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Under Lock & Key

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[Abuse] [Michael Unit] [Texas]
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Unprovoked Beatings of Prisoners in Texas Must be Stopped

I would like to bring your attention to something that's going on here in Texas. There are repeated staff attacks of prisoners in Ad-Seg, and prison staff seem to always get away with this.

On October 16 I was on the rec yard where you can see inside to section 4 day room. A prisoner with a mental illness for which he takes meds was inside the day room. He was sitting at the table and two officers walked inside. He didn't get up from the table, and the officers walked on both sides of the table where the prisoner was sitting down and both of them rushed the prisoner and took him to the floor of the day room beating him, punching him with handcuffs, and using the food slot bar to hit him in the head. They ended up with blood on them from the beating of this prisoner. He lay on the floor and they dragged him from the dayroom in handcuffs and called on the radio that they just had a use of force on a prisoner.

There are many cells that saw this incident in addition to people in the rec yard; a total of 18 people witnessed the beating. But only two people wrote a witness statement. When I asked the two officers why they did this, they told me that this has nothing to do with me, and that the prisoner had this coming.

I write grievances to stand up to staff who hurt people, but the grievances just go right to the ranking officers and they call the officer to invite a statement and the staff just deny it. So the grievance comes back with the staff denying any misconduct and that's the end of it. I talked with other prisoners and told them that the only way to stop this is coming together as one and standing up.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is ironic that this prison claims that MIM(Prisons) and our USW comrades behind bars are a threat to the safety and security of the institution while violence is carried out by those supposedly ensuring this safety and security. We know that the entire criminal injustice system is set up to defend the actions of guards like those described by this comrade, and it will never be easy to take them down through grievances or lawsuits. Even if we win, it is only to replace one oppressor with another. But we cannot stop fighting the oppression because battles like this one are a good opportunity to educate and organize against systematic brutality. Mass consciousness and mass organizing is the only way to win against oppression. United Struggle from Within comrades across the country fearlessly take on these battles even while knowing that they may face brutal retaliation themselves for standing up for their fellow prisoners. This is truly fighting for peace. As the first principal of the United Front for Peace in Prisons states: We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression.

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[Abuse] [Sullivan Correctional Facility] [New York]
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Fighting Special Needs Prisoner Abuses in New York

I am going through a situation here at Sullivan Correctional Facility fighting grievance issues similar to what has been reported in other prisons in Under Lock & Key. I have a long history with this jail dating back to 2009 with civil cases in court against these people. I am writing because our grievance process here is totally unreliable. The same people who you write the grievances on are the people who investigate them and then wash them under the table.

I'm in a special needs unit, some of us are slow, some can't help themselves, that's why they call it special needs. These officers here take full advantage of our disabilities because they know that we can't fend for ourselves. They are constantly jumping on us and using our medical status as an excuse to justify their actions, claiming we tried to hurt ourselves. Then they throw us in the box.

As an example of this situation, I'm kept on lockdown now because of an officer that I've been having an ongoing problem with. Just the other day he told me after he locked me up that he's going to cut my wrist and say I tried to kill myself. This goes on everyday here.

Reading your article diligent grievance petitions expose oppression in NC that led to hunger strike made me think back to my past experiences here at Sullivan. Something has got to be done. There are some things that I'm going to try to do that I rather not speak about. But you will definitely be hearing from me. In the mean time keep my name ringing along with other brothers that have similar problems and just maybe we will overcome this together.


MIM(Prison) adds: Together is key. Individuals fighting alone mostly lose the battles to combat the oppression they face on a day-to-day basis. The grievance campaign we've been promoting in many states is one way to come together on these types of issues.

In some prisons abuse is more common because the people are more dis-empowered, and organizing becomes even harder. It is important for outside supporters and prisoners in other facilities to stay connected with you to shed a light on abusive conditions. A United Struggle from Within comrade (Amare Selton, Rest in Power) was killed behind the walls of one of New York's mental health units on 17 September 2009. Conditions are dire, and as this comrade is doing, we need to be trying new ways to ensure real safety for those in these vulnerable situations.

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[Abuse] [Environmentalism] [Calipatria State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 29]
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Using Toilet Flush Limit to Torture Prisoners

I want to bring up an issue that should be addressed and included in the struggle for positive change. Back around 2005 the Department of Corrections began installing timers on our toilets, to limit us to two flushes every five minutes. The reason given for the timers and limits on the flushes is for the purpose of water conservation. I'm all for saving the planet and conserving Earth's resources, but not at the expense of my own health and well-being.

The timer and two-flush limit has emphasized the impact of living with a toilet in the compact space where we also eat and sleep. No man should have to be forced to endure prolonged exposure to the revolting stench of human waste! To limit us to two flushes every five minutes is simply unreasonable, but what is unconscionable and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment is the so-called "penalty flush!" especially when we have no way of knowing when the toilet's timer has reset itself. Here at Calipatria State Prison if we inadvertently or purposely attempt to flush the toilet a third time before the toilet's timer has reset itself, a 15 minute penalty will incur. This means the toilet will not flush for 15 minutes and anything in the toilet will remain there throughout the duration of the 15 minute penalty.

In other prisons I hear that the penalty flush can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour! There's simply no penological justification for the penalty flush because the two-flush limit every five minutes serves the penological interest of the water conservation. It is inhumane to punish a man for simply trying to use the bathroom. So please include this stinking issue into the struggle. United in struggle we will prevail.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Actually, water conservation is not a penological interest at all. Like this correspondent says, a two-flush-per-five-minute rule would be enough to prevent any attempts to abuse toilet flushing. The penalties for attempting to flush the toilet show us clearly that this is just another method to make prisoners’ lives extra miserable, and dangerous, for no good reason.

It might be argued that flush rules are in the state's interests to save water, because water is money. But either way, the "greening" of Amerikan prisons highlights the dominant pro-imperialist slant of so-called environmentalism in this country. Water conservation can be used to improve production for California agribusiness, or it can be used to provide people with clean drinking water across the world. Which goal you choose is a political question. Really environmentalism that is not internationalist in perspective is not true environmentalism at all because it ignores most of the biggest problems humyns face interacting with our natural environment in favor of the local interests of small, privileged groups.

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[Abuse] [Bowie County Correctional Center] [Texas]
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Fighting Unjust Treatment and Prisoner-on-Prisoner Violence in Texas

In the past month, I've witnessed more prisoner-on-prisoner assaults than grievances filed on the unjust conditions of confinement here at Bowie County Corruptions Center. One week alone had at least three fights with two resulting in serious injuries that sent prisoners to the hospital.

Often these assaults take place when corruptions officers are not present at their assigned stations. These very officers who neglect their duties are also forced or coerced into writing false infractions with forged and falsified statements that make it appear as if they were on their assigned stations during these altercations. It's a lose-lose situation for the prisoner because the prisoners who receive the injuries are usually coerced into pressing charges against the prisoners who assaulted them.

For example, on 21 September, a prisoner-on-prisoner assault took place which resulted in one prisoner being slightly injured. When the assaulted prisoner demanded that ey be removed from the housing unit, it was discovered that ey was in an altercation. But the officer who was assigned to the station was asked about information concerning the altercation and eir whereabouts, and nothing could be said.

According to the injured prisoner, ey was "jumped" by several prisoners. One of the accused prisoners even confronted corruptions officers asking where was the officer assigned to that station? That officer laughed - knowing that ey was not on eir station. The prisoners were threatened with felony assault charges and later received disciplinary infractions. The prisoners were even found guilty on the infractions after thirteen other prisoners wrote statements for the accused.

There have also been officer-on-prisoner assaults such as one prisoner having his collarbone broken and his hip broken. When the prisoner initiated his 42 USC $1983 Civil Rights Complaint, Ad-Mini-$nake$ (administrators) bribed or attempted to bribe the prisoner by ordering that ey be released from their custody while ey was in the hospital. The prisoner still pursued eir complaint.

The majority of problems here at the Bowie County Corruptions Center generate from falsified infractions that officers write when there exists no officers on their assigned sections, therefore, resulting in a rise of tension amongst prisoners.

Though this practice is common in the corruptions system, we must all stay strong in this struggle together and let these situations and conditions be known to those charged with the responsibility and duties to operate these facilities. If nothing can be done on the administrative level and all remedies have been exhausted, seek relief from the courts and write letters to the media and organizations who may be able to help. Eventually justice shall prevail.


MIM(Prisons) adds: While we agree that eventually justice will prevail, we know that reform tactics such as grievances and court cases will only win temporary or small victories for the oppressed. The criminal injustice system will be willing to adjust its tactics of oppression, but it won't be fundamentally altered through legal battles. We need to undertake these legal battles to win some breathing space from the repression in prison for our comrades, but we can not lose sight of the larger battle against the criminal injustice system overall.

To take on the injustice system more broadly, and end the prisoner-on-prisoner assaults that happen daily, we must take up organizing prisoners for unity and peace. Prisoners ultimately can control prisoner-on-prisoner violence, regardless of what the guards do to encourage it. We must build the United Front for Peace in Prisons to truly end the violence. The first principle of this United Front, Peace, addresses directly the problem this writerr talks about above: "WE organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."

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[Abuse] [Prison Labor] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana]
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Angola Louisiana Warden Making Money on Prisons

I've decided to place my pen to paper and let you know about some reprehensible bullshit the imperial pigs who run this whole prison complex racket are up to and are hoodwinking the public about.

I was reading the June 2012 issue of Prison Legal News, Vol 23, No 6 and I was utterly floored when I read the cover article titled "God's Own Warden." [This article was reprinted from Mother Jones magazine.(1)]

There is a Warden of Angola prison in Louisiana by the name of Burl Cain. This man has a full blown racket going on down there, where he not only exploits inmates with blatant slave labor, but then hides it behind religion, and openly broadcasts his money making exploits.

This imperial pig "pays" inmates 2-20 cents to move the wheels of his little prison industry down there. He's got a "museum," farming fields, a gift shop, and a rodeo arena which seats 10,000 people and draws 70,000 people each spring and fall for "prison rodeos."

At these "rodeos" they have "convict poker," where they put 4 prisoners around a table and tell them to remain seated while a 2000 pound pissed off bull charges at them. In another event they call "guts and glory," they tie a poker chip to the horn of an angry bull. While it hangs from the horn "inmates vie to snatch the poker chip off the horn" while the prisoners run after and are chased by said enraged animal. These events are done for the laughs of the people who've bought themselves tickets to this idiocy.

In 1998 Daniel Bergner wrote a book titled "God of the Rodeo" where he himself researched this rodeo and wrote a book about it, saying that he "observed the reaction of the crowd which was electrified, exhilarated, by the thrill of watching men in terror, all made forgivable because the men were murderers." He then goes on to say "I'm sure some of it was racist (see that nigger move) and some disappointed (that there was no goring) and some uneasy (with that very disappointment)." Then he goes on to say "many people were not laughing, were too bewildered or stunned by what they'd just seen."

And of course this industrial pig has prisoners outside the arena selling arts and crafts, crawfish étouffée and Frito pies. In his "gift shop," he sells miniature handcuffs, prisoner-made jelly, and mugs that read "Angola: a gated community." Then people move on to a display of "Gruesome Gertie" which is dubbed as "the only electric chair in which a prisoner was executed twice." (The first time didn't take because the executioners were "visibly drunk.")(2)

So not only does this imperial pig make money off live inmates, he cashed in on their cruel and unusual deaths as well. But that's still not enough for the deep pockets of this racketeering Warden. He contracts his prison out to Hollywood and "allows" prisoners to be extras, all for a nice fee of course!

Cain gets away with it because he hides it all behind religion and converting prisoners to Christianity. So with his money he tosses up a few plywood walls and roof, calls it a church, and says he's "saving souls."

This is the prison where a trio of prisoners had been locked down in solitary confinement longer than anyone in U.S. history, because they were Black Panther Party members (Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and the now released Robert King). They were put in solitary confinement, and have spent nearly 4 decades there, simply for their political beliefs.

In 2008 Warden Cain had a disposition taken in which Cain says of Woodfox, "He wants to demonstrate. He wants to organize. He wants to be defiant... He is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize young prisoners, I would have me all kinds of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them."(3)

Never mind the fact that these two heroic comrades are in their 60s and have a near perfect record for more than 20 years. Warden Cain says "it's not a matter of write-ups. It's a matter of attitude and what ya are... Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace is [sic] locked in time with that Black Panther revolutionary actions they were doing way back when... and from that there's been no rehabilitation."(3) Warden Cain then "suggested that Wallace and Woodfox could be released into general population if they renounced their political beliefs/views and embraced Jesus."(3)

Cain's policy is if inmates don't attend church services they don't get the good jobs (that pay 2-20 cents), or other goodies, such as a day or two off from plowing and farming his fields, a good meal, special banquets, ice cream, etc.

There should be a public outcry of complete outrage over this shit. This is the very sickening degeneracy which we as communists strive to stomp out. These atrocities going on down in Angola under the skirts of religion piss me off, and only strengthen my resolve to standup and fight these imperial piggies every step of the way. With every breath I take it fills my eyes with only the color of red. In solidarity we stand.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As we've explained in articles on the U.S. prison economy, the exploitation of prison labor by private entities is very limited in scope, with most prison labor contributing to prison maintenance and expenses. In the case of Angola, the farm laborers, making a maximum wage of 20 cents per hour, are actually engaged in productive labor and are likely providing a net surplus value to the prison after factoring in the room and board they are provided. But even in this large, well-organized operation, the income is only an offset to the total costs of keeping these men imprisoned, in particular paying the salaries of guards and administrators.

Those prisoners making jam, and other trinkets for sale outside the rodeo are raising money for Christian organizations.(1) In this case private interests are benefitting financially from coerced labor, but even then there are no capitalist profit interests behind these projects as implied by the myth of the "prison industrial complex." Petty economic interests aside, the bigger story here is the national oppression faced by the 75% Black prisoner population at Angola coerced into supporting Christian organizations and pushed into the rodeo. This is a reprehensible example of treating men like animals and turning social control into a sport for the entertainment of reactionary spectators.

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[Abuse] [Estelle High Security Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 29]
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Prison Officials Tighten the Screws at Estelle Unit

On 31 July 2012, there was a small scale race riot on the Estelle Unit in Huntsville, Texas. One person was killed as a result of the prisoner-on-prisoner violence. We were placed on lockdown for 10 days and were fed the most anorexic brown bag meals I have ever seen. The meals were pathetic and it became clear the administration was implementing a draconian behavior modification tactic on the lumpen underclass who are housed in this slave pen of oppression.

Today, 31 August 2012, I was informed that prison officials have initiated a new regulation having to do with day room time for General Population minimum custody offenders on Estelle Unit. From now on, the day room will be closed from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.! Prisoners who are not working will be "racked up" in their cells during these times. I cannot even begin to describe how oppressive, degrading, and inhumane this new control tactic is.

These prisoncrats in Texas force the prisoners to work for free 8-12 hours a day with no pay or benefits. There is no air conditioning in these small cells in population (my cell in super-seg is quite large though in comparison). Furthermore, anyone who has done time knows one of the keys to getting along with your cellmate is to "miss him" as much as possible. However, this concept is lost on the prisoncrat whose only purpose seems to be to oppress and antagonize the prisoners until they are broken or explode in frustration and anger on each other.

It is my strong belief the lumpen must grieve this policy of oppression and subjugation. Moreover, it is time for some revolutionary activism! No day room = no work. Solidarity amongst the lumpen underclass is a must. Conditions will only improve in Texas when the lumpen see clearly that the "real" enemy wears civilian clothes and confederate army gray uniforms!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a follow up to the events reported in Texas Guards Encourage Oppressed Nation Fights, where a comrade explains the role of the pigs in promoting fighting between oppressed nations in prison in incidents like this one. That article also discussed the quick response to the food grievances once prisoners came together with one voice. This restriction on day room access seems to be in response to this activism.

We have since received a correction to that previous article: the prisoner killed was Mexican and not New Afrikan as we reported in Under Lock & Key 28.

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[Abuse] [ULK Issue 28]
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Debating Tactics to Fight Corrupt Officials

I'm writing in response to one of your statements in the May/June 2012 issue of Under Lock & Key. In your ULK you erroneously stated "Many prisoners write about the horrible things happening to them with the mind-set that once the outside world finds out, their problems will be over and the perpetrators punished. This expectation is a myth..."

You're wrong. It's not a myth. I've heard about, and have seen, corrupt officials get walked off the unit. Once proper complaints (i.e. step 1 and step 2 grievances) have been filed and family, friends and/or representatives continue calling the director with complaints, an investigation is conducted. The rest is history. It may take a while before action is taken against corrupt officials, but with outside help, justice gets served!

Thank you for your time and concerns. Please continue the struggle.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree that it is sometimes possible to get individual corrupt prisoncrats removed from jobs through public pressure and complaints. But this comrade demonstrates the truth of what we wrote: just writing about horrible things happening is not enough. You need outside support, which is not something many prisoners have. Even when outside supporters call in to demand investigations, this is not necessarily enough to cause change. The prisons do respond to public embarrassment, and we can win some small victories this way. But with all the individual cases and abuses out there, there is just not enough energy and resources among people who care to fight each of these instances. Similarly, punishing one bad prison employee does not change the fundamentally repressive system. One repressive prison worker will quickly be replaced by another. Until we change the criminal injustice system fundamentally we will not have a true system of justice. In the meantime we must focus on battles that can mobilize prisoners around their common interests.

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[Abuse] [National Oppression]
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Anniversary of George Jackson's Death Marked by Ongoing Brutality Against Black Prisoners

For the past three days now. these weak and wicked scum dogs have been attempting to get us Black prisoners Black to viciously attack a brother by telling us he's a "child molester/sex offender." All this after the prisoner filed a few complaints against these wart hogs. Go figure. This of course caused these brain dead compromising prisoners, especially the porters, to exclude themselves from the brother. The pig gave direct orders to the white feed up porter to "don't feed him shit."

After two days of this torture, the prisoner attempted to sign in to Protective Custody in hopes that he could get away from the pigs and make it home in one piece, as he has less than 30 days left. The people incorporating genocidal slavery (P.I.G.S.) weren't satisfied and decided to up the ante. They told the brother he was moving to another cell block and to pack up his property. Once on the front of the C-Block 33/34 companies the prisoner placed his bags down and was cracked over his head by a white prisoner holding a 4 inch broom handle, in the presence of six pigs, 2 in the bubble, 2 on the staircase and 2 on the companies.

Making sense of the white man's fakery to jump him, the brother began backing up towards the rear of the company, dodging several swings with his arms as the attacking prisoner aimed at his face. Keep in mind the pigs are laughing and allowing the white prisoner to assault the brother with a weapon. Both companies are watching it all play out through the side of the cell doors and mirrors. One brother said "you might as well fight them, they (pigs) are gonna jump on you anyway." But he kept saying "nah, I ain't stupid, I'm trying to go home to my son!" Finally, the pigs told the white prisoner to "put the handle down and go kick his ass, he's scared." Feeling comfortable with his "support team" the white prisoner started towards the rear to fight the brother. But the white prisoner got his ass beat. Of course, this was such a disturbing scene for the pigs, just seeing a white man in their back pocket taking blows from a Black fist caused them to quickly pull the pin alarm and call 30 more pigs to C-Block as they yelled "get the fuck off him now!"

The brother got up and locked himself inside his cell while the white prisoner, all pink and red in the face, was dazed and confused was asked by the pigs, "are you alright?" before politely telling him to "go to your cell." All the while the brother was put in handcuffs, roughed up, and rushed out the block into the hallway where the pigs beat us up out of view, but we can all hear it. Later on the pigs came back on the company to the white prisoner's cell giving him one of the brother's dreds that they ripped out of his head. Somewhat of a token of remembrance, just like they did to Nat Turner in 1831. Make no mistake about it, this is Amerikkka in 2012 for the Black man. This is exactly what George Jackson was describing in Soledad Brother. Tomorrow is the 41st anniversary that he was slain in action, and the 181st anniversary of Nat Turner's slave rebellion. Nothing much has changed.

In hindsight and conclusion, when the pig was trying to get us to feed the lie that the brother was a "Rapo," he made a profound statement. The target of harassment said "these pigs been raping our women for hundreds of years and you gonna believe him and his words on face value!?" Enough said!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is right to point out that the oppressors will do everything they can to divide the oppressed. We can't trust them for information, but instead must judge our comrades through their actions. Those who work in the interests of the oppressed are our friends and those who work against the oppressed are our enemies, regardless of the reason for their confinement or what other people say about them. This is a good example of why someone might ask to be moved to an SNY/PC yard for good reason. The debate over protective custody prisoners has been ongoing in ULK for many months and MIM(Prisons) maintains that we can not let the prisoncrats divide revolutionaries with false labels and categories. There are genuine revolutionaries throughout the prison system and there are snitches and compradors found on every yard as well. Actions are much more important than prison-imposed labels.

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[Abuse] [Control Units] [Tabor Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Arbitrary Use of Control Units in North Carolina

I am currently on a 6 month program called Intensive Control Unit (I-Con). Since I've been on "state" I have come across many injustices towards prisoners from the administration. I know the situation in California with the debriefing process in Pelican Bay SHU. Here it is very different. Here a prisoner can get snatched up off the yard solely on the words of a confidential informant (CI). The administration does not need facts to convict, just the label "reliable source," and a prisoner will be stripped of school/work and be placed in Ad-Seg, possibly Security Threat Group (STG). And, like in my case, thrown in a lockdown program.

Not only this, but prisoners who have completed their term in I-Con or M-Con (Maximum Control) have gone to board to be released without any incidents are being lied to. Board is telling prisoners that they have completed their term only to still be held for another 6 months. Corruption.

There's many injustices that I can write about and share with you. But truth is that these people really don't want us to learn and better ourselves. So this is why I believe that one has to approach this life behind these walls with caution. Do our best to move and operate under the radar of these people, and of those who are blind, misled or sometimes brainwashed.

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[Abuse] [Campaigns]
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Missouri Petition Stonewalled at Lower Levels

MIM(Prisons),

I am enclosing the response I received from the assistant warden at Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) for the censorship petition I sent to Tom Clements. The policy quoted is Missouri's censorship policy (IS 13-1.2).

Prisoners are constantly being denied due process right here, when the oppressor enforces a punishment called "limited property." We are put on limited property immediately based on an officer's words, with no hearing or anything.

It is so hard for the captives here to even attain an informal resolution request that we must file before going to the grievance process. They are just doing whatever they want, not following policy.

I wrote the Assistant Warden a kite to inform him of the difficulties in the grievance procedure in Ad-Seg, and the Functional Unit Manager intercepted it and responded herself. The message I received from that is that the only correspondence that will reach its destination from her house are those that she approves of. A violation of my First Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Offenses of assault and sexual harassment occur daily in Ad-Seg here. The Warden (Ian Wallace) removed the strip cages from the housing unit. Now prisoners are stripped of their clothes off camera by COs while captives are still bound by mechanical wrist restraints. They can do anything they want to us off camera; assault us, free case us, and if we write a complaint the officers will refute it and the response we will receive is that we have provided no evidence of the allegations.

If there is a grievance petition already for the prisoners in Missouri, please send a copy so I could circulate it here, because they're not being responded to fairly and justly. Looking forward to the upcoming issue of Under Lock & Key.


MIM(Prisons) responds: The current campaign in Missouri is based around the Petition Against Violations of the Constitution focusing on censorship, and including the failure to respond to grievances. We are always working with local USW comrades to improve ongoing campaigns and petitions. So feel free to draft up new petitions or proposals and send them in for consideration.

In many cases the lack of meaningful grievance procedure may trump censorship battles if censorship appeals are being ignored. At the same time, if we hope to see any incremental improvements in conditions we should focus our energies on specific demands that are both winnable and popular among the masses of prisoners.

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