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.
Amerikkkan imperialists often claim that they have overcome their dark past of slavery. Of course, their wish is to dismiss the stench of the putrid acts of their forefathers but those acts are memorialized for all the world to see in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United Snakes. In the former we read, "All men are created equal" but in the latter we find "excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons."(1) This means, of course, that only white men are created equal. Women and "Indians" (indigenous Americans) do not count, and Africans count as 3/5 a person. According to these white Flub Fuckers, I mean Founding Fathers, only white men are fully human; everyone else is less than, or nothing.
The modern white imperialists say they fought wars to correct their past stench. These pukes say slavery is a thing of the past; that slavery is abolished, and we should "forget it and move forward."
But after the so-called civil war that allegedly abolished slavery, we find the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. This amendment reads, in pertinent part: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Are we perceiving a pattern? "All men are created equal" except. "Slavery is abolished except..."
In the nineteenth century cities were burned, courthouses bombed, and Presidents assassinated to bring about an end to most slavery in the united snakes. Is that what it will take to get it through the thick skulls of the modern imperialists that slavery is repugnant under any circumstances: no exceptions!
While this article is not broad enough in scope to compare modern penological practice with nineteenth century slavery, let us note that today's prisoners and former slaves:
1. Are disenfranchised, forbidden to vote in both federal and state elections.(2)
2. Are not considered persons nor employees, and may be forced to labor without compensation.(3)
3. Do not have any right to wages, nor granted any humane civil protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act or the Federal Minimum Wage Law.(4)
4. Do not have any rights to property in most instances, we are property.(5)
While Amerikkkan slavery was more severe than incarceration in Amerikkka's gulag today, the overwhelming thrust behind both institutions is a disgusting conviction that one group of humans is somehow superior and has the right to degrade and deprive the other group.
No one would seriously argue that the majority of slaves in kkkolonial Amerikkka was any race other than Afrikan. But what about the prisoners in Amerikkka's gulag?
It is widely known that the united snakes imprisons more people than any other nation per capita. It is said the United $tates has just 4.4% of the world's population yet locks about 25% of all the world's prisoners in its gulags.
As of 31 December 2012, there were 1,570,397 people in bondage in federal and state correctional facilities in the United $tates (not including jails). That year Black males were incarcerated at a rate 610% higher than white males (Blacks 2,841 per 100,000 U.$. residents vs whites 463 per 100,000).(6)
In state facilities at the end of 2011 there were 509,677 Black men and women prisoners which is 38% of the total prisoner population of 1,341,804. By contrast white men and women accounted for only 34.7%. And yet Blacks comprise just 13% of the entire U.$. population whereas whites are 80%.(7) Said another way, of the 41,455,973 Blacks in the united snakes, 509,677 are in a state correctional facility (approximately 1%) serving a prison sentence, but merely 465,180 of the 255,113,682 whites (1/5 of 1%) are in prison. Mathematically five times as much of the Black population is in prison compared to white population.
Does this mean Blacks are more "criminally active" than whites? Let the documents speak. Of the 9,390,473 arrests in 2012, 6,502,919 or 69.3% of the arrestees were white. There were only 2,640,067 Blacks arrested, or 28.1% of all arrestees were Black. So how is it the majority of the prisoners are Black? Because the white imperialist injustice system prosecutes Blacks and crushes them with lengthy prison sentences while the majority of whites have charges dropped, or lowered to lesser offenses, or get probation/pretrial diversion, or have expensive attorneys for trial, etc.
While imperialists do not profit from the labor of prisoners as their forefathers did from slaves, imprisonment keeps Blacks from competing against upper class whites in the job market. The labor aristocracy maintains its white hegemony. Be sure not all white imperialists are Caucasian. Ask President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Marco Rubio what they think of the 13th Amendment and the deprivation of basic rights to prisoners economically. The next time an imperialist Amerikkkan sings jingoism about the United $tates correcting its addiction to slavery and exploitation, simply say "bullshit." But soon the people will crush it. Til then let us educate with plans to eradicate.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade makes a solid case for the existence of national oppression within the United $tates today, as evidenced by the disproportionate treatment of New Afrikans compared to whites in the criminial injustice system. And by correctly noting that the imperialists do not profit from the labor of prisoners, this writer also provides the reason why we do not call prisoners, even those forced to work for no wages, slaves. (See ULK 8 for more on the U.$. prison economy). Further, unlike slaves, prisoners can not be bought and sold like property. And so on this point we disagree with the author: we do not call prisoners "property" just like we don't consider prisoners to be "slaves."
Salute fellow comrades, the fascist pigs have been in control for far too long, the fascist pigs have used prisoner against prisoner for far too long. It's time for us to hear the words of a great fallen comrade by the name of George Jackson who stated: settle your quarrels, come together. Understand the reality of our situation. Understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved. That generations more will die or live poor butchered half-lives as we do now if you fail to act.
My fellow comrades, I humbly ask each and every one of you to please understand that if we want to successfully run a study group inside modern slavery, then we need to stand together in solidarity, because we out-number the fascist pigs. They just out-think us, because we are too busy fighting, raping, and killing one another, just to name a few things that we prisoners lend our hands to the pigs which stagnates us and keeps the pigs in control.
I am issuing a call to revolutionary change. Fellow comrades I know what I am asking of you won't be easy, but lets take baby step together and slowly put an end to all gang-related activities, so the fascist pigs cannot use it against us to justify putting us in control housing units or to censor our mail, etc.
Fellow comrades change first start with us, cause if we don't respect one another how can we demand respect from the fascist pigs.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We echo this comrade's call for lumpen organizations to end the violence and come together in unity. In fact, when this writer calls for an end to "all gang-related activities" we would instead say let's turn these lumpen organizations into vehicles for activities that educate and liberate the oppressed.
Enclosed is a Facility Notification of Disapproval of Under Lock & Key No. 45. The effort your group puts forth, and your commitment to your ideology are examples of dedication. But the continual rejection of your materials by the prison is costly to your limited resources. And my returning them to you without getting to read them is costly to me. You should receive a package from me containing materials the prison withheld from me.
I propose you cease mailing your materials to me. I am still going to contribute articles for you to publish. I have an issue of ULK that I've saved in order to show others who you are, what you represent, and so forth. I will use this to encourage them to work with you.
I have considered filing a lawsuit. But upon reviewing decisions in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, it is plain that the court sides with the prison system except in cases involving religious books. (The one non-religious victory: the court did rule in favor of a prisoner denied Ulysses by James Joyce because the prison permitted Playboy and the prison's claim that Ulysses was disapproved for sexual content is ludicrous and hypocritical.)
When it comes to political materials – especially radical views – the court is extremely conservative. The Fourth Circuit (which hears appeals from the nine federal district courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) also has the dubious distinction of being the harshest toward prisoner complaints.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are working with this comrade and a few others in Virginia to determine how best to proceed with the censorship against MIM(Prisons) in that state. We agree that the legal track record in the Fourth Circuit suggests that it's not worth the effort for a prisoner to file a lawsuit fighting the censorship. There is some precedent for organizations and individuals outside of prison having better luck and we do have some strong comrades like this one who can help with legal work. But we need an outside lawyer, knowledgable individual, or organization who can help spearhead the fight in Virginia. If anyone reading this has people on the outside who would be willing to work with us on this important battle, please let us know. And if you are in Virginia, be sure to tell us whether or not you are receiving your copies of ULK, and if you'd like to help with this battle.
In the end this comrade is right that it is only in the long battle that we can really win, when we take power for the oppressed out of the hands of the oppressors. But in the short term, making it possible for comrades to get study and organizing materials behind bars is of critical importance because this is how we can build the movement. Education is our principal task, and this education is hard to accomplish without the ability to communicate and study.
I want to inform you about a new torture tactic being used here in the Security Housing Units (SHU). Since August 3 [2 weeks ago] the staff have been doing what has been termed "security/welfare checks" which entails staff walking by every prisoner's cell every 30 minutes 24/7 and pressing a button that has been installed next to our cells. Due to the design of the SHU the sound everyone and everything makes is louder than it should be and at night we are woken up every thirty minutes due to staff opening/closing the pod door, which is extremely loud, stomping up the stairs to the top tier and back down, and making a loud bang sound when hitting the button next to our cells as they are hitting metal on metal.
During the day it's the same thing except the wand makes a high-pitch beeping sound when hitting the button. So 24/7 it's non-stop excessive noise that doesn't allow us to sleep longer than 30 minutes without being woken up. I feel like I'm living in a dream 24/7 as I'm always stirred and feeling the effects of being denied sleep and not being able to go through my normal sleep cycles. Anyone with common sense can see this is cruel and unusual punishment. The ironic thing is staff say it's to prevent suicides. Yeah let's make a bunch of excessive noise all day and night and not let anyone sleep longer than 30 minutes at any given time, that should prevent suicides. If it's driving relatively stable prisoners crazy I'm sure it's pushing those with mental health issues over the edge.
Also by doing this, even though it's misguided and unnecessary, the CDCR is admitting that the SHU makes people more likely to commit suicide if they need to check on everyone every 30 minutes. I have filed an administrative appeal on this to have it stopped or modified and plan to file a lawsuit if we are not allowed to sleep normally again. In the mean time I'm writing friends/family to call the prison/CDCR head quarters and complain about this, and I'm writing all prison organizations and public servants to make them aware of this new form of torture being conducted.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This sleep deprivation torture tactic has been reported on from San Quentin for some time, and we recently received word from a comrade on pending litigation on this issue:
"I am challenging a blatantly obvious psychological torture program put in play by Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the gulag system in California, as a payback to the SHU guys for the hunger strikes. The CDCR had to throw us, death row, under the bus too, to make it less obvious who the target really is.
"There is a program whereby they come and shine lights in eyes, bang and yell, using a 'beeper' stick to hit the cell tray slots, every 20 to 30 minutes, all day and night.
"In my moving papers I proved it is utterly pointless as stated, as a suicide prevention program. Anyone knows you can commit suicide during the half hour between walks, and also in our unit it takes them over 20 added minutes to get the keys, get shields, and race in and pounce on a guy hanging by the neck. It is specious.
"So I filed saying this is far too onerous to be a mere act of stupidity, it is a malicious torture of the SHU units only (including PSU, psych wards, all lock-up units). If this does not cause suicide, what would? Ha!"
This latest tactic of inhumane sleep deprivation reinforces our point that the settlement of the Ashker v. Brown lawsuit will do nothing to end torture in California prisons. As the comrade above points out, this is not rogue COs, this is facility policy. We received reports over a year prior about the new Guard One torture program. As one comrade pointed out at the time, most deaths in cells are due to medical neglect.
We view the latest behavior by guards at Pelican Bay as a form of retaliation against the prisoners held in SHU, to show them who is in charge and that torture is alive and well in spite of the "successful" settlement. Exposing this consistent mistreatment of prisoners in California is a must to counter the narrative that the modern prison movement has succeeded in transforming the CDCR, or the conditions they submit their prisoners to, in any way.
The acute threat of this form of torture requires an immediate response.
A concerted effort has been taken up by a number of groups supporting the California prison movement to contact the warden to demand an end to this torture.
Write to: Warden Clark E. Ducart Pelican Bay State Prison P.O. Box 7000 Crescent City, CA 95531-7000 email: [email protected] call: (707) 465–1000 ext. 9040
There are many freedom fighters who have struggled throughout hystory in so many ways. Some used organizing, others the gun and many have used the power of words. Freedom fighters come from a variety of political ideologies and different nations, but what ties them all together is their decision to serve the people. They do this not just in their lives, but in their legacy and what they have accomplished in their lifetime.
This issue of Under Lock & Key is dedicated to freedom fighters of all types. The inspiration for this issue comes from a comrade who wrote in to suggest that everyone write an essay celebrating one freedom fighter who has influenced them. We are printing some of the responses we got in this ULK.
Who are some Freedom Fighters?
Looking at the [email protected] nation we have freedom fighters like Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez, Corky Gonzalez and other [email protected] who fought for the liberation of Aztlán. They dedicated their lives to the nation and still serve as examples to those of us who struggle today.
The New Afrikan nation has freedom fighters like Malcolm X and Angela Davis and others who have set great examples and continue to do so for the oppressed. New Afrikan struggles continue to build on past struggles.
The First Nations have freedom fighters like Leonard Peltier who struggled against Amerikkka in many ways. Peltier today sits in a prison cell because of being a freedom fighter.
Boriqua has freedom fighters like Lolita Lebron and Oscar Lopez Rivera. Lolita went to prison for struggling against Amerikkka and Oscar still sits in a U.$. prison for his work to free Puerto Rico.
All of these people come from the oppressed internal semi-colonies here within U.$. borders. They have inspired people living under U.$. imperialism for decades. But there are many other freedom fighters around the world who have made an impact on all of our consciousness regardless of their political line. People like Leila Khalid, Che, Fanon, Giap, Zapata, Pancho Villa and so many others have showed us what people's fighters look like.
Are there Imprisoned Freedom Fighters?
For many amongst the oppressed nations these colonizer's kkkamps are where freedom fighters end up. Some imprisoned freedom fighters are prisoners of war (POWs), targeted because of their anti-imperialist work on the streets. These freedom fighters will always be found in U.$. prisons because the oppressed will always struggle in so many ways against the oppressor nation. This will continue as long as U.$. imperialism exists.
Other freedom fighters gained consciousness behind the bars and have risen up to lead the movement from within. Many of the freedom fighters in U.$. prisons today can be found in control units because the state targets imprisoned activists. Freedom fighters within prisons are often those who were amidst or leading such prison rebellions as the hunger/work strikes which swept the dungeons of Califas, Georgia, Ohio, etc. in the last few years like a hurricane of collective rage. These prisoners were craving freedom!
Freedom fighters within prisons are those who do not fear the enemy oppressor nation. They do not fear speaking up for prisoners even when they are being attacked by the state. A freedom fighter is anyone who makes a decision to struggle for a better environment within prisons.
How Do Freedom Fighters Awaken the People?
When we think of freedom fighters and our connection to them many conjure up people in hystory who inspire us to rise up. I know when I began to read up on people like Zapata or Pancho Villa it compelled me to read more about the Mexican Revolution. As a [email protected] it helped instill a national consciousness in me. It helped me to understand that it is good to resist Amerikkka and that colonization is bad, not good, despite the bribes.
But there are freedom fighters in the here and now. I would say that every reader of ULK is a budding freedom fighter, and those who contribute in any way to ULK are freedom fighters. We are freedom fighters because we work to free the people.
Reading the hystory of the Mexican Revolution and the freedom fighters who made it happen put me on the road to where I am today as a [email protected] revolutionary. The first time I was handed MIM literature was in a control unit. A New Afrikan handed me a MIM Notes newspaper and after reading it I was turned up! That persyn who introduced me to MIM was a freedom fighter. This is what freedom fighters do: they work tirelessly to build more freedom fighters.
Being a freedom fighter is not doing it for a come up. The people who become freedom fighters are not getting paid to do so. This is a voluntary act, a way of serving the people, often with everything we have.
The legacy of freedom fighters lives on long after we are no longer alive. We help build consciousness while we are alive through our actions. For future generations our actions, thought and struggles will serve as study material and inspiration. Everything we do should educate the people. This means our fellow prisoners on the tier, those on the yard, and our nations at large. Our lives should help develop as many people as we can, in prison or outside of prisons. Freedom fighters should make a difference in all who come to know them, even our outside supporters.
Why the State Fears Freedom Fighters
We should understand that freedom fighters are enemies of the state. It is the freedom fighter who is trying to get FREE from the state. The oppressor nation is what is preventing us from being free, so they would naturally see us as a threat. It's why they label us "security threat groups" and other such names, because our actions and goals threaten their power.
It is important to understand that our existence with the oppressor is not compatible. As long as we are alive we will continue to experience oppression in so many horrible ways. Many will become demoralized, especially when being a freedom fighter does not put you in the majority. Freedom fighters are a small minority within U.$. prisons and U.$. borders. But this should not discourage any one of you. Truth is grasped by a nucleus, a cadre, and not by the majority at first.
When the Bolsheviks first rose up they had a little over a hundred cadre. The Chinese cadre also started out as a handful. But as Tani and Sera put it: "Only those who refuse to see revolution as it actually is, can fail to see the connection between the breakthrough of world socialism and the rebellion of a very small, oppressed nation."(1) Here it is highlighted that a small oppressed nation has the ability to affect world revolution. A minority can affect the majority. The state understands this and it is for this reason that they fear our freedom fighters.
As I was writing this article on freedom fighters I heard on the radio that Hugo "Yogi" Pinell has been killed! Yogi was a real freedom fighter. Rest in power Yogi.
Prison administrators here in State Correctional Institution (SCI) Huntingdon have recently begun to deny all of the programming textbooks that have come in the mail for me, stating that the books contain writings which advocate, assist or are evidence of criminal activity, or facility misconduct. I am unable to properly appeal the publication denials to the facility's superintendent, who told me in person "You're not getting your fucking books." He told me that the decision by the Inmate Publication Review Committee (IPRC) is final, and his responses to my attempts to appeal publication denials reflect this statement. I am unable to use the facility grievance system to file complaints about my mail and incoming publications, which are meant to be handled some other way. I am unable to ask exactly what misconducts or crimes the books advocate, assist in, or are evidence of, and facility staff have been unable to specify.
I am writing to your organization to respectfully request any assistance, or information you may be able to provide which could help to right this wrong. These books are purely educational, and as such are entirely neutral. Disallowing them could not serve any legitimate penological interest.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter shows that education can never be "entirely neutral" under imperialism. Educational textbooks, while generally devoid of any progressive political content, still present a threat to prisons because of the opportunity they provide for educational advancement. Through this education prisoners may become more aware of the basis of the criminal injustice system and their own oppression, and it could lead them to seek out more revolutionary education. Keeping prisoners uneducated is a good way for the oppressor nation to maintain its privileged position.
Denial of books can also be used as punishment for a prisoner who is seen as a trouble maker. The fact that this comrade knows how to file grievances and is working to gain education may be the cause of these denials. Part of the system of social control in prisons is the use of arbitrary rules to contain prisoners who might be a threat because of their understanding of legal rights and their ability to fight for these rights.
For both of these reasons, instead of arguing about what constitutes "legitimate penological interests" we point out that the penological interest really being served by the Amerikan criminal injustice system is social control. Censorship is a key tool the prisons use for this end. And for this reason we focus some of our limited time and resources fighting against censorship. For this comrade we have provided a copy of our guide to fighting censorship. But what we really need, in many states across the country, are lawyers who can help us bring censorship cases to court to establish legal precedent. Of particular priority to us are those cases where the censorship is of explicit political material. Textbook denials like the one described above do happen, but they are far less common than the denial of Under Lock & Key and other revolutionary literature.