the most advanced segment of national class consciousness of a people came together in unity nationwide in the inner cites to challenge imperialism. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) was capable of leading the lumpen in the struggle for the overthrow of oppressive/exploitative relationships and the building of national independence, self-determination, and socialism. They were equipped with the right ideology of dialectical materialism, which is a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and knew how to apply it to where the principle of "from the people back to the people" was being done successfully with the breakfast for children program. However, they couldn't combat the oppressor's COINTELPRO strategy, which destroyed a beautiful movement. We celebrate the sacrifices these beautiful men and women made when they stood up to fascism, and some lost their life to the struggle by death, or state-sanctioned death known as incarceration, and they will not be forgotten.
As I've read books by Mumia Abu Jamal, Robert Hillary King, Huey P. Newton, David Hilliard, and Eldridge Cleaver (just to name a few), I'm reminded of what it means to be New Afrikan in the United $tates, as well as why being a revolutionary is the most important ideology to have and apply when facing this oppression, and it's due to the same challenges we face today. COINTELPRO is not over, but has only advanced so that the oppressor does not see another people's revolution again. The spirit of the Panther lives inside of me, as well as countless others who languish behind enemy lines, and we will continue their legacy through our practice of serving the people.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As we enter the month marking the 50th anniversary of the most advanced Maoist party in the history of this country, we put out a commemorative issue focused on the BPP this summer for our 50th issue of Under Lock & Key. [In October, hundreds of copies were also distributed at BPP commemorative events. That month we also finalzed a new edition of our study pack: Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party.] We'd also add to this that the Party's own internal contradictions played out allowing COINTELPRO to deliver the death blows that it did. There is no all-powerful oppressor that can stop the oppressed, although we are in the minority in this country. So as COINTELPRO continues, we learn from history and push the struggle forward!