Hello, I am contacting you on behalf of Gwinnett County prison population in Georgia. I have started a lawsuit about major Constitutional violations and denials that happen here daily. We are currently accepted in the 11th District, Northern District of Georgia. Our civil action # is 15-CV-00123-AT-JCF.
We are looking for attention from the media to help spread information on the blatant disregard Gwinnett County Detention Center has for the United States Constitution. The defendants in our case are Sheriff R.L. Butch Conway, Colonel Don Pinkard, Major D. Hughes, Corporal Campbell, and Gwinnett County Detention Center.
The jail's rules on restricting prisoners from watching world news on TV during recreation, "free time" as it is called, is a denial of our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association, and freedom of the press or the right to access to the media.
The jail's "postcard only" policy restricts the prisoners from receiving incoming letters in envelopes, which severely restricts correspondance with our families. This constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of speech and association under the First amendment of the United States Constitution, violating the First Amendment rights of all prisoners at the jail, and all of their correspondents' First Amendment rights as well.
The jail's policy of returning mail and publications, whether world news print media, books or magazines, or incoming letters, and not notifying the prisoners or the senders until after they have already been returned, without giving us and all other correspondents an opportunity for redress or to grieve the issue, constitutes a violation of all prisoners' and all their correspondents' First Amendment right to petition for redress of a grievance under the First Amendment of the Unites States Constitution. It also violates the prisoners' and all of their correspondents' right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is also a violation of deprivation of liberty, or property without due process of law under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United State Constitution.
The "postcard only" policy is a denial of the prisoners', and all of their correspondents', right to expectation of privacy. This constitutes a violation under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as the right to equal protection of the laws, a violation under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The denial of grievances by stating that the "grievance is unfounded," and then not having an appeal process for the grievance, denies us the right to redress of grievances and constitutes a violation of our procedural due process right under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
This is just the start of 150 pages of the current lawsuit pending against Gwinnett County Detention Center for violating our First Amendment rights, the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.
MIM(Prisons) adds: In our experience fighting censorship in U.$ prisons, it is clear that county jails have some of the most blatant violations of prisoners' rights and United $tates law when it comes to handling incoming mail. Gwinnett County Detention Center's policy of allowing postcards only, and only if they are sized 4x6" or 5x7", definitely does not satisfy the reasonableness test laid out in Thornburgh v. Abbott. Marin County Jail in California and Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia are examples of county-level facilities in other states where censorship is blatant, illegal, and has almost no recourse.
California is implementing (and probably beta testing) a program called Prison Realignment which is purportedly a response to the overcrowding in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities. Under Realignment, money is allocated to the counties to provide services and "housing" for state prisoners. Many advocates for prisoners' rights would like to see this money put toward rehabilitative services, and in some counties they may get their wish.
How it's playing out in real life, though, is that more prisoners are being moved to county facilities which are operated more like state prisons, and California is leasing space in privately owned prisons. In both cases, there is less accountability than state prisons. Often times (and on the whole in private facilities) censorship and other conditions of confinement are even worse than at the CDCR level.
While California moves more toward county-level imprisonment, we anticipate we will face more challenges with censorship, as is happening at Gwinnett County Detention Center. If this prototype "works" for California, we wouldn't be surprised to see other states move in this direction.
We encourage prisoners everywhere to get involved in fighting censorship when it happens at your facility. This is critical for those interested in anti-imperialist organizing, as it is revolutionary literature that is most frequently denied to prisoners, making our educational work particularly difficult.
This article is about the Michigan Department of Corruptions (MDOC) and the status of Security Threat Group (STG) that needs to be challenged and abolished because it violates prisoners' human and civil rights. The Constitution has been violated by the MDOC, and this new policy is discriminatory, biased, ambiguous in its language, and contradicts other policies in place.
I am going to analyze the STG policy to show the human and constitutional rights violations. With the MDOC the number one thing is "security," and everything else comes later. Before any kind of policy changes take place, there is supposed to be a "Notice of Memorandum" posted in all the housing units 30 days before it goes into effect, and prisoners have the right to challenge the new policy. This procedure has been completely stopped. First look at the STG policy.
Prison policy statement:
"Effective monitoring of Security Threat Group (STG) activity assists in the prevention of violence and ensures the overall security of the facility. The strategic intelligence gained through monitoring is critical to understanding the group dynamics involved in the introduction of contraband, escape plots, and violence related to disputes, debt collections, and other STG influence activities. Prisoners who are identified as members of a STG shall be managed in a uniform manner in order to provide a safe and secure environment for prisoners, staff and facility operations."
Prison policy definition:
"Suspected STG member: an offender who has not been designated as a STG member but is being monitored as a STG associate, is connected to and/or interests, is with known STG members, is involved in STG related activity or is in possession of STG materials."
Now compare it to the Constitution and United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners from Geneva in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council by resolution 663 C (X-XIV) of 31 July 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of 31 May 1977.
"Guiding principles * The prison system must not aggravate unnecessarily the suffering inherent to a prisoner's loss of self-determination and liberty. * Prisoners could utilize all remedial educational, medical, and spiritual forms of assistance to treat the prisoner's needs and facilitate his return to society as a law-abiding member.
"Education and Recreation * The ongoing education of prisoners is to be facilitated, and schooling of illiterate and youthful prisoners is to be considered compulsory. * Recreation and cultural activities are to be made available."
Prison policy: Removal of STG designation FF
"Each STG coordinator shall review the cases of all prisoners designated STG I or II in their facility at least annually to determine whether the STG designation should be removed or modified. This review shall be documented in the department's computerized database."
The removal from STG designation status sounds real good but in reality this isn't happening because this policy is written but not put into practice. The STG coordinator is refusing to even answer prisoners' requests. This is wrong and should be corrected as soon as possible. All prisoners designated STG should challenge this policy and have their family members get involved with this fight because this is a bold policy and it needs to be abolished.
Comrades we need to take out time and build universities out of these slave plantations and study and understand the law. We also need to understand that the DOC is an oppressor and they are always thinking of new ways to oppress prisoners. So we are going to have to step our game up to fight them at every step. These STG policies are to oppress prisoners. The MDOC has created separate STG housing for prisoners up north, called Earth East and West, just like in California's Security Housing Units.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are seeing a growth in so-called Security Threat Group policies in prisons across the United $tates. Pretending to be keeping the prisons safe from "gang" activity, these policies are used to target politically active prisoners. People with influence on the yard, who are successfully organizing others to fight for their rights end up getting "validated" as a security threat. And the vague policies and definitions of STG members allow prisons to use these policies to target whomever they like.
In reality lumpen organizations are important behind prison walls. They can provide needed protection and a base for education and organizing. But some engage in activities that harm other prisoners. While fighting STG validation policies in general we need to work to educate these groups about the importance of turning their focus to building peace among prisoners so that we can unite in the fight against the criminal injustice system. This is the important work of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. And through the UFPP we will build the power to successfully challenge these STG policies that are being used to torture our comrades behind bars.
I have been in the Texas state prison system for 35 years. I am President of the Aryan Rebels organization. We are not based on racial ideology and we will work with any person, group or organization to establish peace and unity amongst all people. You state on the bottom of page 2 to contact you for additional materials to educate our members. I would greatly appreciate it if you could please send me such.
I do believe in the five principles you set for the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). I have been in prison since the age of 20, and I am now 55. In the years I have been down I can truly say that the biggest problem amongst prisoners is their conflict with each other. I have tried to teach this principle to youngsters coming into the system many times. Sometimes it takes hold and sometimes it doesn't. Here in the Texas prisons mostly everything that has been taken away from us such as the canned goods in the commissary, belts, etc. we did it to ourselves. Our enemy is the government.
At the beginning of April 2015 I filed a Section 1983 Civil Rights lawsuit against the Director of TDCJ in Federal court. Two weeks later I received a letter from an attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama regarding the possibility of his organization getting involved. This letter was given to me at 8:30 a.m. and had been opened.
One hour later a male guard came to my cell and told me to "strip out for cell search." I was handcuffed and taken to the one-man shower. A female guard named Kelly J. Sooter came into the section with a red chain bag and she and the male guard went inside my cell where they stayed for over an hour. When I was escorted back to my cell I noticed my New Balance tennis shoes were gone. My Civil Rights law books, Jailhouse Lawyers Manual and Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, my hardbacked dictionary, 11 novels, 8 typing ribbons (4 were brand new), my headphones and nail clippers were all gone. I asked the male guard (Seth G. Kelin) why they were taking my property and he replied "I have never had any problems with you. But it's plain that someone higher up is pissed at you about something or other. I'm only doing what I'm told."
I got my typewriter out to file a Step One Grievance and then noticed a few pieces had been broken on it in the search, so I had to file the grievance by hand. I also wrote a letter to Warden Barry L. Martin here at the Clements Unit and told him what went down. I requested the return of my property and Civil Rights law books but so far nothing has been done. I already have the 42 U.S.C. 1983 Civil Rights forms filled out and ready to file. I'm just waiting on my Step One and Step Two grievances to go through the process, as I know they will be denied as always is the case.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We appreciate that this comrade does what they can to defend their rights as well as build unity in Texas prisons. This report is an example of many challenges we face in doing just that. When trying to educate our fellow prisoners, they sometimes are on board and sometimes aren't. When we attempt to use the legal system to protect ourselves, the administration flexes.
We try to use the legal system to our advantage whenever possible, but ultimately we know that's not going to bring an end to our oppression. From the rubber stamping of grievance denials to the nepotism within the criminal injustice system, the cards are clearly stacked against us.
We've given up on the idea of reforms for any meaningful change (and anyone who has studied even a little Amerikan history should be able to provide examples of this failed strategy). Instead we know we need to overthrow and dismantle the entire Amerikan government and the economic system that supports it. That's a long-term goal, and in the shorter term we work to build unity amongst prisoners toward that goal.
We need to be able to name (and overcome) reasons for why sometimes our attempts to educate younger prisoners works, and sometimes it doesn't. As social scientists, and the vanguard revolutionary organization working within U.$. prisons, it's our responsibility to address these barriers to our success. Bourgeois influence in this country is strong, so we don't expect to win everyone who's locked up over to our side. But in addressing these barriers in a systematic way, rather than leaving it to chance, we are more likely to have success, and more quickly.
We are working on this exact project within the context of our forthcoming book on the lumpen class. So far for this book we have completed a class analysis of the lumpen in the United $tates, which we are distributing as a draft chapter of the book. The next concept we aim to tackle is incorrect ideologies amongst the lumpen, which are some of our main challenges to organizing the lumpen around projects that are otherwise in their interests. All prisoners have a material interest in an end to prisoner-on-prisoner violence, even if they are benefitting from this violence now. Incorrect ideologies and bourgeois influence are what we need to overcome to build he UFPP to its fullest capacity.
As a Latin King Political Prisoner (LKPP) housed here in Mississippi I've learned over the years the true essence of my calling, as member of the lumpen class. Thanks to MIM and all who continue to submit the knowledge needed for us to read and study, I've gained a lot of understanding on how to deal with not only the staff within this prison but other prisoners as well. I recently posted on the board a memo for all prisoners to honor Sept 9th as "Prisoner Memorial Day." Also for "Black August." I know in my heart that others must feel something of what took place those few days. When I see someone read it, I bring up the subject to 'em later. It seems that being in a minimum security prison like this there are not many guys too concerned. But I continue to write to my brothers elsewhere and talk to them here on yard or class about certain topics.
As a freedom fighter I have endured many challenging obstacles and thanks to the encouragement of other freedom fighters elsewhere I've been able to overcome them successfully. Although some of the issues I've had to encounter are only a fraction of a struggle compared to what many of our brothers/sisters have had to go through in other prisons around the world. I'm half Cherokee, half white, and a member of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation since 1987. I've been an avid reader of MIM Notes since my King Brother El Rey Krazy from chi-town first introduced me to my very first step on this golden path of prosperity.
Many things have changed over the years throughout this prison system and abroad. I see that us 'freedom fighters' are still remaining strong and getting stronger. I personally want to acknowledge our comrades of the ALKQN New Jersey state who have enlightened me on the political essence of our nation's history and where we stand in today's society, as well on how to combat oppression within this prison system. Of course my salute to MIM(Prisons) as well.
Many years ago a fellow comrade and freedom fighter from New Jersey, King Arch Angel, provided me with a small publication that was put together by the LKPP called Combat Liberalism. At that time, 2001, there were a lot of things going on that we were involved in such as the protest of the military bombings on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the U.S. bombings in the mountains of Tora Bora, in the Middle East, and some issues we as a nation were dealing with internally. I used that publication in study groups many days, although when I went in the hole the pigs threw away all of my material. I still remember the teachings those brothers provided me with. So I want to send my undying solidarity, love, honor, and respect to the true freedom fighters who have had a major impact on my life: Honorable King Arch-Angel, King Special from New Jersey, King Krazy, King Ghost from 21st Cal(Chi-town), and King Ren Rochell Ill. I wish you all well and I thank you for your truth and solidarity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good example of honoring those who have helped us gain education and knowledge along the way to our political growth, and recognizing these people as freedom fighters. All who engage in this struggle against imperialism are freedom fighters, they don't need to be famous, and we can acknowledge their contributions without revealing their legal identities. It is important to recognize that history is made by the masses, but leaders play a critical role in sharing information and raising consciousness. The freedom fighters honored by this comrade all did the important work of helping to raise consciousness of their fellow LKs. The bond between MIM and the ALKQN goes back several decades, and MIM(Prisons) has also worked with many Latin King political leaders. King Arch-Angel (RIP), did amazing work educating comrades of all LOs while in prison and continued that work amongst the youth after his release. So we would also like to honor eir legacy as a freedom fighter. We look at the work of all these comrades as an example of what we hope to see growing inside all lumpen organizations, moving people towards revolutionary analysis and actions.
As a loyal comrade who is committed to the struggle I have utmost respect for Under Lock & Key and I appreciate all that they/you contribute to the revolutionary struggle that is taking place today for those inside these concentration camps in the United Snakes. As the leading member of the Abolitionist From Within (AFW) I do support MIM and embrace as a group the five core principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
While AFW may not agree with every political issue MIM advocates, it is the issues that we both support that bring us together in this revolutionary struggle. AFW recently had our first demonstration at High Desert State Prison (HDSP), bringing together a cohesive front in reflecting, fasting and uniting to honor those nameless and faceless men of Black August and Attica(1971) by coming together in solidarity. We brought up the issues of the day affecting us and we all offered solutions from each individual's perspective. It was a beautiful and righteous energy as we synergized listening to each other and offering suggestions and the best of ourselves during this time. We will meet again on September 9th and try to agree on the best solutions in attacking and combating the issues that are inflicting us today from the first meeting.
I'm a Muslim here in the New Jersey gulag. Back during the month of Ramadan, I witnessed the pigs brutally and viciously assault a fellow Muslim. I felt so strong about the incident that I wrote to the local regional FBI. And as it would turn out, they shipped the Bro out to another of the New Jersey gulags.
Well about a month after that incident, I was snatched up, and placed on temporary close custody status. A prisoner may be placed in temporary close custody for a period not to exceed 72 hours, unless there are exceptional circumstances, or substantial evidence found to warrant an extension at this time. Well I was in temporary close custody for 12 days. But the prison Special Investigative Division came to interview me regarding some info they received, stating that I was trying to rally prisoners to attack female prison guards, regarding the incident on the Bro. Now what's funny about this whole thing is that it wasn't only female guards who attacked my Bro. Well I offered to take a polygraph test in order to confirm my truth.
I was eventually released back into general population, with no reason as to why, and no "we made a mistake." But I've come to understand over the years that the insidious prison system is used to destroy people mentally, as well as physically and spiritually. I had to report this incident, and I felt that every one of us who witnessed that brutal assault should have done the same. About 20-25 Muslim prisoners saw it, why didn't they write reports? I had to report this incident to Under Lock & Key because these kinds of conditions need to be made known to the public outside. I don't hear from the outside much, mostly because I've been forgotten about.
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we can't say whether the brutal assault of the Muslim prisoner was related to eir religion, this comrade provides an example of where religion can serve the oppressed. If Muslim prisoners are moved to fight brutality from their religious teachings, they can be an ally of the anti-imperialist movement. In fact, we call on all religious prisoners to think about the teachings of their religion around violence and brutality and use this as motivation to join your fellow prisoners in fighting the criminal injustice system. Often religion is used as a tool to keep people passive, but revolutionaries should seek to ally with all who can be rallied to our cause. Those who are targeted for repression because of their religion, as Muslims in the U.$. often are, will be most likely to see the connections with broader oppression and join the struggle.
June 2015 brought about one of the more serious human rights violations here at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Aliceville. The medical care is horrible. From the first day I have witnessed gross negligence, malpractice in many forms, and some of the nastiest medical personnel I've ever encountered. I worked in the intensive care unit at a hospital for 9 years, and I've seen some lacking in bedside manners, but these people are downright abusive.
I'll skip all the second-hand horror stories and tell you about Karen Massengale. She came here about a month ago. I am not sure exactly how old she was but by her gray hair and other tell-tale signs I think she was not young. From day one she was sickly. There were several times she vomited in the common area and in her cell. She was seen at medical and given a laxative. After multiple trips to medication pick-up she finally was able to get them.
Her condition continued to deteriorate rapidly. She lost weight and she couldn't leave her room. On two occasions she was wheeled to medical saying "something's wrong, I know my body and something is wrong, I think I'm dying." When she returned she was distraught, treated like she was faking and told there's nothing wrong. Then on 25 May 2015 after laying in her room for three days, unable to eat or drink, she was rushed to medical. I saw her in a wheelchair barely able to sit up. That was the last time we saw her.
The buzz around the facility is that she died 30 May 2015, possibly of a bowel obstruction. One of the nursing staff (Nurse Eli) who told her there wasn't anything wrong has told multiple prisoners that they are faking. She even went so far as to write one prisoner a shot for malingering. Two days later they were in surgery for a bowel obstruction. Trust me this is not the exception, it is the rule.
I currently have a grievance in process on medical and one on Nurse Eli. What I am asking from MIM(Prisons) is to simply follow up on Karen Massengale. She deserved for the last weeks of her life (if in fact she is deceased) to have been more humane. To die in a prison while begging for help and being told you're faking is the epitome of cruel and unusual punishment, wouldn't you say?
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have verified that Karen Massengale did die on 30 May 2015. Medical negligence is a serious form of abuse of prisoners. It is particularly tempting for prison administrators looking to save some money, as health care can be quite expensive, especially for a population that is fed a terrible diet, given little opportunity for exercise, and put in conditions that cause both mental and physical deterioration.
The health care system offered by capitalism generally offers better care to the wealthy and punishes the poor with sickness and death. This distinction is especially dramatic in countries like the United $tates which don't offer universal healthcare equally to all. But even those capitalist countries that provide healthcare for all of their citizens are ignoring the health of the majority of the world's people who are literally dying in service of profit. There is no excuse for the deaths from easily (and in many cases cheaply) preventable diseases that plague the Third World. Pharmaceutical companies test and manufacture expensive drugs in oppressed nations around the world while denying these test subjects and workers access to basic care. These drugs are for First World customers. The profit motive driving healthcare is a clear example of why capitalism is bad for the majority of the world's people.
[Recently several prisoners wrote in to describe the religious discrimination against Muslims going on in Arkansas prisons. The Supreme Court determined that the prison must allow people to grow facial hair if this is a part of their religious beliefs, but the Delta Regional Unit continues to deny this right. Below, several correspondents explain their struggle.]
Prisoner #1: I am a Muslim and through religious beliefs I should be able to grow and groom neat facial hair. It was proven in the Supreme Court (Holt vs. Hobbs 135 S. CT. 853) that the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) policy was not the least restrictive means of preventing prisoners from hiding contraband and disguising their identities. I went through all proper procedures and paperwork to get a script saying I was able to grow my facial hair through religious beliefs. I was approved by the unit Chaplain for my script, but when it came to the next step of the Warden signing off on it I was denied due to him determining if I was sincere enough. What gives the Warden the right to determine a person's sincerity about their religious beliefs?
Prisoner #2: I am currently incarcerated at the Delta Regional Unit in Deumott, Arkansas. I have been in my walk of faith (Islam) sincerely for almost three years now. In the beginning I didn't think that I would suffer from so much ridicule for choosing this way of life, but still, I hold my head high and continue on my walk of faith.
Sometime and somehow, this ridicule and discrimination has to cease. I am ready to come together with a group of fellow prisoner to stand up for our rights as well as the things we believe in.
The current problem that I am having involves the ADC programming policy. A law was recently passed that allows prisoners to grow their hair and/or facial hair for religious purposes only, and Muslims seem to be the majority of those who are being denied their rights, along with me as well. I am currently in the middle of a grievance process because I was denied my script. I think the problem is religious discrimination.
Prisoner #3: Warden James Gibson and the Chaplain Chuck Gladdon are violating the constitutional rights of the Muslims and other prisoners under their care. The supreme court ruled in Holt v. Hobbs that the grooming policy was a substantial burden on prisoners' religion, by not allowing them to grow facial hair/beards. As to security concerns, the Supreme Court also said it was not the least restrictive means of stopping prisoners from hiding contraband, or disguising their identity.
The procedures are still burdensome because all the Muslims who apply for the right to wear a beard are denied automatically while the white inmates are receiving the right to grow hair or receiving a religious accommodation script from Warden Gibson and Chaplain Gladdon. Even after the Supreme Court made its ruling, this has not changed.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This denial of rights to Muslim prisoners is more than just religious discrimination. Because the majority of Muslims in Amerikkkan prisons are New Afrikan or Arab, targeting Muslims fits in with the overall system of national oppression that is especially acute within the criminal injustice system in the United $tates. Further, Amerikans like to equate Islam with terrorism in a racist attempt to denigrate entire nations. While the cultural practice of growing facial hair is not a particularly revolutionary battle relevant to the Maoist movement, this attack on oppressed nations under the guise of religious expression is important to expose.
Communists are working towards a world where all people are free to express themselves, without restrictions that come from the oppression of groups of people by others. However, we are also working towards a society where all people are provided education and scientific analysis around the false prophets and gods that religion proffers. We do not need faith in higher mystical powers, instead we need humynity to take responsibility for its own destiny and build a society where we can have faith in the ability of people to solve the problems created by people, as well as the problems we face in our material world.
Under socialism, all people will have the freedom to practice whatever religion they choose, but they will not be given the platform to proselytize for their religion and build a broader movement of mysticism. Science and scientific thinking will be the basis of education. Only this scientific method will ensure an end to oppression of all groups of people. For more on how religion was handled in communist China under Mao, ask for our religion study pack.
On 12 August 2015, Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell was murdered on the yard at California State Prison — Sacramento in Represa, also known as New Folsom Prison. Yogi was in solitary confinement a week prior to his murder, having spent 46 years in solitary confinement. Yet somehow someone on the yard had enough beef with him to murder the 71-year-old man in cold blood? Not possible. Yogi's blood is on the hands of the state officials in charge of CSP-Sacramento.
Memorializing Yogi, his comrade David Johnson called him an "educator" and the "spirit of the prison movement."(1) Former Black Panther and long-term friend Kiilu Nyasha said the word that came to her mind was "love."(2) Most of the information in this article comes from Kiilu as well as Yogi's fellow San Quentin 6 comrades David Johnson and Sundiata Tate.(3) All recounted stories of his immense love, his prominent leadership, his indomitable spirit, his dedication to creating and becoming the "new man" and his role in educating others.
The state of California attacked Hugo Pinell for 50 years, from the time of his imprisonment on a phony charge of raping and kidnapping a white womyn, through to his death this week. He was one of a number of comrades involved in an incident on 21 August 1971, in which George Jackson was killed along with three prison guards and two prisoner trustees. Hugo Pinell was charged and convicted with slashing the throats of two prison guards during this incident, though neither was killed. One of these guards was known to have murdered a New Afrikan prisoner in Soledad and had gone unpunished. Those prisoners charged with crimes for the events of 21 August 1971 became known as the San Quentin 6. It was this incident, and the murder of George Jackson in particular, that triggered the takeover of the Attica Correctional Facility in New York by prisoners of all nationalities in response to the oppressive conditions they had faced there for years. Beginning on 9 September 1971, the prisoners controlled the prison for four days, setting up kitchens, medical support, and communications via collective organizing. Prison guards were treated with respect and given proper food and medical care like everyone else. It all ended on 13 September 1971 when the National Guard invaded the yard, killed 29 prisoners and 9 staff, and tortured hundreds after they regained control. It is the collective organizing for positive change that occurred during those four days that we celebrate on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity in prisons across the United $tates.
The prisoners in Attica acted in the ideals of men like George Jackson and Hugo Pinell who were well-respected leaders of the first wave of the prison movement. Jackson, Pinell and their comrades, many who are still alive and mourning and commemorating Yogi's death(1, 3), always promoted unity and the interests of all prisoners as a group. The Attica brothers took this same philosophy to a more spectacular level, where they flipped the power structure so that the oppressed were in control. Not long afterward, prisoners at Walpole in Massachusetts won control of that facility as a result of the events at Attica. In both cases prisoners worked together collectively to meet the needs of all, peace prevailed, and spirits rose. Like a dictatorship of the proletariat on a smaller scale, these prisoners proved that when the oppressed are in power conditions for all improve. And it is historicaly examples like these that lead us to believe that is the way to end oppression.
Following the incidents of August and September 1971, the Black Panther Party printed a feature article on Hugo Pinell, who they upheld as "a member in good standing of the Black Panther Party." It read in part:
"[Prisoners across the United States] began to realize as Comrade George Jackson would say, that they were all a part of the prisoner class. They began to realize that there was no way to survive that special brand of fascism particular to California prison camps, except by beginning to work and struggle together. Divisions, such as this one, like family feuds, often take time to resolve. The common goal of liberation and the desire for freedom helps to make the division itself disappear, and the reason for its existence become clearer and clearer. The prisoner class, especially in California, began to understand the age-old fascist principle: if you can divide, you can conquer.
"There are two men who were chiefly responsible for bringing this idea to the forefront. They helped other comrade inmates to transform the ideas of self-hatred and division into unity and love common to all people fighting to survive and retain dignity. These two Brothers not only set this example in words, but in practice. Comrade George Jackson and Comrade Hugo Pinell, one Black and one Latino, were the living examples of the unity that can and must exist among the prisoner class. These two men were well-known to other inmates as strong defenders of their people. Everyone knew of their love for the people; a love that astounded especially the prison officials of the State. It astounded them so thoroughly that these pigs had to try and portray them as animals, perverts, madmen and criminals, in order to justify their plans to eventually get rid of such men. For when Comrades George and Hugo walked and talked together, the prisoners began to get the message too well."(4)
Today the prison movement is in another phase of coming together, realizing their common class interests. It is amazing that it is in this new era of coming together that the pigs finally murder Yogi, on the three year anniversary of the announcement of the plans to end all hostilities across the California prisons system to unite for common interests. This timing should be lost on no one.
As a Nicaraguan, Yogi became hated by certain influential Mexicans in the prison system for ignoring their orders not to hang with New Afrikans. While the prison movement over the last half-century has chipped away at such racism, we also know that racism is an idea that is the product of imperialism. Until we eliminate the oppression of nations by other nations, we will not eliminate racism completely. But we work hard to fight it within the oppressed and in particular among prisoners, as Yogi, George and others did 50 years ago.
In the 1950s and 1960s the racism was brutal, with nazis openly working with correctional staff. The state used poor, uneducated whites as the foot soldiers of their brutal system of oppression that is the U.$. injustice system. Tate and Johnson tell stories of being terrorized with the chants of "nigger, nigger, nigger" all night long when they first entered the California prison system as youth.(1, 3) While we don't agree with George Jackson's use of the term "fascist" to describe the United $tates in his day, we do see a kernel of truth in that description in the prison system, and the white prisoners were often lining up on the side of the state. But the efforts of courageous leaders broke down that alliance, and leaders of white lumpen organizations joined with the oppressed nation prisoners for their common interests as prisoners at the height of the prison movement in California.
We recognize the national contradiction, between the historically and predominantly white Amerikan nation and the oppressed internal semi-colonies, to be the principal contradiction in the United $tates today. Yet, this is often dampened and more nuanced in the prison system. Our white readership is proportional to the white population in prisons, and we have many strong white supporters. So while we give particular attention to the struggles of prisoners as it relates to national liberation movements, we support the prison movement as a whole to the extent that it aligns itself with the oppressed people of the world against imperialism.
The biggest complaint among would-be prison organizers is usually the "lack of unity." Any potential unity is deliberately broken down through means of threats, torture and even murder by the state. Control Units exist to keep people like Yogi locked down for four and a half decades. Yet another wave of the prison movement is here. It is embodied in the 30,000 prisoners who acted together on 8 July 2013, and in the 3 years of no hostilities between lumpen organizations in the California prison system. Right now there is nothing more important in California than pushing the continuation of this unity. In the face of threats by individuals to create cracks in that unity, in the face of the murder of an elder of the movement, in order to follow through on the campaign to end the torture of long-term isolation, in order to protect the lives of prisoners throughout the state and end unnecessary killings, there is nothing more important to be doing in California prisons right now than expanding the Agreement to End Hostilities to realize the visions of our elders like Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell.