This is an open letter to all you advocates and activists who are at war with the prison system. The American Corrections Association (ACA) has done their two-stage, once in a decade, onsite prison review beginning in January 2017 ending in March 2017. They've posted memos to the effect of talking to prisoners and performing audits to better use monies towards treatment and rehabilitational programs. Well at California Correctional Institution (CCI) this is a joke, especially of the level 3 yard where there is no accountability on safety issues.
There are no cameras on yard nor in buildings that would hold Correctional Staff to a higher level of accountability on the lines of brutality waged against prisoners. This brutality is covered up too often by collusion between Correctional Officers in reporting of incidents which comes down to their words against prisoners' with no physical evidence to support because there are no surveillance cameras. This is a black site operation, period. There exists no accountability when it comes to enforcement practices. Correctional employees are given full discretion and are supported fully by a Gestapo Culture with no checks and balances from outside authorities. This is including the ACA, who only talked to 2% of the prison population, and those were selected by this administration, i.e. Correctional Staff.
There is no accountability on the running of programs, which means anything from dayroom, yard, school, vacations, or even jobs. At the same time there is no program and no movement, prisoners walk to medical lines, walk to chow, go to self help groups, etc. No matter what the weather is they are required to walk to and from just to lock themselves back into their living quarters, i.e. cells. The ACA didn't assist prisoners to get assignment cards for going to college classes onsite nor through mail even though they know these participants miss at least 9 hours a week from yard and dayroom, at the same time providing assignment cards to prisoners in GED courses. Though the institution is making money from these new college onsite classes of which I myself am in, earning 6 credits for 2 classes this semester and enrolled in both summer and winter courses. Yet, I am not able to go outside on the weekend to get fresh air so I now get outside rec and fresh air less than my brothers and sisters in the SHU. The American Correctional Association is there for a waste of tax payers' money.
Blame is put on the prisoners for most that continues to occur here to be absolutely honest, because most of them fail to study the rules, are rule breakers and have terrible conduct creating negative attention. Once more I must state in complete truth, that all levels of staff have treated me with respect, I haven't gotten any write up, never assaulted on any level by any level of Correctional Staff. Quite the opposite has happened to me. I've initiated my own services, I've signed up and am currently going to college, I had constructive conversations with all levels of Correctional Staff. At the same time I've read the Title 15 and re-read it several times complying with every law and rule. I've communicated with complete respect at all times with prisoners and prison staff of all levels and walks of life.
This is written for the purpose of exciting advocates to get involved with pro-social programs in person, to let them know that the ACA and many other organizations are rip-offs and monies would effect more positive change if and when it goes directly to the prison and prisoners who are willing to take advantage of all pro-social programming. That those who are doing the work to create better futures by learning in college or vocational skill learning should receive beneficial treatment and be allowed to go to yard on weekends and holidays even days that they are off. We need advocates to sound the bell for us ensuring that we are treated with favorable treatment, so that we are not being punished for attempting to get ahead.
A Socialist and Conscious Comrade
MIM(Prisons) responds: We've been watching the great progress of organizers at CCI with interest and excitement over the last year. But playing by the rules does not generally pan out so well for prisoners across the United $tates engaged in postive organizing along the lines of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). In one recent example, the United Kage Brothers have been denied the ability to form an official organization by the CDCR at Pelican Bay State Prison. And this is why the UFPP stresses INDEPENDENCE as one of the 5 principles. If local staff are supportive of your efforts that is great. And there is plenty reason for them to be supportive of a safer work environment. But we also must not build or organizing in a way that is dependent on the whims of the state, which has a general principle of opposing the organizing of the oppressed.
There was an entry in ULK 53 I am compelled to address under the heading "Deadly Heat Victory in Louisiana." It was erroneously reported the 5th Circuit ruling in Bell v. LeBlanc, 792 F. 3d 584, mandated the temperature be maintained "at or below 88 degrees in Angola's death row buildings."
Not so. The 5th Circuit held the U.S. District Court Middle District of Louisiana ruling encompassing all of Louisiana's death row overly broad, and therefore an abuse of the District Court's discreation, violation of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The 5th Circuit pared down the District Court's ruling to affect only the three named plaintiffs: Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code, and James Magee. The only reason the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court's ruling as pertaining to these three plaintiffs is because all three are afflicted with pre-existing medical conditions that are susceptible to heat-induced complications.
"Based on its findings of fact, we affirm the district court's conclusion that housing these prisoners in very hot cells without sufficient access to heat-relief measures, while knowing that each suffers from conditions that render him extremely vulnerable to serious heat-related injury, violates the Eighth Amendment. ... The district court also erred because it awarded relief facility-wide, instead of limiting such relief to Ball, Code, and Magee. ... Because the district court's injunction provides an unnecessary type of relief and applies beyond these three Plaintiffs, it violates the PLRA. Accordingly, the district court abused its discretion. ... We emphasize, however, that the finding of substantial risk regarding a heat-related injury is tied to the individual health conditions of these inmates." Ball v. LeBlanc, 792 F.3d 584, 596-600, FNG.
The 5th Circuit opined Ball, Code, and Magee could be housed in cells closer to the death row guards' station, which is air conditioned, thereby cooler than the remainder of death row cells. Or, at most, a single death row tier could be air conditioned as a heat-relief measure for prisoners similarly situated to Ball, Code, and Magee. But as for requiring the Louisiana Department of Corrections to maintain temperatures below 88 degrees at Angola's death row altogether, the 5th Circuit judged that was not necessary to comport with the Federal Constitution.
Moral being, if it sounds too good to be true.. perhaps MIM(Prisons) should submit to me these litigous tidbits for vetting and verification.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Thank you to this comrade for setting the record straight, and helping to keep our subscribers from venturing down a wrong path in seeking their own relief from extreme heat, especially as summer is fast approaching. We rely on our subscribers to share their knowledge with us, whether it be their legal expertise, organizing experience, or theoretical understanding. Everyone should be making an effort to increase our collective abilities, which our oppressors try so hard to eliminate.
There are some good examples of united fronts between oppressed and reactionary groups in the history of the United $tates. Some of which ended up serving the interests of the oppressed and some which ultimately hurt the oppressed. We find a few of these examples described well in the book 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance available from PM Press.(1)
First the case of the fight between the British and the emerging United $tates of Amerika.
"In 1812, using the pretext of Native raids along its northern frontier from British territories, U.S. forces attempted to invade British North America. Here again, Britain's colonial policies proved effective; an alliance of Native nations (who had their own interests in full implementation of the 1763 Proclamation [which prohibited settlement west of the Appalachian mountains following the French and Indian War]) and European settlers succeeded in repulsing the U.S. expansion."(p. 29)
As we have seen since 1812, the victory of the United $tates in the Revolutionary War did not serve the interests of the First Nations. So the First Nations definitely chose the right side in this battle, even though the British surely had no real interest in supporting the rights of the First Nations beyond what was necessary to gain their support. This is an example of identifying the principal enemy and building alliances against that enemy, even if those alliances are with groups that would be enemies in other circumstances. This united front is similar to the alliance between the Kuomindang and the Chinese Communists in the war against Japanese imperialism. Ultimately the Kuomindang betrayed the Communist Party, but at the time Japan was the principal enemy and fighting together in a the united front was the right choice to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing a socialist state.
Another example is found in the U.$. Civil War, which was used by Afrikan slaves to fight for their freedom. It was not a case of whites going to war to help end slavery, but Afrikans were in a position to force this issue to the forefront.
"The beginning of the U.S. Civil War in 1861 posed various problems for the northern Union ruling class. Not only was the war for the preservation of an expanding continental empire, but it also opened up a second front: that of a liberation struggle by enslaved Afrikan peoples. With a population of four million, the rising of these Afrikans in the South proved crucial in the defeat of the Confederacy. By the tens of thousands Afrikan slaves escaped from the slavers and enlisted in the Union forces. This massive withdrawal of slave-labour hit the Southern economy hard, and the Northern forces were bolstered by the thousands."(2)
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Afrikans in the South correctly identified a shift in their principal enemy. It was no longer time to ally with Union forces. With the ending of the war these slaves were about to lose their bargaining position as fighters in the Union army.
"Towards the end of the War in 1865, those Afrikans who did not escape began a large-scale strike following the defeat of the confederacy. They claimed the lands that they had laboured on, and began arming themselves – not only against the Southern planters but also against the Union army. Widespread concerns about this 'dangerous position' of Afrikans in the South led to 'Black Reconstruction'; Afrikans were promised democracy, human rights, self-government and popular ownership of the land. In reality, it was a strategy for returning Euro-American dominance...."(p. 40)
This shift resulted in a better deal for former slaves than they would have got by just passively sticking with their unity with the North. But it shows the need to complete the New Afrikan war for liberation from the United $tates to achieve the basic goals of the Afrikan soliders who freed themselves from slavery. Different conditions will require reevaluation of who is our principal enemy and what are appropriate united front strategies at the time.
Recently we learned that one of our readers and a long-time activist, Zero, had a letter published on the Anarchist Black Cross Portland (ABC PDX) website and in the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) newsletter responding to an article in Under Lock & Key No. 50 (May/June 2016) about the September 9 work stoppage. Zero invited us to respond publicly and so we have done our best here to distill this debate down to what we see as the most important points.
With IWOC, ABC, and Zero, we have a common enemy in the criminal injustice system and imperialism more broadly. We are writing this response with the goal of building unity, not division, between organizations and individuals that are working hard to fight this unjust system.
Anarchism vs. Communism
Fundamentally we have a disagreement over anarchism vs. communism, but we believe that both camps are fighting for the same thing at root: an end to oppression of groups of people by other groups of people. We just think that communists have a more scientific plan for how to get there than anarchists, based on our study of how these same efforts have been attempted, succeeded, and failed in the past. The oppressed people of the world deserve the best and fastest route to liberation. Communists hope to discover what that route is through not only our study but also our practice.
This disagreement over the importance of science to revolutionary struggle is highlighted in a lot of what Zero wrote. Ey accuses MIM(Prisons) of being intellectuals whose "theory is based in theory." Zero also claims to have no interest in political line in the development of the September 9 work stoppage: "I don't care what your line is, nor does anyone else I work closely with on this project. Beyond small friendly jabs at each other, nothing I've seen or read, or heard from anyone in this campaign suggests anyone cares much about line."
Yet it's a discredit to the hunger strike organizers to say that they don't care much about line. It is precisely political line and theoretical analysis that drives the concept that "prisoner labor is slavery and this mass work stoppage is a good plan to shut down prisons." Without unity on this analysis, the organizers might have decided (as an example) the best approach is for everyone to fast because the Amerikkkan farms depend on prisons to buy agricultural goods and so this boycott would shut down the farms and hence force prison reform. IWOC and ABC aren't suggesting this, and that's probably because of their correct theoretical understanding of agriculture in this country. In forming their alliance on this campaign, Zero, IWOC, and ABC at least agree on this political line, even if they don't talk about it. After all, they are all anarchists (or anarchist-led), so they have much unity on line already.
Zero finds "contradictory statements" in our original article that help demonstrate where we depart from the anarchists because our strategy differs from theirs. Zero wrote:
"In paragraph #5 you say: 'we do see power in the ability of prisoners to shut down facilities by not doing the work to keep them running for a potentially longer period'. But then in paragraph #10 you say 'the organizers of the anti-slavery protest are misleading people into believing that shutting down prison work will shut down prisons'.
If masses of prisoners stopped working, forever, some facilities may close. This would likely be because of where they're located geographically, the layout and security level of the facility, and how easy or difficult it is to staff the prisons to accommodate for the loss of labor. But would that close all prisons in the United $tates? We doubt it. Does that mean we think prisoners should all just keep working? No! Short of overthrowing capitalist Amerikkka's power altogether, we will still have prisons in this country based on national oppression. But making that oppression more difficult is always a good thing.
Our point is that Amerikkka is willing to spend a lot of time, money and resources on imprisoning a staggering number of people, all at a financial loss. So we do not see evidence that if prisoners stop working and it suddenly becomes more expensive to imprison people that that will shut down the prison system. It most certainly is a form of resistance that heightens the contradictions between the oppressed and the oppressor, and even within the oppressor camp. Such an act would certainly have great influence on the ever-changing realities within the U.$. criminal injustice system, as would any sustained, mass prisoner mobilization.
Zero criticizes MIM(Prisons), "You spell united front with capital 'U' and 'F' which is what MIM calls one of its programs, short for UFPP, and as [UFPP] makes specific ideological demands for any entity it is willing to work with, I'm led to believe that what you truly mean by 'work with' is to 'co-opt'." We do capitalize the name of the organization United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), which has a specific program (the 5 Principles of the UFPP: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism, and Independence). Organizations that agree with those principles but disagree with us on many other things have joined this United Front and there is no attempt to co-opt those groups. We do not capitalize "united front" when not talking about this specific organization (if we have in print it was a mistake, not a political point). This is not a problem of elitisim, it is simply grammar. We welcome the development of a united front against prisons, and even better a united front against imperialism, outside of the UFPP and not bound by its 5 principles. But we do believe that united fronts need to have clear points of unity so that there isn't a question of organizations being forced to change their political line or give up their independence to participate. In other words, we are actively trying to organize in a way to prevent the co-opting of organizations that Zero accuses us of attempting.
Zero goes on to say that MIM(Prisons) "... refuse[s] to even mention the names of these other revolutionary organizations so that your readers can reach out and seek information on their own. Another display of elitist hegemonization of line." Yet this comment is in the context of criticizing an article that specifically named the IWOC and included a link directly to its publication, so we're confused about where we failed to mention the other organizers' names. On this point, however, we did fail to convert the web address to a print address in our print version of ULK, which of course makes it harder for subscribers to reach out directly to IWOC, and we are correcting that mistake in our footnote to this article and our general practice. We actually print many articles debating theory and practice, including some that explicitely disagree with us. To be clear though, the purpose of ULK is to educate and inform people on what we see as the most correct political line and practice and so we always offer our response to those points of disagreement and allow our readers (and history) to decide who is correct.
On this same point, we also highlight the correct practice of our predecessors in the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) who distributed a pamphlet "What's Your Line?" with the names, addresses and political positions of a wide spectrum of political organizations. We haven't put the time or money into compiling a similar up-to-date list because our resources are sadly limited, but we still support this practice. Perhaps an innocent oversight, but neither the ABC nor the IWOC bothered to link to our website or print contact information for MIM(Prisons) alongside Zero's long and scathing critique of our organization.
Nihilism or Subjectivism
In eir argument against political theory Zero writes: "I'm an anarchist. More, a nihilist. ... In the words of Bakunin, the true revolutionist is concerned with the science of destruction. Let the other sciences be the work of future generations. ... And as Bakunin said, sometimes we just have to throw theory into the fire, for it only stalls life." It's great to have faith that humynity can work out the problems of the future, but the problems of today also require scientific analysis. The oppressed don't have the luxury of banging their heads against the wall for years failing to make progress. If historical revolutions have failed in the same way repeatedly, we need to learn from those mistakes. And if revolutions have succeeded with certain practices, we should learn from those. This is what theory is all about: learning from history and applying those lessons to our practice today. Then looking at our own practice, drawing conclusions, and adapting our approach.
Citing Webster's dictionary and dictionary.com, without acknowledging the class interests that those resources represent, and saying "that's good enough for me" is simply subjectivism. Denying the importance of theory to our practice is to make us slaves (pun intended) to our emotions and subjectivism, which are very thoroughly conditioned by our residence in an imperialist country. We cannot expect to overcome subjectivism 100%, but through applying dialectical and historical materialsm we hope to make the fewest errors in our revolutionary work as possible.
Zero gives a good example of theoretical analysis in eir criticism:
"In closing, let me clarify that dialectical soundness can often depend on interpretation. You all use orthodox marxist definitions of 'slavery' even though we live in a post-modern, post-fordist time and place. The dynamics of our current reality are different. And so we must also re-assess our definitions. Besides, though personally I use marxist formulas I'm ultimately a nihilist, un-beholden to an particular ideological parameters. In other words. My definition of 'slavery' is reflected by our material conditions, not political agenda."
Zero is correctly stating here that we must adapt our theory to current conditions. What held true in Marx's day may not be true today. We can't just get stuck in what Marx wrote and ignore changes in conditions. We agree with that. But we ask Zero, what is it but theory that allows us to discuss who is or isn't a slave? If this discussion isn't based in theory, then it's just subjectivism.
For example, here is an instance where MIM(Prisons)'s analysis has adapted to changing conditions since Marx's day. We see that while the vast majority of workers of all countries were exploited in the past, and made up the proletariat class that Marx wrote about so thoroughly, today imperialism has advanced to the point where workers in imperialist countries are mostly petty-bourgeois. This is a point where we tend to disagree with groups who organize people in the First World around their economic interests (as opposed to national interests).
Finally, demonstrating the difficulty in remaining anti-theory while discussing political theory, Zero critiqued our point that work strikes will not in-and-of-themselves bring down the Amerikan criminal injustice system: "I’d ask on what dialectical evidence you base your theory that america would 'figure out' how to keep us locked up." This is a good example of the importance of theory. If we're wrong, then we should focus our efforts into organizing work stoppages. And Zero is right, it is dialectical materialist analysis that will help us figure that out here. The article that Zero responded to actually went into a lot of depth on this very point, explaining that prisons are primarily tools to control society, not make profit, which aid in the oppressive force of the bourgeoisie by keeping lumpen and anyone deemed dangerous to their power locked away. We know that prisons are not reliant on the money made from prisoner labor, because there is public information showing that prisons are money-losing operations.
Political debate is not the same as political opposition
To clarify our position, in the original article about the September 9 protests we talked about the similarities and differencess between the five-year history of the United Front for Peace in Prisons September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity, and this newer call for prisoner activism on September 9: "First we want to say that we are always happy to see people taking up organizing and trying to build unity behind bars. There are some very good points taken in this call to action... we would hope to work with these folks to broaden our movement." We followed this up with multiple articles reporting on the work stoppage and praising the widespread protests.
But Zero seems to think that by publically criticizing an incorrect point of political theory from the organizers we are opposing the protests. Ey wrote
"What we have here is a huge social base, across prison walls, that is extremely pissed off. And we have an opportunity to harness that anger and point it at our enemy on September 9th, thats all the analysis I need. and I say that if you oppose this in any way, you’re nothing but a house slave ready to defend your master. your complicit and should be among the first to be taken to task."
If we won't just blindly agree and follow eir leadership, apparently we are written off as complicit with the enemy. Isn't this the squelching of political debate that anarchists so vehemently oppose? To be clear, we support the September 9th protests, both those organized by members of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, and those promoted by the IWOC. Our criticism is directed toward statements that participating in these protests will shut down the prisons because prisons are dependent on prisoner slave labor. If we did not make this clear in our articles about September 9, we will take this criticism to help us approach the struggle with a clearer focus on unity.
Finally, Zero wrote that we should have known about this work strike sooner. It looks like there was some censorship of our mail from em so letters from Zero about this didn't get to us. We did reach out to IWOC and others about working together on September 9 organizing once we learned about the work strike (which we did hear about from a number of ULK subscribers). We never got a response from the organizers. We hope that going forward we can collaborate in the fight against the criminal injustice system to build a stronger movement. This doesn't mean we will give up our communist position, nor does it mean that Zero, ABC, or IWW need to give up their anarchism, and in fact we would argue that continuing this debate publicly is good for everyone. In practice we hope to collaborate on the September 9 protest in 2017.
As to the comrade in Ohio and MIM(Prisons)'s response on "Coffee House Revolutionaries or Real Militants?" in ULK 54 I don't think the comrade in Ohio knows or realizes what MIM(Prisons) does or does not have in the organization's caches or whether or not MIM is or isn't physically or militarily preparing for the perfect time to do what that comrade is expressing in this letter. Also MIM follows Mao's line on war strategy. MIM(Prisons) is not a street gang, or a criminal org. If you want to, and feel the time is perfect to take on the imperialist U.$. army, you're sadly mistaken. In your commentary, I understood where you're coming from because I am not much of a politician. I'm a soldier, and fighter as well. I, comrade in Ohio, agree with you that violence is a necessary means to achieve one's goals in our type of struggle, and little by little, on a small scale the snowball has begun to roll. Trump is helping us push that ball forward, with his political ignorance. He's threatening to dismantle people like us, who have outside organizations — other than MIM(Prisons) — whom we have direct third world connections to.
Now, where I am in disagreement with MIM(Prisons) is that they, or we, should not be reluctant to put a cache of weapons in bunkers or safe-houses just because of what MIM(Prisons) says "recent history" in the United $tates reveals about the murder or imprisonment of revolutionary groups that have attempted to do that. There does not have to be a set time to get weapons ready. That can be done clandestinely. I will not elaborate on that any more at this time. I will say that I do respect how MIM(Prisons) responded to the comrade in the Ohio prison. You, MIM(Prisons), stated at the end of your response that you "look forward to learning and building with this comrade and eir organization for many years to come." The organization I'll be working for out there are ex-military, ex-cops, and from ex-intelligence of 3rd world military groups from all over the world, and of whom they, as well as all other organizations like them, can't be too happy about the hard line President Trump is taking.
I would like to bring to your attention a proliferating issue and a sophisticated form of manipulation and capitulation by certain female guards here, which is threatening my motivational efforts and energy of prisoners who are trying to mobilize pockets of resistance. The prisoners in our immediate cipher and midst on a daily basis, in the disguise of recreation, study groups, or just basic conversations, are involved in some alarming episodes of perversion here at Sussex Sucks I State Prison. If we stand by and just criticize, make fun of, or gossip and back bite about those prisoners who get snaggled up in this spider web/trap, then the pigs are going to use this misguided erotic behavior to destroy the elements of positive aspirations that iz being pushed forward by a different segment of conscious prisoners here on this slave pen of oppression.
Everyone is aware of the enormous amount of jobs that become available because of the booming rise in the prison construction throughout the Amerikkkan colony. But no one seems to have noticed the alarming amount of female guards that are subsequently recruited, hired and then trained for a job inside this bulging prison culture complex! So today, a lot of these same female guards are assigned to the actual cell blocks/pods that house many of the state's most violent male prisoners. And as a direct result of the placement of these female guards inside each of these components, you now see these same so-called violent prisoners becoming mentally and emotionally hypnotized by the astute beauty of some female guards who exhibit this aura or facade with their tour of correctional duty and within their clandestine episodes of flirtation.
In some of these housing components, I have even witnessed female guards displaying their siren characteristics in an attempt to control and compel the feeble-minded guys into conforming with the prison rules and regulations. In some cases these female guards are playing mind games, as they get off on the drama of seeing several men chasing them and even fighting over them, and manipulating them into becoming pod police by telling and doing the police job as an incentive. These female guards want the prisoners to help them stroke their own clandestine exotic or erotic fantasies while making money as a past time and advancing their career in law enforcement!
Before I commence my conclusion, it iz essential and imperative that I maintain the organizational strategy by indicating that there are numerous female guards who despise being exploited by the display of male sex organs in the workplace, and I really support all of these female guards who take a stance against this form of sexism. Because to subjugate women in general and solely on the basis of gender iz not only wrong, but dudes who believe and practice these subjective axioms and the actions that stem from this obnoxious belief are really saying that women are not worthy of genuine respect, or perhaps those prisoners think that a woman cannot be feminine without being submissive! All prisoners, brothas, all nations must begin the task of taking a personal analysis of themselves immediately and we should be self-critical. Otherwise we won't understand what our criminal thought pattern iz doing to the overall struggle of the masses here in North Amerikkka.
Correctional male chauvinism must be eliminated if prisoners really plan to make it past this adolescent crisis that arises to the level of this extracurricular prison activity.
In closing, I felt the need to proselytize to the conscious prisoner class, clearly it iz better to err acting to bring about positive change than to do nothing for fear of erring. Please spread this word and cogitate what has been evaluated and written here in adroit-like fashion, because we have to stop this new wave of mental, physical, and emotional ignorance. Peace!
I want to know if other comrades are dealing with these same issues. If so, no one is speaking on it. Stop watching the idiot box, it's hypnotizing you!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good point to raise for discussion which we hope will inspire others to write in. There is, as this prisoner explains, a general contradiction in imperialist society, with the treatment of females under the patriarchy. But in prison this situation is changed. There is still some clear gender oppression of females, but in male prisons (which are the vast majority in this country) there is a reversal of roles in some ways. Males face gender oppression due to their unique status as prisoners.
We see this with the example given here of female guards manipulating prisoners through sex and flirting. The female guards are using patriarchal objectification to keep male prisoners passive, and even serving the very system that locks them up. We need to expose this manipulation and talk about why it can happen, and what we can do about it. It should not be ok to do any guard's bidding, male or female. Are other people seeing this? What can be done to fight back?
Greetings to everyone at MIM. I am a prisoner held captive here at High Desert State Prison, in Susanville, California. I'm writing to inform the people of this new and improved form of repression tactic hidden behind the name of public safety and security. An investigative report came out in December 2015 by the Inspector General about the abuse and cover-ups by officers at this prison for 2 decades. Since then, the powers that be have started to install the video recording cameras in the prison, which is not a bad idea. Most prisons have cameras on the yard. However, these new high-tech cameras now have audio/voice recording which is new for CDCR.
They have also installed them just about any and everywhere, in the chowhall, gym, dayroom, yard, medical, law library, chapel, laundry, school/education, even in N.A. (Narcotic Anonymous) and A.A. (Alcoholic Anonymous), which begs the question, who're they really keeping an eye on and watching? Now don't get me wrong I'm all for holding these pigs/officers accountable for their actions. But now they're watching and listening to our conversations in the chapel during our religious services where prisoners talk freely and enjoy open discussions on religion, race, politics, without the eyes and ears of the custody staff. N.A. and A.A. is suppose to be Anonymous where prisoners can get help and talk openly and privately with each other and the sponsor about our addiction and recovery. Now the Anonymous is out the picture when custody can see and listen when they choose to.
Medical is suppose to be between the prisoner and doctor to talk and review medical issues and problems without custody knowing your business. Visiting always had cameras but if the state choses to take out the old and put in the new, then they will be able to listen to our intimate conversations with our family, friends, wives, children etc. All in the name of what? Public safety and security? Or is this just a new and improved way for CDCR to watch & now listen to everything a prisoner does? You decide.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We're glad to have this point brought up for consideration as most of what we've printed on this topic has been in favor of increased surveillance. A prime example was the campaign in North Carolina, centered around a lawsuit filed against staff for assaulting prisoners, focused on getting better camera coverage in state prisons to monitor staff. We supported this comrade in promoting eir efforts, recognizing the vulnerable situation that prisoners are in at the hands of the oppressor. Yet, for those of us outside prison, the call for more surveillance cameras gives one pause. It has come up in relation to police on the streets, but we dismissed that as not addressing the problem. The same could be said inside prisons.
The privacy struggle is one that is very relevant to us. At the same time it is mostly dominated by oppressor interests on both sides. In other words, it's hard to campaign for civil liberties in a general way that is anti-imperialist. There are engineering solutions to privacy that can be used as tools, tactically, by revolutionaries.
There have been reports on the chilling effect of surveillance in the United $tates, showing that people are less willing to visit certain websites after the Edward Snowden leaks exposing NSA spying operations. While we disagree with the Liberals who call for a freedom of speech that allows people to promote profits over humyn needs, we also propose a program for a dictatorship of the proletariat that expands freedom of speech in many ways compared to current conditions in this country. We would ban the Orwellian "smart TVs" and other technology that is recording and collecting data on people in their homes. We would guarantee not only net neutrality, but internet access to all. Below are some planks from the MIM platform on subjects related to the First Amendment:
Restrictions on public postering will be eliminated except on residential buildings.
Large and convenient bulletin boards will be placed on every block. Boards covered over will be evidence for the need to build more.
There will be convenient places to leave literature along with such bulletin boards.
There will be no arrests in any non-residential building or premise for quiet distribution of literature. The only exception will be for high government officials meeting and who face threat of assassination—the Central Committee and government officials above a certain rank.
Arrests for vocal discussion will be limited to places where there is a need for meetings and orderly work. Cafeterias, outdoor sidewalks and most indoor hallways will be legally required to allow vocal discussion.
Meeting halls of public buildings will be made available for meetings to the public. If necessary more will be constructed.
Government bureaucrats interfering with the "free speech" of the public will be transferred to jobs where they have no such possibility.
Those advocating opposition to the dictatorship of the proletariat as defined at the top of the document will go to prison or re-education camp and thereby not enjoy all full public citizenship rights.
Sale of pornography will be forbidden. Distribution of nude photographs paid for by the photographer or persyn who signed a consent form to be displayed in photographs will always be legal, but government authorities may require a registration for financial bookkeeping purposes. Those publicly distributing nude photos of children 12 and under will be sent to re-education camp, whether money spent was their own or not.
Any non-party literature or other device for public opinion building will be paid for by individual members of the public with money from salary and no outside capitalist money or stolen sources of wealth will be used to promote any opinion of the non-party public.
MIM will not order the government to censor the INTERNET except on questions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and party rule.
USENET groups such as talk.rape, alt.activism.death-penalty, alt.politics.greens etc. will be permitted, partly for stimulation of the minds in imperialist countries, partly to bring to the surface bourgeois thoughts in need of professional proletarian refutation and partly because there will continue to be problems in all these areas under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The need for stimulation is especially great in the depoliticized imperialist countries. Many middle-class peoples will come under the dictatorship of the proletariat without ever knowing that the world's majority of people suffered threats to their survival on a daily basis. (1)
MIM Platform: Against prison censorship
Prison officials claim they have security reasons to act as censors. But censorship prevents prisoners from access to legal help, education, and political organization. Political and legal mail and literature are not a direct threat to the security of prisons.
In analyzing the system of social control in the United $tates, it is imperative that we follow the correct line. The position of many today is to argue that the injustice system is based on a "Prison-Industrial Complex" [which we at MIM(Prisons) reject]. A new report, "Following the Money of Mass Incarceration" by Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy, provides additional evidence to back up our position.
Prisons are generally a complex web of concentration camps for oppressed semi-colonies, rather than an economically profitable industry. Indeed, there are some profits to be made (and capitalists/imperialists are good at finding their niches), but overall, the purpose of the injustice system today is population control.
As Wagner and Rabuy point out in their article: "In this first-of-its-kind report, we find that the system of mass incarceration costs the government and families of justice-involved people at least $182 billion every year."(1) This $182 billion includes the $374 million in profits received by the private prison industry. The profits to these numerically few stakeholders hardly represent a systematic profit-generating enterprise. In fact, in the graph summing up their research, the authors had to make an exception to the cut off for significant portions of the U.$. prison budget in order to even include private prisons on it!
"This industry is dominated by two large publicly traded companies — CoreCivic (which until recently was called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)) and The GEO Group — as well as one small private company, Management & Training Corp (MTC). We relied on the public annual reports of the two large companies, and estimated MTC’s figures using records from a decade-old public record request."(1)
Private prison corporations have very little to gain in the prison business, which is why the vast majority (up to 95%) are still public prisons.(2) The Amerikkkan government (i.e. taxpayers) fronts the bill for the $182 billion. The few economic beneficiaries of the prison industry are commissary vendors, bail bond companies, and specialized telephone companies. As Wagner and Rabuy demonstrate, these are the multi-billion dollar industries. And they, of course, benefit, whether the prisons are private or not!
Why would the imperialist system be willing to spend almost $200 billion a year at the loss of widespread economic labor and consumers? For, as is shown: "Many people confined in jails don’t work, and four state prison systems don’t pay at all."(1)
As Wagner points out in an article from 7 October 2015:
"Now, of course, the influence of private prisons will vary from state to state and they have in fact lobbied to keep mass incarceration going; but far more influential are political benefits that elected officials of both political parties harvested over the decades by being tough on crime as well as the billions of dollars earned by government-run prisons' employees and private contractors and vendors.
"The beneficiaries of public prison largess love it when private prisons get all of the attention. The more the public stays focused on the owners of private prisons, the less the public is questioning what would happen if the government nationalized the private prisons and ran every facility itself: Either way, we’d still have the largest prison system in the world."(3)
The capitalists don't economically gain from the supposed “Prison-Industrial Complex”, but the politicians gain from the white Amerikkkan obsession with “crime”. Taking this into account, we find the truth hiding behind Wagner and Rabuy's cryptic phrase: “To be sure, there are ideological as well as economic reasons for mass incarceration and over-criminalization.”(1)
We've already looked at the economic reasons – power groups like the bail bond companies and commissary vendors are obviously looking to make a profit. So what are the ideological reasons?
When we look at prison populations (whether private or public), we can see where mass incarceration gets its impetus. The vast majority of prisoners are New Afrikans, [email protected], and peoples of the First Nations (even though euro-Amerikkkans are the majority of the U.$. population). The prison is not a revenue racket, but an instrument of social control. The motivating factor is domination, not exploitation.
If we're following the money though, then we need look at how spending breaks down. Wagner and Rabuy present the division of costs as: the judicial and legal costs, policing expenditures, civil asset forfeiture, bail fees, commissary expenditures, telephone call charges, “public correction agencies” (like public employees and health care), construction costs, interest payments, and food and utility costs.
The authors outline their methodology for arriving at their statistics and admit that “[t]here are many items for which there are no national statistics available and no straightforward way to develop a national figure from the limited state and local data.”(1) Despite these obvious weaknesses in obtaining concrete reliable data, the overwhelming analysis stands.
Wagner and Rabuy discuss the private prison industry at the end of the article. Here, they write:
"To illustrate both the scale of the private prison industry and the critical fact that this industry works under contract for government agencies — rather than arresting, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating people on its own — we displayed these companies as a subset of the public corrections system."(1)
As was argued in "MIM(Prisons) on U.S. Prison Economy", “[i]f prison labor was a gold mine for private profiteers, then we would see corporations of all sorts leading the drive for more prisons."(2)
In light of this, the injustice system in the United $tates and the prisons (both private and public) are used by the government to oppress national minorities. And the government is rewarded with enthusiasm and renewed vigor by white Amerikkkans, who goose-step into formation with ecstasy when racist politicians like Donald Trump go on about being "tough on crime".
MIM Thought stresses the focus on imperialism both inside and outside the United $nakes. The network of prisons is no exception — imperialism here functions as a method of control by Amerikkkans of oppressed nations. As the statistics presented by Wagner and Rabuy clearly demonstrate, there is no "Prison Industrial Complex." There is a systematic attempt to destroy individuals, communities, and nations.(4)
...Estoy pensando acercar a la chica con la que estoy quedando a la política. La empezaré a tantear por primera vez sobre este tema mañana. Ella tiene 24 años y yo 31, así que creo que puedo moldearla. Además, es inocente y confiada. Intentaré enseñarla cuando la haya tanteado. Agradecería que me respondierais y me dijerais lo que pensáis de este caso particular.
MIM(Prisons) responde: Normalmente, desaconsejamos que se reclute a alguien con quien se está saliendo, sobre todo si dicha persona no ha mostrado estar interesada por sí sola en el antiimperialismo. No obstante, coincidimos con tu aparente actitud prudente de "tantearla" primero. Es una táctica de seguridad prudente no poner todas las cartas sobre la mesa respecto a tu actividad política con alguien que no estás [email protected] de si lo va a tolerar.
Otra cosa que has comentado es que es más joven, inocente y confiada, e insinúas que te aprovecharás de eso. Es así como creas resentimiento y, cuando una persona está resentida con otra asociada con el movimiento, se pone en peligro dicho movimiento. Esto es más probable cuando está involucrado el amor. Esa es la primera razón por la que no mezclar las relaciones con el reclutamiento: La gente confunde las motivaciones. Reclutar a [email protected] es algo menos arriesgado, pero también tiene este problema. Por otro lado, es cierto que [email protected] jóvenes están más [email protected] a políticas revolucionarias, lo que puede llevarnos a emprender tácticas como repartir folletos en las escuelas. Nuestra actitud no debe ir dirigida a aprovecharnos de [email protected] jóvenes o de las mujeres en general, usando características derivadas de la opresión de género a la que se enfrentan. Más bien, debemos acceder al resentimiento justificado que pueden tener por esa opresión para que dejen de lado las características negativas que las ha animado y volverse revolucionarias.
Reclutar siempre debe hacerse basándose en una explicación científica de la línea política. Naturalmente, la subjetividad entra en juego y no hay nada de malo en adornar las cosas de manera que sean más atractivas para las masas (ej. Forma/ lenguaje). Sin embargo, no está bien manipular a la gente basándose en su subjetividad para que hagan política por otras razones distintas a su apoyo a dichas políticas, ya que esto conlleva a confusión, tanto políticamente como interpersonalmente. Esta es una cuestión realmente estratégica cuando decimos no usar el sexo, el coqueteo o la amistad para reclutar gente. Nuestro objetivo es enseñar a la gente a pensar científicamente y crear organizaciones científicas fuertes.
Esto no quiere decir que la mayoría de la gente en los movimientos de masas sean pensadoræs cientí[email protected][email protected] por motivaciones puramente objetivas. Así que existen cuestiones tácticas sobre qué lenguaje e imágenes utilizar para presentar nuestro mensaje a las masas de manera que puedan identificarse con él. Llevar uniformes, asociar buena música con nuestro movimiento o que personas famosas recomienden nuestro trabajo son todo tácticas que atraen al subjetivismo de la gente sin manipular al [email protected] y, por tanto, sin poner en peligro el movimiento.
Como mínimo, la mitad de [email protected] lectoræs están en prisión e, incluso en la universidad o en cualquier comunidad más pequeña, verás a menudo que gente con la que ya tenías amistad está comenzando a interesarse por la política. Entonces, se trata de tener la habilidad de separar el trabajo del placer. Los desacuerdos políticos no deben decidir las amistades y viceversa. Una táctica útil para esta situación, si sientes que podría haber un conflicto de intereses o confusión, es pasar [email protected][email protected] a [email protected] camarada para que estæ sea su contacto principal y [email protected] Esto da más independencia a dicho [email protected] para explorar la política en sus propios términos con menos presión por las implicaciones de que este acuerdo político contigo sea un requisito para dicha amistad.
Encontrar el equilibrio correcto entre lanzar una amplia red, como la técnica de “dejar caer”, y desarrollar un nuevo cuadro uno a uno es una cuestión táctica complicada. MIM siempre ha errado en el lanzamiento de una amplia red. Esto se basa en la decisión estratégica de que, en nuestras condiciones, es más importante crear opinión pública contra el imperialismo que crear organizaciones de cuadros. No obstante, necesitamos que la gente haga más que leer ULK y nuestro sitio web. No importa si están apoyando o no los proyectos de MIM(Prisons), [email protected] necesitamos que la gente dé un paso adelante por el antiimperialismo para amplificar esa voz antiimperialista y construir instituciones independientes de [email protected][email protected][email protected][email protected] nos contactan todos los días en busca de ayuda. Necesitamos que más camaradas den un paso adelante y creen el poder necesario para proporcionar soluciones reales a sus problemas.
I read with interest the article on the lack of a constitutional right to a grievance procedure ( Prisoners Unite Against Suppression of VA DOC Grievance Procedure) in ULK 54. This happens to be an issue I researched a few months ago. Unfortunately I'm Federal, not state, so I can't file a §1983 anyway, which is a shame because I'd just love to take this one to the Supreme Court.
This legal argument should work. However, the only place I can see it working is at the Supreme Court itself. I offer it in the hopes that someone else can run with it.
The article is quite correct. There are many 4th circuit opinions throwing out prisoners' §1983 actions for denial of or retaliation against filing grievances, most of which go back to Adams v. Rice 40F.3d.72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994). This opinion, however, was before the 1995 Prison Litigation Reform Act, 1997(e). The argument is that, as 1997(e) came later than Adams v. Rice, and congress could not have intended to make a constitutional right (the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances under Amendment 1) contingent upon conduct that is not constitutionally protected, that therefore Adams v. Rice and all subsequent case law should be declared null and void.
Digging a bit deeper, I found that Adams bases its opinion on Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728, 729 (8th Cir 1991) claiming there is "no constitutional right to participate in grievance proceedings."
The problem with this is that Flick v Alba states, "When the claim underlying the administrative grievance involves a constitutional right, the prisoner's right to petition the government for redress is the right of access to the courts, which is not compromised by the prison's refusal to entertain his grievance." After 1997(e), of course, that last clause is false, 1997(e) specifically and deliberately makes a prison's refusal to entertain grievances compromise the right of access to the courts. That's what 1997(e) is for!
If there be any justice, this is a slam-dunk argument. Of course, there isn't any justice. But occasionally a judge, wanting to gain status by overturning a long-held precedent might do the right thing, if only accidentally. It might also have some value as a rallying point for activism.
One might also argue a violation of equal protection under the fourteenth amendment, but I'm not sure how much that would add. A couple of paragraphs couldn't hurt, though.