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[Censorship] [National Oppression] [Perry Correctional Institution] [Lee Correctional Institution] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 45]
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Reading is Fundamental

Throughout the history of our uncivilized world, those who invade, conquer, colonize, and oppress the people without fail make their first order of business to uproot and destroy the educational facilities and libraries. The oppressor nations and their oppressive apparatus know the importance of books and a proper education.

As we know from history, the Africans who were brought to Amerika and turned into slaves were forbidden to read and write. In fact, to be caught with a book or even attempting to learn how to read and write was a crime for them. These are facts that trouble me immensely, because the more things seem to change, the more they actually remain the same.

In September of 2012 while being housed in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at Lee Correctional Institution, in Bishopville, South Carolina, I filed a grievance, because on 25 April 2012, the then-acting Warden (Michael McCall) had the Rapid Response Team (Red-Team) confiscate all books, newspapers, magazines, etc. from SMU prisoners. I was left without one single piece of paper in the cell; they even took the toilet paper.

And though this was against their own policy (SCDC Policy OP-22.12), it has still been upheld on appeal. It is criminal to hold a human being inside of a cell for twenty-four hours a day with absolutely nothing to read and occupy the mind. While on SMU for almost four years, I developed high blood pressure and mental health issues. Since being off SMU I no longer have signs of high blood pressure and I have resolved my mental health issues on my own. I was taking medication for high blood pressure and the mental health issues and currently I am medication-free.

Some prisoners get their families to order books for them, but some bookstores such as Barnes & Noble have refused to let my family order books that must be sent directly to me, because they've had so many problems with the institutions sending books back. Companies have simply gotten fed up with having to send refund checks, because so many books, magazines, newspapers, etc. (primarily literature pertaining to Black history and culture) are unauthorized and thus, we can't receive them.

Currently I am being held captive at Perry Correctional Institution (PCI), which is in Pelzer, South Carolina. Here at PCI they not only deny prisoners on SMU books, but they've shut down the regular library services as well. The general prisoner population's library services have been shut down for about five months now. We have been told that the books that are currently part of the regular library will be divided up and placed on shelves and/or carts that will be built in the respective dorm units. I have written requests to the staff here concerning the library services (or lack thereof) and they give me the same run-around. I have even pointed out to them that they are not abiding by their own policy (PS-08.04 Library Services) when it comes to how they've shut the library down.

The truly sad part about this whole injustice is that the warden here (Larry Cartledge) is Black (his skin anyway), the Major here (Curtis Early) is Black (his skin anyway), and even the person in charge of the educational building (Linda Bratton) is Black. All of these people should realize the significance and importance of books to a people who have been beaten, lynched, and murdered for attempting to educate themselves in a nation that has done everything possible to stop them from educating themselves. We cannot give Black officials a pass simply because their skin is black. We must hold these "Black people" accountable not only for their actions, but for their inactions as well. This entire system is corrupt and bent on further maintaining and supporting corruption, oppression, and an imperialistic agenda.

The South Carolina Department of Corruption's policy GA-01.12 (Inmate Grievance System May 12, 2014), p. 5 states: "Responses: in most instances, grievances will be processed from initial to final disposition within 171 days." It is no accident that the South Carolina Department of Correction (SCDC) has taken well over two years to process my grievance in question and many many more.

Once the grievance process has been exhausted, the prisoner can file civil suits for various violations committed by the SCDC, but most civil suits have to be filed within a two-year time frame of said violations. The SCDC has developed, maintained, and even nurtured a system of crime and corruption against the very people who they have the audacity to call criminals. They prolong and hinder the grievance process in their attempts to stop prisoners from having their day in court.

When "our people" represent the interest of the oppressive imperialist state, they are not "our people" and we must replace them with those who actually hold our best interest at heart. It is clear that these people are complicit with this corrupt, unjust system of racism, oppression, and imperialism. And though they do not want us to read books, they throw the book at us each and every opportunity they get.


MIM(Prisons) responds: One of the main similarities between present-day U.$. prisons, and the days of U.$. slavery, is the use of people from oppressed groups to act as agents of oppression on behalf of the oppressor Amerikkkan nation. The Uncle Tom phenomena is most clearly exemplified by Barack Obama, the Black President of the United $tates, the world's leading imperialist power. Since the destruction of the 1960s national liberation movements, the New Afrikan nation, and other internal semi-colonies, have been increasingly bought off by the spoils of imperialism. New Afrikan guards in prisons are an ironic example of this integration.

Replacing one guard with another won't change the fact that they are prison guards, and hence determined to fall into the role of oppressor. After all, that's why they get a paycheck! Instead we aim to get rid of the oppressive prison system altogether, by creating a society where this relationship is no longer necessary or legal.

On a country-wide scale, the contradiction between Amerika and the internal semi-colonies is principal. In looking at historical examples, we see that struggles for national liberation have done the most to propel societies out of the oppression of capitalism and imperialism.

Within PCI it sounds like the guards side more with Amerika than they do with their own nation, probably because of all the great "opportunity" that Amerika has provided them. We call this "opportunity" spoils of imperialism: wealth that was stolen from the Third World by the imperialists and divvied up amongst First World citizens on varying levels just enough to prevent revolutionary overthrow of the United $tates government.

And this anecdote from South Carolina paints a picture of why we focus on lumpen New Afrikans, who are easy to locate in Amerika's prisons and have the most subjective interest in overthrowing capitalism, as opposed to trying to organize the New Afrikan petty-bourgeoisie (such as prison guards). The division is a difference of degrees of integration, while on the whole the New Afrikan nation is oppressed by Amerika. In response to the Liberals' demands for less and less discrimination, all we get is increased integration; the underlying national oppression and imperialism is unchanged.

The issue of restricting reading materials to prisoners is a topic with a long history in U.$. prisons and in South Carolina. As much as people like to pretend that policies and legislation have an impact on the ground, they must not get as many letters from prisoners as we do that show just the opposite. As this comrade shows, the laws and policies may be in place, but there is always some way to get around it, usually by citing "security" concerns.

Attempting to hold prison administrators accountable when they do violate their own rules leaves one's grievances to sit unanswered for two years as this comrade's are. And the response from administration is often just a brush off with no practical resolution obtained. Taking them to court over the issue is immensely difficult, even for the most litigious prisoner.

While we can definitely make some significant advances through the court system, we need to always be conscious of the overall picture. The same problems have been going on for decades and even centuries. If bourgeois democracy worked, wouldn't the issues of literacy and free education be resolved by now? Instead we have increased integration (i.e. more parasites leeching from the international proletariat) and individual people battling it out with petty paperwork struggles. Still.

For the lack of response to grievances, a comrade in South Carolina created a petition for the proper handling of grievances. Unfortunately it seems South Carolina does not have a time limit on responding to grievances, which might be a worthwhile issue for a prisoner to take to court if it means there would then at least be a policy in place to limit the time administrators can sit on answering a grievance and thus taking one step closer to satisfying Prison Litigation Reform Act requirements. The campaign to have our grievances addressed is an attempt to show the collective problem of neglect of the grievance procedure, rather than keeping it on the individual scale that is so convenient for prison administrators to disregard. Different states are having different levels of success in their grievance petition campaigns, but overall at least we are further proving how useless the offered forms of relief are in actually resolving problems.

In choosing which campaigns to fight, we assess how they will impact our overall struggle against imperialism. Our role at this point in the struggle in the United $tates is to build public opinion in favor of national liberation struggles of the oppressed, and against the capitalist economic system. Having access to reading materials is hugely important in developing an understanding of revolutionary politics, and by keeping prisoners in the dark with literally no material to read, the state of South Carolina is further delaying our struggle for liberation from all forms of oppression.

Comrades in South Carolina should organize around this lack of access to books and educational materials. If they can manage to get a library back, and to lift restrictions on what books can be mailed in to SCDC facilities, it would have a big impact on prisoner-led study groups and individual study. It would also have a big impact on the breadth and depth of political consciousness in South Carolina prisons, and would be very beneficial for our overall struggle against imperialism. Comrades in South Carolina should write to MIM(Prisons) with their ideas on what United Struggle from Within can do to help fight the censorship in South Carolina prisons!

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[National Oppression] [Abuse] [Ross Correctional Institution] [Ohio] [ULK Issue 44]
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Ohio Guards Instigate Beating, Lock Down Prisoners as Punishment

Last month on a housing unit called 7A at Ross Correctional Institution (RCI), a prisoner was said to have a cell phone in his possession. The pigs entered his cell while he was in there, which is not allowed unless a "white shirt" is present (Lieutenant, Captain, etc.). While the pigs were in his cell they maced him, handcuffed him and beat him. As they were bringing this prisoner out of his cell, other prisoners watched as the pigs used unnecessary and brutal force by banging his head into the stair rail, hand rail and wall.

Fortunately this prisoner had three family members on the unit who stood up in his defense, which created an altercation that the pigs agitated. After macing and brutally beating these four prisoners plus thirty or forty more innocent bystanders, they shut the unit down on 24-hour lockdown with no showers, no recreation, and bag lunches with no hot food (which is also prohibited) for five days. They also put around fifty prisoners in solitary confinement.

The pigs here abuse their authority time and time again with no reprimands from their superior officers. They're in clear violation of excessive force, racial discrimination and bias, they deny us basic civil and human rights daily and have no regard for prisoners' lives, especially New Afrikans.

After the February fight, the RCI plantation held a press conference with the local news and lied to the public making it look like the prisoners were the cause of the February fight and that the RCI prison needs more security measures implemented here to safeguard, not us but them.

I come to you asking that you rally up the people and support our prison struggle by calling to inquire about the February fight and ensure the beaten prisoner and every other prisoner involved was given proper medical aid and assistance. Demand that no harassment or retaliation is being executed against any prisoner who uses the informal complaint process and/or has family and friends calling on their behalf. We need the people to demand an investigation be initiated and that more New Afrikans be hired here as staff and guards because I've been here for six months and have only seen five.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is doing an important service to the anti-imperialist prison movement by exposing the brutality in RCI, and going further to suggest some actions people on the outside can take to help the struggle there. However, we disagree with this comrade that a solution is to hire more New Afrikan staff and guards. Just as with cops, or judges, or the President of the United $tates, putting more dark faces in positions of power will not change the fundamental nature of the system. These people only serve to make the system look more equal and fair, and perpetuate the national oppression that is an inherent part of Amerikan imperialism. We need to see this oppression for what it is: not just a lack of representation in some positions of power, but a systematic oppression of certain nations (New Afrikan, [email protected], First Nations) by the nation in power (the white nation). The only way to put an end to national oppression is to fight the imperialist system that perpetuates it.

Spontaneous uprisings in response to abuses can help to bring prisoners together over their common enemy, the prison guards. But spontaneous uprisings without proper organization are limited in their scope and easily crushed. And organized action without thorough political education is usually limited to reformism. Reformism leaves the institutions of national oppression intact on a global scale, pushing for benefits for the oppressed internal semi-colonies in the United $tates, gained on the backs of the international proletariat. We encourage our comrades at RCI to use incidents of abuse such as this one as opportunities to educate their fellow prisoners on how this incident fits in with the systemic oppression they face, and organize them to come together to combat these abuses. And we push them to organize in the context of an anti-imperialist struggle, so that their actions have an international impact. If you need organizing or educational materials, get in touch!

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[Censorship] [Eastern NY Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 45]
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Censorship in NY Targets Oppressed Nation Lit

Last month I received my first issue of Under Lock & Key (No. 42), and I'm honestly surprised that the correspondence unit even let this newsletter into the facility. In the 13 years that I've been imprisoned, I've witnessed and experienced having all kinds of books, magazines, and other publications be either censored in part or disapproved altogether.

The conventional reasons behind this censorship are either that the works contain content that is considered a threat to the safety and security of the institution, or that the literature contains "gang" signs or other unauthorized organizational content. Of course these reasons are totally arbitrary and capricious. For example, the prison media review committee regularly blots out the peace gesture in The Five Percenter Newspaper and claims that the hand gesture is a "gang" sign. However, I've seen pictures of President Obama making this very same gesture, but these pictures are never censored.

Similarly, I'm enrolled in a college program and last semester the administration here disapproved two pieces of Black literature: Richard Wright's Big Black Good Man and James Baldwin's Going to Meet the Man. They claimed that the stories were offensive in content. The real insult to me was that during the very same semester they approved literature in other Eurocentric classes that regularly referenced Black people as niggers. I guess offensive content is okay as long as it doesn't offend those in control.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This new ULK subscriber is reporting a problem we see in prisons across the country: systematic censorship of literature that presents even mild cultural news targetting a New Afrikan audience. White supremacist books and magazines get past the censors with no problem, but books by famous authors like Richard Wright and James Baldwin are denied. And ULK is even more likely to be censored because it speaks to the situation prisoners face today and builds unity and peace to create real change as part of a broader anti-imperialist struggle.

Everyone who successfully gets a copy of ULK should do their part and share it with others. You never know when it's going to slip past the censors, so each issue should be passed around so that we can maximize its use. And if you get a copy from someone else, be sure to write to us for your own subscription.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Where it Begins

Let the truth be told about MIM Theory
It is revolutionary thought that makes the imperialists weary
Gil Scott-Heron said the revolution would not be televised
But the so-called Arab Spring has proved otherwise
The world witnessed what may have been merely an Arab fling
Because without communist principles
Revolution don't mean a thing
We must embrace true revolutionary principles
And support the United Struggle from Within
Because unity is the empowerment that will enable us to win
And unlocking the minds of the oppressed is where it begins
And though many of us are under lock and key
The revolutionary teachings of Mao Zedong are setting us free

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[Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison] [Georgia]
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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.

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[Education] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 45]
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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.

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[Censorship] [ULK Issue 44]
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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.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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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

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[Control Units] [ULK Issue 43]
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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."

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

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