by a California prisoner July 2017 permalinkRevolutionary Greetings,
I just recently received ULK 56. To get straight to the point, you asked to help you do a "survey," on the drug culture in the prison we're at. Wow! Are you serious? Really! I know you are aware that 1st, the cops or C/Os read the letters and studies we send to you. Are you asking us to work with the K-9 to inform the administration on that issue? Cause that's what i'm getting from this. I am definitely not going to do that survey. Would you please inform me on why you are asking us to do that?
Another imprisoned comrade wrote to us with a similar concern: "Look I'm all for trying to fix things in the prisons but I'm not with exposing certain things that goes on within the system as far as how certain convicts take care of themselves. No coubt it's prisoners getting drugs in these institutions and how they getting them I won't be the one to expose it, that's snitching at its highest level and people get seriously hurt for things like that. So that article kinda threw me off."
We are asking those questions to investigate a problem that comrades bring up over and over. As Maoists we attempt to apply the method of "from the masses to the masses." The drug survey came about because we have been hearing from comrades across the country that the people around them are consumed by drugs or are more concerned with selling drugs than fighting for their own dignity and rights. With that in mind we drafted the series of questions in an attempt to survey the facts on the ground around this problem. Perhaps they are not the most useful questions, and comrades can send us suggestions for improving them. But we were conscious about how we worded them because we knew it could be sensitive to answer certain questions on this topic. We think all the questions can be answered in a general way that does not incriminate anyone, or give out information that is sensitive. From the answers we have received so far we think that’s proven true. We imagine none of the info we’ve received is news to the prison staff.
However, the point both of these writers make is a good one. No one should be filling out that survey with information that the pigs don't have already. And at the very least we should have printed a warning about not giving any information that could get you or anyone else in trouble. We are printing this letter in this issue of Under Lock & Key to both serve as a warning and to remind comrades that we are still interested in this information. We will be summing it up in a future report in ULK. Anyone who feels there is a risk to responding to the survey should not do so.
In addition, we welcome general feedback on the topic, on the survey, or articles on the topic as well. All of this is with the goal of exploring ways to resolve or at least address this contradiction that poses a problem to those organizing for positive change on the inside.
10 July 2017 - CA Prisoner responds: Thank you for your most diplomatic and well-received response about my concerns about the drug survey. Granted there is a problem with drugs in prison. Some institutions more than others. Where i'm at, here in SATF, Corcoran, CA, the administration recently installed an x-ray machine in visiting to curtail the introduction of drugs coming in. It worked. Drugs here are practically non-existent. Works for them and people who have a substance abuse problem. Not so much for the people who are, or were rather, trying to feed themselves and their families. This facility is a substance abuse "treatment" facility. I'm sure the federal government gives them extra funding for that title alone. Thank you for clarifying why you are doing the survey on drugs in prison. ... My sincerest apologies if I was "over the top" with my critique, although I know you do understand my concerns.
In the first ULK I read (ULK 49 - Survival and Stamina), I read "Shun TV, Be Humble, and Check Security," by a California comrade. It was great to know there were others with my same thoughts about the stupid box. There are multiple reasons the "babysitter" is encouraged by authorities, likewise why you should be more than cautious about getting attached to one. Let's go straight to the pros (not for us captives) for authorities and administrators of DOCs everywhere.
Babysitters are "incentives," but not in the normal sense. Instead of being incentives (read: prizes) to earn through excellent behavior, it's used as an incentive to lose through defiance. Pay attention, this is more than just a simple play on words. In the former, you may by your own will (read: volition or choice) decide it in your best interests to excel as a "model" prisoner in order to earn the incentive. This would be a choice exercised through your own judgment. In the second predicament is where 95% of prisoners find themselves.
In the latter, babysitters are used as coercion. Here's the reality: the authorities establish rules and norms of expected behaviors. Break any rule, or fail to meet an expected norm, and the babysitter won't be there when you get "home." Their message is clear: do as we say, behave as we say, or sit in a cell with your thoughts and yourself (if you don't have a celly). To me it doesn't seem like much of a threat, but I'm the odd man out. I've been in and out of Ad-Seg, or whatever is the en vogue term now, since 2012, and have always preferred to read, study and grow. The majority of us are so caught up in consumerism and what I call "reality avoidance," that the threat of no canteen (commissary, special packages) or no babysitter (TV) is effective to smother defiance (outside of extreme circumstances) and gain compliance.
Over decades prison officials have figured out how to condition prisoners to cherish things of no importance. A lot of hombres just want to watch Castle, Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, or whatever, eat their food, exercise when they have homies on their case, and be left to themselves. This is the overwhelming majority mentality here in RH-Max (formerly Ad-Seg). Why is this? Simply because nobody's taken the time to explain the dynamics. In theory we all know what babysitters are used for. In practice, how many internalize this knowledge?
As long as authorities can say "here's a TV, sit down, shut up and don't make us do our job" then we've failed, because the authorities have rocked us to sleep with something stronger than a lullaby. With TV and being "left alone," we are content enough to fight amongst ourselves instead of the puercos. As long as a babysitter can sedate us, the puercos are complacent and can run their program as they see fit. I don't know about you, but I'm not down for catering to the puercos' agenda.
MIM(Prisons) responds: You don't have to sit in your cell alone with your thoughts and nothing to do. Pushing this comrade's observations further, we call on everyone to get involved in the MIM(Prisons) political study group. Or trade some labor for books to study. Make use of your time, like this writer, to read, study and grow. Write to us today to join the next introductory study group.
Recently I was front driver on a battle for education for another inmate. The prison industrial complex had him in a kitchen job at 17 cents an hour. He has been begging for GED for some time now, only to be told no and continue to work for private corporation Aramark in the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC).
I recently wrote the commissioner for the Department of Education in Tennessee, which has zero to do with TDOC. I told her how many are being denied programming and education. How is one supposed to better him/herself without an education? I said "what social interest is served by prisoners who remain illiterate? What social benefit is there in ignorance? How are people corrected while imprisoned if their education is outlawed? Who profits other than the prison industrial complex itself from stupid prisoners?" The recidivism rate for Tennessee is 55% for/in 3 years. 55% will return to prison. That's fact. And at $64.21 per day, you tell me who profits! Not the innocent women and children who the burden falls on when you get arrested and locked up again.
MIM(Prisons) responds: These are the right questions to raise: who really is benefiting from locking up so many people and then offering no services to help these people gain education and work skills, or address problems that make it hard for them to live outside of prison?
Ultimately we don't see any profit coming out of the actual locking up of people: it's a net money-losing enterprise paid for by the government (i.e. by U.$. taxpayers). But certainly there are lots of businesses and individuals working in the criminal injustice system who are making lots of money off this system and who have a material interest in perpetuating it. However, these people aren't the main ones driving the creation, expansion or continuation of prisons, which we've analyzed in depth in past articles. The government, who is allotting so much money to prisons, is using them for the goal of social control, particularly targeting oppressed nations within U.$. borders.
Clearly the whole criminal injustice system needs to be dismantled. But in the short term it is folks like this writer, helping out fellow prisoners, who are doing the ground work to build a united movement strong enough to win the smaller battles today and the bigger battle tomorrow.
I completed the drug survey from ULK 56. As the days passed I could not stop reflecting on the article "Drugs a Barrier to Organizing in Many Prisons." Here in West Virginia dope is God and those who supply them are Messiahs. I decided to put pen to paper and add my thoughts to the discourse.
I am currently incarcerated at Mount Olive, which is West Virginia's highest security prison. Recently the administration severely restricted our yard time. This was done to punish us for the rash of recent murders. Some of the more militant brothers started organizing a peaceful sitdown to protest. The shot-callers immediately vetoed the sitdown.
I was shocked. Then I decided to follow the money, or in this case dope. The gang leaders did not want to antagonize the prison administration out of fear that they would restrict the flow of dope. Drugs were more important than our outdoor recreation privileges.
This is not the only power that drugs have given the administration over us. To curtail the flow of K-2 into the prison we no longer receive our actual mail. We get poor quality photocopies of our mail. There is still K-2 on the compound, but the price has doubled. If prisoners cannot get K-2 through the mail how does it get in? Simple, our captors bring it in. Not only are we enriching our captors, we are increasing their control over us.
Drugs drain all the money off the compound. When prisoners are broke and dope sick they not only rob and extort weaker prisoners, they are grimey with their brothers. This increases the violence on the yard. Instead of working together to improve our situation we make it worse. No unity.
As an old head I lead by example. I abstain from all drugs and alcohol. I do my best to educate the young bloods. No, I do not have much success. As soon as I turn my back they chase the dopeman. I hate to paint such a dark picture, but the truth is not always bright. I look forward to reading the other discourses on this subject.
In response to Sex Offenders Reconsidered in ULK 55, I am both in agreement as well as opposition. Let me explain. I am a sex offender who hates and believes that pedophiles and rapists should stay pariahs. But yet I am stuck in that category even though what I did, in 1990, should not have been a sex crime. I dated a girl who was 15 years old when I was 17.5 years old. We were in high school together. A 2.5 year difference. I turned 18 and she was 15.5 years old, 6 months shy of Florida's 16-year-old consent law. Anyway, I was convicted and am now considered a CHO-MO (child molester) who has to register for the rest of his life and can never go into the general population, where I feel I should be so that I can join the struggle for better prison conditions.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We get a lot of letters like this one, from people who were convicted on sex offenses but do not fit the stereotypical image of a violent rapist or child molester. This is good evidence for why we never trust the criminal injustice system to tell us who are the real criminals. There is a long Amerikkkan history of convicting people from oppressed nations in particular of false sex crimes just to put them "in their place." We refuse to allow the Amerikan government this power.
With that said, there are definitely people who have committed terrible crimes against the people, both sex offenses and other offenses, both inside and outside of prison. This is something that a revolutionary government will need to address. We do not think that there is some essence of a person that makes them incorrigible and a criminal for life. Instead we think the capitalist patriarchy molds people to do terrible things, and it will be up to a revolutionary society to re-mold these folks into productive members of society. That will start with self-criticism and a solid understanding of one's errors and then agreement on how and why ey needs to change.
We're not in a good position to enforce this right now because we just don't have the resources or the power. And we know that it will take serious work for people who have committed anti-people crimes like rape and murder to reform and become productive members of a revolutionary society. But anyone who has committed crimes against the people and wants to take up revolutionary work today can still be judged by their work and their political line. We encourage these folks to engage in serious self-criticism. We are here to help with that. But we know that thorough reform and change will be very difficult under the patriarchy/capitalism. In the mean time we are only able to judge people by their practice. Even people who used to be cops, or fought for the Amerikan military, or committed serious sex crimes can take up revolutionary work and we will welcome that work.
"On June 19, 1963, nearly a hundred chairmen of corporations, foundations answered the call of the president of the Taconic Foundation to aid the civil-rights movement financially. Meeting at the Hotel Carlyle in Manhattan, they pledged over a million dollars to five major civil-rights groups. These leaders of finance and industry perhaps assumed that by assisting the established black organizations to secure their goals they could preclude the emergence of radicalism that would fill the vacuum if the movement failed. Whatever their intentions, these funds, and the sizable contributions from other whites and blacks, enabled the black struggle to expand, to reach more potential supporters, and to plan larger, more ambitious campaigns." (Wedding, Vega, and Mark, 2003, pp. 186-187)
Yes comrades, the capitalists took over the movement by buying our leaders from organizations such as SCLC, SNCC and CORE, etc. This list includes Dr. King, James Former, Roy Wilkins and Cecil Moore of the NAACP. They were able to create this capitalistic buy out because of exploitation of the fear already in the rich white capitalist. The name of this fear was Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, which they found out about largely through media:
"James Baldwin's 'The Fire Next Time' which forced into the consciousness of whites a new sense of the rancor of blacks and the destruction awaiting America if it did not quickly and completely change its racial ways" (Wedding, Vega, and Mark, 2003, p. 185).
He described the Afro-American's past of
"Rope, fire, castration, infanticide, rape; death and humiliation; fear by day and night, fear as deep as the marrow of the bone; doubt that he was worthy of life, since everyone around him denied it; sorrow for his women, for his kinfolk, for his children, who needed his protection, and whom he could not protect; rage, hatred and murder, hatred for white men so deep that it often turned against him and his own and made all love, all trust, all joy impossible." (James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time" as reported by Wedding, Vega & Mark, 2003, p. 185).
This added to
"The popularity of the Black Muslims incitement of violent enmity, described by Baldwin, had first been impressed on white America by CBS's inflammatory documentary in 1959, 'The Hate That Hate Produced.' The Nation of Islam was depicted as an army of black fanatics planning for the inevitable race war. Little or nothing most whites read and heard informed them of Muslim success in rehabilitating blacks that others considered beyond reclamation, or of the Muslim gospel that blacks had to conquer their own shame and poverty by adhering to traditional American virtues as hard work, honesty, self-discipline, mutual help, and self-respect."
Things like this had a huge influence over wealthy white psyches. They began to fear these black Muslims. What I cite next took them over the edge, but Dr. King was ready to be the peaceful Negro leader solution.
"Malcolm X appeared on television more than any other black spokesman in 1963, and few whites remained unaware of his expressions of contempt for all things white, his appeal to blacks to fight racism 'by any means necessary,' and his insistence that the 'day of nonviolent resistance is over.' What often frightened whites instilled a fighting pride in blacks. An apostle of defiance, Malcolm particularly gave voice to the anger and pain of young blacks in the ghetto. His hostility and resentment toward whites epitomized their feelings, and they cheered when he preached 'an eye for an eye,' or when he brought 'whitey down front.' Such utterances expressed the rarely publicized longings of the dissident black masses. Malcolm's insistence on black unity and the right of self-defense, and especially his affirmation of blackness and his contention that blacks must lead and control their own freedom struggle, struck still deeper chords among the many in Afro-America who demanded faster and more fundamental changes in racial conditions and called for more forceful means to achieve these ends. To them, of all black leaders, only Malcolm seemed to understand the depth of the racial conflict; and only Malcolm appeared to view the black struggle for equality as a power struggle, not a moral one. To virtually all blacks, moreover, Malcolm X stood as an implacable symbol of resistance and a champion of liberation." (Wedding, Vega and Mark, 2003, pp. 185-186).
"The more Malcolm loomed as the alternative that whites would have to confront if CORE, SNCC and the SCLC failed, the more white officials acceded to the stipulations posed by the established leadership of the campaign for racial equality." (Harvard Sitkoff, 1981, "The Struggl for Black Equality:1954-1992, n.p.)
Using this, Dr. King and his cronies manipulated the power holding rich whites into sponsoring the nonviolent approach to civil rights, which they gained total control of, even picking who they wanted to be recognized as black leaders. This went so far up the political ladder that the POTUS of the era was effected and partially responsible for its growth as stated in the following:
"Kennedy began to act decisively on civil rights in the summer of 1963. He did so in part because of his personal sense of morality and in part because of his calculations as party leader and chief executive on how to respond to new pressure. He needed to satisfy the millions of Americans, white and black, liberal and moderate, protesting federal inaction and wanting an end to disorder. The president also had to dampen the explosive potential of widespread racial violence and to maintain the confidence of the mass of blacks in government. Additionally, Kennedy considered it necessary to assist Farmer and King and Wilkins in securing their objectives lest the movement be taken over by extremists." (Wedding, Vega & Mark, 2003, p. 187)
Once we see and know the truth about the fear and jealousy that King and his cronies had for the Nation of Islam in the persons of Honorable Elijah Mohammad and Malcolm X whose membership was growing exponentially in 1963-1964, which the nonviolent wing of the civil rights look at as a rival or even worse a direct enemy. What motivated King and his cronies was not the people's needs. It was power, influence and money. What is not discussed is that by many blacks Dr. King was a sellout in his own time. Later on Dr. King smartened up and became aware of the true enemy of the people, i.e. capitalism and wage inequality, which lead to housing and consumer inequality. He was assassinated before he could make this address on the Washington lawn. Killed by the capitalistic system as an example to show who controlled the movement and what was and wasn't allowed to be talked about. The slave master's name is not "whitey." Its name is "capitalism", which is the creator of poverty. Just ponder what happened to Johnnie Cochran when he decided to take on the United States on the issue of reparations for the slaves' descendants. Mysteriously Johnnie checked out on some cancer shit.
We should all wake up and see our enemy!
Ask yourselves: "Who Bought the Civil Rights Movement of 1964?"
The idea of organizing, as we all know, is much harder than theorizing about organizing. I raised the idea of expanding the organized coordinated apparatus of MIM(Prisons) to states in a sub-chapter context. This would weaponize the public protest to influence policy changes, and pressure entrenched power positions to give way.
Yet, regardless of "how" this is supposed to work, the "who," as related to the public, is supposed to work this machinery is absent. There is an extraordinary lack in many quarters of the prison population, regarding outside support, who are engaged enough to work this machinery even with direction. Within the prison, prisoners are isolated and their access to outside sources of support or even an audience is hampered by a truly oppressive design geared toward just this work.
I cannot and do not expect MIM(Prisons) to produce what may not be possible and completely outside of any of our individual control, i.e. the interest, motivation and will of potential cadres to engage in this work. Yet, there should be a focused effort to attract, organize and mobilize people who have been on the web and who will deem the cause of this work noble enough to apply effort.
Finally, there is an extraordinary need to take the hidden means of repression used by this society and expose all its manifestations to the public. There are two reasons for this: 1. It de-fangs, embarrasses and exposes its naked shame by putting on blast the unlawful and inhumane abuses of those people who use the shelter of the institution to act as tyrants. 2. It raises conscious awareness in the public by removing the edicts, and cuts of media which claim to be fair and balanced, and demonstrates consistently from a human standpoint the hardships unnecessarily inflicted on a vulnerable population, often to put on a public show of toughness. The result of which is the identification needed on a human/personal level to raise outrage.
It's obvious the stagnant and retributive American prison system exists as it is today because it was a social means of controlling people who were deemed not to belong to this society, those who were not "All-American."
The webpage should publicize, state by state:
Names of abusive staff who either assault or terrorize prisoners or implement abusive policies and tactics.
Abusive tactics and policies specifically implemented, listed and explained for their effect in each state and institution.
State sub-chapters should be encouraged on a voluntary but organized basis. A volunteer State Director should be recruited to:
Coordinate state campaigns between the community and prisoners, targeted at the state lawmakers and DOC commissioners in regards to complaints and protest relating to incidents in prisons, policies implemented and needing to be changed, and laws implemented, needing to be implemented or changed, within a state.
Educate the public across states about prison conditions, with their social and class ramifications.
City sub-chapters should be encouraged on a voluntary but organized basis. Volunteer City-Community Coordinators should be established and recruited to:
Coordinate community and state campaigns between prisoners/prisons and communities statewide, through State Directors, targeted at state lawmakers, DOC commissioners and local prison wardens and superintendents in regards to complaints and protest relating to incidents in prisons, policies implemented and needing to be changed, and laws implemented, needing to be implemented or changed, within prisons.
Educate the public in those communities about prison conditions, with their social and class ramifications.
State administrative project departments should be encouraged. Volunteers and support members within different departments should be recruited to work on certain projects:
Research tactics, strategies, and proposed policies to be approved by state directors, city-community coordinators and prison bases; and researching data and statistics that identify positive information which support proposed laws and prison policies.
Political workers to inform and agitate within the state by promoting and organizing protest, phone calls and correspondence to state law makers, DOC commissioners and prison wardens and superintendents about complaints, proposed laws and policies to be adopted by state officials.
Propagandists to coordinate media campaigns to inform the public about events and negative trends; measure the effectiveness and growth of information dissemination within communities across the state, with a targeted effort to inform local community members within small towns and rural areas specifically about inhumane treatment and cruelties which have inflicted demographic groups which are the same as the area being targeted.
Selected members from each of the above project departments will set the overall direction with state directors and all of the above shall provide support and statewide work that advances the vision. Thus what has been hidden inside prison walls for a century and a half will be exposed to the public. Webpage and popular social media campaigns can be interchangeable.
United Struggle from Within bases should be encouraged on a continuation of current MIM(Prisons) work and programs, but with an expansion of coordinating information-sharing and campaigns in regards to protest within the prison with community and state activities.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is laying the groundwork for an organizational system that could both expand and coordinate our organizing work beyond the prisons. Setting up good structures within which people can get involved is an important part of our work as leaders. We want to help people make the best use of their time, and become productive revolutionaries by taking up the struggle where it makes the most sense for them. So this idea of setting up organizing structure with clear roles and responsibilities and tasks could be an important contribution to our work. And this writer is correct that what we are missing now is the "who," i.e. the people who will step up and take on these roles of leadership and help build this structure for the outside struggle.
We hope to hear from others, both behind bars and on the streets, about ideas for a better structure to our work on the streets, and even more importantly from volunteers who can step up and implement these ideas.
There are likely many different structures that could be successful for our organizing, and each cell and group will need to figure out what works best for them. But what we should all have in common in the goal of putting an end to imperialism and the criminal injustice system that it uses for social control. Conducting educational and propaganda work is an important part of that battle for us today. MIM(Prisons) doesn’t see targeting law makers and others in charge to lobby for new laws as a particularly effective strategy, especially while we have so little power relative to the imperialists. But that work can be useful when paired with education about why these laws won’t ultimately take down imperialism. In the end we must attack the system from many sides, and we should all work to our strengths to put in the best anti-imperialist work we can.
About two years ago the Third Circuit Court of New Jersey ruled that the Security Investigation Division (SID) could not keep prisoners inside of Management Control Units (MCU) without a way to get out of the unit. And now, two years after this ruling, New Jersey SID has found a new tactic for keeping prisoners in MCU.
A quick summary of what MCU is, for those who do not know. MCU is 4 special housing units meant for high security prisoners in New Jersey. These are generally high-level gang members, with vast networks and influence, cop killers or people who killed people in prison, escape artists, radical prisoners, etc.
A prisoner in MCU cannot go to the law library; he has to write a request slip and await for someone to come see him. He cannot be in contact with other General Population (GP) prisoners. His visits are much more restricted. You can't get college courses or other things that GP could get. And you have no movement.
SID had been keeping some prisoners back in MCU for 10, 20, and even over 30 years! Sometimes more! But as said above the Third Circuit Court ruled this unconstitutional and ordered these prisoners released.
After this ruling, prisoners were shipped all around the country and often put in the same conditions in the new states they were placed in. And since then SID has found a new tactic to fill MCU back up again, by placing high level prisoners that go to Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) for any infraction, no matter how minor, on an MCU tier for Ad-Seg. And when their Ad-Seg time is up SID places them on Involuntary Protective Custody (IPC). And the reason they cite is rival gang threats.
SID has done this now to about 20 people and this new tactic is spreading rapidly. Grievances, writeups, complaints, and inquiries have all gone nowhere. New efforts now must be taken in the courts to address this which may take years, and will be much harder now that SID can argue that they are doing it for the safety of prisoners.
MIM(Prisons) responds: New Jersey is following in the footsteps of other state DOCs that have lost court battles regarding long-term isolation of prisoners, only to come up with new work-arounds to lock up people in long-term segregation. It is important that we continue to expose the torture by control units, be they called MCU, Ad-Seg, SHU, IPC or by any other name. There is no justification for long-term isolation, regardless a prisoner's conviction, conflicts behind bars, lumpen organization history, or escape attempts. Torture is inhumane and can not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Our campaign to shut down prison control units has been going on for many years, and unfortunately it is no closer to victory than it was when we initiated the campaign. As long as prisons are a tool for social control for the imperialist state we're unlikely to win this campaign overall. But sometimes battles are won in court, which both help to expose the isolation as torture and help provide relief to some prisoners.