Having been engaged much of my adult life in fedz and now state of Oregon, I am acutely aware of this dilemma which faces us behind the walls. As a "validated" (e.g. oppressor-classified prison gang member) New Afrikan for over 20 years, I've been conditioned to see myself as a kind of superior klass of man within the greater kaptive klass. By virtue of my "good" paperwork I established a history of violence behind walls: day-to-day conduct in line with NARN ideological precept(s). I saw it as us vs. them, the latter being those who had "bad" paperwork (e.g. sex charges, informant backgrounds, etc.). We were taught to revile them, extort them, dog them at every turn, as if doing so would somehow validate my/our realness. A "convict" vs. "inmates"! For over half my life I've bought into this fallacy.
In 2014 I had a life-altering experience. First I was given 45 years behind a PTSD-fueled assault. Secondly, I was abandoned by all I'd held dear. Thirdly, I embraced Islam. All of which caused me to do a self-evaluation and in turn analyze my ideology as it related to "struggle". Entering the ODOC, I've found that all my previously-held notions of what is and what is not a so-called "convict" has been forever altered. This cesspool is a virtual twilight zone to say the least. The ODOC captives have created a Calif-caricature, in which alternative realities to reality is the prevailing social norm. The so-called "good dudes" are those with no sex offenses, yet can be obvious jailhouse rodents and be respected. This wierdo worldview made me reevaluate.
Those of us who subscribe to progressive politics see it like this. Simply having a sex case does not, in and of itself, make one a pariah to us. We believe in a peoples' tribunal, where one's peers study all paperwork related to a case prior to making any community decisions. It should be noted: child rape and elderly rape is non-negotiable, if DNA evidence is involved. We all hold those to be a line of demarcation and that peoples' justice should be meted out accordingly.
Now with this being said, a Muslim is obligated to not only accept all fellow Muslims as brothers in faith but also support him in conflicts that occur. I cannot lie, my prior conditioning has me today struggling with this. My hatred for the Amerikan injustice system makes it virtually impossible to be cool with those who've rided for the kkkops. Ditto for those who see putting molestation of children or elders as ok. Islam teaches us that our creator accepts repentance of all who sincerely repent and in turn correct their behaviors. As a man, a dad, a granddad, I am wrestling mightily within myself to embrace this tenet of my faith, whilst simultaneously striving to embrace my kaptive peers into a more unified and progressive ideological precept.
In a nutshell, ODOC is showing us that many sex convictions are highly suspect and as such must be independently verified, prior to judging them. And, there can be redemption and klass acceptance for some. The divisions within klass truly only serve the oppressors' interests, as they continue to oppress us all. History has shown the poorest of Euroamerikans have been and continue to be the greatest obstacles to klass unity, as they fear unity and klass progress will cost them their "white privilege." Hence their continuous "chads agent" behaviors anytime we make any advances. This segment is our greatest enemy in my eyes and until we address them, in context of "dangerous foes," we shall not progress.
With that I shall stop here. Hopefully, something i've shared can help push this national dialogue. Until the next time, I remain standing firm and firmly embracing of all progressives! Power to the people.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this writer's work to build unity and embrace those ey previously rejected. But we want to comment on the klass division ey mentions. As this writer explains, Euro-Amerikans' fear of losing their class privilege is a huge barrier to unity in the United $tates. This fact reinforces our understanding that it is nation, not class, that is the principal contradiction within U.$. borders. Oppressed-nation unity is what we must fight for, because the vast majority of the oppressor nation will not join the struggle to end their power and privilege. There's still a place in the struggle for white folks who renounce their national privilege and join the revolutionary movement. We can embrace whites, men, sex offenders, drug dealers, and all who renounce past reactionary acts and dedicate themselves to serving the people.
I read ULK 61 and it gave me the idea to finally speak up. I spoke with my loved ones on me sharing a bit about my current situation, and they agreed it was a great idea to share my conflicting story.
I was arrested in 2013 at the age of 16 for a sex crime on a minor under the age of 14. The victim was a relative who was very close to me. Being sexually abused myself at such a young age, I know how my victim might feel. The difference in my abuse was I was 9 years old when a 43-year-old man took advantage of me in the worst forms possible. I started to use heavy drugs at the age of 11. I smoked meth and PCP, and did mostly any drug that I could get my hands on. I was under the influence when I committed the crime. Even though I only remember small pieces of that day, I had to be honest with myself and my loved ones. I was sentenced to 5 years in prison for what I did.
Now that my victim is older she has forgiven me for what I did. My mom and other family members stood by my side. They knew I needed help. The drugs were taking over my life.
Being so young in prison really shattered my innocence and what little of humanity that I had within me. My transition from juvenile hall to state prison was terrifying. I was afraid that I wasn't going to make it home. I was beaten, humiliated by COs, sexually assaulted by my cellies.
I had lost hope. I didn't want to accept that I was being categorized as a sex-offender or a cho-mo, even though I was a youngster when I committed the crime. I attempted suicide at least 7 times while in prison. I tried to hang myself, I cut my veins, and overdosed several times. I couldn't come to terms with having to register and all the other obstacles that I would have to face. I'm not this weird old man who gets off on watching little kids, or has a rap sheet for being a predator. That's not me.
Now that I'm going home soon, my family support was giving me a glimpse of hope. They want me to write a book to tell my story. I'm not this animal that the state painted me to be. I just had a messed up childhood that led to traumatic events. Some of my counselors in juvenile hall used to tell me to not be so hard on myself, that I should also take some time to receive help on issues from my past. I'm currently diagnosed with three major mental health disorders: PTSD stage 2, major depression disorder, and personality disorder. I take medication for these disorders.
I don't ever want to come back to prison, I have experienced things in this place that I'm embarrassed to talk about. It would break my family's heart if they knew what was going on with me inside these walls. I'm not asking for sympathy or pity. I just want people to understand to not be so quick to judge or put someone down. In a couple of months I'll be home with my family fighting for my happiness and seeking a better future.
MIM(Prisons) responds: By demonizing everyone in prison who has committed a sex crime (and this persyn readily admits ey falls in that category) we can see how people like this writer, who may just need help to overcome their own history of abuse, are instead terrorized and further traumatized. It's hard to see how this demonization is helpful, or serves to rectify the wrong that was done against a this writer's victim.
Those who can admit to and recognize their crimes against others are in the best position to be rehabilitated and turn their lives to productively serving the people. Writers like this one are setting an example of self-criticism and self-awareness. We hope that ey is able to move past eir own abuse and use those horrible experiences to inspire future work fighting the patriarchy that creates a culture encouraging such awful acts. We embrace comrades who can put in the hard work of self-criticism and rectifying their past wrongs. It does not matter which crimes against the people we committed, it matters that we are learning and growing and taking action to fight the imperialist system that enables and encourages such acts.
Enclosed is a clipping from the Austin American-Statesman (2018 May 3) I thought pertinent and might be of interest.
Not having first-hand knowledge of the University of Texas (UT) course "MasculinUT," I found it interesting that the reactionary philistines again attacked academia for addressing patriarchal oppression. As far as I'm concerned, conventional notions of masculinity are a societal conditioning of the psyche, ergo, much like a Black persyn ensnared in a eurocentric society, a mind fuck. So, yeah, maybe the yahoos are correct that traditional concepts of what masculinity entails (e.g., violence against wimmin) is a mental health issue, and as such, men need to be subjected to re-conditioning via communist transition. Maybe, like the bourgeoisie under socialism, men will be repressed. Maybe, hell!
MIM(Prisons) responds: The article enclosed, from the Statesman, talks about the UT masculinity education program, which is an awareness campaign formerly run by the University's Counseling and Mental Health Center. Conservatives attacked the program, claiming it treats masculinity as a mental health problem.
In response, the MasculinUT program was moved to Dean of Students, and, in a statement from its website, "the program's original steering committee was reconvened and expanded to provide recommendations and feedback to ensure that the program's mission is clearly defined and fully aligned with its original intent of reducing sexual assault and interpersonal violence."
We're with this comrade in thinking it might not be so bad to think about masculinity as a mental health issue. As long as we're clear that this and many other mental health issues are a product of the capitalist patriarchy. People aren't born being sexist idiots. They are trained to believe that wimmin don't know what they want, to see wimmin as objects, and to view maleness as a sign of superiority. People will need a lot of retraining to overcome a lifetime of patriarchal education.
We don't know what's involved in the UT program so we can't comment on it. But we can say that after the imperialist patriarchy is overthrown we'll have a long period of cultural revolution where we need to re-invent humyn culture and re-educate everyone to see all people as equal. This is about the patriarchy, but also about the oppression of all groups of people over other groups, across the strands of oppression of nation, class and gender. This involve forcibly repressing patriarchal culture and institutions. We hope that forcible repression of half the population (men) will not be necessary, but there will need to be active promotion of feminists into positions of power, and a careful re-consideration of the appropriate interactions between all humyns.
July 2018 — In ULK 61 the contentious topic of sex offenders was discussed with great objectivity (even in certain subjective analyses) and openness. The following will attempt to clarify, expound and expand on some of these positions from my perspective.
I wrote, "Excluding all non-sexual depredations (public urination and such), SOs constitute a dangerous element; more so than murderers because SOs often have more victims, and many of those victims become sexual predators, creating one long line of victimization." As a rejoinder to this comparison, MIM(Prisons) stated: "When someone is murdered in lumpen-criminal violence, often there is retaliatory murder, and subsequent prison time."
While this may prove accurate among lumpen organizations (LOs) and loosely associated persons, this is very far from the truth in society, generally speaking. A majority of people, even a majority of lumpen class, do not resort to such literal "eye-for-an-eye" justice. While there are many (mostly males between 14-22 years old) who do seek retaliatory murders, on the whole they produce a minority to be certain. Just as murderers constitute a noticeable minority of the 2.3-million-plus currently incarcerated through the United States.
Contrarily, sexual predators affect the entire societal composition. They perpetrate crimes against males and females, provoking deep-burrowing psychological problems, and turn many victims into victimizers (not all turn to outright sexual depredation). There is no question murder is irrespective of class, gender, nation, and provokes intense psychological trauma. The difference is not in the severity of the anti-proletariat crime — taking a life or ruining a life — but in the after-effects. To make the argument that murder creates murder in the same, or even similar, manner as sexual victimization creates future victimizers is beyond stretching. It is a patently false premise. Were it even close to the reality of present society, there would be anywhere from 10-50 times more murders and murderers in this country and its prisons.
Not to be crass, but murder is more of a one-two punch knock out. Where sexual depredation is twelve rounds of abuse by Robert Duran with your hands behind your back. Most murderers are not serial killers, which means their victims are family and known associates. Sexual predators habitually prey on strangers who fit their desired victim profile, in addition to relatives, friends, or associates. Murderers are normally incarcerated once arrested. Sexual predators are often times released.
Also it is much more stigmatizing to be a victim of sexual violence — shame, feelings of inferiority, desire to vengeance, self-deprecation — than a murderer's victim. Desire for justice, feelings of powerlessness, and greater stigmatization arises from the criminal injustice system's treatment of sex crime victims. Many are left feeling as if they are the perpetrator instead of the victim. This is why so many sex crimes go unreported. Such is not the case with murders, unless persons decide to seek vigilante justice. Considering the above, it is clear why a more negative perspective is attached to SOs than to murderers. Logically, a murder is traumatic but almost all overcome the event without becoming killers. In the case of sexual victimization, a slim minority overcome the stigma, and more than half become victimizers; whether emotionally, physically, or continue to harm themselves, reliving the victimizations perpetrated upon them.
"Lumpen criminal violence (created and encouraged by selective intervention and neglect by the state) is one of the reasons why 1 in 3 New African men will go to prison at some point in their lifetime." This is undoubtedly true. Although to state such a statistic to disprove the "logic" behind SOs being viewed as pariahs more than murderers is slightly disingenuous. Capitalism is formed in a manner destined to exclude great numbers of people. Mass incarceration is capitalism's answer to this exclusion. This is the manner in which capitalism addresses the lumpen class it creates in order to maintain a steady course on the capitalists' globalization/exploitation road. Crime and violence are incidental to the system that created a mass lumpen class. So, while this does "represent a long line of victimization," it is inherent to capitalism, but sexual depredation is not.
As it relates to imminent or immediate efforts at rehabilitating sexual predators, my meaning was that efforts can be made on an individual basis by revolutionaries who are able to see past label prejudice. Through their efforts, if conducted scientifically, a systematic method can emerge for once the revolution is successful. Practice directs theory and theory is validated in practice, of course. But my overall meaning was and remains that sex crimes will be a problem for capitalism, socialism, or communism. Sexual depredation is a social contagion which transcends borders of politics, gender, economy, class, nationhood and age. Revolutionaries will need to address the problem sooner or later. For those who can be ahead of the curve, they should be. Revolutions need innovative trail blazers as does every department of humynity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this clarification on this writer's article in ULK 61, and find some compelling points here for distinctions between the impact of murders and sexual assaults. Though we still maintain that we will need to reform all who can be reformed, regardless of crimes (conviction or not).
We need to address a few factual questions. The author claims that "SOs habitually prey on strangers who fit their desired victim profile; in addition to relatives, friends, or associates". The reality is that studies of sexual assault have found that around 70%-75% of survivors know their rapist. It is a myth that sexual assault is mostly perpetrated on strangers. This myth serves the racist idea that New Afrikan men are raping white wimmin. And this falsehood has been used to target and persecute New Afrikan men going back to the time of slavery, specifically targeting ones seen as a threat by those in power. So although this is a minor point in the author's essay, we want to clarify the facts.
We want to also address this writer's comment that "sexual depredation is a social contagion which transcends...gender." Sexual assault is one of the most blatant symptoms of a system of gender oppression. It is the exercise of gender power. Sexual assault is a product of the patriarchal system that sets up gender power differences in our society.
And so, we disagree with the author that crime and violence are inherent to capitalism but sexual depredation is not. In the abstract this makes sense: sexual depredation is a result of the patriarchy, a system of gender oppression. Capitalism is a system of class oppression. The two are distinct systems of oppression.
But society has evolved to intertwine class, gender and national oppression so intimately that it is not practical to think we can eliminate one without eliminating the others. Seeing gender oppression as something outside of capitalism suggests we can eliminate gender oppression entirely under capitalism. While we can certainly target aspects of gender inequality and oppression for reform under capitalism, this is similar to enacting reforms to the systems of national oppression. We might improve conditions for individuals within the capitalist system, but the underlying system of oppression will remain.
This doesn't mean we ignore gender oppression right now. We must expose it, and we should demand that it be stopped wherever possible. For instance, fighting against rape in prison is a battle that could reduce the suffering of many prisoners. But we can also see the outcome of state responses to prison rape in the ineffectual and sometimes counter-productive PREA regulations.
With that said, we do agree with this writer that we can work now towards a systematic method to deal with sex offenders and sexual predators. But we will have fewer resources and less power to help these individuals reform now, before we have state power.
We won't reach the stage of communism until we eliminate sex crimes. We disagree with the author's assessment that sex crimes will exist in all systems. Communism is a society without oppression, where all people are equal. We will have to eliminate class, nation and gender oppression before we can achieve a communist society. And so this writer is correct that revolutionaries must address the problem of sex crimes, both sooner and later. As we discuss in the article "On Punishment vs. Rehabilitation," the stage of our struggle will help determine how we deal with those who commit crimes against the people.
Until, and perhaps after, we achieve a society where the culture of capitalist individualism has been destroyed, revolutionary organizations will have to deal with crimes against the people. We need to protect our movement from harm, and we must balance how to protect it from all sides. In some cases, punishment will be appropriate. But our primary focus will always be rehabilitation. Here we will discuss how we think about punishment and rehabilitation in the different stages of revolutionary struggle.(see definitions in Notes below)
Simply punishing someone for a behavior is a generally accepted, but widely ineffective, method of changing that persyn's behavior. There is first the consideration of whether the persyn is compelled by the punishment to change their behavior. (What does the punishment mean to the one being punished? Does the punishment match the crime?) Second is the consideration of whether the persyn being punished understands their crime and how the punishment relates to the crime. So simply punishing someone without providing any accompanying rehabilitation may serve the purposes of satisfying the victims, or detering others from doing the same behavior, but it does little to change that persyn's behavior or change eir mind about eir behavior.
Crimes against the people
Crimes against the people are actions that harm the oppressed, either directly or by harming the revolutionary movement of the oppressed. In our current context, they include things like snitching to pigs, facilitating drug addiction, stealing from the masses, and a long list of other counter-revolutionary actions. The list of crimes that must be dealt with today, directly (versus crimes that can't be dealt with until during the wartime period, or post-revolution) will change as we move through stages of struggle. Additionally, what is possible for us to deal with will also change over time, as we grow in strength and acquire more resources.
Even though we see many crimes against the people committed around us daily, we only have so much capacity to try to rehabilitate people, and an even more limited ability for punishment. But while lacking the time and resources to rehabilitate everyone, we also must keep in mind the consequences to the movement of punishing counter-revolutionary actors. Doling out punishment can have potentially dangerous consequences, yet it might be the only option available to us in certain circumstances. So whether to punish vs. rehabilitate is not simply a question of what we are able to do, but also what will be best for the revolutionary movement.
Overall, focus on rehabilitation
There are no cut and dry guidelines on this question of relabilitaion vs. punishment. Our actions will depend on many factors, and we can only figure this out in practice. Focusing too much on hypotheticals only clouds our judgement when we are faced with an actual crime that we need to deal with.
Yet on the overall question of whether to focus on rehabilitation or punishment, we look to Mao's injunction that we focus on rehabilitation of those who make mistakes but are open to correcting their errors and rehabilitating their political line and practice:
"A person with appendicitis is saved when the surgeon removes his appendix. So long as a person who has made mistakes does not hide his sickness for fear of treatment or persist in his mistakes until he is beyond cure, so long as he honestly and sincerely wishes to be cured and to mend his ways, we should welcome him and cure his sickness so that he can become a good comrade. We can never succeed if we just let ourselves go, and lash out at him. In treating an ideological or a political malady, one must never be rough and rash but must adopt the approach of 'curing the sickness to save the patient', which is the only correct and effective method." (Mao Zedong, "Rectify the Party's Style of Work" (1 February 1942, Selected Works, Vol. III)
Before the proletariat seizes state power
We are in the pre-revolutionary period right now. Pre-revolution includes the current period of "relatively peaceful" organizing, and the period of outright war when the oppressed fight to take control of the state. The oppressed-nation lumpen in the United $tates face life-or-death circumstances every day, including consequences of imprisonment, economic disparity, inter-lumpen violence, police violence, and attacks from various white nationalists at all levels of society. While we face daily violence, our organizing at this time primarily focuses on self-defense and building independent institutions of the oppressed. That's why we call this a "relatively peaceful" organizing period, where we focus on preparation.(1)
In our day-to-day struggle, many counter-revolutionary actions will not be a question of life and death as they are in wartime. But they are still serious and potentially dangerous to the movement. This is the period when we have the least power to carry out punishment and to rehabilitate effectively. We should strive for rehabilitation when possible, but with limited power and resources we will need to evaluate each case to determine what we can accomplish.
While we don't have state power, when rehabilitation is not an option, we still have enough power in some situations to punish crimes against the people. This punishment most often involves exclusion from the movement, but can include public criticism and more physical actions. Our actions in this regard will need to be carefully considered in each case.
The case of snitches comes up a lot in prison organizing, where many attempt to curry favor with the guards in this way. Snitches are counter-revolutionary actors who must be cut out from the movement, though we may lack the power to appropriately punish snitches (beyond exclusion) at this time. But we also believe that snitches, and everyone else who commits crimes against the people, have the potential for rehabilitation through education and struggle if we have the opportunity to engage with them deeply. However, that's not always a good use of our time right now. Those who see the error of their ways and come to us with self-criticism for their past actions are clearly an easier target for rehabilitation and revolutionary education. Each case will require individual consideration. Those involved in the struggle and impacted by the crimes will have to assess the appropriate response and mix of re-education and punishment.
At Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio in 1993, prisoners were throwing their trash on the tier in a protest. In the book Condemned by Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) we learn the details. This protest was going on for several days and the guards brought in a trustee to clean the tier. The prisoners tried to talk with this trustee over multiple days, to get em to refuse the job, yet the trustee kept cleaning the tier. The protesting prisoners punished the trustee violently. In this case we see the correct method of first attempting to struggle with someone who is acting against the movement, and later taking more direct action to shut em down to protect the movement. We can't judge this specific incident from afar, and it is something revolutionaries will have to figure out in day-to-day struggle.
Pre-revolution active wartime
Times of war are, of course, characterized by the use of violence and killing of the enemy as the default means of achieving goals. In wartime, the primary focus is on destroying the enemy, and this includes killing counter-revolutionaries. Anyone who acts to support the imperialists is swiftly punished. Some of these crimes merit death, as actions that result in the deaths of many revolutionaries cannot be tolerated.
"Mao Z reminds us in one of his military essays, of the insight from von Clausewitz, that war is different from all other human activity.
"When you check out the record, you can get the feeling that young Mao Z barely bothered to conceal how much he wanted to rip the Li Li-san faction right out of the 'red' military and rural party, by any means necessary. No matter how flimsy the excuse or reason, he really didn't care. To him, the revolution had to disentangele itself, to meet a life-or-death challenge, as quickly as possible.
"...Mao Z and Chu Teh weren't in suburban California, judging or dismissing cases of individuals in a civilian situation. That would be one set of circumstances. They were in a remote war zone, deep in the countryside, preparing feverishly for the largest and possibly most decisive battle any of them had ever gone through, raw soldiers and officers alike. Any disadvantage could cost them everything, while any advantage might be life-saving. That was a different set of circumstances."(2)
During the revolutionary wars of the USSR and China, they did not always have the time or resources to attempt to convince traitors to rejoin the revolution, and in many cases they could not even set up prisons to contain these enemies for future rehabilitation. Mao's guerillas had to turn around and execute lumpen forces that had previously fought side-by-side with them against the Kuomintang. At other times, the People's Liberation Army was able to successfully recruit whole sections of the Kuomintang army into their ranks. Again, an in-the-moment assessment of our threats and capabilities, with a preference for rehabilitation whenever possible, will be necessary even during wartime.
When we have state power, we will be in a better position to rehabilitate people. But in the short term the masses will demand punishment for those who owe blood debts. In China shortly after the anti-Japanese war was won and the Communist Party took power, Mao addressed this topic:
"The number of counter-revolutionaries to be killed must be kept within certain proportions. The principle to follow here is that those who owe blood debts or are guilty of other extremely serious crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people's anger and those who have caused extremely serious harm to the national interest must be unhesitatingly sentenced to death and executed without delay. As for those whose crimes deserve capital punishment but who owe no blood debts and are not bitterly hated by the people or who have done serious but not extremely serious harm to the national interest, the policy to follow is to hand down the death sentence, grant a two-year reprieve and subject them to forced labour to see how they behave. In addition, it must be explicitly stipulated that in cases where it is marginal whether to make an arrest, under no circumstances should there be an arrest and that to act otherwise would be a mistake, and that in cases where it is marginal whether to execute, under no circumstances should there be an execution and that to act otherwise would be a mistake."(3)
In this situation, the Communist Party was acknowledging that it could not get too far ahead of the masses. Punishing those who had committed extremely serious crimes was part of demonstrating to the masses that the Party was acting in their interests. But the goal was not punishment and execution. The goal was to move as many people towards rehabilitation as possible. And we can't know who has the potential for rehabilitation until we try. Overall, communists should assume that all people can be educated/re-educated because humyns have great capacity to learn and grow, especially when removed from harmful/reactionary circumstances.
Of course forced labor in China was a punishment for these counter-revolutionaries. But it was also an opportunity for reform and rehabilitation. As we learn in the book Prisoners of Liberation by Adele and Allyn Rickett, even people who had served as spies for imperialists during the war were given a chance at rehabilitation. The Ricketts, in China for academic study on a Fullbright Scholarship, were passing information to the Amerikkkan and Briti$h governments. This was while the Chinese were fighting for control of Beijing and then into the imperialist war on Korea, in which the Chinese were fighting against Amerikan troops.
The Ricketts were spies in wartime. Yet the Chinese Communists did not execute them. Instead they were imprisoned in a facility where the emphasis was on re-education and self-criticism. It took both Allyn and Adele years to come to an understanding of why their actions were wrong. But during that time they were never physically abused. Their forced confinement was certainly a punishment, but in the end they came to see this time in a Chinese prison as justified and a valuable educational experience that made them both better people. They were transformed.
Balance of forces for punishment and rehabilitation
In all cases, we must balance several considerations:
The weight of the crimes of a persyn
The sentiment of the masses towards that persyn and their crimes
The power we have to implement rehabilitation programs effectively
The ability to perform punishment if deemed appropriate
Our assessment of the above considerations will change based on our stage of struggle and our ever-evolving strength and abilities. In all cases revolutionaries should strive to reform and rehabilitate as many people as possible. But the limits of our resources pre-revolution, the need for expedience on life-and-death situations in wartime, and the need to fulfill the masses' demand for justice post-war must also be taken into account.
We received a lot of thoughtful responses to Under Lock & Key 61 debating sex offenders. This is a tough topic. It's easy to recognize that our culture encourages abuse of wimmin. And there are many problems with how the criminal injustice system defines sex crimes and selectively prosecutes this crime. But people don't want to condone rape, and many of us have a persynal reaction of horror to sexual predators that makes it hard to think about this objectively.
Regardless of the societal influences, and the unfair definitions and prosecutions, there are a lot of people who have committed sex crimes, and these should not just be ignored or forgiven. This topic got a lot of people thinking about whether or not sex offenders (SOs) can be part of the movement, and if they committed sex crimes, if they can be reformed.
Defining sex crimes
We have all been raised in a culture that promotes sexism and condones gender oppression. We call this system the patriarchy. It's a system where sexy young teen models sell clothes, and TV and movies glorify powerful men and violence against wimmin. This culture colors every relationship we have. We're taught that being a good man means acting manly and strong and never letting a womyn tell you what to do. And we're taught that being a good womyn means submitting to the needs and desires of your man. With this training, we can't expect equality in relationships. And without equality, we can't expect free consent. Not everyone has a gun to their heads when they are asked to consent to sex, but there are a lot of different forms of power and persuasion.
So we're starting out with a messed up system of gender oppression, and then we're trying to define which acts of sexual violation count as coerced (rape) and which are just "normal." One California prisoner wrote:
"I want to comment on the sex offender topic. Yeah it's rough because like the Nevada 17 1/2 yr old dude it's just that easy to get caught up. As adults we're able to date 18-19 year olds as a 40-50 year old.
"I mean if people are going to argue 15 year old and an 18 is different, the question is why/how? If their answer isn't 'I just want my baby girl to be my baby girl a few more years' then their answer is B.S., because that's what it really boils down to.
"Moving on, the sex offender umbrella is too big. Like it was mentioned, a person taking a leak in public is considered a sex offender? We haven't always had toilets, let's get real and go after the real sex offenders — fully adult male/female taking advantage of a child. That's a sex offender! 20, 30, 40 year old trying to sleep with a 13 year old — sex offender! Possession of child pornography — sex offender!"
This writer raises the question of age to define sex crimes. We ask, why is a 20 year old sleeping with a 13 year old rape, but a 20 year old with a 15 year old isn't? Probably because this writer believes a 15 year old is capable of consent but a 13 year old isn't. That's the key question: who has the ability to give consent?
Truly free consent isn't possible from within a system that promotes gender oppression from birth. But that's not a useful answer when trying to define crimes from the revolutionary perspective. And if we're going to attempting to rehab/punish people who have committed sex crimes, we have to decide what is a reasonable level of consent.
For now, we maintain that we should judge people for their actions, not the label they're given by the criminal injustice system. As this comrade from Maryland explains, society creates sexual predators who act in many different ways, but their actions all show us they are counter-revolutionary.
"I was reading one article on sex offenders in ULK 61, and it was talking about how to determine whether they did the crime or not. The thought came to me of judge of character, their interactions with males & females, whether prisoners or C.O.s, and the traces of conversations when they feel comfortable. Even those who don't have sexual offense charges sometimes make you wonder by the way they jerk-off to female C.O.s & female nurses or what they say to them that have you think if they are undercover sex offenders.
"One prisoner went as far as getting the female nurse information off the internet and called them on the jail phone and got (admin) (Administration Segregation). This is the same person that comes back and forth for jerking off to multiple disciplinary segregation terms, but is locked up for a totally different charge. He's a future sex offender, that can't be trusted for help in the revolution not due to a label, but due to his character and interactions when he sees females.
"Then you have the ones that have been locked-up in their teenage years and they're currently in their 30s, and like to chase boys who are easy to manipulate or who want sexual activity. One is big on being a victimizer, but knows and talks a lot of Revolutionary preferences. He has a lot of knowledge but can't be trusted to prevail due to lack of discipline and wanting to continue in his prison rapes & prison sex crimes that he rejoiced in. But he is another one that is not locked up for any sex offenses. Both were juveniles when incarcerated and have been psychologically damaged and lack change & further rehabilitation. Everyone still embraces them in general population and looks past their sexual activities.
"How can people that exploit sexual habits right in clear view of the prisoners be embraced and not looked upon as potential threats to society, families, and fellow prisoners, when you have someone labeled as a sex offender through childhood friendships and has to be sectioned off & outcasted by other prisoners due to the label of sex offender and not background information, the character of the man, their interactions with same sex and opposite sex, and the signs & symbols through their conversation?"
This writer's view is echoed by a comrade in Texas who has come to realize we need to judge people for their actions:
"UFPP is a must! Regardless of what you did to get in prison (rape, rob, murder), I (also a prisoner) only judge you or anyone on how they go forward from this day in prison. I used to work in food service and I would break a serving into fifths for women in prison for killing or abusing children. Then I grew up and got over myself. How do I know they were rightfully convicted and how do I know how they got in this prison life? I don't. We're all in the same spot starting out. What you do from this time forward is your description for me. And people can change. I have."
When we look objectively at how many people, both in prison and in society in general, commit sex crimes, it's pretty depressing. The recent #MeToo movement helped expose just how many sexual predators are in the entertainment industry in particular. And writers like the one above expose individual cases of predators behind bars. This is so common because of a culture that promotes gender inequality. As long as we see wimmin/girls as objects for sexual pleasure we will have a problem with sex crimes. Another prisoner described this pervasive problem in California:
"This letter is in regards to the sex offenders articles in ULK 61. We cannot "always" trust a state to tell us what crimes someone has committed - but most of the time we can. It might not always be so clear, but the majority of the time the person convicted of a sex crime did indeed do it.
"Of the thousands of people I've come across in the SNY prisons I’ve been in, absolutely nobody has claimed his pc 290 case is for urinating in public. The most common is sex with a minor as there is absolutely no thing in the state of California as consensual sex with anyone under age 18. I know this all too well because sex with a teen put me where I'm at.
"There are probably as many different variables that create sex offenders as there are types of sex offenders themselves. The overwhelming factor with the sex offenders I've met in prison (and there's a lot of sex offenders in prison) is drug abuse, especially methamphetamine. It's safe to say that most sex offenders (at least 60-70%) were driven by the effects of meth. There are many in prison who will admit to sex with underage females. Growing up in the housing project of San Francisco's Mission District I knew a lot of adults (mostly men) that had sexual relationships (and even marriages) with teens. It was very common also that the girls my age as a teen carried on with grown men.
"Go to a Latina's traditional 15th birthday celebration and count the amount of males over 20 yrs old. Yes, that is what many are there for: the girls. Do younger girls' parents know about this? Yes, most do. Cinco de Mayo has become another reason for America to party. Latin foods, beers, music, piñatas, etc. We've welcomed with open arms. Are we going to pretend that these 'other' traditions from Latin America don't exist and just continue to tag and store sex offenders or will something be done to address this issue?
This writer makes a good point: lots of sex crime charges are real. Many men have committed these crimes. But there's no need to rely on what the state tells us. In fact this writer demonstrates that people are being honest with em about eir past crimes. We don't gain anything by trusting the criminal injustice system, and we don't need to.
This comrade helps demonstrate our point that sex with teens is condoned by capitalist culture. These cultural influences encourage men to see their behavior taking advantage of wimmin, and pursuing teens, as normal and acceptable. We won't stop this completely until we get rid of the patriarchy and have the power to create a proletarian culture.
Can criminals be reformed?
An important organizing question of today regarding sex offenders is whether or not they can be part of the revolutionary movement. This inspires a lot of debate behind bars. A comrade from Maryland provides some good examples of people becoming revolutionaries in spite of history of anti-people crimes. We agree with eir analysis that everyone who has committed crimes against the people (sex offenders, drug dealers, murderers, etc.) has the potential to reform and be a part of the revolutionary movement. Whether or not we have the resources to help make this happen is discussed in "On Punishment vs Rehabilitation."
"Eldridge Cleaver was incarcerated for rape upon little white girls and was not on Protective Custody, nor was he a victim, but the victimizer. [Cleaver was actually incarcerated for assault, but was open that he had raped wimmin and even attempted to justify it politically. - ULK Editor] Though upon his parole release he worked for a newspaper company until his run-in with Huey Newton at this newspaper company and joined the Black Panther Party to become later down the line a leader within the BPP political organization. James Carr was another that participated in prison rapes even though he grew to become a instrument for the BPP, a body-guard for Huey Newton upon his release, and a prison vanguard alongside George L. Jackson. Basically, saying that in their era they were not faulted by the political group for their past, but were looked upon what they could do in the present and future.
"With what the United States set as standards are only accountable for those who are out of their class and who they don't care about, while their class gets away with such crimes or slapped on the wrist with the least time as possible. They have messed us up psychologically mass media. So even if the people don't know if the crime is true, what the state places upon us as fraud charges, our mindset is automatically it's true cause America says it's true. Just like when we see people on the news wanted for questioning about a crime, we automatically say he did it without knowing.
"Did the Revolutionaries of the 60s, 70s, and 80s not participate in the Anti-People Crimes as modern day even though they were Vanguards for the people and just as conscious as we are. Did they not sell illegal drugs to raise money for court fees & bail fees? Did they not drink alcohol and smoke weed & cigarettes? Did they not graduate to hard drugs? Did they not shoot or stab people in their lifetime? Did they not commit sexual assaults? That's why we are able to learn from their mistake, while also cherishing their great stands of Revolution. So within criticism, criticize all through all eras and let those who want to prove their self do it. If sex offenders, whether guilty or not, started their own organization that was aligned with the same goals, principles, and practices as MIM(Prisons), would you support them or acknowledge their efforts? Do you feel that if a sex offender, guilty or not, got conscious and changed for the better is capable of being a positive tribute to a Revolution?"
On this same topic a Wisconsin prisoner disagrees and sees the example of Eldridge Cleaver as a detriment to the movement overall.
"I personally do not believe there is a place in the movement for sex offenders, and when I say sex offenders I'm referring to those who are in prison for committing sex crimes, not statutory rape, where he's 17 and she's 16 or even if he's 20 and she's 16. I'm, talking about un-consentual, outright rape of women, men and children. I don't have any affinity for those who rape prisoners or prison female officers and staff.
"A lot of people bring up Eldridge Cleaver to support the argument of reform for rapists, where to me Eldridge was not a true revolutionary, he helped bring down the BPP and his mistreatment of Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown and others was egregious at best and outright barbaric at worst. I don't knock those who have compassion and believe in reform for sex offenders, I'm just not one of them."
While we disagree with this writer's statement that SOs can't be reformed, we agree that embracing those who promote gender oppression because of their correct line on national oppression can be very dangerous for a revolutionary movement. The Black Panther Party struggled with gender oppression, but in many ways was ahead of other movements and organizations of their day. This doesn't mean they got it all right, but we have to judge people and movements in the context of their struggle.
Finally, Legion writes compellingly about the potential for rehabilitation of SOs and also offers a framework for undertaking this work.
"So I'm sitting here eating a bowl of cereal and digesting ULK 61 and comrade El Independista made some valid points and MIM(Prisons) dissented. See when we sparked this debate we were struggling with starting a NLO consisting of comrades who have fucked up jackets who are willing to put pride, ego, individualistic patriarchal thoughts and practices to the wayside forming a column of revolutionaries who are given a chance to show and prove that the state was wrong and that U-C-U works for all instead of some. Answering El Independista's questions of possible solutions isolation, ostracization, extermination may I build?
"First and foremost as a revolutionary raised in the game I'd rather deal with a SO than a snitch or a jailhouse thief. Why? Because in most cases the SO can be re-educated if given the ability to perform. If a potential comrade has been framed by the state who will hear him out. He's isolated like the sex offender island in Washington State off of puget sound. Ostracization is another word for shun if the SO shuns his/her anti-people conviction and uses unity-criticism-unity to combat the patriarchy and upholds the merits of a drafted constitution along with personal U-C-U known as self-criticism you can begin to mold revolutionaries who ostracize themselves. Then there is extermination, another word for ending re-education self-critique and revolutionary bent will cause an ill (as in sick) blow to the injustice system. It's all or none. And no, I'm not harboring cho-mos and rapos, just willing to do the work to see us free all of us. For example, if a column of reformed SOs took up a revolutionary mindset and put said mindset into practice one would exterminate a whole under represented class of people.
"In California the Penal Code 226(a) is any sex crime. 266(h-j) have to do with pimping and pandering, 288 is a molester, 290 is the required registration code. Most kidnappers have to register for life. If you're a John you have to register and if you're a prostitute you have to register. If you opt into a shoot out and a child was involved you have to register, and child endangerment is a sex crime. As well as rape, peeing on the side walk, flashing. In prison all these cases get 'P' coded which prohibits the captive from ever being level 1 where there is minimal politics, and forces one to live in enclosed structures with secure doors AKA cell living. This leaves level "P" coded prisoners in 3 and 4 yards. These yards are political, whether GP or SNY there are politics. And on these yards you have folks with a knack for praying on the weak, creating a pattern of sexual abuse. Just look at any day room wall you'll see the # for the PREA hot-line and a slogan that says 'no means no and yes is not allowed.'
"People, we have to prepare for the white wolf invasion. You can't bully the SO problem away. You have to be a social scientist and commentator and build institutions that collapse the structure. And to answer MIM(prison), most SOs are on SNY yards and you have these snitch gangs who look to isolate, ostracize and eliminate "threats." Most SOs aren't rats, hell most aren't even criminals, no rap sheet only accusations. But these "gangsters" need a common enemy, and an easy target is the SO. As a 'do what's best-ist' I would, if given the platform to do so, launch the wolf collective and invite all who read ULK to join, not as a member but as a witness to the scientific display of revolutionary conduct. I do this to sacrifice self for the masses.
"Start with self-critique and a solid understanding of your errors.
Make serious revolutionary action your priority
Honor and respect all human beings' dignity
Never go backwards in thought walk and push
Stand all the way up for what is righteous and do what's leftover
You will be judged by your political work and political line.
"You might think I'm crazy or nuts but I have 36 nuts and bolts that say otherwise. The mathematics makes sense to turn nuts to plugs you plug in nuts meaning you become the change you want to see, and if I have to build the collective brick by brick stone by stone I will. I'm a convict first for all the would-be haters, but I think the time has come to form an infection on the skin of the beast."
Estoy tratando de atraer la atención sobre el sistema penitenciario estatal de Colorado política "extraoficialmente" para mantener a los presos chicanos en guerra / opresión fraccionarias. Colorado ha estado plagado de la misma violencia e ideología de “moreno contra moreno” como los sistemas de California de los últimos 30 años. Sólo recientemente, hubo un despertar que transformó la mentalidad "pandillera " de las masas en un estado mental revolucionario en la liberación y lucha por Aztlán. Esto se ha enfrentado con todos los niveles de represión, como transferencias fuera del estado a lugares secretos, MCC (El nuevo nombre políticamente correcto de Colorado para el encierro de SHU / Ad-Seg STG donde los reclusos sólo pueden salir de la celda cada 72 horas para ducharse, etc.)
El 14 de junio, el Poder [email protected] y la Lucha por Aztlán fueron negados por el comité de publicación por el siguiente motivo: "El material plantea una amenaza potencial a la seguridad de la población de delincuentes o empleados de DOC, trabajadores contratados y voluntarios al abogar por disturbios en la instalación o el incumplimiento con las normas o reglamentos de la prisión". La verdad del asunto es que fue negada porque vino a mí en un período de tiempo específico cuando las masas chicanas en
Colorado habían decidido dejar de ser los títeres de la opresión racista capitalista de un sistema que activamente ha ayudado y facilitado la destrucción de nuestra gente, poniendo nuestras vidas en peligro de muchas maneras. Lo siguiente son pequeños ejemplos de estas condiciones.
Poner a los miembros rivales en grupos, donde seguramente serán atacados tan gravemente que la muerte o el intento de asesinato son escenarios probables. Abrir las celdas de los rivales STG mientras que los presos son esposados y encadenados a mesas, para que puedan ser atacados, etc. Ésta ha sido la norma por años. Ahora que hemos superado la mentalidad tribal en un esfuerzo para educar y crear conciencia sobre el genocidio racista de nuestra gente, el cual el sistema nos manipuló para hacer con
nuestras propias manos, nos azotan en las celdas, nos censuran y oprimen aún más. Me sorprenderé si alguna vez recibes esta carta.
Actualmente, estoy en proceso de quejas sobre libros. Cualquier material que pueda ayudar o contactos para avanzar en nuestra lucha será muy apreciada. Una vez que termine el proceso de queja, enviaré copias de todo el material sobre el tema. Gracias por tu tiempo. En solidaridad con la lucha para terminar con la opresión y liberar a Aztlán.
MIM(Prisons) has set the ambitious goal of making Under Lock & Key a monthly publication by 2022. ULK fills a need in prison, providing revolutionary anti-imperialist reporting on and about the lumpen behind bars. This is a relatively small revolutionary project focused on the criminal injustice system. But prisons are just one part of the larger imperialist machine. And it will take a revolutionary movement much broader than just prisons to bring down capitalism. We are a part of that movement, and it is our job to do what we can to push forward its development.
At this stage in the struggle there are revolutionary cells organizing in various segments within the belly of the beast. We're building a United Front for Peace in Prisons to bring together the movement behind bars. And beyond that we want a united front against imperialism that includes both prison and non-prison organizations. This broader movement needs a unifying publication, a newspaper that can be used to both disseminate information and organize people.
Lenin wrote What is to be Done? about the importance of a regular newspaper publication for organizing the revolution in Russia. And in the early stages of organizing, before the movement gained popularity and broader membership, the Bolshevik leader argued that revolutionaries needed to dream of wide distribution of a regular publication. He wrote that, with enough local groups and study circles taking up active work:
"[W]e could, in the not distant future, establish a weekly newspaper for regular distribution in tens of thousands of copies throughout Russia. This newspaper would become part of an enormous pair of smith's bellows that would fan every spark of the class struggle and of popular indignation into a general conflagration. Around what is in itself still a very innocuous and very small, but regular and common, effort, in the full sense of the word, a regular army of tried fighters would systematically gather and receive their training. On the ladders and scaffolding of this general organisational structure [...] [revolutionaries would] rouse the whole people to settle accounts with the shame and the curse of Russia. That is what we should dream of!"
Why print a newspaper when we have the Internet?
Lenin was writing at a time where there was no other way to communicate between localities. We now have the Internet, and some will argue that online agitation is all we need. We can communicate with people around the globe in a few seconds on the Internet. And this is indeed a powerful organizing tool. So why put out a newspaper beyond prisons, one of the few places in First World countries without access to the Internet? The answer to this question is access and organizing.
Most people don't accidentally come across Maoist websites while browsing online, and with the imminent end of net neutrality this will likely become even more true. We're not going to get publicity in mainstream media. And we don't want to encourage bad security by asking people to post on facebook or twitter and expose themselves to the cops. Newspapers can be left for pickup in coffee shops, libraries, book stores, homeless shelters, community centers, laundromats and other places where folks can happen across a perspective they won't see elsewhere. This expands access to revolutionary news and education.
We can use the Internet to quickly share information about campaigns, and rally people from many locations for quick actions. And we can publish the content of a newspaper online, greatly expanding its reach beyond print media. But while the Internet is a powerful tool, it doesn't get us out on the streets organizing people, talking to them, and building study groups and organizing committees.
With a print publication, organizers can walk up and engage people in a way we can not do online. Newspapers give organizers a tool to use in face-to-face organizing. Talking to people about their conditions, and making the connections to the imperialist system. Asking someone to read an article and talk to them about it. Responding to a speech at a rally with a newspaper article on that topic as a starting point for conversation with folks already sympathetic to the cause.
Political goals of the expanded newspaper
Get organizing updates to comrades in prison with greater frequency
Build unity among the Maoist movement within U.$. borders
Broader distribution of anti-imperialist information
Closer coordination of work between various organizations within the united front against imperialism
Organizing tool for folks on the streets and behind bars
What is needed to expand ULK
Distributors: We can only achieve our goal if we can quickly expand
our network of distributors. This is where you, our readers and supporters come in. We will send you a small stack of ULKs every issue for a year for $50. For our Re-Lease on Life Program comrades we will send them for free until you can afford to pay. Selling them for $1 a piece is one way to get the funds to pay for your subscription. Or if you have the money you can take the easier route of dropping off a few copies at local shops and public spaces that have a spot for people to pick up free publications. For our imprisoned readers, reach out to any individuals or institutions on the outside that you think might be able to take on a regular shipment of ULKs.
Money: It will cost more money to print more newspapers, and also more postage to send it out to distributors. We're asking our distributors to cover the mailing costs of what we send them. We also need people to step up and help fund the printing and the costs of mailing in to prisoners.
Content: Our immediate goal is to increase the frequency of ULK, so that comrades inside are getting more regular organizing updates. As this will also expand the content, we hope to increase the breadth of topics that ULK currently tackles, exposing different sectors of the movement to each others' work. We are working on partnerships with fraternal organizations to help create content for this newsletter. We also call on individuals to increase their efforts to produce quality content that addresses the needs of the oppressed from a proletarian perspective.
Who should be part of this expansion?
Revolutionary anti-imperialist organizations that see Maoism as the furthest advance towards communism to date. This is an explicitly revolutionary project. We will not be toning down the Maoism that is our guiding political line. But we will continue to publish articles from individuals who share our anti-imperialist agenda though perhaps are not Maoists.
We need to expand our outside distributors beyond former prisoners. Expanding the content in our newspaper will help attract more supporters. But we also need more supporters to expand. So our number one challenge to comrades on the streets right now is to step up and become a regular distributor of ULK. Without a broader distribution network, we will not reach our goal of doubling the frequency.
Task list to prepare for January 2022
Start by distributing ULK locally. Sign up with us today by sending $50 to our PO Box with an address to send ULKs to, and begin exploring
ways to distribute the publication regularly. (No checks made out to MIM(Prisons), let us know if you want to send a check)
Commit to a financial contribution for this expansion. Ideally a monthly amount we can count on. You can start donating now to help us build up the cash needed for this project.
Volunteer to start writing articles. Ask for a copy of our recently
updated writing guide.
Revolutionary organizations interested in getting involved in this project, get in touch to start talking about how we can work together.
Greetings from the A-yard of Valley State Prison. In honor of the anniversary of the Attica uprising, and as an act of solidarity, the members of our study group abstained form eating for 24 hours. For one day we did not eat, starting with the Sunday G-slam, lunches (cold) and the evening meal. Ten copies of the solidarity study pack were passed out to members of our sg and a few other prisoners who were interested. A comrade was kind enough to photocopy my solidarity study pack which MIM(Prisons) provided. Most of the prisoners who attend our group were not even aware of the events at Attica on 9 September 1971, or the calls for prison reform which the Attica uprising prompted. A special emphasis was put on finding ways to promote peace and to educate all prisoners across the country on principles of the UFPP.
In closing, I want you to know that I may be new to this but I am tryign hard to learn and organize here at VSP and so are others. We, as always appreciate very much the material support and organizational guidance of MIM(Prisons). Thank you.
Abolitionists From Within (AFW) is back on the move here at SVSP quad this Bloody September. This September 9, 2018 we remember the anniversary of Attica of Sept 9, 1971 and them faceless freedom revolutionary fighters who fought and died in these prisons uprising throughout history of our struggle as we continue to fight the oppression, exploitation, abuse and inhumane treatment of prisoners. A lot of rights and privileges comrades have today is because of these soldiers at war with this corrupt system.
Throughout this country, we as New Afrikans must reconstruct our thoughts and come up with ways and ideas to get control over our minds behind enemy lines, and work to educate the lumpen. I know our young comrades think they know everything. Being upright, independent and fearless against all odds and not fearing the outcome of whatever is what the young comrades are looking for true leadership.
This Sept 9 day I refrained from all negative conversation. AFW continues to push to end prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities throughout this country. I had the chance to meet and become a student of the main 4 reps to end all hostilities between our racial groups, and also a brother from the representatives body. I spoke with brother X about our beloved brother W.L. Nolan and GJ and our conditions today as "new man," and how GJ struggled to transform the Black criminal mentality into a Black revolutionary mentality. And solidarity with all you comrades around the country this Sept 9 day.