The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out
[Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison] [Georgia]
expand

Georgia Tier 3 Oppression Must be Fought

I'm a Muslim prisoner currently being housed in a Georgia Department of Corrections torture chamber called the Tier 3 Program. There are no requirements or due process to go through to be placed on the Tier 3 Program. If you file lots of grievances, the Warden doesn't get along with you, or if a rat who works for the administration wants you out of the way for some reason he can lie to the Warden about you and get you placed on the tier.

Here at Tier 3 for the first 90 days you are locked in a cell with just a shower, toilet, sink, and bunk. For 10 days there is no recreation, books, or magazines. All the windows have a metal gate over them preventing prisoners from seeing out. Throughout the state we are only fed breakfast and dinner Friday through Sunday. Without store items on the weekends, they basically force us into starvation.

Every time I speak out about it, the guards curse me out. If I resist any other way, they pepper spray and beat me. They also use our food as a means to punish us. It's time to stand up against the oppression. I'm waiting to hear back on two assault grievances. So far it's been over 60 days and still no response. There are 200 prisoners here on Tier 3.


MIM(Prisons) responds: In Georgia we have heard a lot about this new system of long-term isolation with the neutral-sounding name of a "tier" program. This torture and starvation are just a few of the reasons why we have a campaign to shut down all control units. These units target politically active prisoners like this comrade who is filing grievances. We look forward to working with this writer as a part of the USW campaign against control units. Building unity in Georgia and beyond, we will take on these tools of social control as part of the broader anti-imperialist prison movement.

chain
[Education] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 45]
expand

Education vs. Propaganda

I am a tutor in the prison's fascist propaganda program, known as GED Preparation. In the classes the prisoners are taught the official U.$. government history line, which they are expected to parrot back when they take the GED tests.

Some of the lies the prisoners are taught are:

  1. The "valiant" Amerikan colonists fought for freedom with the help of many willing Black slaves. Of course, freedom for the slaves was never an issue, only how to secure power and control for the white masters (all male) who wrote the new rules (Bill of Rights, etc.) for the nascent Amerikan government.

  2. Once the British gave up, the new Amerikans immediately headed west to grab as much "vacant" land as possible, and with the accompanying preachers, to convert those filthy, violent heathens to the correct religion, Christianity. The religion that teaches "slaves obey your masters." They don't mention that when those pesky primitives resisted handing over the land, they were attacked, killed if possible, then once subdued, were herded off for re-settlement (to land no whites wanted because it was unlivable badland).

  3. At the end of the Civil War in 1865 Abraham Lincoln and his minions passed the 13th Amendment which, it was claimed, ended slavery. Totally ignored and denied (if questioned) by the teacher was the part saying "... except as punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted..." Then the creation of thousands of "crimes," when conviction of any of them meant to be thrown into slavery. "Put on those shackles and start hoeing that cotton, prisoner!"

I sit in the class with steam coming out of my ears as I listen to the lies. I cannot speak up if I want to keep my job. Frustration! Once out of class though, I talk to receptive people so they get the real history and its impact on the U.$. social/political system.

Comrades who write of the need for prisoners to educate themselves, using their free time for improvement, are absolutely correct. Prisoners reading the MIM publications will find truth and real knowledge. In the prison-created/mandated classes they will find only the official U.$. government line. However, we still can learn truth if we are willing to do our own research, talk to aware comrades, analyze the information, and then come to rational awareness.

In conclusion, if you want to win in your battle against the forces of capitalist fascism, then learn how to educate yourself, and spend your free time doing it. Knowledge does lead to power. Ignorance supports only slavery.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer is on point about the underlying themes of capitalist education and the importance of anti-imperialist information. We must take what we can from all sources. If you don't have a high school diploma and your prison offers GED classes, it's well worth enrolling. But we need to take this education, along with the mainstream press, with a critical eye knowing it is representing the capitalists' dishonest version of history and news. We can learn some useful facts but we have to always put them under the anti-imperialist microscope. This is why alternative press like Under Lock & Key is so important. We print the news that no one else will publish. If you are reading this, share it with others and help spread the knowledge and build the power of the oppressed.

If you need access to non-Amerikkkan history books and study materials, you can get them from MIM(Prisons) via our correspondence study courses, Free Books for Prisoners Program, or the United Struggle from Within prisoner-led study group support project. Just write in to get started! And if you're like this comrade and are trying to reach out to interested people to spread revolutionary education, write in to get some anti-imperialist propaganda to share.

chain
[Censorship] [ULK Issue 44]
expand

PrisonTalk.com Censors MIM(Prisons)

Prison Talk Online censors political posts
For a few years MIM(Prisons) has been participating in the on-line forum Prison Talk (www.prisontalk.com). This website advertises itself as a "prison information and family support community." The forums on Prison Talk are primarily used by family members of prisoners, looking for information and support. From their home page description, Prison Talk (also known as PTO) explains:

"There is no worse feeling than that of being alone and helpless. This applies to the families of those who are incarcerated just as much as it does to those behind the walls. PTO's goal is to bridge the communication barrier that exists in and around the criminal 'justice' system today and bring everyone in the prisoner support community closer together to effect change in policy, prisoner rights, sentencing and so much more."

Occasionally MIM(Prisons) attempts to post information in PTO forums for the benefit of the PTO audience, who may not regularly visit our website for news from Amerikan prisons. For instance, during the statewide hunger strike in California's prisons, we provided several articles and updates on the situation that were appreciated by the California forum users (users can indicate appreciation of a post within the forums by “thanking” the author).

We try to be careful to follow the rules of the forums. For instance, a few years ago Prison Talk staff made some policy changes to bring the forums into compliance with copyright laws. Because the content on our website is not copyrighted, these laws don't apply to posts of content from prisoncensorship.info. But we understand that the Prison Talk staff have decided to apply their policies to all news articles posted on the site rather than research each individual source, and so we modified our participation to include only a small summary of an article and then a link to the full article for those who want to read it, as their policy requires.(1)

In spite of this practice, our posts over the past year were often deleted for "copyright violation" without any indication of how we were violating the policy. Perhaps in recognition that we are not violating the copyright policy, Prison Talk staff recently started making up new reasons to delete our posts. One reason given was "We cannot allow you to link to that site. It asks for donations, and as such is not allowed on PTO." This one is interesting since it took only about 5 minutes of looking through recent posts on PTO to find examples of uncensored posts linking to sites that request donations, such as this one which links to truth-out.org, a site that has a prominently-featured button requesting donations (far more aggressive than prisoncensorship.info). In fact the only sites that are unlikely to request donations are commercial sites, so if this is actually a PTO policy, they are effectively banning links to most non-profit and independent websites.

Another post was deleted with the reason given as "You have been told multiple times you CANNOT post as someone else." This is an odd reason since we have never concealed the identity of the persyn posting on PTO for MIM(Prisons). In fact a few years ago we were asked to take down the link to the MIM(Prisons) website in that persyn's PTO user profile. So on the one hand they want us to disguise who we work with, and on the other hand they accuse us of posting as someone else. And for the record, this was the first time PTO made this accusation, it was not "multiple times."

It seems that the PTO staff want to prevent MIM(Prisons) from participating in the forums, but they don't want to do so openly. They have pursued an ongoing practice of making it as difficult as possible for us to share information about the fight against the criminal injustice system being waged by United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons). We have asked the PTO administrators to be honest with us and just tell us to stop participating if they want to kick us off. But they ignore this request and continue to pretend that the problem is our lack of compliance with policies. We do consistently see our posts censored within a few hours of posting, and so given the volume of posts in a day (there were 1885 new posts over one random 12-hour period this month) we assume at least one administrator has set a flag notifying themselves to review every single post we attempt to make.

It is unfortunate that the organizers of this forum serving a population that desperately needs access to information about battles being waged in the prison system are censoring participants in such an underhanded way. This is eerily similar to the games played by prison administrators who throw out prisoners' mail and pretend it just never arrived, or who deny material as "a threat to the security of the institution" when they just don't like the material. Unlike prison staff, PTO is legally allowed to remove material they find politically disagreeable from their website, but they probably know that openly doing so would lose them support from many of their users.

MIM(Prisons) is honest about our selective publication of articles and information in both Under Lock & Key and on our website. We are clear about our political line and the goals of our work. Liberal organizations like PTO, who pretend to be open to all views but in fact secretly promote their own agenda, are harming the fight against injustice.


Notes:
1. The policy reads: "To stay within 'fair use' copyright you are allowed a brief summary and a link back to the site which the article is located...You are also not allowed to edit the summary or paragraph that you are using that came from the copyright holder." Further, the PTO Admin who authored the policy wrote: "The moderators have been instructed from this point forward to edit any copyrighted news article that do not fit the 'fair use' criteria and contact the members who post them." While none of the material posted from MIM(Prisons) violates any copyright laws, we have also complied fully with this policy as requested by Prison Talk staff. In spite of this, our posts are now consistently deleted and frequently the reason given is just that we need to read the copyright policy. There are plenty of other posts that quote news articles that are not censored. For instance, here's a post that quotes an Associated Press story. And we've never been given an explanation for how we are violating the copyright policy.

chain
[Rhymes/Poetry]
expand

Our Utopia

I see the Utopia
Beautiful as ancient Ethiopia (Kush)
No classes or nations, just one humanity
No suffering or capitalist insanity
Unity of opposites, the world outlook
Power is in knowledge, but open the right book
If i didn't struggle for a better world i'd be a crook
The Golden Age, where everyone has mastered the mind
Recognizing there are no races, only one humankind
No sexism or ego to crush
Nature's Bliss is what We must be in touch
So i solemnly pledge to fight and give my life
Like the Ancestors who made my life right
All the Ancestors that struggled on the path
Who bring us to our feet and make us overstand
Freedom come like an Afrikan drum
Show the whole world that We are One
The taste is sweet like sugar to the tongue

chain
[Control Units] [ULK Issue 43]
expand

Torture Spreading as Tool of Social Control

In this issue of Under Lock & Key we take on the issue of social control in prisons through long-term isolation, commonly known as control units (CUs). CUs are permanently designated prisons or cells in prisons that lock prisoners up in solitary or small group confinement for 22 or more hours a day with no congregate dining, exercise or other services, and virtually no programs. Almost 50% uf ULK subscribers are in CUs, while this is true for less than 5% of the overall prison population in the United $tates.

This topic comes up a lot in ULK because control units are used to punish and isolate prisoners speaking up against the criminal injustice system, those with influence over others, and even those who just won't go along with the programmed repression of everyday prison life. Our prisoner activist comrades, United Struggle from Within members are often found in these long-term isolation cells, still writing for ULK and organizing others in whatever way they can. The real purpose of these control units is exposed in "Control Units: Social Control for Semi-Colonies in the United $tates," and several articles on validation for activism. Control units attack our ability to organize and are yet another way the prisons foment divisions between prisoners.

We know that long-term isolation has serious mental and physical health consequences. The conditions are eloquently exposed in the article on the Delaware Prison System. And the dangerous health effects are discussed in the article "Who's Defining Mental Illness?"

The use of control units is expanding within the Amerikan criminal injustice system and the past and future growth of control units are explored in the review of the book "Out of Control" and our summary of recent results from our own control unit survey.

With all this information on the development and purpose of control units we need to turn to activism and what we should be doing to fight back. Many of the articles listed above offer insights and options. And for the overall development of the movement we call attention to the article on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity and the lessons for the United Front from the Bandung Conference. By building a United Front for Peace in Prisons we are laying the groundwork of unity and peace to take on important battles like the one to abolish control units.

The fight against prison control units is important for the anti-imperialist movement, but it can only be waged in the context of the broader struggle. We might win some reforms and gain some freedom for our activist comrades behind bars, and better conditions for the general prison population, but until we dismantle the criminal injustice system we won't be able to effect systematic change. And that will only happen with the overthrow of imperialism because, as is clearly exposed in this issue of Under Lock & Key, prisons are a critical tool of social control for the imperialists. There's no way the imperialists will give up that control, and they always look for new ways to spin national oppression to sound tolerable and even necessary to the Amerikkkan public.

Control Unit Survey Responses

MIM(Prisons) has been soliciting for data on control units for the past several issues of ULK. We're forced to do this because there is no central information source on control units in prisons in the United $tates. Even for states that publish data on their population and report on the existence of control units, the counts of prisoners housed there are not always accurate. and there is a trend to downplay and under report on control units. Whether this is by giving them a different name (administrative segregation, super max security, security risk housing, tiers, etc.) or by refusing to talk about these long-term isolation cells altogether, this subterfuge and denial is evidence that the prisons know control units are cruel and unusual punishment.

In response to the frequently heard question of how would we deal with crime differently, first we point out that we do not agree with a definition of crime that allows the biggest murderers and thieves to run the government and military. Once the people have power to control the definition and enforcement of laws to be in the interests of humynity and not profit, we'll be able to thoroughly deal with the real criminals. We hold up the example of prisons in China during the Cultural Revolution to show how communists handle crime and justice. Prisons in China during that time were places of political education and retraining. Landlords, capitalists, and spies were given an opportunity to understand their crimes against the people, to make self-criticism, and to learn new and useful skills so that they could return as productive members of society. This is in direct contrast to the Amerikan criminal injustice system, which builds recidivism and isolates politically active and influential prisoners in control units without even a pretense of education or rehabilitation.

We received 54 responses to the control unit survey over the past year and this article summarizes some of the new findings.

The respondents broke down by state as follows:


StateRespondents
AR, DE, FL, KS, MD, ME, MO, NV, OR, SC, UT1
AZ, CT, IL, PA, TN, WI2
IN4
CA6
TX8
GA13

The high response rate from Georgia, Texas and California is at least in part reflective of the activism going on in those states, as well as the control unit prisons and cell blocks that have proliferated in those states. In many cases we received data on the same prison from multiple sources.

While close to half of the survey respondents did not report on the year the control unit opened (presumably because they didn't know), 12 of the units reported on opened in the past 2 years. That's a lot of new prison control units. This includes prisons in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maine and California.

Some prisons are control units in their entirety. Modeled after the first long-term isolation prisons in Marion and Lexington, these facilities are entirely dedicated to long-term solitary confinement. But most control units these days are separate sections within an existing prison. This might be a whole yard, several units, or just specific cells. This makes it more challenging to count the number of control unit beds/prisoners accurately, and gives the prisons a way to hide their torture programs within regular prisons.

The reasons given for locking prisoners up in long-term isolation vary, but most come back to some sort of justification based on safety and security, citing a history of violence or fighting, or rule violations. In many prisons there is a policy of locking up "Security Threat Group" members, also known as "gang members," for which validation is arbitrary and punitive, as we discussed extensively in Under Lock & Key 41. As one prisoner explained: "If you are politically conscious and write about such they claim 'gang activity'." Several others described the arbitrary nature of control unit assignment, explaining what gets people into these units in their prisons: "COs will falsify the lock up order and sergeant and lieutenant will go along", "Any and everything. Such as litigator-grievance filer", and "No information in inmate handbook. As far as known, administrative discretion."

Most people were unaware of new control unit prisons being opened or planned for in their state, but 13 people reported on known plans for new control units. This underscores the importance of our work to shut down these torture chambers.

Many survey respondants reported on the conditions in these control units. Below are some of the representative descriptions:


"Subpar treatment of prisoners, small food portions, withholding of property, mail, etc."

"They are all sensory deprivation torture at its best"

"We don't get yard correctly or food in proper proportions"

"Barbaric, human degradation less than dogs receive at the pound"

"We are locked in for 24 hours a day. Shower, sometimes every other day for 30 minutes. We get outside recreation for 5 hours once every 7-10 days"

"Each cell here only gets 30 minutes a day of dayroom and 3 hours of yard a week"

"They lie on us, beat us up, starve us, they don't give proper medical attention"

"While in segregation for almost four years, myself and other prisoners were subjected to the most inhumane and barbarous treatment. There were periods in which we went months without getting showers. In my almost 4 years here, I had recreation/exercise maybe 20 times. Prisoners would be stripped out, completely naked in their cells for days. Prisoners would be gassed/maced with multiple cans of this toxic agent – guys were sprayed so regular and with such large quantities of gas, they many of them had built up physical and psychological resistances to the torture – guys would brag about being able to 'eat' the gas, and the officers were so use to using such large quantities of gas, if they gassed someone with only one can and the person coughed and choked, they'd say things like 'you lil' bitch, you can't even take a full can.' Prisoners would be denied food, prisoners were beaten with restraints on, prisoners were shot with the canisters of tear gas guns, while locked inside of their cell, and on May 7th or 8th of 2012, one mentally ill prisoner was allowed to hang himself, while the officers simply slept the night away. There are so many crimes that have been committed behind these walls by animals that have the audacity to call us (the least of these) criminal."

chain
[Hunger Strike] [Control Units] [Georgia State Prison] [Georgia] [ULK Issue 43]
expand

Georgia State Prison Hunger Strike Against Control Units

A hunger strike against the Tier program at Georgia State Prison started on February 24, 2015 and will be official as of February 26. So far four prisoners are refusing food trays!

I was recently transferred to Georgia State Prison and arbitrarily placed on a Tier 2 Step Down Program. These administrators have placed a ban on all newspapers, magazines, and any publications dealing with any form of press, so I have not received any of your periodicals since I was transferred from December.

I have filed grievances challenging this violation of the First Amendment and also the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments due to these prisoncrats stripping me and others of all personal property, denying access to the law library or outside recreation, and deliberately abusing grievance procedure by refusing to process any grievance that is submitted.

Further, prisoners are being placed on this so-called behavior modification program with no due process! Prisoners are being punished for disciplinary reports that are five years expired, and for sanctions already served. No one in this program has been given any form of evidentiary hearing nor any Disciplinary Report (D.R.) that has sanctioned this so-called program. In fact, all are being punished for past behavior. Even if the D.R. was dismissed or expunged from the prisoner's file he is still forced into this Administrative Segregation Unit.

Prisoners are being housed two men to a cell and locked down 24 hours a day. Prisoncrats state that this is not for punishment, nor is it solitary confinement, but they call it "isolation" with a roommate. There is nothing habilitative about this program and it only instills anger and hate into the individuals housed here.

The only prisoners who have been released off this program are prisoners that have either maxed out their sentences, died back here (3 prisoners in the past 90 days), or debriefed and turned snitches for the prisoncrats.

The majority of mail sent out to family and press is shredded or tossed into the trash, so we are struggling to get public attention drawn to this torture program. It looks as if we will be forced to participate in a hunger strike in order to get help in ending this prolonged solitary confinement program. So we ask that eyes and ears be placed upon this place because there are those ready to starve themselves in order to force these prisoncrats to remove us from these cruel and inhuman conditions.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Comrades in Georgia have been aggressively exposing and fighting the Tier program since it was implemented in 2013, and in some facilities have been writing petitions and gathering signatures against the torture. We offer much respect to those willing to sacrifice their health in order to demand changes to these horrible conditions. And we will do what we can to support this battle (which we only learned about in mid-March due to mail delays). We can not advise on the specific situation in GSP, but we caution activists behind bars that whenever possible we should build support both inside and out before engaging in such a potentially dangerous action. ULK is one good venue for building public opinion, and when we can get the publication into prisons it also serves to help build the cadre of dedicated folks willing to take these actions. Without this support the prisoncrats have an easier time isolating and breaking activists, and can even use this to permanently harm or even kill someone.


Update 9 April 2015 — I'm here in Georgia State Prison on hunger strike, in protest to my 1st, 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendment rights to the U.S. Constitution being deliberatily violated by the Georgia Department of Kkkorrections (GDC). Other prisoners and I have been arbitrarily and unlawfully stripped of all personal property, mail and phone privileges, access to satellite law library, contact visitation, commissary privileges, and to add insult to injury the Warden has taken the toilet's flush button from inside the cell and placed it on the outside. Now here's the kicker: prisonerers are being housed two prisoners to a single-occupancy cell with no way to flush the cell's toilet. This is part of Georgia Department of Kkkorrections' new Administrative Segregation Tier program of prolonged solitary kkkonfinement.

The Standard Operating Procedure states that this program is not to be used as a punishment measure, but GDC's actions are contrary to its stated purpose. According to this policy, a prisoner must be sanctioned to disciplnary Administrative Segregation in order to be placed upon the program. I have yet to come across any prisoner that has received a disciplinary report that sanctioned such a placement.

Then, daily, these prisoncrats come around and spew lies as to why this program was started: "To reintroduce prisoners back into the general population and back into society." This is a farce because none that have completed all phases have been placed back into general population. They've come up with a phase "+" (plus) to keep all prisoner who've defended themselves from guard attacks on permanent lockdown with all segregation/Hi-Max mandates stripped from them.

So I initiated a strike which started 23 February 2015 and ended 19 March 2015, has been resumed since 20 March 2015, and is still going on. I am also putting together a 1983 Civil Suit to challenge and abolish this torture program! I've posted several articles on this subject on IndyMedia hoping to expose this neo-fascist torture program for what it really is. There is nothing rehabilitative or positive in any aspect pertaining to this so-called Step Down/lockdown program. These Klu Klux Klan and bootlicking Negroes are working overtime to keep all grievances/complaints from reaching the courtroom. So this is a war and I'm fighting to destroy this torture program.

chain
[Campaigns] [Chillicothe Correctional Institution] [Ohio]
expand

Ohio, Chillicothe Grievance Culture

I hope this helps some how people in Texas, California, and Florida with how their grievance procedure is done. We have nothing compared to what I read goes on in those places. I filed 26 ICRs (informal complaints) and 11 NOGs(Notice of Grievance) in 2015. A five year low for me. The most serious grievance I made was a staff member trying to kill a litter of kittens.

Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI) is an old army base. It's 100 years old. There's 74 acres inside the fence with 2800 prisoners here. It's Ohio's oldest, largest, and most inmates prison. There are approximately 40 cats (outside cats) that we take care of that CCI refuses to help. We found homes for 14 last year.

Most of my grievances last year were to fix things or get things like fixing lights and coffee makers, to getting trash cans and clocks. But I've had years where it's been a lot worse and I've dealt or helped deal with problems closer to what I read in ULK.

It's nice having an institutional inspector who takes pride in his numbers. He likes having one of the lowest number of grievances compared to the other 29 institutions while in some instances having 2 times the number of prisoners. In doing that, he plays with the numbers a little, but that's how I get things done for myself and others. Commissary won't reimburse someone for a $2 copy card that was defective? Well, here's the claim (an NOG). Once he gets it, looks at it, he calls you up to his office. He then says if you take this NOG back, I'll copy anything you need. In another case, he's given out stamped envelopes, just so he does not have to log the grievance and keep his numbers down. For a small compensation grievance like this it's easier to do this than to put through the paperwork for a credit to your account. Quicker too.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade sets a good example pursuing grievances that are both large and small. And it's a very good tactic to take advantage of any opportunity to win a case, even if it's just for a few copies. Our victories and losses will come and go over time, but we must remain vigilant in fighting for our rights and seeking opportunities to gain some organizing space and resources. Our struggle is a long one, with the goal of overthrowing imperialism not likely to come in the near future. Let's take advantage of these small victories to help build unity and strength to fight the bigger anti-imperialist battle.

chain
[Control Units] [ULK Issue 43]
expand

Book Review: Out of Control

Out of Control: A 15-Year Battle Against Control Unit Prisons
by Nancy Kurshan
Freedom Archives, 2013
web book available here

"All human activity is collective - a combination of the work and inspiration shaped by those who came before us and those who labor with us." - Nancy Kurshan

Nancy Kurshan does an excellent job of highlighting the significance of a 15-year struggle of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown (CEML) from 1985-2000. This struggle was initiated to end the lockdown at Marion Federal Prison, located in the state of Illinois, which morphed into one of Amerikkka's earliest and most notorious control units and isolation-based torture chambers. At its core, the book illustrates countless examples of mutual aid and cooperation, along with emphasizing the importance of having clearly established goals and objectives that can be reasonably achieved.

As with any struggle that is geared towards movement building, CEML began with the idea of a few individuals; founding members Nancy Kurshan, Jan Susler, and Steve Whitman initially just wanted to educate the people by exposing to the public the systemic practices of social, political, economic and racial injustices that are inherent in the prison system, and how these contradictions impact and affect our communities. It wasn't long before their work took on a life of its own, that was molded by their relentless strategical planning and organizing.

Unbeknownst to many in society, solitary confinement units were originally modeled after the diabolical techniquest of the mad scientist, Dr. Edgar Schein of MIT. He provided a blueprint on how to break and brainwash the Chinese prisoners of war in his book Coercive Persuasion. Nancy Kurshan excerpts a passage from Schein's article "Man Against Man":

"In order to produce marked changes of attitude and/or behavior, it is necessary to weaken, undermine, or remove the supports of the old attitudes. Because most of these supports are the face-to-face confirmation of present behavior and attitudes, which are provided by those with whom close emotional ties exist, it is often necessary to break these emotional ties. This can be done either by removing the individual physically and preventing any communication with those whom he cares about, or by proving to him that those whom he respects are not worthy of it, and, indeed, should be actively mistrusted...

"I would like to have you think of brainwashing, not in terms of politics, ethics, and morals, but in terms of the deliberate changing of human behavior and attitudes by a group of men who have relatively complete control over the environment in which the captive populace lives."(p. 12)

This history gives relevant context to the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation's (CDCR) gang validation policies/practices, and in particular to CDCRs newly-created step-down program (SDP). The SDP is where we prisoners have been targeted and persecuted with the same purpose and objectives that Schein had in mind — to break and brainwash us! It must be noted that Pelican Bay's counter-intelligence unit (Institution Gang Investigators — IGI), has successfully destroyed the only real outside support I had. They falsely accused my beloved lil sista of promoting gang activity via a letter she sent me to tell me that Black Panther Party members were going to be attending and supporting a community event that was being held on my behalf to raise awareness about my status as a political prisoner and forthcoming parole board hearing.

Instrumental in CEML's successful grassroots organizing were several key factors:

1) They made a point of not just jumping into activities but rather committed fully to doing the groundwork necessary to make events successful. This allowed them to preserve and maximize their limited resources. For example, they would initiate plans 3, 6, or 12 months in advance, containing specific objectives that they wanted to achieve in their line of work.

2) Their collaborative work with political prisoners such as Sundiata Acoli, Oscar López Rivera, Alejandrina Torres, Bill Dunne, Safiya Bukhari, Hanif Shabazz Bey, Carlos A. Torres, Silvia Baraldini, and Susan Rosenberg, which later included the prisoners who were also being subjected to various human rights abuses. CEML members were able to learn first hand of the contradictions that plagued Marion Prison and others like it, thus equipping CEML with the necessary tools to achieve their objectives, while providing substantive support to prisoners. Pivotal in this exchange was CEML including the prisoners in the decision-making process when strategizing for a particular action and/or a community event.

3) CEML understood the importance of having organizational infrastructure. They constantly distributed pamphlets, leaflets, flyers, brochures, and other propaganda-based materials via the workshops, seminars, and study groups they held, to educate the people about their line of work. This ensured the basis of clearly-defined organizational expectations being set forth, which made it easier for CEML to receive support from the community.

4) CEML did not limit the focus of their primary objective to just ending the lockdown at Marion; they also instituted additional campaigns that became interconnected to their pursuits. For example, the prisoners at Marion were being forced to drink, shower, and wash themselves in toxic, polluted water. The exposure of this contradiction brought about outrage from the environmentalists, and allowed CEML to forge a united front with them.

And so I close with a clenched fist salute to Nancy Kurshan and the entire CEML staff for a job well done - but more importantly, for having the wherewithal to share their struggle and life experiences with the people. I urge people to read and study Nancy Kurshan's book Out of Control and build upon the framework that she has provided us. The book is available online at: www.freedomarchives.org.


CLASS="no-indent">MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this writer about the value for activists in the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown's (CEML) summary of their 15-year history. Out of Control provides valuable historical documents and analysis on the development of control unit prisons in the United $tates and their use for social control, as well as organizing lessons from fifteen years of CEML activism dedicated to fighting the torture units. By linking to historical documents, the online version of this book provides a particularly useful resource and should serve as an example to other activists about the importance of not just doing our organizing work, but of documenting and summing up our lessons for the future. (Quotations below will reference chapter numbers because the online book does not have page numbers.)

In this book we learn that CEML was the original source for some of the critical statistics we still use today about the disparity in incarceration of New Afrikan people in the United $tates. And based on their correct understanding of the use of prisons as a tool of social control targeting oppressed nations, and the use of control units to target revolutionary activists, CEML correctly predicted the dramatic expansion of the prison population and of control unit prisons. CEML's analysis of the criminal injustice system in the United $tates lines up well with our own:

"[W]e realized that there was virtually no connection between crime and imprisonment. Rather, imprisonment was being used as a method of social control for the most rebellious segments of society, in this case Black people and other people of color.

"We reasoned and asserted that just as prisons were to control rebellion in society, control unit prisons were to control other prisons, and that the 'holes' or 'boxes' within control unit prisons were used to control control unit prisons, etc. Just boxes stuffed in boxes."(ch. 29)

CEML was initiated by Nancy Kurshan and others, coming out of movements such as the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. Kurshan summarizes their view on organizing: "In our corner of the movement, we felt we had a particular responsibility to organize other white people to fight racism and injustice."(ch. 4) MIM(Prisons) agrees with some of the theory behind this approach, in particular the idea of focusing on the needs and goals of oppressed nations' struggles for self-determination within the United $tates. Kurshan writes: "We thought it was important not to compete with the self-organization of people of color, and everything we did was in close consultation with activists in those communities. In addition, we tried to support the agendas that were developed by those activists."(ch. 4) Kurshan goes too far into identity politics in some of her statements, as it is critically important not to abdicate leadership to others simply based on their nationality, but rather to look for correct political line. However, the real problem with this idea of organizing white people to fight racism and injustice was found in CEML's incorrect analysis (or lack of analysis) of classes within the United $tates. Talking about "racism" rather than "national oppression" is indicative of this mistake.

The United $tates is a society based on national oppression with the white nation in power and the oppressed nations facing dramatic disparities in education, housing, income and of course imprisonment. Further, the United $tates is a wealthy imperialist country where the vast majority of citizens enjoy class privilege. And so when we look at who we want to organize we need to first understand what their class and national interests are in the status quo. Those suffering national oppression have an interest in changing the status quo but they still benefit from class privilege just by virtue of their U.$. citizenship. And those benefiting from national oppression (the predominantly white Amerikan nation), and enjoying wealth from the exploitation of the global proletariat, have a strong class and national interest in upholding the status quo including the oppressive criminal injustice system.

And so strategies like the one CEML undertook in Tamms, Illinois to organize the community incorrectly tried to pose the opposition to the prison in the economic interests of the community members: "When it looked like the small southern Illinois town of Tamms might be the site of the new control unit prison, Erica, Leila, and Joey traveled to Tamms to speak with members of the community regarding the nefarious nature of these control units. They distributed literature debunking the notion that the prison would provide locals with an economic shot in the arm."(ch. 22) In reality prisons often provide economic help for the communities where they are built in the form of new jobs and spending. We should take on the nefarious nature of control units without misrepresenting the economics of prisons and the interests of those employed or potentially employed by the prisons. In 2013 Tamms was closed for budget reasons and the guard's labor union delayed the closure with a lawsuit allegedly over safety concerns.

Kurshan explains CEML enjoyed only small victories while facing defeats in all of their larger goals. Our understanding of national oppression within the United $tates helps us see why we are unlikely to win big victories for the oppressed while the imperialists are still in control. Further, CEML put too much faith in their ability to impact Congress, although CEML did recognize that politicians would not take action without outside pressure:

"Our focus on Congress was never exclusive, because we realized that only through grassroots activism — people in the streets — could we hope to get any action from the politicians on these issues. We had to build a movement of people to challenge the dominant ideology regarding imprisonment."(ch. 21)

Ultimately to win this battle against control units and the criminal injustice system we will need to dismantle the capitalist economic system itself. CEML did not put their work in that context and so were not pushing forward the important work of building towards communist revolution. Only with a dictatorship of the proletariat in power will we be able to make fundamental changes to Amerika's injustice system.

chain
[Gang Validation] [Control Units] [Darrington Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 43]
expand

Denied Recreation in Ad-Seg

We are placed back here in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) for being part of a security threat group (STG), a supposedly "confirmed" gang member. I was placed in Ad-Seg in 2002 for corresponding with other prisoners in another unit who were already confirmed. I got out of prison in 2004, and have just recently come back this past year, and once again I find myself placed in Ad-Seg even though I am not part of a gang. I have tried to write to the gang officers and even wrote a history report about my association in the past. I was told I would go to a G.R.A.D. program that's designed for ex-gang-members. I have yet to hear anything.

During this time in Ad-Seg, we are supposed to receive an hour of exercise (recreation) per day. Well I have been here on this unit going on 6 months and have been to recreation only twice. I have written a Step 1 grievance only to be told that they would get to us when staff permitted. They claim to be under-staffed. But general population gets their daily recreation, and they have enough staff to allow them to shake our cells down every other day during showers. There are other units that are really under-staffed, yet their Ad-Seg blocks receive their hour of recreation. It's sad because some of us need the exercise for medical reasons, and all of us need it for mental issues. Constantly in the cell all day every day is really a mind battle and a severe health issue.


MIM(Prisons) responds: In Under Lock & Key 41 we published many accounts of gang validation being used as a tool of social control. The STG designation is held over the heads of prisoners who are often among the most politically active, and then used as an excuse to isolate them from others. It is irrelevant to the prison administration whether or not these "confirmed" people actually affiliate with a criminal organization. And in some places, working with MIM(Prisons) is considered criteria for classifying people as a security threat. We publish accounts like this one to demonstrate the ongoing conditions of torture in these isolation programs, and the arbitrary use of the STG label. But in reality we do not trust the criminal injustice system to decide who is a threat to security; the biggest security threats are running the Amerikan government and its military and prison systems.

This article referenced in:
chain
[Abuse] [Okeechobee Correctional Institution] [Florida] [ULK Issue 44]
expand

Christmas Day Beating to Save Face for CO

On Christmas morning upon entering lockdown for 8 a.m. count, Sergeant Samuel approached a cell near mine and radioed the officer station to open the cell door. When the cell door slid open, Sgt. Samuel who is always playing and joking with the two prisoners in that cell, was then putting on his latex gloves so he and an officer in training could search the cell.

One of the prisoners walked out of the cell and refused to cuff up for the search in a playful manner. Refusing to cuff up in the presence of the trainee officer made Sgt. Samuel look bad and playful, so he whipped out his chemical agent saying, "get on the floor or I'll spray you." The prisoner walked away with Sgt. Samuel following; they ended up downstairs and backup arrived. The backup was Sgt. Harris and Corrections Officer Sanders. The prisoner agreed to cuff up as long as they would not gas him. Sgt. Harris agreed and the prisoner laid on the floor face down with his hands behind his back.

Once the cuffs were on the trainee officer and C/O Sanders went into action. The trainee tried to cross the prisoner's legs across each other while pressing them into his back. At the same time C/O Sanders started pressing his right knee into the prone man's neck area. The prisoners locked behind their cell doors started screaming while Sgts. Samuel and Harris looked on. Then they picked the man up from the floor and took him into the sally port.

Outside of the dormitory, as soon they got the prisoner out on the sidewalk, C/O Sanders punched him in the back of the head and he fell to the ground. I saw the whole thing from my back window and started screaming "they're jumping on that man out there!" loud as hell so everyone including the pro-imperialist goons (pigs) could hear me. Corrections Officer Daluco was on his radio commanding all pigs to get the prisoners off their back windows; no witnesses allowed. But they quickly picked the beaten man up from off the floor as Captain Coleman showed up, while the pig Sanders explained that he had to drop the prisoner because "he was talking too much shit." Just like that, Sgt. Harris and Cpt. Coleman walked the beaten prisoner off for pre-confinement where he now sits pending fake "Battery on an Officer" charges even though he was in cuffs and he was battered by C/O Sanders who violated Florida Statute 944.35 (3)(a)(1). C/Os Sanders and Daluco walked off together talking like it was just another day on the plantation, being members of the slave patrol conscripted with all the impunity in the world.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This article was sent to us by both the persyn who was beaten up and another comrade who witnessed the event, exposing an example of brutality in prison that is all too common. And by writing about this brutality, both authors set a good example for others, that there are many ways to take up the battle against the criminal injustice system. We call on our readers to document abuse by prison employees as it happens, and help us to establish patterns that can be used to expose the system and educate people on the streets.

We also need to make the connections between this brutality by prison staff and the criminal injustice system in general. The problem is not a few bad guards, or even the free reign and positions of power they are given in their jobs. It is the entirety of the system that dehumanizes prisoners and places them in a system that has nothing to do with rehabilitation. By classifying so many people, disproportionately from oppressed nations, as fundamentally criminal and forcing them outside of the social and economic system, the criminal injustice system plays a key role in social control of the lumpen class. Keeping prisoners in a constant state of fear of violence and loss of privileges further helps to reduce resistance and silence the voices of those who might otherwise speak out.

It is an act of courage to write about the brutality that is happening, and even greater courage to organize others to study the system and seek greater understanding of its connections to Amerikan imperialism. This study and education helps build comrades who can work together to fight the imperialist system itself.

chain