by a Pennsylvania prisoner September 2015 permalink
It seems that the pigs who run this gulag are getting more and more clever every day. We need to stay on point to their tactics and be awake to the corruption that surrounds us. We all know that the administration will do whatever it takes to shut down any organizational movement of prisoners that threatens them. It has come to my attention that all around us are eyes and ears, even when we think we are speaking in confidence to a supposed comrade. The pigs have resorted to using the most oppressed of all of us as puppets for them. The administration has begun using an "informant for hire" network to bring down any type of unity between prisoners. A large percent of us already completely rely on support from the administration to feed us, and provide other necessities. The pigs withhold vital services from prisoners, forcing them to obey their "masters." In exchange for constitutional rights, and necessities that they can get nowhere else, prisoners infiltrate cell groups and other organizational efforts between comrades, then report their findings back to the Corrections Officers. This has become a common scene in Pennsylvania prisons.
This is another reason why we all need to unite and take care of our brothers and sisters in need, so they are not forced to rely on the pigs for their livelihood and daily bread. We are all in this together, despite our individual crimes, backgrounds, or status. We all should have one common goal, to break these chains that bind us. I believe this is what self-sufficiency truly means — not having to rely on our oppressors to meet our basic needs. And since we all share this common goal shouldn't we view all other prisoners as the same as self? After all, we are meant to be one united force, but all that abounds is discord, disunity, and views towards other prisoners.
This is a call to all fellow prisoners to unite as one force, lend a helping hand to prisoners who are down and out. When we don't do this, we are violating the very basis of communism by placing ourselves above other groups of humyns — the poor and needy! We must do whatever it takes to crush the fascists and pigs that oppress us! So we must reach out and help those who are unable to help themselves, and stop feeding them to the mongrels.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Many people write to us complaining about snitches and the hopelessness of organizing. This comrade does a great job explaining how we can have an impact on these individuals and what people can do to change their circumstances, rather than just complaining. This sort of rational and creative thinking is what communists need to bring to every situation. Look at a problem from all sides and come up with ways to attack it. We call this materialist thinking, and it's not easy, especially when we're bombarded with anti-science ideas, and feeling crushed by day-to-day oppression. We hope this comrade serves as an inspiration to others who are facing serious snitching problems to think about how you can help these snitches to join the cause of the revolution.
As a leader of United Struggle from Within (USW) and the Prisoners' Legal Clinic (PLC) I have a lot of problems organizing with the lumpen proletariat because they don't want any trouble with the pigs and I have been transferred 10 times in this 8.5 years of my imprisonment, but the struggle still goes on! The Security Threat Group (STG) status is moving to every state complex in the empire.
I was reading Under Lock & Key No. 41 and it was saying in many articles by comrades that they are being put on STG status for no reason and they can not put up a defense and they aren't getting any yard time. This is both constitutional violations and human rights violations. The 8th amendment violation of cruel and unusual punishment; and the 14th amendment violations without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states:
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person Article 5: No one shall be subject to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 6: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination. Article 8: Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners approved by the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Geneva in 1955 and approved by the Economic and Social Council by resolutions 663 (XXIV) of 31 July 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of 13 May 1977:
Exercise and Sport 21. (1) Every prisoner who is not employed in outdoor work shall have at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily if the weather permits. ... Information to and complaints by prisoners 35. (1) Every prisoner on admission shall be provided with written information about the regulations governing the treatment of prisoners of his category, the disciplinary requirements of the institution, the authorized methods of seeking information and making complaints, and all such other matters as are necessary to enable him to understand both his rights and his obligations and to adapt himself to the life of the institution.
(2) If a prisoner is illiterate, the aforesaid information shall be conveyed to him orally.
36. (1) Every prisoner shall have the opportunity each week day of making requests or complaints to the director of the institution or the officer authorized to represent him.
(2) It shall be possible to make requests or complaints to the inspector of prisons during his inspection. The prisoner shall have the opportunity to talk to the inspector or to any other inspecting officer without the director or other members of the staff being present.
(3) Every prisoner shall be allowed to make a request or complaint, without censorship as to substance but in proper form, to the central prison administration, the judicial authority or other proper authorities through approved channels.
(4) Unless it is evidently frivolous or groundless, every request or complaint shall be promptly dealt with and replied to without undue delay.
A lot of prisoners don't understand that they have a lot of political power if they know how to use it, like getting our families, friends and associates connected to the prisoner advocate organizations in their states because political power to change conditions of prisons has to start with us first because we are the ones doing time. Our people and citizens have power in their voting blocks with issues that can demand change in prisons' operations. Prisoners have to put their interests first.
People vote their Senators and Representatives into office at election time and they can vote them out of office as well. These are the people who are supposed to represent the interests of the people in the state legislature and the federal Congress. But if people don’t bring their issues to them how can they properly represent them? We prisoners must become politically conscious of the system of local, state and federal government.
A lot of prisoners don't know that this is the time for change in the prison system, the prisoner advocates movement is very strong right now, and states' governments are seeking ways to save money because it cost states a lot more money to run maximum prisons then lower security prisons. Prisoners are truly going to have to learn their Constitutional rights, because in order for a person to have any kind of rights they are going to have to learn them first. Then you can protect them.
It's a damn shame that the Afrikan nation's ancestors fought and died for their rights and in the 21st century the Afrikan nation has become ignorant of their rights and struggles that we have been going through for the last 400 years of oppression and exploitation. This subject matter of STG can be put in the form of a petition and then filed as a class action lawsuit against these corrupt DOCs for not having a system of redress for being placed on STG status, etc. Prisoners are going to have to stand up for their rights and fight this evil and corrupt system of the prison DOCs across the country, because this same STG system is put in place everywhere.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The 8th and 14th Amendment claims this comrade refers to were the heart of the recent lawsuit in California that ended in a weak settlement. So on the one hand this is right on track, but on the other the PLC must study and learn from what happened in California to do better in other states.
By knowing our legal rights and understanding the law, we can challenge abuse and corruption, both through grievances and then in the courts when the grievance system fails. This particular campaign against STG is important to the ability of the oppressed to organize and escape extreme torture, and is therefore an important one to continue. The legal battle is only a small part of our current strategy because the legal system is a part of the criminal injustice system overall and so it will never provide justice for the oppressed. Any legal victories we do have will likely require mass organizing before hand, and will definitely require mass organizing to enforce afterwards.
Ultimately, we won't change the system through the courts. Similarly we don't focus on elections because we know that the imperialists won't allow people in positions of power who really work in the interests of the oppressed. And the majority of Amerikans do have a vested interest in the existing system of oppression: they support "tough on crime" measures and don't want to see prisoners' conditions improved. So even if relatives of prisoners all try to vote for change, they are unlikely to even find good options on the ballot.
Amerika uses prisons as a tool of social control, and the lumpen who are targeted for this repression are a minority among the mostly privileged classes within U.$. borders. For this reason we will never fundamentally change the system by working within their elections and their courts. We can take up tactically winnable battles, like these that are connected to the basic rights promised in the U.$. Constitution. But we should not mislead people into thinking that anything short of a revolution is required for liberation of the oppressed.
by a North Carolina prisoner September 2015 permalink
I wanna believe that education is more valuable than incarceration, but it's hard when prison yard outnumber campus quads in every state across the nation. I wanna believe.... I wanna believe that black lives matter to all and not just the blacks who live it, but I can't erase the vision of black men murdered by white police with no punishment because their families' pain is so vivid. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that confederate flags don't represent real oppression and race hatred, that we as a people can rise above the stereotypes that we perpetuate to keep us from becoming wasted. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that we can open our eyes and recognize the Kings and Queens that Africa birthed, surviving this genocide with pride and living out the prize of realized and mastered worth. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that my people didn't hang from trees and get sold on blocks, that our babies' heads weren't stomped while slave masters prayed to God not to let their savage souls rot. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that we only do drugs to escape a reality too hard to accept, and that it's deeper than just a high when you've lived your whole life with neglect and a heart full of regret. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that times have changed and life isn't only getting worse, but a white man just took a .45 and murdered nine people praying inside a historically black church. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that kids can live free without the fear of being shot while coming home from school, that we can teach our babies something more useful than "hands up, don't shoot" rule. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that being in a gang means more than flagging a color and throwing signs, that we know the foundation was to oppression and stand for our communities not to show that we're blind. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that the brothers behind the wall are doing more than getting high, playing ball and lifting weights, and that they spend more time studying the law trying to see how many loopholes exist in their case. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that losing another brother only helped to make me stronger, that every struggle I've faced and conquered has left me with lessons that I can embrace a little longer. I wanna believe... I wanna believe that when I'm done my words will forever rest in your hearts, and that if you hear my pain and sincerity I've done my part. I wanna believe... I wanna believe, I really do, but I've never had a reason to, so to me believing is deceiving and if I believe I'm afraid I'll begin to grieve anew, belief is faith and faith is hope while hope is something I've never really had, so if I hope and believe in faith how do I know I'll never again be sad? I wanna believe... I wanna believe... I wanna believe that love is something we can all achieve, and I really want love but even more than that I just wanna believe!!
We've been working hard to express the need to end all hostilities amongst all ethnicities. Us New Afrikans here in the belly of the beast known as the Corcoran SHU have just completed a beautiful BAM (Black August Resistance/Memorial) and we came together to struggle today [September 9th] for the purpose of unity. We exercised in a group that consisted of ourselves, a couple southern Hispanics, and a northern Hispanic. Our study habits still consist of revolutionary literature, economics, politics and some history where our cultural and social interactions are similar without division.
We don't have a short corridor anymore here in this concrete tomb, so with people arriving from the mainline just to do a SHU term we can educate them on the importance of the agreement to end all racial hostilities, and stay on guard because the fascist oppressors will always try to sabotage our collective struggle. A lot of these youngsters who come in here don't have a clue about the Attica uprising or Black August Memorial, and how could they when all the teachers of New Afrikans struggles are still anguishing behind enemy lines. The importance of us getting out of the SHU is to educate our youth about their history.
Today we had a group study session on the importance of revolutionary internationalism, which is the ideological expression of global revolutionary scientific socialism in service to the oppressed underclass of the world. We feel that revolutionary internationalism is the ideological vanguard of global liberation and source of theoretical development in coordinating disparate national revolutions. Also, keeping the permanent struggle of ideological mental warfare going in order to eradicate backwards and unprincipled thinking, or incompatible ideas or activities, and proving the correctness of the revolutionary party's views.
This weapon in which we speak is part of the dialectical processes that are ongoing and endless, until the principle contradictions of the oppressed and the oppressor are eliminated. Once this takes place you will see the transformation of the cultural values, practices and relationships of the people prepare and condition themselves for a revolution against the oppressor state. The outcome is uprooting and destroying the old oppressive rationale and mindset of colonial society and bringing into being new values which move the people outside of the colonial mindset and into that of the emerging revolutionary society. We can accomplish this through the agreement to end all hostilities. So we strive to do so. It's a long out-dated situation that produced no winners, and only losers, and that has also further pushed us into oppression. We realize that now, and since it's not too late to correct it, we struggle collectively to do so.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner September 2015 permalink
Why can't we all get along? What is the problem? In my experience, all I see around me is prisoner against prisoner. There is no real unity. Fellow comrades, this is a major problem! I don't know about other state systems, but here in Pennsylvania it is a constant issue. Prisoners are tearing each other down instead of building each other up. Bickering, fighting, back stabbing, degradation and even genocide is a common theme among prisoners at all the prisons I have been held captive in.
The pigs stick together, so why can't we? These fascists get off over our disunity. It makes their day when they have the excuse to further degrade us by placing us in segregation and control units, where we are stripped of more of the precious little freedom we have left. These pigs oppress all of us; we are all in the same sinking ship. Don't you think it is time to put aside our petty differences and unite as one force? How can we focus on defeating this oppression we suffer and endure on a daily basis, when we are so focused on adding to our own and each others' oppression by oppressing each other?
Come on, family, the time is now. We must unite to really make a difference. Unofficially, jailhouse statistics show that out of all prisoners imprisoned in the United $tates, 89% of us seek only to see each other fail, and be defeated in every way possible, and are for themselves, and only themselves. 10% of us don't give a shit either way. Only 1% of us truly care about and are committed to win the battle over oppression. This is sad! We can change those statistics! MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within are the key to this change and our victory. My motto is and always will be: resist! resist! resist! I will not rest until that mantra rings out in one united voice. Then our oppressors will realize the meaning of their own motto: We can be the real and true United We Stand!
MIM(Prisons) adds: We commend this comrade for the call of unity in the face of struggle. But calls alone will not solve the problems we face, it will also take real action and examples set by leaders. This was the purpose of the September 9 day of peace and unity. As is seen in reports back from comrades who participated this year, it is through both education and practice that we can build greater unity among a population that has been trained to fight one another. We must look at what battles we can fight in our own prisons and neighborhoods, and bring people together for these common goals. Through these struggles we can demonstrate the nature of the imperialist system behind all of the oppression, and focused on keeping the oppressed powerless. Through practice we will build unity and educate the oppressed, training new leaders and developing a movement that can take on the imperialists as a part of the liberation struggles of oppressed nation peoples worldwide.
In war a campaign is a series of actions which lead to an ultimate aim. Campaigns can be thought of as an organized strategy in which certain steps or operations lead to the end goal of victory. Often when people are taking on an adversary, victory will not be accomplished in one shot. When the odds are stacked against you it is necessary to create a plan which, through a series of small steps, one arrives close to the intended goal. This piecemeal advancement is a campaign.
Currently ISIS has a campaign where it is taking ground in the area of what is known as Iraq and Syria. In their campaign they are taking over key areas like airports, oil refineries, major roads or sea ports. By doing so they have obviously decided that each of these areas will lead to lightening their opposition's hold on power and of eventually seizing power in that region of the world. Rather than focusing on overthrowing the Iraqi government outright or flooding Baghdad with troops and attacking the "Green Zone" (the U.S. base) outright, they have developed a campaign to take smaller steps which may lead up to seizing that area.
U.S. imperialism has been waging a campaign for total global influence in which they can act with impunity. They do this by setting up 1000+ bases around the world. And they coerce countries with economic embargoes, assassinations, coups and the installation of puppet governments. Blackmail is used from information that was illegally stolen off the internet or through U.$. spy agencies. Every bit of information they obtain buys them more influence, a step forward in their campaign of destruction.
Prisoners and former prisoners within the United Struggle from Within mass organization have also initiated a variety of campaigns which address our daily struggles. Every struggling people anywhere in the world needs campaigns to address their particular needs, and prisoners are no different. For us struggling prisoners there are certain forms of oppression which prevent us from developing politically or are outright neutralizing us so we must find ways to resist and overcome them, and campaigns ensure this.
Prisoners in California have the Agreement to End Hostilities which is one of our main campaigns at this time. The End to Hostilities is an essential step that needs to continue so that our goal of mobilizing the entire prison system becomes easier. We cannot mobilize people against a common enemy if they are wrapped up in fighting each other. Stopping the violence between prisoners allows us to begin to move forward for our real interests and combat our real threats. This campaign should also spread to other states, and it will. The Agreement to End Hostilities will spread state to state just like lumpen organizations themselves have spread.
A California campaign that is also country-wide is the struggle to abolish control units. Solitary confinement is another small step in a larger process. Control units are designed to destroy our most advanced cadre; it cannot be explained in any other way. So in my opinion the control units are ground zero for the struggles of the prison movement within U.$. borders today. If we cannot save our cadre in U.S. prisons it is a huge defeat. In order to mobilize the prison system for humyn rights struggles it would be a lot easier if most of the politically advanced prisoners were not sealed off in control units.
The grievance campaign is another way that we enable imprisoned people to work toward humyn rights so that they can continue to struggle on that revolutionary path. Things like the struggle for indigent envelopes which the comrades in Texas are raising is a part of our USW campaigns because if we are able to write letters we can struggle and join correspondence study groups and contribute to ULK so we cannot be limited by the state. Just because we may not be in Texas we still support those comrades because it is a USW campaign.
Our campaign in solidarity with Palestine was an exercise in USW flexing its internationalism. When a people are suffering from crimes against humynity, even the most brutal dungeon will not prevent acts of humynity. I think our solidarity with Palestine was also a sign of our anti-imperialism. We have our own struggles in each prison against brutality, solitary, medical care, etc. We have our distinct struggles for national liberation of our respective nations. At the same time we are anti-imperialists and we know that all of our oppression can be tied to U.S. imperialism. Imperialism extends oppression around the world and creates the circumstances where Third World people cannot survive in their home countries. These people often migrate to the metropole in search of sustenance, when not contained within militariazed walls.
Do Campaigns Teach the People?
Campaigns are absolutely educational. We learn from practice. When we partake in a campaign we not only realize what we can accomplish, but we also realize how to better coordinate our efforts.
The campaign does a couple of things, it allows us to battle our oppression while it teaches us different forms of struggle. We often learn new methods to struggle because of this. For example in a previous ULK I read about some comrades who, after struggling on different grievances, decided to create their own legal self-help organization.
From our campaign to raise awareness on the inside and outside the dungeons sprang the Strugglen Artists Association (SAA). The SAA is for artists to create revolutionary cultural works and for Propaganda Workers to bring these cultural contributions to the masses.
From our campaign to close the SHU sprang the statewide California hunger strikes. These actions helped to catch the eye of many within the white left who previously did not support the prison movement like some are starting to do now. From this publicity came various prisoner support groups and media struggles to assist our actions.
From these examples that I have listed came independent institutions. Our campaigns created these institutions of the people. They were created without the assistance of our oppressor enemy. It is hard to see these things develop without our campaigns, so as you can see the campaign creates even more opportunity to struggle and gives us momentum to continue on our road forward.
Take away the campaigns and we are left with nothing but isolated impulsive acts which get us nowhere but unorganized disarray. Campaigns direct our actions toward our greatest potential.
Our Goals in Campaigning
Our goal as anti-imperialists is a socialist revolution. But the more immediate goal of USW within U.$. prisons is to revolutionize the dungeons. This will take a series of actions, or to be specific it will take campaigns.
Prisons are merely one component of the state. But they are one of the most important components because it is within prisons where the most vital social forces are found. Prisons will produce the fiercest fighters in the future revolution.
The campaign is a military concept. In many ways it is a revolutionary war which awaits us because the oppressor will never hand over its power. According to Mao: "The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them."(1)
Oppressed people will be victorious, and prisoners, once revolutionized, will ignite and charge the people. We have seen in hystory the power and raw force that ex-prisoners have infused into social justice movements within U.$. borders. The most advanced parties' political organizations and movements of the internal semi-colonies were filled with ex-prisoners and lumpen, so it is this element which must be mobilized. The people must "go deeper," as Lenin taught, to obtain the most revolutionary element which is less influenced by imperialism. Campaigns up! Conflicts down!
Comrade, either you're misinformed or an ex-member of these renegade groups you speak of. First, you said ULK should make the newsletter more informative to political theory of education and building community. Comrade ULK created their newsletter as a platform for its readers to supply and share information. The newsletter is very informative and it lets all kkkaptured brothers know what's popping prison to prison, and that you're not alone in the struggle. If you feel something's missing from the newsletter that's your opportunity to supply it. Share the knowledge and lessons from your political education classes with ULK so they can share it with everyone in the trenches.
The reason ULK should continue to teach organization, is because there's brothers in the dark who think that what they're doing is right because it's all they know. In California African gangs have no organization. You mention the BGF putting a worldwide ban on gang banging. In California BGF is considered a prison gang by the pigs. Gangbanging doesn't mean you're a bad person. I've been in prison 11 years and things are very racial here in California. So what might solve a separate problem in New York might not work in California or Florida. There'll never be one fix for all. There has been too much blood shed between different organizations. There can be no peace without war. The fear of war motivates people to keep the peace.
You're aware things may never be resolved, but are you aware that the tone of your words says "why try to resolve?" and "don't even try to resolve because it's a losing battle." Which is your feelings about fighting censorship of ULK.
Your beef really seems to be with gangs and not how ULK does their thing. If you're not the leader of 3 Blood Kingdom you don't know if he opposes peace. Your actions are of choice. They don't define your belief. When supporting something you're still living in the now and have to deal with your current situation.
This brother is part of an organization that makes him a target. He'll need to protect himself the best way he knows how. Even if he denounces his membership he'll be a target for having been affiliated. Those who are never affiliated are targeted by those who are. You're a target either way and will have to protect yourself or get run over.
In the movie "Selma" they did peaceful protest and were still attacked. The lesson here? Do what you must to survive. Nobody's born a gang member. You choose to be one due to your circumstances. Comrade, talking down on gang members is a form of oppression. Let's build these brothas. Each one teach one.
Comrade you speak about rule 33_501.401 fac(3)(g) being used to censor your ULK. ULK doesn't support rioting, insurrection, and disruption of an institution. They support things like the September 9 Peace Day. What ULK does is print the going ons in prisons state to state. The news shows violence daily. Does that mean they support it?
You choose to not grieve the censorship under assumption you won't prevail. The pigs are betting on your pessimism and they're winning. Freedom of speech is a right. ULK exercises that. If you aren't going to fight for what you believe in why expect ULK to?
You say the pigs are the puppeteer, well off the head and the body will follow. It's time to stop venting and start inventing.
Vent: to relieve oneself by vigorous expression Invent: To create or produce for the first time
Where there's a will there's a way. If you're willing to look you'll find a way. If there's no road to success create your own.
I didn't say all of this to attack you, but with hopes of inspiring you to go get what you want. Peace and Solidarity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's assessment of the importance of understanding the roots of violence and the inability of pacifism to stop violence. We also call on all lumpen groups and their leaders to join the United Front for Peace and work to advance not only their own organizations but others as well. At the same time, this writer is correct that we must work from where we are and not from idealism. As every issue of ULK demonstrates, we are about promoting organizing for expanding the peace, including the September 9 Day of Peace and Unity.
Folks are dropping dead like flies here in Clements Unit. Due to a faulty grievance system and benign inspector general investigations, the whole entire unit staff are literally getting away with murder. It seems like when one pig gets in trouble he/she gets promoted. Take officer (now Sergeant) Garret E. Rockholt for instance. In 2013 he cold cocked a prisoner in the medium custody unit of this prison. Not only was he caught red-handed, this incident gained him praise and eventually got him promoted to a Sergeant in the Ad-Seg building where he walks around with his chest out boasting about his charades as a former Officer.
Next we have Officer (now Sergeant) Desmond Finney. As an officer he had a reputation for beating and slamming handcuffed prisoners. Notably, one ended up with black eyes and another had a tooth knocked out. Not only was he beating our peers but he also denied several the chance to eat whenever he worked the pod. Now this clown has been promoted to Sergeant and the deck for corruption is constantly getting stacked.
These are just a few examples of the rewards for bad behavior that need to stop. But comrades it's going to take more than just words and hope. Unity is key and unity is mandatory with any effort towards changing prison conditions and prison behavior. We can't afford to let differences between one another dictate how pervasive things get and we need to focus on how to liberate one another. As comrade Mao said, "to gain public opinion and seize power."
Since 2013 we've had one peer murdered, one left to die, one found in his cell where he'd already been dead for several hours, one left with a broken arm and another a broken finger. None of these instances were peer-on-peer attacks; they were all due to the intentions and neglect by the very pigs that are supposed to prevent these things from happening. It's obvious that we can't count on them to protect us, so the only obvious alternative is to protect each other collectively and with honor.
Getting involved in study groups and reading, learning, and teaching the works of Marx, Lenin, and Mao is sure to create an understanding of how to lead. So if you haven't begun to study and don't know where to start, if you've read this you just began.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Study groups are an excellent way to build unity and political leadership. Getting people to agree that unity is good is pretty straightforward, but building a long-lasting movement that's strong enough to stand up against all obstacles put in our way requires deep political study. We run correspondence study groups and also support prisoner-led study groups behind bars. Write in to get materials for either of these methods of study.
For prisoners of the Texas Department of Criminal inJustice (TDCJ) there is also an activist pack which has info on the various campaigns United Struggle from Within has running in TDCJ. This activist pack doesn't just contain information to help fight for your rights; it is a great organizing tool to share with others in your facility to get people working together and building tangible unity.
We hope to develop activist packs for other states where comrades are fighting similar struggles. In Texas the campaigns center around the inability to have grievances properly addressed, a $100 medical copay for healthcare, and a limit on indigent envelopes to 5 per month. If you have an idea for a campaign and resource that can be developed in your state, write in to get involved. If you're in Texas, you need to get this Texas activist pack! It's costly to print and mail so if you are able to send us a donation, that would be greatly appreciated.
It's been over a week since we got the news on the settlement of Ashker v. Brown.(1) For a case that is so central to what we do as an organization we've taken our time to respond. We've read and re-read the legal documents and listened to the celebratory news coverage of the settlement. Yet our reaction remains the same, deep disappointment.
The settlement is a victory for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and it knocks out one of the three main legs of the campaign to shut down the SHU — the courts (the other two being public opinion and prisoners organized around their own interests). This case had a lot of the known anti-isolation lawyers and some influential long-time SHU prisoners behind it. It was an alliance that will be tough to beat any time soon.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement, along with many other organizations, has spent decades campaigning for the end to long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. We have long countered the public who question us with, "what is your proposed alternative?" with the simple answer, "not torturing people." Ending long-term isolation in U.$. prisons would be a simple reform that unites the lowest common denominator of prison reformers. Almost everyone agrees we should end torture, and that is reflected in the ongoing movement to do so. It is only the fascist-leaning cop-lovers and state bureaucrats that oppose the call. Actually, in many states the state bureaucrats support ending long-term isolation.
Yet through all the years of struggle here in California, somehow the CDCR has succeeded in painting the ending of torture as the extreme option, with the recent settlement as the sensible compromise. But they are wrong: the extreme option is overthrowing the state and replacing it with one run by the oppressed, where the real killers and exploiters are imprisoned and taught how to live collectively with other humyn beings, not thrown in isolation. Ending torture in prisons is the most basic, sweeping reform that would actually improve the conditions in U.$. prisons.
According to the New York Times, prison directors have become more supportive of reducing the use of solitary confinement after a man who spent 8 years in isolation was released in 2013 and went to the house of Colorado's prison chief, Tom Clements, and shot him dead.(2) Yet reducing the number of people in long-term isolation only serves to extend the life of its practice as it affects less people and there is less outrage. This reduction also suggests that some people still deserve to be tortured. That is why MIM(Prisons) has never supported measures to get only certain groups out of long-term isolation.
The Ashker settlement has been heralded as "effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement" and "setting strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates." Yet in the actual settlement we read,
"CDCR shall not house any inmate within the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison for more than 5 continuous years. Inmates housed in the Pelican Bay SHU requiring continued SHU placement beyond this limitation will be transferred from the Pelican Bay SHU to another SHU facility within CDCR, or to a 180-design facility at Pelican Bay. Inmates who have previously been housed in the Pelican Bay SHU for 5 continuous years can only be returned to the Pelican Bay SHU if that return has been specifically approved by the Departmental Review Board and at least 5 years have passed since the inmate was last transferred out of the Pelican Bay SHU."
That's it! That's the extent of the "strict" limitations on long-term isolation in California. So if you're in another SHU, or Ad-Seg or some other unnamed long-term isolation situation, which about 14,000 of the over 15,000 in isolation in California are, there are no limits.(3) If you're in Pelican Bay you must move to another SHU after 5 years. Five years later you can come back. Alternatively, you could spend 4.5 years in Pelican Bay, 2 months out, then go in for another 4.8 years, and on like that for the rest of your life. Does this really address the Eighth Amendment claim by the plaintiffs of cruel and unusual punishment? The length often cited for having serious mental affects on humyns is in the range of 15 to 30 days!
Now with the new Step Down Program prisoners are supposed to have a way to return to "a general population setting within three or four years." So the class of prisoners being represented in this case, those who have been in the SHU for ten or more continuous years, are being addressed adequately according to those who agreed to this settlement. But even moving forward there are exceptions for Administrative SHU Status, allowing people to be held as long as CDCR deems necessary.
There is one progressive concession given in the settlement: "CDCR shall not place inmates into a SHU, Administrative Segregation, or Step Down Program solely on the basis of their validation status." Additionally, "CDCR shall modify its Step Down Program so that it is based on the individual accountability of each inmate for proven STG [security threat group] behavior, and not solely on the inmate's validation status or level of STG affiliation." Finally, as a result of an ending to the indeterminate SHU sentences for prisoners "validated" as members of prison gangs, in the next year "CDCR shall review the cases of all validated inmates who are currently in the SHU as a result of... an indeterminate term that was previously assessed under prior regulations..."
This addresses the Fourteenth Amendment claim that the CDCR was violating due process with the validation system and the use of group punishment, at least somewhat. As we saw a couple years ago, the new STG policy actually opened up STG charges to a wider range of organizations than was covered by the previous validation system. The supposed upside is that the rules require actual STG behavior by the individual to justify placing someone in SHU, not just association. Yet, in the new SHU Term Assessment Chart we see that "Recruiting inmates to become an STG affiliate" is a SHU punishable offense.
As mentioned above, this settlement seems to eliminate the judicial strategy of ending solitary confinement in California for the near future. But it also strikes a huge blow against the strongest leg we have to stand on, the collective organizing of prisoners. Turns out, under the settlement you can expect to spend 12 months in SHU for "Leading a disturbance, riot or strike", and 6 months for "participation in a disturbance, riot or strike" or "Inciting conditions likely to threaten institution security" (for those not aware, the latter was a common charge made against those who peacefully refused food in recent years to protest long-term isolation in California prisons).
They are outlawing peaceful protest, and non-violent, passive resistance for the prison movement. Amerikans criticize other countries that torture people for peacefully protesting the government that is abusing and, well, torturing them. How is it that leaders in the prison movement have signed on to this?
As we have previously reported, the new STG policies still give prisoners points for things like tattoos, greeting cards and talking to certain individuals. So it is not really true that you can no longer be punished for affiliation. Abolishing this practice was part of the 2nd demand of the hunger strikes.
As a result of reviews (which were mostly underway before this settlement anyway) we have a number of comrades who are getting out of the SHU right now, without having to debrief (snitch). This will no doubt be a positive thing, as we expect many of them will stay politically active in their new locations where they will have more opportunities to reach out to others. Yet at the same time we've already seen the next generation of prison leaders going to the SHU. It seems that the youngsters are getting thrown under the bus here.
So this is a wake up call to those not yet in the SHU. In July 2013, 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation, recognizing their common interests in this demand, even though most of them were not housed in isolation themselves. This was an amazing demonstration that epitomizes the progress made over the last 5 years or so to consolidate the prison movement in California. This continues to be celebrated in the form of the Agreement to End Hostilities and the countless commemorations taking place today, September 9th, in the spirit of peace and solidarity in commemoration of the Attica uprising.
As this settlement was released, public statements from CDCR celebrated it as a continuation of their plan to reform the system after the SHU successfully broke the prison gangs that had taken over. Yeah right. These prison gangs were encouraged by the state who teamed up with white nationalist prisoners to oppress New Afrikans, and later enforced the north/south divide on the [email protected] nation. The continuation of and expansion of united action around the Agreement to End Hostilities is crucial to preventing the CDCR from returning to that status quo.
Leading up to the recent settlement we had one comrade building for a new wave of hunger strikes. As this settlement does not address the most important of the 5 Core Demands, ending conditions of isolation for all prisoners, this call remains valid. And while we've always warned comrades to build outside support for such actions, one lesson we can take from California is that such actions must be organized on the inside. Even California Prison Focus, who has been visiting prisoners in the SHU for decades, and who has lawyers with privileged access to their clients, was in the dark during the hunger strikes until the CDCR decided to pull in outside mediators. As always, MIM(Prisons) is committed to supporting the organization of prisoners and fighting to defend the First Amendment rights of prisoners (and ourselves) of speech and association. The ending of a policy that allows the state to torture people for belonging to certain organizations was a blow against the excessively repressive policies of the CDCR in relation to the First Amendment. With this settlement we find California in a similar situation to most of the rest of the country, where torture continues to be the method of choice for population control of the oppressed who do not walk in step with the oppressor.
And so, the struggle continues. Until solitary confinement is abolished, shutting down control units will be a central campaign for MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within.
by a Mississippi prisoner September 2015 permalink
Religion: "Something one believes in devotedly"
My religion is Kingism which gives me faith in myself, a national self-respect, and power to educate the poor and relieve the misery around us. By putting to practice the true essence of Kingism as described in our Kings Manifesto and Constitution (K M/C), I've learned from one stage to the next of nation life the importance of understanding the social factors surrounding each stage.
When I was a kid I did things without giving them the serious thought that they demanded. I spent a lot of my younger years being immature and acting on impulses that led me astray (by my own choosing). But I didn't end my life by believing that all was lost. As I grew older and was being guided by our nation's literature and mentors of our older leadership, I was being molded and shaped to becoming a better man and king.
Most importantly I always had faith! Faith in myself, faith in my nation, and faith in our creator. I always believed I could overcome any obstacle that was put before me, but like all Kings and Queens, we all need guidance in our lives and courage to withstand the trials of time, to lead us on this golden path of righteousness. A brother showed me from the holy bible 1st Samuel, that looks can be what allures us to failure as men and kings. Following someone who may look like they have it all is not necessarily the path chosen to walk. Listening and responding are vital in our growth as men and leaders. Our creator wants obedience from the heart which derives from love and respect. That's how one can tell if there is authenticity to the actions and motives behind our family's behavior. That's how God knew David was after his own heart. Although he messed up numerous times he didn't make the same mistakes several times, he had faith, and was loyal in his guidance.
Truth should be the light and source that guides our loyalties. Loyalty is one of the strongest aspects of courage! In essence the summary of 1st Samuel that I've learned from should be leadership, obedience and understanding that no government or set of laws can substitute for the rule of our creator. If we possess that fiber we can and will become great kings and the true leaders we were intended to be. We can demonstrate effective leadership under our creator by showing the personal qualities that pleases him and reveal to our nation and people that one person can make a difference.
It takes courage and strength to stand firm in your convictions and even to confront wrongdoing in the face of opposition. But as men and kings we must stand firmly in our position and quest for righteousness. Greatness is often inspired by the quality and character of our leadership. The ultimate greatness that we should desire is to love others as God loves us. Then you'll achieve greatness.
Sometimes we have to tear down and rebuild our lives. We must understand that once a king becomes critical or too educated, deconstructionism will come naturally for us. But deconstruction is rather useless without reconstruction — without a positive vision. It is the easiest thing in the world to point out what is wrong, who is wrong, and to stand on a pedestal of superiority without doing anything positive or becoming a positive answer to dilemmas as such. After one deconstructs we can find out what you are actually for! An awful lot of activists and reactionaries have no positive vision, nothing they truly believe in and finally no one to love. They get entangled and overwhelmed with what's wrong and think by eliminating what's wrong, the so-called contaminated element, that the nation will be pure and right again. This I believe is a major illusion. In this way we are merely in the politics of expulsion. How then can we as a body transform and integrate one that has begun to deconstruct back into the mainline of our K M/C?!
What is true justice and peace? Problem-solving in my opinion by punishing and shunning will not itself create our new vision. Can we conform to our creator's words and become a solution instead of using one to scapegoat an issue? We must not be hasty about accepting someone's condemnations of another person, especially when the accuser may profit from the downfall. Hope and meaning give us purpose; let's find out his/hers and help their transformation. If one does not deconstruct for reconstructing transformation then the element of hope is gone, and love is not intrinsic, then the finality is shunning. Prison sees this phase more than any reality! Remember anything lasting is transformation, not change! We should all allow the ongoing transforming ways of Kingism to be the vaccine that continues to cure the desolate halls of hate, envy, greed, and ego. May the blessings of the ancients and the wisdom of the ages be our guide in all things we do. Peace in Black and Gold yesterday, today, tomorrow, always and forever. Amor de Rey!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This commentary about religion demonstrates well some of the useful qualities of religion while hinting at the significant pitfalls of faith in a creator. This comrade starts off talking about faith in self, and national self-respect. These are important qualities, and applying these to the belief and power to educate the poor and relieve misery around us is a correct way to approach serving the people. The ALKQN has done some very positive work around revolutionary nationalism and organizing.
This comrade also derives some very good values from eir faith in a higher power: the importance of leadership and of loving the people. Ey also stress that "truth should be the light and source that guides our loyalties." The problem comes in when faith in a "creator" is used as the source of truth. We do not get truth from some higher being; we get truth from study and practice. There are many things in the bible that are clearly not factual and even contradictory to other parts of the bible. This is not a good source of truth either. If we use religion as a basis for truth we will all too often find ourselves on the wrong side of the oppressed vs. oppressor struggle. This is especially true if people think about their work as having the goal of pleasing a god instead of the goal of serving the people.
Groups like the ALKQN tend to pick and choose things from religions that work for them in an eclectic way, rather than accepting the doctrine of any one religion as a whole. This is closer to the materialist method, but it is disguised in religious language, which is misleading.
We disagree with the definition of religion given at the beginning of this comrade's essay. While it has often been stated by revolutionaries that "the people are my religion," this is just an analogy. Maoism is an ideology, and dialectical materialism is a philosophy. And as Engels stressed, all philosophy can be divided into two main camps — idealist and materialist — with all religions falling in the idealist camp and Maoism falling in the materialist.
ALKQN though not a religion is essentially religious, most of its struggle and goals are of a sacred nature, much of it is woven into the structure of Christianity.(1)
If ALKQN is not a religion, what is it? It is a mass organization of the First World lumpen class, in particular those of the Boricua and [email protected] nations; peoples whose history has included extreme oppression at the hands of the Catholic Church and who largely took on Catholicism and other forms of Christianity as part of their modern culture. The history of the ALKQN under King Tone's leadership in New York was a period of strong Catholic influence. ALKQN also incorporates Santería and makes references to Islam and Buddhism at times. This taking of ideas from various cultures represents the eclecticism of the ALKQN. Eclecticism is common in a mass organization, because they, by definition, include people with varying ideas and beliefs. And while religion has been a significant piece of their eclecticism, it is not the defining characteristic of the organization, so we would tend to agree that the ALKQN is not a religion.
The ALKQN is an interesting organization that parallels the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) in some ways. The NGE has historically had an anarchist view towards structure and leadership. While the ALKQN does have a structure and hierarchy, like NGE it has strong democratic traditions, in particular around questions of religion, allowing for and even defending a diversity of views. This reflects the United Front for Peace in Prisons principle of Growth. Both organizations have had prayer as part of their cultures, but without a specific belief system around the role of prayer or who they were praying to. The NGE, of course, does not believe in any God outside of humyn beings, indicating a progression of spirituality towards materialism. ALKQN fits more into the traditional definition of a liberation theology with its explicit religious ideas, while urging "members to reflect on their 'realidad humana' through rituals and ceremonies which highlight the daily experiences of poverty, unemployment, police brutality, and racism."(2) More specifically, anti-imperialism from a Third World proletarian perspective has been a strong influence on the ALKQN ideology dating back to the 1960s.(3)
It is eclecticism that allows mass organizations like ALKQN to adapt and survive over long periods of time, unlike the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party, which were both crushed by state repression and a lack of conditions to support their specific mission as Maoist vanguards. Kingism is an ideology of the oppressed that promotes fighting the oppressor and it holds back the oppressed by promoting mysticism rather than science.