2017 DECEMBER — My beloved comrades at ULK, please take whatever steps necessary to convey this information to your readers, particularly those on the Texas plantations. It is my hope this will move a few to join in this all-out attack against mass incarceration, which those brothers on the Eastham Plantation are being persecuted for.
First, we have launched an attack on the totality of the living conditions on this plantation: double-celling, sleep deprivation, extreme heat, contaminated water, no toilets in the day rooms and rec yard, overcrowded showers. At present we have 5 lawsuits filed and hoping to have 5 more by the first of the year. They are listed at the end of this missive for those who might want to obtain copies and/or file for intervention. I would urge each plantation to file because each plantation has different violations, which in their totality are cruel and unusual.
Next, we have launched an at attack on the symbiotic-parasitic-relationship between Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the American Correctional Association (ACA). Last year we sent numerous letters to the ACA headquarters in Virginia with various complaints including the delayed posting of scheduled audits. Apparently someone was moved to do the right thing. Then notices for the January 2018 audit were posted here in October. As a result, we of the Community Improvement Committee (CIC) here on the unit have sent petitions with hundreds of names with numerous complaints of ACA violations and requests for a Q&A in the gym or chapel. This is being done with individual letters as well. Plus, we have sent the actual notice to various reform organizations requesting them to visit the unit during the audit and act as overseers pointing out particular areas of violations such as the giant cockroach infestation beneath the kitchen.
Next we have and intend to continue to urge the public to stay on top of their legislators to change the law, making it mandatory that prisoners be compensated for their labor.
Finally, we have filed an application for Writ of Habeas Corpus requesting to be released immediately due to the fact that the time sheet shows one has completed 100% of his sentence – that even without the good time, the flat time and the work time equals the sentence imposed by the court. In addition we are drafting something similar for those sentenced under the one-third law. We are submitting to the court that these prisoners have a short-way discharge date. The application for Writ of Habeas Corpus was first filed in the state court in Travis County and denied without a written order in the Texas court of criminal Appeals (#WR-87,529-01 Tr.Ct. No. D-1-DC-02-301765A). We are now in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District Tyler Division (McGee v Director, #6:17cv643). This info is supplied so that those with the means may download the info and/or keep track of the case. The following are the case numbers for the totality of living conditions complaint, which is also in the U.S. District in Tyler:
Walker v. Davis, et al., #6:17cv166
Henderson v. Davis, #6:17cv320
Douglas v. Davis, #6:17cv347
Burley v. Davis, #6:17cv490
The Devil whispers: "You can't withstand the storm"
The Warrior replied: "I am the storm." - The Mateuszm
MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades are pushing the struggles to improve conditions inside Texas prisons along its natural course. Countless prisoners have sent grievances, grievance petitions, letters to the Ombudsman, letters to elected officials, and letters to various TDCJ administrators on these same issues. We have seen some victories, but mostly we've had barriers put in our way.
The next step laid out for us is to file lawsuits, which is another kind of barrier. Lawsuits take years and sometimes decades to complete, and innumerable hours of work. When we do win, we then have to go through additional lawsuits to ensure enforcement. And on and on it goes...
If we expect the lawsuits to bring final remedy, we must be living in a fantasy. A quintessential example of how the U.$. government behaves regarding lawsuits can be seen in how it totally disrespects treaties with First Nations. When the U.$. government, or its agencies, doesn't like something, they don't really give a shit what the law says. This has been true since the beginning of this government. We don't see any evidence that this will ever change.
Yet, lawsuits aren't all bad. They can sometimes create a little more breathing room within which revolutionaries can operate. Lawsuits can also be used to publicize our struggles, and to show just how callous the state is, if we lose.
Yet, most importantly, lawsuits keep comrades busy. Before any lawsuit, there needs to be a solid analysis of winability, and the likelihood of other options. While we are relatively weak as a movement, lawsuits are a fine option, and building a movement around these lawsuits will give them strength. But if your legal strategy doesn't also include building up collective power to eventually protect people without petitioning the state to do it, then your legal strategy is as useless as a feather in a tornado.
The comrades fighting these battles inside Texas have done a great job of spreading the word to outside organizations to garner support and attention for their lawsuits. We support their efforts to make Texas prisons more bearable for the imprisoned lumpen population, and we support their efforts to link these lawsuits to the greater anti-imperialist movement. And when they decide that lawsuits aren't enough to bring a real change in conditions, we'll support that too.
The U.$. legal system's role is to keep the United $tates government as a dominant world power, no matter what. The extreme heat in Texas prisons isn't just an oversight by administrators. And it's not even just about racism of guards. It is directly connected to the United $tate's role in the oppression and repression of oppressed nations across the world. If the legal system fails, don't give up. Try something else to bring it down. Lawsuits are not the only option.
When state-level petitions fail, we now have this petition to appeal to the Department of Justice. This federal level appeal may help put pressure on the state corrections departments ignore our appeals
Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.
Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.
Section Chief – Special Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20530
ACLU National Prison Project, 915 15th St NW, 7th floor, Washington DC, 20005-2112 (for those ready to bring class action lawsuits)
Office of the U.S. Attorney General, 1425 New York Ave. NW, Washington DC 20530-0001
Director/Commissioner/Secretary of Corrections (for your state)
Agency or Facility Grievance System Director or Coordinator (for your state)
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
I have served nearly 25 years prison/jail time in the United States. In fact, all but a small portion of my adult life has been spent behind bars. My California tour includes Chino, Soledad, Solano, Calipatria and Donovan. In Nevada: Southern Desert, Lovelock, Ely and, yes, Hight Desert State Prison (HDSP). As you can probably imagine, violence and drugs are common fare in most of these institutions. And while a few of these places were just plain filthy, others simply stagnate with the decay of deliberate indifference. I've done "hole-time" in all of them and certainly thought I'd seen it all.
Boy was I wrong.
Let me spell it out for you: B.M.U. (Behavioral Management Unit). Described by COs, Medical Staff and other institutional employees as the "Zombie Unit," the "Weirdo Pod," the "Freak Show," the "Psych Ward," and "Behavioral Mismanagement" and affectionately referred to by the prisoners as the "Beat-a-Motherfucker-Up" Unit at HDSP.
Absolutely and without a doubt, the worst of the worst. In the short time, 90 days, that I've been here within this restrictive unit I've witnessed unchecked violence, coercion, extortion, drug abuse, overdoses, 3 attempted suicides and "senior" officers feeding prisoners food which had fallen on the filthy unit floor before being placed on the serving trays and given to prisoners.
The most disturbing incident, by far, occurred on 24 December 2017, this past Christmas Eve, when an emotionally wrought prisoner, was locked in the shower for approximately 4 hours after stating to staff that he was having suicidal thoughts. During this time the prisoner was slamming his own head against the metal grating. I witnessed the COs laughing and encouraging the prisoner to bang his head harder and advising him to use the tiled wall at the back of the shower stating, "Bang it against the tiles, they're harder." By the time medical staff did arrive the prisoner was a bloody mess.
According to the HDSP BMU Manual: "The Behavior Modification Unit (BMU) will house inmates who have been housed in segregation for 90 days or longer, to assist in the reintegration into a lower custody level."
How I ended up here isn't much of a mystery. About 4 weeks after arriving at HDSP, while I was still in the "Fish Tank" I made the mistake of telling the case worker that I was appealing my jury conviction and needed request forms for the law library. At which point I was advised that I was being "sent to BMU." From that moment on, all access to the legal materials I require for my case have been denied despite numerous verbal and written grievances. In fact I spent the first 9 weeks in BMU confined in my cell without so much as a book to read. My only contact with the administration was the initial interview with the token mental health worker who advised me that "this rehabilitation program is the warden's baby."
Well, I'm here to tell you that as a person who struggles with PTSD, the constant and continuous confinement to a cell without any mental stimulation whatsoever can be devastating to an person's mental health and psyche. While confined in this unit I have experienced an increase in PTSD symptoms, ten times the frequency that is usual for me. Furthermore, I found it extremely unsettling that after completing the program, as a "graduation present," I was escorted into a small room filled with BMU staff members where I was threatened, berated, belittled and finally told to just "Get the Fuck Out."
I'm not sure what to expect next. The lack of access and communication with the outside, the restricted closed custody level 4 housing, the refusal on the administration's part to answer or address any grievance combined with limited family contact by phone has reduced me to an uncertain, fearful, panicky, hopeless, helpless mess. And, by the way, I have absolutely zero disciplinary history. Not a single "write up" for anything.
Fortunately another prisoner gave me your Under Lock & Key pamphlet. Hopefully you can get the word out on this de-habilitation program and the warden's dirty little secret.
MIM(Prisons) responds: These dangerous and abusive conditions at HDSP expose the Amerikan prison system for its complete lack of rehabilitation. If the criminal injustice system really believed that prisons are an effective tool to prevent crime, it would not put people in conditions that make their survival on the streets nearly impossible. It would be offering programs to help people learn and change their behavior, and prepare them for life outside. This is just one of the reasons we see the Amerikan criminal injustice system as primarily a tool of social control.
I've come to recognize here at California New Folsom State Prison, that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated and the condemned.
Prisoners housed at New Folsom EOP/GP mainline are being denied the right to earn good time/work time credits, and therefore can't get paroled or released. We are being denied the opportunities and support which are given to every other prisoner and at every other prison within California.
The 4th and 14th Amendment declares that "equal protection of the law" cannot and must not treat prisoners differently then others without reasonable and probable cause. People who are eligible for an earlier parole hearing under Senate Bill 260 and Senate Bill 261 pc 3051 (Youthful Parole) shall and must earn credits toward reducing time on their new parole date, not their original parole date or false reported date.
Snitches are benefiting. Lifers are getting time knocked off such as 9 to 10 years due to reasons of Prop 57. It doesn't even matter to them because they still will be labeled as lifers by the CDCR/DOC. Also those with money and/or are white have been benefiting.
Without dehumanizing or snitching or becoming SNY, we want to secure the Prop 57 rights granted us under law. We continue to struggle not to be set up and framed with charges. Many of us have caught fake cases because we've stayed silent and solid.
Please send us advice and materials so we may continue to organize.
CA USW Council Comrade Responds: The only thing I can say is that CDCr made promises that they're not living up to, once they let us all out of SHU. I can attest to the truth of the above statement. You will get privileges if you go SNY, as I met a few people while in Ad-Seg that were going SNY so the board can release them. They're not releasing anyone who has the gang label or STG label on them.
What I can say is that anyone wanting material concerning Prop 57 can write to: Initiate Justice, PO Box 4962, Oakland, CA 94605. This is the litigation team that's fighting for the changes in the regulations so that people can get parole.
Another CA USW Council Comrade Responds:
First, I don't think we should waste our time organizing around these reforms because we are not a reformist org, we are a revolutionary org. Secondly, according to Prop 57 guidelines, everyone who hasn't served a SHU term is eligible for good time/work time credits, however they are not retroactive but only go towards the remainder of one's sentence. So if you've been incarcerated for 20 years and you still have 5 years left on your sentence you will only be able to be awarded good time credits towards your remaining 5 years. As soon as Prop 57 was enacted, case records began re-calculating everyones sentence who qualified. The entire process took about four or five months here.
Also, according to Prop 57 people who fall under any of the Youth Offender laws SB9, 260, 261 & 262 cannot receive earlier parole board dates than that which they already qualified for under the various State Bills. The only thing that changed is your MERD (Maximum Eligible Release Date). For example, under Prop 57 my MERD went from 2030 to 2028 but under SB261 my parole board date dropped from 2030 to 2021 at the soonest but no later than 2023.
For more information on Prop 57 people can write to the San Quentin Law Office which sends free legal materials to prisoners or they can contact Initiate Justice, Lifer Support Alliance and many other reformist orgs. By the way the final regulations on Prop 57 already came out and NOTHING CHANGED! But what else could we expect from CDC? Fuck reforming the system, smash it!
This is my end-of-year report on our MIM Grievance Campaign. We did one on the "unlocks" here, and we're currently working on the issue of showers. Due to the California drought they claim that we are still in a drought and therefore can only shower on Tuesday and Thursday. Even then there is no hot water so we are showering in ICE cold water. This is in spite of the fact that we are in a medical facility and most of us are older prisoners.
The temp has dropped to 34 degrees in the morning and we have been in these conditions now for over a month. Enclosed please find the grievances.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Comrades at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility have been pursuing these issue through 602 appeals forms and subsequent appeals. After receiving a response of "partially granted" there was no actual change in conditions and they began utilizing the grievance petition for California. They have done a good job documenting the process, citing case law of Armstrong vs. Brown and the 8th and 14th Amendment.
Comrades in California and other states can write in to get a copy of a grievance petition to use as an organizing tool to bring people together around conditions that are not being addressed at your prison.
I got a message to all the tweakers, tecatos, potheads and boozers. Wake Up! Can't you see you're doing exactly what the oppressors wants you to do? So why are you giving them the satisfaction? With all the cameras rolling 24-7, you think they don't know what you're doing? Newsflash: You ain't that slick, buddy.
"All I had to do is drink a lot of water to flush out my system." I overheard one drug addict say when he came back from medical, for a drug test. "My piss came back clean even though I just used in the morning."
It's a miracle! We must run and tell the others! Now it's safe to puff puff, cough cough, & slam slam! As long as you hydrate and drink drink (a lotta water), you could pass pass (the 'drug test'), no problem. Your passing grade might be a D- but at least you didn't fail, right? Wrong!
Let's face it, water or no water, your urine is dirty. I know it, you know it, and the porkchop-patrol most definitely knows it. They just don't care. Besides, lucky for you, there's never enough room in the "hole." Five segregation singleman cells for a facility that houses 650 prisoners equals "no vacancy".
It's like you have to schedule an appointment, make it onto a guest list, then wait for about a month, in order to make it into the hole. But if the COs really did their job this whole place would be empty.
Literally, there would only be about 20 people left in each dorm. That's how bad this epidemic is. But fear not my drug-addicted friend, the pigs have bigger fish to fry. Or at least that's what they want us to think.
Extremely violent prisoners get top priority over minor drug offenders. But if you've been locked up as long as I have, then you'd know that extreme acts of violence are mostly over a minor drug debt. Common sense tells me, "get rid of the drugs and the violence shall cease." I have a hunch that the "system" could stop the drug flow at any time. But, looking at it through their eyes, why ruin a good thing?
Figuratively speaking, drugs are the oil that keep the oppression machine running. Sobriety is the monkey-wrench that'll break this bitch down. So put the word out, we need more wrenches. Staying clean is the worst thing we could do to these puercos.
Think about it for a second. Imagine if we obliterate the drug trade in prison. Most of these facilities would go out of business. Half the staff would start filling out applications at Mickey D'z, and Walmart, at the end of their shifts. But instead, most of us wanna keep on getting shit-faced; letting the enemy win with its foot on our necks. Wake up!
The enemy loves getting us high. Because it leads to a lot of drama, and drama is the safety blanket that keeps the oppressors warm at night. It gives them job security and a fat bank account. Meanwhile, all the users and dealers turn against each other while the pigs kick back and laugh. Don't worry, though. They're gonna let you keep using and selling on one condition; as long as y'all keep fighting and snitching, stabbing and pinching.
Don't get my words twisted. I'm not implying that you could keep on using, and abusing, and not get caught. Because every now and then, like once in a blue moon, they make an example out of somebody. But from what I've seen, their victim is usually the most humble junkie on the block. Yeah, this dude gets high but he's cool. He pays his debts, and doesn't bother nobody. But for some reason, the puercos got it in for him. He already got a few "dirties," and has an appointment at the "hole."
"But what about that trouble-making tweaker?" There's 1 in every block. "How come he doesn't ever get called for a random drug test, and go away?" I ask myself.
Lord knows this trouble-making tweaker is not low key. He's a dead beat and proud of it. His drug debts are stacking up, and on top of that, he's starting fights in the open; all in front of the cameras. And
still, the hooras act like they don't see him. They treat him like a model inmate.
It's like the pigs are watching in the wings, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Instead of nipping the problem in the bud, they wait for the problem to get smashed out, stabbed, or removed from the yard. Only then they jump into action.
But don't think they're gonna swoop in like some superheroes. No. They take their sweet time, sometimes just stand there looking; waiting for the "victim" to get nicely bruised up. Only then, they bust out the cuffs and add charges.
"Come on, you guys are not even doing nothing!" I once heard a pig say to a boo bop squad while they beat a tweaker. "You gotta hit 'em harder if you want me to stop it!" Then he laughed, I laughed, and half the yard laughed. But it wasn't funny. And his sick sense of humor cost him his job, cause I didn't see him after that.
But that's what he gets for letting things get out of hand. And all that - the beating and the firing - could've been avoided if his co-workers would've done their job properly in the first place. But why ruin a good thing?
Wake up amigos! It's time to stop entertaining these hooras. It's time to put down the needles, and the pookies, and get our minds back.
Just a short letter to let you know that I received your Texas Pack, which I found to have lots of needed information in it. The issue of the July/August Under Lock & Key was DENIED because of something on page 11 of the publication. I appealed the denial and lost, but I mailed it home for future reading.
I am a victim of harassment and retaliation, which stems from my constant filing of complaints and grievances, condemning the unprofessional actions of unit officials and officers. I've had to endure some pretty rough times because of my never-ending flow of complaints. Unit officials have conspired to file false disciplinary infractions against me in hopes of silencing me or discrediting me. During my last stint of incarceration (1997-2003) unit officials told me that if I didn't stop filing complaints, that they were going to make my time hard. They filed an infraction of "assault on an officer," which had me thrown in solitary and stripped of my trustee status and good time. When I continued to file grievances against the unjust actions they had taken against me, I was once again charged with "assault on an officer" (my foot accidentally bumped an officer's foot). They were trying to prove that I couldn't beat them. Well, I eventually got one officer fired for harassment and retaliation, and a Lieutenant was allowed to resign and return in six months. When he returned, he was sent to another unit, (where I had also been sent to) and had to work as a regular CO for six months before he could apply for his rank back.
Upon seeing me, he called me a "bitch," which I immediately wrote up. This time, there happened to be a Major that did not put up with officer harassment and retaliation, and he immediately got both of us in his office and made the officer apologize to me and promise to leave me alone. I was falsely charged with several disciplinary infractions after I filed a grievance against an officer for calling me a "black son of a bitch," back in January of this year. When I refused to drop my complaint, I received a major disciplinary for being "out of place" (not attending a law library session, which is voluntary).
A couple of months later, I received another major case for "failure to obey an order" (another trumped up charge) and after being found guilty of it, I was stripped of my general population status and re-assigned to G-4 (medium custody). The whole purpose of charging me with the major infractions were to 1) get me transferred from the unit and 2) discredit me so that my complaint against the officer for use of slurs/hostile epithets could be viewed as a lie against that officer. I was shipped off of the unit and all attempts to have something done to the officer who called me a black son of a bitch were ditched.
After arriving here on this unit to be locked away for 6 months on medium custody, one of the ladies who was part of my Unit Classification Committee (UCC), disagreed that I should be classified as medium custody, because the charges were weak. Now I am hoping that the two major infractions that I received earlier this year have no bearing on whether I make parole. There are NOT a lot of guys who are willing to stand up for their rights like me. I recently wrote a letter to Senator John Whitmire, informing him of the issues we are plagued with over here at this century-old unit. Just last week, we had not one, not two, but several pipes burst, leaving us without clean water to drink. Half of the building had NO WATER to flush their toilets, and there were restrictions on showering.
I'm continuing in my fight to bring attention to all of the ruthless officers that continue to oppress us behind these walls. Please let me know what I can do to help your cause. I am indigent, but I'm able to write and get things out.
I'm sure you all know that as of September 2017, solitary confinement in TDCJ was abolished. The inmates at the Pack Unit in Navasoto, Texas found help with the heat during the summer by way of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals when they affirmed class certification. Judge Keith Ellison ordered TDCJ to put air conditioning in the Pack Unit, which was found to be a "hot box" to the inmates housed there. Instead of putting air conditioning in housing areas, TDCJ shipped the inmates to cooler quarters in other facilities. The reaffirmed class certification paves the way for inmates' lawyers to try and win a permanent injunction.
Also, inmates throughout TDCJ have won the right to wear 4-inch beards, and Muslim offenders are supposed to be able to wear their kufis all over the unit, yet state officials are trying to stonewall us (yes, I am Muslim) from doing it. Now, I've heard that on some of the more hardened units, officials would rather allow the wearing of kufis rather than risk any type of rebellion. The unit I'm on is NOT one of them, yet I'm working to get some type of wording on WHY we aren't being allowed to wear them here. The case citing is Ali vs Stephens, 822 F.3d 776 (5th Cir. 2016) U.S. App LEXIS 7964. Until next time, stay strong.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are a number of seasoned comrades in Texas fighting and winning, in spite of harassment and retaliation from TDCJ staff and admin. We encourage others to look to this comrade's work for an example of eir bravery, dedication, and successes!
The Texas Pack that MIM(Prisons) distributes is a good jumping off point for people who need basic information on filing grievances and fighting against some of the most common things prison staff do to take advantage of us. Most of the information in the Texas Pack ought to be in the law library by any reasonable standard, and even TDCJ's own policies and procedures. Since the TDCJ isn't following its own rules, and not informing prisoners of what those rules are and the process to have them enforced, we have compiled this information. Send a $2.50 donation to our SF address, or a contribution to ULK, to get the Texas Pack.
Another aspect of this author's experience that we want to draw attention to is how eir work impacts the quality of life of other prisoners on eir unit. Getting a guard kicked off the unit, suspended, or being told to tone down eir harassment, serves not only this author but also the prisoners around em. Same goes for the impact of lawsuits (for better or worse). So if you're reading this and a guard isn't harassing you, know that it's probably because of all the people who have fought on your behalf ahead of you. Maybe now it's time to start contributing to help others!
On 15 September 2017 my neighbor died smoking K2 and after the pigs saw I was the last person to speak with him they locked me up under investigation. The first interrogation was conducted by the Arkansas state pig and it seemed as if all was well. The next week another death, same cause. Then my neighbor's mom appeared on the news saying she was gonna get to the bottom of his death (apparently they told her he had a heart attack), and bring a lawsuit before the court.
So when the internal affairs came and conduct their interrogation the pressure had been put on ADC (Arkansas Department of Corrections) and the woman resorts to some dirty ass tactics as soon as I walk in. She starts by telling me she's been doing her thorough investigation and listening to my phone calls, and that she knows about my girlfriend that I tell that I love her and then call my wife and turn around and tell her the same. I ask her if it was some type of threat she was implying because what she was talking about had nothing to do with my neighbor's death. She then starts her backpedaling and starts questioning me about $ I had moved in the "free." That's where I decided to end our conversation.
Right before the time period for investigation ran out I received a disciplinary for possession of contraband even though I was never in possession of anything and it was at this point I realized ADC had their scapegoat in the form of myself. That week topped off with another death, same cause. That's 4 deaths from K2 in this prison within 90 days (there was one about a month before my neighbor).
I was found guilty in kangaroo court, given 30 days punitive and 60 days restriction on phone, visits, commissary. A few days later, the Arkansas state pig comes back. The only reason I could see was to fish for some more circumstantial evidence and bring some type of formal charges to cover ADC's ass. I've been in the hole for about 40 days now and as far as that situation, that's where things stand.
I am reporting an act of solidarity. First we must remember what the word solidarity means. Solidarity is defined as: A feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc. (Merriam Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary).
I am currently in the Residential Mental Health Unit (RMHU). It's similar to the SHU. The COs think since we're diagnosed with bi-polar, antisocial, major depression and whatever that they can just oppress us. Well, they learned on 4 September 2017 that we're not just a bunch of crazies.
It's hard to get 10 comrades to stand together as a whole so when a member from the LGBTQ community got jumped on and 30 comrades refused to leave the classrooms I was shocked! I asked a few of them "why did you stand up for one of mine?" Some of them said they were tired of the COs putting their hands on us, and some of them said the COs went too far. I thanked these comrades for standing with me and my LGBTQ family.
So, I'm sharing this because in the July/August ULK (No. 57) a Nevada prisoner weighed in on "Fighting Gender Abuse." As comrades we need to stand together in this way more. You shouldn't care who or what the person is, who cares? If s/he is in the same struggle as you then you need to help him/her. In the long run by you helping them you'll be helping yourself.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a great example of people coming together behind bars. And the writer highlights the important point that we need unity across different groups and individuals. This imperialist system has created some major divisions between groups of people: based on class, nation and gender. And these divisions are found in prisons as well.
In prison, class tends to be less relevant as prisoners are forced together as lumpen, at least while behind bars. But the national oppression that is so fundamental to imperialism's power and wealth creates national divisions. Within the United $tates (and around the world) oppressed nations are encouraged to fight one another and even to form sets within a nation to fight, so that they won't come together against the oppressor nation.
Gender oppression is a bit different behind bars than on the streets, with prisons segregated by designated biological sex. One of the most common manifestations of gender oppression we see is against non-heterosexual prisoners (or those perceived as so). Uniting against this abuse starts with people, like those described above, recognizing that this abuse is wrong, no matter who is targetted. We can take it to the next level by proactively combatting gender oppression among prisoners as well as by the guards. We need to defend our comrades against abuse, and educate our allies about why gender oppression is wrong.
Nowhere is the necessity for the societal advancement to communism more apparent than in the realm of disability considerations. No segment of society, imprisoned or otherwise, is in greater need of the guiding communist ethos proclaimed by Marx: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need." This humynist principle applies to no demographic more than the disabled.
When communist society is realized, the intrinsic worth of each and every persyn and their potential to contribute to society will be realized as well. In return, communist society will reward the disabled population by adequately providing their essentials and rendering all aspects of society open and accessible for their full utilization. In a phrase, communism will respect the disabled persyn's humyn right to a humane existence. We communists strive for the elimination of power structures that allow the oppression of people by people. The disabled population, as well as all peoples that have hystorically been subjugated by the oppressive bourgeois system of capitalism/imperialism, can then work toward the implementation of a truly democratic society.
Considering MIM(Prisons) recognizes only three strands of oppression in the world today (nation, class and gender), able-bodiedness is a cause and consequence of class, and in countries with more leisure-time it is intimately tied up in the gender strand of oppression. This essay intends to analyze disability as it relates to class, gender, and the prison environment.
Disability and Class
In the United $tates the greatest source of persynal wealth is inheritance. It can be said the ability to create and maintain able-bodiedness may be inherited also. For the most part, class station is determined by birth. By virtue of to whom and where a persyn is born, their access, or lack thereof, to material resources is ascribed. The bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy have access to nutrition and healthcare the First World lumpen and international proletariat and peasantry do not. The likelihood of a positive health background renders the labor aristocracy and other bourgeois classes attractive prospects to potential employers, lenders, etc. This allows them to continue to enjoy nutrition and healthcare not common to the lumpen, proletariat, and peasantry.
It would be extremely uncommon to find a First World lumpen, an international proletarian, or a peasant with a membership to a health and fitness club. This privilege is reserved for the bourgeois classes, including the petty-bourgeoisie and its subclass the labor aristocracy. This, of course, further enhances the prospect of maintaining good health, and compounded with employer-supplied healthcare, does act as prophylaxis against the onset of debilitating and degenerative physical ailments.
It would be unreasonable to ignore the possibility that a member of the bourgeoisie might be genetically infirm, or a labor aristocrat debilitated by an accident. But, due to their class position, these classes are better prepared and equipped to minimize the adversities resulting from such an unfortunate occurrence.
Able-bodiedness may also affect upward class mobility. An able-bodied First World lumpen that can find employment might enter the ranks of the labor aristocracy. A blue collar labor aristocrat may be promoted to a managerial position, and so forth. Of course other factors, such as national background, do play a role in one's mobility (or stagnation for that matter), but disability also plays a significant role.
Disability and Gender
Gender only comes to the fore after life's essentials are secured, thereby standing out in relief on its own aside from class/nation. In the First World leisure-time plays a major role in gender analysis. MIM(Prisons) defines "gender" as:
"One of three strands of oppression, the other two being class and nation. Gender can be thought of as socially-defined attributes related to one's sex organs and physiology. Patriarchy has led to the splitting of society into an oppressed (wimmin) and oppressor gender (men).
"Historically reproductive status was very important to gender, but today the dynamics of leisure-time and humyn biological development are the material basis of gender. For example, children are the oppressed gender regardless of genitalia, as they face the bulk of sexual oppression independent of class and national oppression.
"People of biologically superior health-status are better workers, and that's a class thing, but if they have leisure-time, they are also better sexually privileged. We might think of models or prostitutes, but professional athletes of any kind also walk this fine line. ... Older and disabled people as well as the very sick are at a disadvantage, not just at work but in leisure-time. ..." - MIM(Prisons) Glossary
This system of gender oppression is commonly referred to as "patriarchy," which MIM(Prisons) defines as:
"the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over wimmin and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over wimmin in society in general; it implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that wimmin are deprived of access to such power."(1)
Professor bell hooks's description of patriarchy in eir work The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love has also contributed to this author's understanding of gender oppression:
"Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence."(2)
Professor hooks's definition of patriarchy not only recognizes terrorism as a patriarchal mechanism, but that patriarchal forces do not intend only to oppress, dominate, and subjugate females or even just females and children, but patriarchy's pathology is to hold down anything it regards as weaker than itself. Patriarchy is a bully.
Children are one of the most stigmatized and oppressed groups of people in the world. Patriarchal society considers children physically disabled due to their undeveloped bodies and therefore susceptible to patriarchal oppression — regardless of the biology of the child. This firmly places children in the gender oppressed stratum. Due to disabled people's diminished bodies (and/or cognizance), disabled people can be categorized similar to children subjected to patriarchy, ergo, disability falls into the gender oppression stratum as well as class.
Patriarchy and Prisons
U.$. prisons are, from top to bottom, patriarchal structures. Prisons are institutions where the police, the judiciary, and militarization have crystalized as paternalistic enforcer of bureaucracies of patriarchy; prisons, the system of political, social, cultural and economic restraint and control, are fundamentally patriarchal institutions implemented to enforce the status quo — including patriarchal domination. Disabled prisoners in Texas have long been labeled "broke dicks," illustrative of their "less-than-a-man" status in the prison pecking order.
There are laws mandating disabled prisoners not be precluded from recreational activities, or any other prison activity for that matter. Yet enforcement of these laws are prohibitively difficult for disabled prisoners, especially prisoners with vision or hearing disabilities, or cognitive impairments. The disabled have few advocates in bourgeois society; they have virtually none in prison.
The likelihood that prison officials discriminate against and abuse disabled prisoners is readily apparent. What is most disheartening is able-bodied prisoners are often the perpetrators of mistreatment against disabled prisoners, frequently at the behest of prison administrators so as to procure favorable treatment. In fact, the most telling aspect of the conditions of confinement imposed on disabled prisoners is the abuse of the disabled prisoners at the hands of able-bodied prisoners. The able-bodied prisoners are quick to manhandle and overrun disabled prisoners in obtaining essential prison services which are commonly inadequate and limited. When queued up for meals, showers, commissary, etc. the able-bodied prisoners will shove and elbow aside disabled prisoners; will threaten to assult disabled prisoners; and have in fact assaulted disabled prisoners should they complain or protest being accosted in such a fashion. All this invariably with the knowledge and/or before the very eyes of prison administrators and personnel.
It is far too common for the victims of sexual harassment and assault in prisons to be gay, transgendered, and/or disabled. Whether the perpetrator be prison officials or fellow prisoners, this practice is condoned by the culture of patriarchy and the hyper-masculine prison environment.
In the Prison Justice League's (PJL) report to the U.$. Department of Justice titled "Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Use of Excessive Force at Estelle Unit" the PJL outlined the routine and systematic abuse of disabled prisoners by prison personnel at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Regional Medical Facility for the Southern Region, Estelle Unit.(3) Prisoners assigned to the Estelle Unit per their disabilities are regularly and habitually denied medical treatment for their disabilities, ergo oftentimes exacerbating the causes and effects of the disabilities which brought them to Estelle initially; are denied auxiliary aids so as to accommodate their disabilities as required by law; are physically assaulted by prison administrators and staff, or their inmate henchmen; and with egregious frequency are murdered at the hands of state officials.
Since the PJL's report and subsequent Department of Justice investigation, there has been a bit of a detente in the abuse visited upon disabled Estelle prisoners by prison personnel. But the pigz are barely restrained. Threats of physical violence directed at disabled prisoners are still a regular daily occurrence, and prison personnel assaults on disabled prisoners are still far too common.
Another recent example of the persistent difficulties disabled prisoners face, even with the courts on their side, can be seen in the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) recent settlement negotiated with the Montana Department of Corrections (MDC), after it neglected to fulfill Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements from a 1995 settlement, Langford v. Bullock. In 2005, the ADA requirements were still not met, and despite the Circuit Court's order requiring Montana to comply with the 1995 settlement, it is not until 2017, and much advocacy later, that negotiations are being finalized between the ACLU and MDC. We can't dismantle systems of gender oppression one quarter-century-long lawsuit at a time. That's why MIM(Prisons) advocates for a complete overthrow of patriarchal capitalism-imperialism as soon as possible.
Another patriarchal aspect to be observed in prisons is ageism. As children are included in the gender-oppressed stratum, so should the aged. As the able-bodied prisoners' ability to work subsides due to age in the First World, especially in the United $tates where the welfare state is minuscule and the social safety net set very low, the propensity for a once able-bodied persyn to be relegated to the ranks of the lumpen is intensified. As the once able-bodied persyn becomes aged and disabled, their physical, as well as mental, health becomes more and more jeopardized, accelerating the degeneration of existing disabilities as well as increasing the likelihood of creating the onset of new ones (e.g. the First World lumpen are notorious for developing diabetes due to poor diet and lifestyle issues).
Disability as a Means of Castration
Holding people in locked cages is an acute form of social control. Solitary confinement creates long-lasting psychological damage. And prison conditions in general are designed (by omission) to create long-lasting physical damage to oppressed populations. Prisons are a tool of social control, and exacerbating/creating disabilities is a way prisons carry this through in a long-term and multi-generational fashion.
Prisoners, who are a majority lumpen population, are likely to already have unmet medical needs before entering prison, as described above in the section on class. Then when in prison, these medical needs are exacerbated because of the bad environment (toxic water, exposed asbestos, run down facilities, etc.); brutality from guards and fellow prisoners; poor medical care including untreated physical traumas, improper timing for medications (see article on diabetes), and just straight up neglect.
Mumia Abu-Jamal's battle to receive treatment for hepatitis C, which ey contracted from a tainted blood transfusion ey received after being shot by police in 1981, is a case in point. Mumia belongs to an oppressed nation, is conscious of this oppression, has fought against this oppression, and thus is last on the priority list for who the state of Pennsylvania will give resources to. And medical care under capitalism is sold to the highest bidder, with new drugs which are 90% effective in curing hepatitis C coming with a price tag of $1,000 per day. In a communist society these life-saving drugs will be free to all who need them.
Disability in the Anti-Imperialist Movement
The fact that people with disabilities will be treated better after we take down capitalism is obvious. Our stance on discrimination against people with disabilities in our society today is obvious. What is less obvious is the question of how we can incorporate people with disabilities into the anti-imperialist movement today, while we are so small and relatively weak compared to the enemy that surrounds us. This is an ongoing question for revolutionaries, who are always pushing themselves to be stronger, better, and more productive. After all, there is an urgency to our work.
Our militancy tends to be inherently ableist. With all the distractions and requirements of living in this bourgeois society, we have precious little time to devote to revolutionary work. We are always on the lookout for things and people that are holding us back and wasting our time, and we work diligently to weed these things and people from our lives and movement. Often when people aren't productive enough, due to mental or physical consequences of capitalism and national oppression, we can't do anything to help them — especially through the mail. No matter how sympathetic people are to our politics, and how much they want to contribute, we just don't have the resources to provide care that would help these folks give more to overthrowing imperialism. Often times all we can do is use these anecdotes to add fuel to our fire.
Disabilities amongst oppressed people are intentionally created by the state, and a natural consequence of capitalism. If we don't take any time to work with and around our allies' disabilities, then we are excluding a population of people who, like the introduction says above, are in the greatest need of a shift toward communism. We aim to have independent institutions of the oppressed which can help people overcome some of these barriers to political work. At this time, however, the state is doing more to weaken our movement in this regard than we are able to do to strengthen it.
[Of note, the primary author of this article has devoted eir life to revolutionary organizing in spite of being imprisoned and with multiple physical disabilities. Even though it is extremely difficult to contribute, it is possible!]