by a North Carolina prisoner August 2012 permalink
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.
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.
I received issue 27 of ULK along with MIM Theory 13, thank you. I've already read the ULK and I appreciate all the articles. A few months back you sent out a letter to the warden here over an issue of ULK I did not receive. Although I never received the issue, I did talk to a lieutenant who claimed that MIM was banned. I didn't pursue it because I had passed the time limitation to raise the issue, but I've since received the most recent issues after that. I believe it was issue 25 I didn't get. Your letter got their attention.
Other than that it's business as usual with the oppressor. Just last week the pigs slammed a young Black male (22 years old) to the ground and charged him with assaulting a "peace" officer. The prisoner was attempting to enter the housing unit when one of the pigs asked to see the watch he was wearing.
The young man being a rebel without a cause chose to ignore the pig and proceeded to walk into that building. The pig and his cronies blocked the door and told him he wasn't going anywhere until he showed them the watch. The young man backed off and requested to speak to a sergeant. This simple request pissed the pigs off. They proceed to escalate the situation immediately.
As the sergeant was making his way across the yard one pig rushed the guy and slammed him to the ground. This caused some of the prisoners to act out verbally and tell the pigs that the force was unnecessary. The whole thing was a set up from the start. While one pig was confronting the guy another was on the walkie talkie reporting something (most likely a lie), and then two pigs came out of the building and the only Black pig out of the crowd of six or seven pigs chose to slam the young Black male. When I read the article "Trayvon Martin National Oppression Debate" it hit home when Soso stated: "Every persyn in this country sees the stereotypes of Black youths as hoodlums..." as a result any "unarmed Black youth can be killed by cops and vigilantes while the imperialist state does nothing."
Here lately the pigs have seemingly been trying to incite the masses. It's summertime and out here in Imperial County, California (which is less than five miles from Yuma, Arizona) it's extremely hot. Triple digits regularly, the pigs have been forcing us to wear state issue clothing to the chow hall and the shirts must be tucked in. When it was winter and cold we were not allowed to wear thermals to the chow hall. Now that it's hot they're forcing us to wear stuff that will make you hotter. Furthermore, they have launched a campaign of constant harassment. Searching cells everyday which is causing folks to complain. As of yet no one has written a 602 [grievance form] and me personally I don't have any grounds to write one as I have not been harassed. I try to lead by example and share the literature with the brothers of the struggle.
It seems as if we've lost a generation or two. There's a shortage of revolutionaries, at least here at this place. Only time will tell if the masses wake up. I often imagine myself coming up in the era of George Jackson and the likes. I attempt to put myself in those guys' shoes, and I try to emulate what I picture them being. I'll close on that note, power to the people.
I would like to bring something to your attention that's going on here at Union Correctional Institution with staff attacks and starvation tactics. In April I was assaulted by prison staff. Upon grieving the issue at the institutional level, I was immediately retaliated against, choked with security waist chains, placed on strip status butt naked, property taken and destroyed, and placed back into cold cell 40/50 degrees with AC blowing for nine days straight without clothes. I had no sheets, no comfort items, no property, no toothpaste, no toilet tissue, no socks, no mattress, no nothing, just sleeping on a concrete bunk.
I was set up with all kinds of weapons, income tax forms, gang letters, bogus urine test, etc. These staff are out of control. I'm constantly being verbally threatened after I have already been assaulted. Security staff have orderlies empty food trays and pour chemicals and spit in the food after they starve us for 7 or 8 days straight, knowing prisoners will eat anything after not being fed for that long. Medical staff here are covering up for these attacks.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This story of prison staff abuse and retaliation against those who file grievances is unfortunately very common in prisons across the country. The campaign to demand grievances be addressed is spreading to new states quickly as comrades look for ways to fight back against this repression. We don't yet have a petition for the state of Florida so we need someone from that state to look up citations and policies specific to Florida for reference in the petition. If you do this research and send us what needs to be rewritten for your particular state, we will gladly send an edited, accurate copy to other USW and Legal Clinic folks in your state.
In prison one comes face to face with the harshest reality. A prisoner is at the mercy of his captors. Once confined the breaking process begins with the strip search — the intrusive search and viewing of one's body parts by complete strangers - over and over again. To refuse brings one response: assault and abuse. Physical assault at the hands of the prison guards (pigs) becomes a regular ritual.
The pigs will feed you a bag lunch consisting of bologna and cheese, three times a day, seven days a week, or a loaf and raw cabbage. The "Nutra Loaf" supposedly has all the nourishment a body needs baked into a loaf of bread.
The pigs will delay or destroy incoming and outgoing mail. There are men and women who go months without hearing from family and friends, as the pigs want you to believe no one loves you. Visits and phone privileges are denied as a form of disciplinary measure, for years at a time.
Then prisoners are placed in solitary confinement, in control units given various names: SHU, SMU, etc. In these units prisoners are locked down in the cells 23 hours a day. This is even done to pretrial detainees not yet convicted of crimes who in fact may be innocent. In the summer, heat is pushed through the vents, and in winter ice cold air is pushed in. Men are kept in ambulatory restraints (handcuffed, with waist chain and black-box, and shackles) or "four pointed" (handcuffed and shackled to a bed or restraint chair) for days at a time.
There are "cell extractions" where prison staff (pigs) suit-up in riot gear in five-man teams (allegedly a man for each body extremity). These five men enter a cell of one man, and beat him or her senseless, breaking arms, teeth, head, legs, ribs, etc. These are carefully crafted beatings with the words "stop resisting" yelled over and over for the camera operator who stands outside the cell, pointing the camera at the backs of the pigs in riot gear. The prisoners are then either "four pointed" or placed in ambulatory restraints. "Non-lethal" munitions are used, which are the chemical agents. They gas you until you choke; many have died this way. They throw concussion grenades into the small confines of the cell, which is a grenade that contains black balls. Or they shoot rubber balls into the cell at a range of five feet and less. Many have been maimed. These attacks are justified by reports concocted and written by staff to cover their ass. In fact, United States Penitentiary Lewisburg (USP Lewisburg), where the newly formulated Special Management Unit is instituted, has more cell extractions and men placed in restraints than any facility in the federal Bureau of Prisons, including ADX which supposedly confines the most dangerous prisoners in the country.
These abuses in American prisons are real and it's all designed to de-humanize the prisoners and destroy their sense of self-worth, self-respect, dignity and morals.
Often I ask young pigs "is there a difference between a man and an inmate?" The majority say yes, but when I ask the difference they cannot explain it. Others have come back later and said no, but their initial response is a "learned one." For example, new staff (pigs) are taught at training facilities (at Glencoe for federal officers, local places for state officials) to not eat prisoners' food, and to not drink prisoners' water. They are indoctrinated psychologically to view prisoners as sub-human, a separate species, in the same manner as the U.S. Constitution counted Black people as three-fifths human. In the year 2011, USP Lewisburg had on display in the institution toy figurines: a gorilla complete with orange pants, a broken handcuff attached to one wrist, and a toy white man in the costume of superman. This is how they view themselves and us.
But I will not delve too deeply into the racist mentality inside America's prisons; that is a well-known and accepted fact. There are many tortures perpetuated in America's prisons, from those stated above to sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, to brutality and killings. These acts are well known and rarely is anything done.
Instead, the judicial system turns the proverbial blind eye. There are over a thousand cited juridical cases of prisoner lawsuits dismissed as frivolous, or on some contrived technicality, e.g. failure to exhaust administrative remedies/the institutional grievance process, even when that "grievance process" affords no capacity for redress. See Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 USC 1997; 28 USC 1915(g), Woodford v. Ngo, 126 S. Ct. 2378 (2006), Booth v Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001).
In federal civil rights cases, the U.S. Attorney (and Department of Justice) for the district where the prison is located "represents" the prison staff at the tax payers' expense. In state 42 U.S.C. §1983 civil rights cases it is the state attorney general who represents prison staff, again at tax payer expense. Prisoners are rarely given an attorney to prosecute their civil actions.
Emboldened by success at having prisoner lawsuits dismissed, prison staff have become more abusive and more blatant. This abuse and torture has had the desired effect, and many prisoners stop reporting staff abuse and just accept it. Thus happens the moral decay of the prison population. Men and women who were social pariahs, when free, for economic reasons, become scavengers, who lack morals, integrity and principles. Human beings are confined and allow the conditions of that confinement to make them into predatory beasts. Whether you are incarcerated for murder, robbery, drug dealing, extortion, or burglary, these crimes have a rational basis, often poverty-bred crime.
In America's prisons, what morals and integrity are left in the prisoner are slowly eroded away. Those who never used alcohol become drunks on prison-made wine and white lightening; those who never used drugs become heroin addicts with self-made needles; psychotropic medication-babies; gunners-flashing and masturbating in front of prison staff; men raping weaker men.
Prisoners are not doing time, the time is doing them. Mentally, prisoners are being dumbed down. It used to be when the youth entered prison they received a book from elder prisoners and a knife from their comrades for protection from the other prisoners and the pigs. Now the youth sit in front of the idiot box (TV) tuned in to BET and MTV.
The majority of prisoners pled guilty and got more time than they deserved, yet few ever even look inside the law library; they cannot read or write, yet do not go to school. They simply play the yard all day, until they find themselves in the SHU for a stabbing over being drunk, fighting over a "punk" or some minor offense perceived as disrespect.
Prisoners have lost the identity of who their enemy is and is not. Do other prisoners lock you in at night, deny you visits and phone calls, throw your mail in the garbage, tell you to strip naked, squat, cough and spread 'em?
All these groups, formed for this fight against "oppression" or claiming to be pushing an agenda of growth and development, and representing truth, justice, etc., are only oppressing themselves. On every yard in the country more Bloods stab Bloods, Crips stab Crips, GD stab GD, Vice Lords stab Vice Lords, LK stab LK, Norteños stab Norteños, Southside stab Southside, and the pigs lock us all down at the end of the night. Where is the comradeship amongst yourselves in particular, and prisoners in general? Where are the George Jacksons of today, Geronimo Pratts, Huey P. Newtons, Albizu Campos, Lolita Lebrons of today? How can you be a man or a "G" and sit confined every day without ever trying to liberate yourself? Is that gangsta, to sit idle chasing dope for the rest of your years in the womb of oppression?
I commend and salute the brothers and soldiers of Georgia State Prisons that in 2010 had a six-facility work stoppage to protest deplorable prison conditions. Every year, there should be a whole month where prisons across America simply refuse work; working for under a dollar for your captors is a crime against yourself. Every time a prisoner is beaten, collectively, without discussion or plan, everyone should simply refuse to work.
In all prisons, and the federal system in particular, there needs to be a moratorium on prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. This needs to go on with each "gang" and I say "gang" because you do not act like freedom fighters, revolutionaries or movements.
"No people to whom liberty is given can hold it as firmly, and wear it as grandly as those who wrench their liberty from the iron hand of the tyrant." - Frederick Douglas
MIM(Prisons) responds: In June of 2010 we had someone write to us about the degrading conditions in Georgia prisons, while lamenting how sorry and submissive the prisoners in Georgia were. Six months later thousands of prisoners in at least 6 prisons launched a coordinated strike just as the comrade above describes. Eighteen months after that, a hunger strike is approaching the one month mark after expanding to multiple GA prisons as well. So, while everything about the breaking process this comrade describes above is true, its hold is not permanent on the minds of the oppressed.
It is already traditional that the month of August be used to honor those who came before us, and SAMAEL has answered this comrade's call for a countrywide fast and work stoppage on September 9, though only for 24 hours. We encourage comrades to use the month of August to do education work around the history of the prison movement. Get in touch with MIM(Prisons) if you need additional study materials. We hope this comrade will follow through on his own suggestions and organize where he is at for a day of solidarity with others in the United Front for Peace in Prisons on September 9.
In December 2010, prisoners across the state of Georgia went on strike to protest conditions. Rather than address the prisoners' concerns of abusive conditions, the state responded with repressive force, beating prisoners to the point where at least one prisoner went into a coma. Since then, 37 prisoners have spent the last 18 months in solitary confinement, a form of torture, in response to their political activities. On 11 June 2012, some of those prisoners began a hunger strike in response to the continued attempts to repress them. More recently, prisoners in other facilities in Georgia have joined the hunger strike.
MIM(Prisons) stands in solidarity with these comrades that are combating the abuse faced by Georgia prisoners, being beaten and thrown in solitary confinement. State employees have told these comrades that they are going to die of hunger under their watch. Oppressed people inside and outside prison need to come together to defend themselves from these state sanctioned murders and abuse.
I come in the universal salute of peace. I was recently made aware of your movement and newsletter ULK May/June 2012 Number 26. And as I read it I started to see plenty similarities between our causes. I am a native of Aztlán and therefore the ways of valuing self are embedded in my way of life.
Here, like in any other plantation in PA, exist the ordinary issues of: abuse of authority by staff, unconstitutional living conditions, a definitely inadequate grievance system and last but not least plenty of incompetency in the form of correctional officers and other staff who are not fit mentally, intellectually and/or physically to perform their job who seek revenge on us.
June 30, 2012 in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) an incident took place involving a certified mentally ill prisoner who was moved by force to the "reinforced cell/dry cell/ suicide watch cell." After he was placed in that cell the lieutenant sprayed him with pepper spray, even after the prisoner had already stopped struggling. The whole block and every prisoner felt the effects of the spray because they didn't bother to stop the air ventilation circulatory system which let the pepper spray enter every cell. Soon after the prisoners with asthma started to have complications with breathing and vomiting. But instead of providing health care for us, the guards left the block because they couldn't bear the effects of the pepper spray. This happened at SCI-Cresson June 30, 2012 8pm to 1:30am.
I'd like to personally urge any prisoner to educate him/her self in the law of the land and apply it to their everyday life behind bars. Knowledge is the only cure to the fast growing and deadly disease of "ignorance." Being anti-establishment and/or anti-government doesn't mean that you are an outlaw, a villain or a ruthless piece of trash as they see us. No! It means that you would stand for your principles in accordance with how you want to live your life, and apply those principles to yourself and to how you'd like your legacy to be written.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is correct that even events that seem relatively small and common like this pepper spraying incident need to be fought. Prisoners need to learn the legal system and try to use it to our advantage. At the same time, we have to know that we won't win this battle through the legal system. It is a part of the broader criminal injustice system which, as a tool of social control for imperialism, will not give up power without a fight. Only by overthrowing imperialism will we be able to establish a system that truly serves the interests of the people. But while we build for that struggle we can fight the day to day battles to gain some small rights and freedoms for our comrades behind bars, putting them in a better position to organize and build the movement.
[MIM(Prisons) has received several letters from prisoners about the water situation at Connally Unit in Texas. The water is apparently contaminated and is unsafe to drink. As a result, the prison has shut off the water to the cells, creating dangerous conditions for prisoners who have no access to alternative water sources.]
11 June 2012 - The enclosed mandatory notice about our water [which informs prisoners that water must be boiled prior to consumption] was not sent to prisoners at the John B. Connally unit until after about two weeks of having our water supply turned off and on from time to time. Going without water for days is not only abuse but a human rights violation. Prisoners were consuming this hazardous water without any knowledge of it being contaminated! Now they advise us to boil our water before we consume. These people are either stupid or are literally trying to kills us, because we have no appliances to use to boil water.
Another prisoner wrote: Now that we have this problem with the water they won't give us dayroom time. Just imagine being in this cell 24 hours a day with no sink water, no flushing water, and, the most important one, no drinking water. Personally I don't think that's right at all. We need some justice, but what do you think we should do to get this to improve? For one thing, we need unity in this unit!