As a prisoner I see this slogan almost every day while being housed in prison. It's the slogan stamped onto the inner sole of every pair of PIA shoes. Shoes made ultra-cheap due to the quality control that doesn't even exist. This is yet another way the state is saving a buck on our comfort. When I first came to join the PIA, prison issue were brown hard bottom boot, which they gave every convict coming out of reception. Those boots not only provided PIA workers with a job but also others prisoners with one as shoe shiners.
You might be thinking wow, what a low position. But if so, that's only because you weren't here. The shoe shine, if he mastered the art, got plenty of business and made however much he was willing to commit on working for. His customers were not only convicts, they also were Correction Officers usually of high rank and they paid well. Now PIA, by cutting cost and operating with the use of low grade, no quality materials, have wiped out several in-prison work assignments and legal hustles or trade exchange. Those boots were made out of leather and so there were leather hobby shops where prisoners were taught how to make belts, wallets, medallions, use special machines and recycle the unusable scraps from the boot line. Creating income, gifts for family, and educating prisoners on how to use their resources.
Now we have low-quality, low-top generic canvas shoes that they expect to fall apart within 90 days when you can get a new pair creating only more pollution and waste. No one benefits from these PIA show factories except those who work there, and I'd be willing to bet someone is lining their pocket with tax-payer money through building these contracts with under-the-table industries who supply such low grade materials. Another bad effect is due to the fact positions at these factories are low in volume. It establishes a classism among convicts, with PIA and private contractors being the highest source of income legally in the joint. Their workers became the ruling class as far as prisoners economics are concerned, with them averaging $100 a month compared to the top culinary assignment at $37 monthly, deducting 55% if they owe restitution before they even receive it.
Ask yourselves what is 45% of 9 cents an hour or 45% of 23 cents an hour? Then there's the poor non-employed convict who is the on the bottom when it comes to privileges by grand design of whom when it's time to unite and stand against any form of oppression are usually always down, with nothing to lose. On the other hand the slave class is divided amongst prisoners, the majority of this class talk about doing something to make a change in conditions, pay, treatment, but when it's time to peacefully demonstrate by striking at work they simply won't go that far. A smaller number out of the slave class will, knowing this is the only process towards change that works. The majority of the slave class are youngsters who enjoy the movement their job provides and don't want to rock the boat. Now the PIA working prisoners by no means will write in solidarity with the convicts in any class including their very own but will both encourage a strike for equal pay and treatment in the hopes of moving up, and others will report it directly to their masters the Correctional Authorities in the hopes of building a stronger rapport and gaining favor.
MIM(Prisons) responds:This comrade gives us a glimpse at some of the contradictions facing prison organizers at the PIA prisons in California. While there are some parallels between the prison system and slavery, we have critiqued the use of the term "slavery" to refer to prisoners. This comrade's description talks about how the prisoners are pawns in a system that is becoming ecologically wasteful, and likely benefitting bureacrats. The wages, while minimal, also play a role for the state in helping control and divide the population via petty economic interests. Battles for higher wages in U.$. prisons can be progressive in putting pressure on the economic viability of oppression. But generally, prison unions that represent the interests of all prisoners must focus on more pressing and common problems.
Psychiatric prisons, gulags and dungeons are the worst of the worst when compared to the standard human warehouses. These foul dinosaurs are established under the guise of compassionate medical intervention (yes, they actually expect you to believe such garbage). Mental health treatment in psychiatric prisons can be and is torture.
Currently in California, the prisoners are rounded up daily, drugged and forced through the cattle stockades of court cells and into the courts where they are dragged before those of black robe who arbitrarily and capriciously commit them to a virtual (if not actual) life in prisons now designated for those thought to be mentally ill from the viewpoint of imperialism's labor aristocracy. However, one need not be actually suffering from mental illness at all. I was not, and am not, yet this fact had no effect. I myself and many others have been railroaded into psychiatric imprisonment with doctor approved authorization to be at all times heavily sedated. In my case it was only for the use of body building steroids with no prior mental health history requiring medical intervention of any kind.
And, while being held within these psychiatric prisons and jails I have been, and many others are, tortured and abused, starved and injured, sometimes on a daily basis. I have observed young guys whose faces are now a mass of scarring due to them being drugged to the point of unconsciousness and where massive enforcer brutes are purposefully let into their cells to beat those who are drugged, and the victims of such beatings are left to suffer within their cells with no medical attention at all.
These designated prison and jails have cells with feces on the walls and floors. Desk-type tables caked with old dried foods and grime combined to form an un-cleanable cemented solid. And they are usually air conditioned in winter and heated in summer, especially where these cell occupants are given no mattress and sometimes for days no blankets as well. I currently have prison guards who pass my cell door, which is all steel, every fifteen minutes, 24 hours a day, and bang on it loudly with a steel baton like device. Try attaining a deep restorative pattern of sleep under those conditions. This is the current living environment of Amerikkka's psychiatric prisons and the pitiful inhabitants of its populations.
I am not under the illusion that these facts are not already known by our professionals of community, politics and prisons. Yet, according to a recent news publication, "[in the state of California] the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) funnels hundreds of millions of dollars to construct prisons and jails - and many have been pitched as 'mental health treatment facilities'."... "It should come as no surprise that the BSCC is mostly composed of cops: Jeffery Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections, Sheriffs, probation officers, and chiefs of police."... "It is not shocking when that group of people thinks that the best way to invest in mental health treatment is to build shiny new jails."(1)
What is termed pathological and rooted in psychosis in Amerikka's systems of injustice and unjust forensic psychology are in fact political offenses in nature. Such people incriminated and imprisoned should not be civilly nor criminally committed at all. "Mental health treatment... [should be provided and] funded in the community"(1); preferably by a community of communists. "We need to stop pretending that prisons solve the violence in our communities, or we will never actually end that harm or end mass incarceration."(2)
Onward! in psychiatric prison abolition efforts, and even more so the world-wide abolition of the parasite imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer correctly identifies a problem with Amerikan prisons that is actually pervasive throughout imperialist society: the use of psychiatry to label people as mentally ill because they do not conform to capitalist behaviors and values. As we explained in the ULK article Mental Health: A Maoist Perspective:
"In imperialist prisons, the ambiguity of diagnosing people as mentally ill becomes very pronounced. Part of the problem is that imprisonment causes mental health problems, so people who may not have had symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis often develop them. Yet it is not in the oppressor's interests to recognize this problem, so staff feel that they must draw a line between the truly ill and the "fakers." Rather than seeing the prisons as causing mental illness, they see people acting out for attention in contrast to those who were born with "real" mental illness. Such silly exercises allow them to keep some prisoners sedated while pushing others to suicide."
Ultimately the purpose of prisons is social control, and the purpose of mental health facilities is the same. They are another tool of this social control which targets oppressed nations within U.$. borders. We must expose these facilities and fight against the torture that this comrade describes.
In early December 2014, we received a letter from a comrade who had recently run into a number of revolutionaries who had been held in Pelican Bay SHU since it opened in 1988. He wrote,
I am writing to say thank you for all of your work and all that you do for us convicts, political activists, freedom fighters and all parties of the struggle. The last hunger strike achieved a lot. Many of the political prisoners housed in Pelican Bay have been released, due to the step down program. Some have been released to step 5 — mainline. Others step 3 and 4 at Corcoran I, or Tehachapi SHUs. But they are close to getting out there. I had the pleasure of talking with [a handful of these comrades] on the bus from Pelican Bay. All of the individuals mentioned had been in Pelican Bay since it opened in 1988, and had arrived from Tehachapi.
We spoke candidly about many things and all parties expressed a deep desire to push and maintain the Agreement to End Hostilities. Even the youngsters smiled and saluted the end to the senseless racial violence of old. For we can overcome obstacles and achieve our definite chief aims by understanding the true cause of our racial divides, which were always perpetuated by the administration to bring about our demise.
Our 20 representatives are doing a great job to maintain order and a common goal. By 2017 or 2018 the entire leadership from all sides should be out. Once that happens I would love to see all political and revolutionary parties establish a round table, power house, to jointly and successfully build the most powerful revolutionary structure the United States have ever known.
We are pleased that some of the leaders in Pelican Bay will be gaining relief from decades of solitary confinement soon. But we need to be clear that the Step Down Program being employed will not have an overall positive effect. In the article "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" from ULK 41, cipactli explained how the Step Down Program to get out of isolation actually legitimizes the validation process, and why they will not be participating in it. And there is still no plan by the state of California to shut down the torture cells altogether, as new prisoners continue to fill the empty spots. Even this comrade notified us of plans for another strike in Corcoran where the state has not upheld its end to the agreement made after the 2012 strikes. Getting some people out of the torture cells may create opportunities, but alone it doesn't change the conditions overall. We must push a campaign of total abolition of the SHU.
All that said, the Agreement to End Hostilities continues strong, and we were glad to receive word of some of these comrades regaining humane conditions on the mainline where their important work can have more impact. Without the end to hostilities between prisoners, there is little hope of ever ending torture in California prisons. Recently, comrades from the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism (NARN) Collective Think Tank (NCTT) in Corcoran SHU put out a good article reinforcing the strategic importance of the Agreement to End Hostilities as well.(1) Below are some excerpts.
They intentionally pit the New Afrikan prisoner against the Mexican prisoner, the prisoner from the North against the prisoner from the South, the European prisoner against the New Afrikan prisoner, the young prisoner against the old prisoner, the Kiwe against the Damu, the folks against the people, the European have-nots from one group against the European have-nots from another — and for decades WE ALLOWED them to do this to us.
They used our antagonisms, antagonisms born of this system they created, as a basis to erect torture units — Security Housing Units (SHUs) — and a system of mass incarceration which continues to devastate the working class and the poor. They broadcast our conflicts and contradictions to an uninformed public to secure ever larger portions of the social product (taxes), further enriching themselves, their industry and their labor aristocracy — as we were further dehumanized and despised.
Just like the slaves of the chattel era, many of us helped them out by embracing this fiction, these manufactured categorizations, and fought each other with delusional gusto, as they built a monolith of money and political power in pools of our blood... until the Agreement to End Hostilities was announced; and just like that — hundreds of years of capitalist institutional exploitation was immediately put in jeopardy.
"Only social practice can be the criterion of truth ... Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world." — Mao Zedong
Correct ideas come only from social practice. In two short years since the Agreement to End Hostilities was enacted by a relatively small population of prisoners, it has manifested itself into a social force which has accomplished the liberation from SHU of some of the most severely tortured prisoners in the history of modern imprisonment.
The Agreement to End Hostilities offers our communities the opportunity to confront and overcome our own internal contradictions while forging new areas of social cooperation from which closer and more harmonious relationships may emerge.
"This new humanity cannot do otherwise than define a new humanism both for itself and for others. It is prefigured in the objectives and methods of the conflict. A struggle which mobilizes all classes of the people and which expresses their aims and their impatience, which is not afraid to count almost exclusively on the people's support, will of necessity triumph." — Frantz Fanon
When social cooperation is strengthened, state power and oppression is always weakened. Our capacity to manufacture and mobilize underclass political power — not to validate the bourgeois political process but to expose its contradictions, truly democratize its mechanisms and reclaim our human right to influence society — will determine if we are collectively capable of conquering our rights. Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment means the abolition of prisoner disenfranchisement, instantly transforming the prisoner class into a constituency.
The main thesis of this article by the NCTT comrades is that the Agreement to End Hostilities can be a basis for ending the legal enslavement of prisoners. We have some differences in strategic focus, as we see focusing on the enforcement of the First and Eighth Amendments as more important to building a struggle for a just society than repealing portions of the Thirteenth.(2) Speaking to this point, the article even points out that, "it is not the inhumanity of systematic torture in indefinite SHU confinement which is deemed criminal; it is our protesting against the inhumane practice which is criminalized."
We agree with the overall analysis of the NCTT, which addresses the many ways that the lumpen, migrants, and oppressed nations in general do not have full citizenship rights in the United $tates. As a result they do not have full vested interest in the maintenance of this government and economic system. And from there we conclude the importance of the Agreement to End Hostilities in prisons, and extending that to the lumpen on the streets, as building a motive force for social change.
That is what the Agreement to End Hostilities and the United Front for Peace in Prisons are and always have been about: transforming society. Less fighting amongst prisoners is not our end goal; it is a step towards reaching our goals. These goals that have been kept from the oppressed and concealed through manipulations by the oppressor nation in this country. And that is why independence is one of the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. The criminal injustice system exists to prevent us from working together to end the hegemony of the oppressor.
In California we have 55% of any incoming money taken away, then another 45% taken out under the cloak of obligatory fees. So if your family sends $20 you get $8, minus another 45% and you are left with $5 and some change. This is ridiculous and should be challenged just like the amount of money a prisoner is paid an hour: 10-30 cents. Really if we were on the street we'd get minimum wage. A business owner would be in court if found out to be paying their employees 30 cents an hour.
The citizens have been led to believe prisoners don't need money because the state pays for everything. To these people I say eat our meals for 4 days and tell me if you don't want more to eat. Here's an example: if your lips chap and skin drys and you go to the doctor for an ointment they tell you that you have to buy that at canteen. Well if you don't have any money to go to canteen you're shit out of luck. If you're lactose intolerant there's no diet for that. They say just don't eat what you can't eat. Well you do that and you're shorting yourself of mandatory calories you're supposed to receive each day. Same with allergies to fish, peanut butter, etc. The state doesn't provide deodorant and lotion and hair grease or shampoo. So what's one to do?
The restitution is supposed to be for the victim. Do they get a check every time the prison deducts money from money sent in? Hell no! People wake up, we need to fight this money hungry place called prison which is making a killing off our sweat and prisoner's family sweat.
MIM(Prisons) responds: As we've written before, prisons across the country are paying prisoners pennies (or nothing at all). This is not just a way to keep prisoners totally dependent on their captors while locked up, but also makes it harder for released prisoners to get on their feet. No one leaves prison with money in their pockets. And we know that finding a job and housing as an ex-con is far from easy. But the prison system is counting on this as the revolving doors of incarceration help keep the prisons full and the criminal injustice system employees earning good wages.
We don't agree that the prison is "making a killing" off the labor of prisoners and the family money. In reality prisons are a money-losing operation subsidized by the state. The only people benefiting financially are the employees with fat paychecks and the few private enterprises that get to hire prisoners to do work that other Amerikans don't want or won't do so cheaply. Prisons themselves don't make a profit, but lots of individuals and other corporations are benefiting greatly from this huge subsidized humyn warehousing for social control.
The comrade who reported in ULK 40 on a lawsuit around sexual assaults in California prisons(1) wrote back to reiterate that California law prohibits such behavior. "An inmate cannot validly consent to sex with a prison employee", see California Penal Code Section 289.6 and California Code of Regulations Title 15 3401.5. This is actually a good example of a law that tackles Liberalism around the question of rape in one fell swoop by recognizing the systematic relationship between prisoners and state employees that prevents consent.
Despite this law, our comrade documents a history of administrative coverups of sexual abuse of prisoners by staff. Clearly the gender oppressed need more than words on paper to be free of the patriarchy. And for prisoners who "cooperate" with prison administrators, administrative coverups operate in the opposite direction. Our comrade points to Freitag v. Ayers, 463 F.3d 838 (9th Cir.2006), which documents the case of a female correctional officer at Pelican Bay State Prison who was discouraged by her supervisors from filing disciplinary actions against prisoners who would sexually harass her "as a sexual favor to gain [their] cooperation."
In the previous article by this comrade, we pointed out the possibility that New Afrikan bio-males (especially youth) may be considered gender oppressed if one looks at prisons on a statistical level. Yet, we do not deny that bio-male prisoners often play the role of sexual aggressor, both against other male prisoners and female guards. The example of Freitag v. Ayers echoes one of these hypotheticals that our critics threw at us to ask the question, "who is the rapist here?"(2) Yet in this case we see the patriarchy, in the form of the CDCR administration at Pelican Bay, actively enforcing the roles of both the SHU prisoner being held in an isolation cell and the female guard who must endure the prisoner's acting out. The obvious culprit here, and the federal courts agreed, was the patriarchal institution of the CDCR.
Prison is an extreme example, but it helps us see the patriarchy at work. As we said in our previous article on the lawsuit, even when the female guard is the clear aggressor, firing her does not do anything to lesson rape on a group level, though it might help some individuals for a period of time. There are many institutions that serve to enforce the patriarchy throughout our society that serve to undermine the gender oppressed's power over their own bodies. We must build independent institutions that serve the gender oppressed, in order to create a world where sex can be consensual.
A great example of prisoners doing this behind bars is in the organization Men Against Sexism which was in Washington state in the 1970s.(1) Our conditions today are different than those faced by Washington prisoners at the time, but we can still address gender oppression as part of our overall struggle to build unity.
I would like to comment on an article titled United in California that was printed in ULK40. I am also housed on a Special Needs Yard (SNY), and it wasn't until I dropped out of the street gang that I was able to develop the spirit of resistance on revolutionary principles. The general population deems everybody a snitch on these yards, however, that is not always the case. I simply made the choice to walk away and no longer participate. I am housed around prisoners with some shady history but not everybody here falls in that category.
As a Chicano I work to help men on the yard get sober and educate themselves, and to go back to their communities and discourage their family and friends from joining gangs or selling/using drugs. It wasn't until I started down this path that I realized the true meaning of the term Chicano. It does not mean Mexican-American as the Webster's dictionary defines. It's a political term used to redefine one's perspective historically, economically, politically, and most importantly responsibility. A responsibility to the people!
I come from a place that produces warriors, so I don't play into the finger pointing that the system uses to divide us as a people - general population vs. sensitive needs.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We stand with this comrade in the debate over whether SNY prisoners can be trusted as revolutionary activists. We judge individuals by the work they do and the political line they put forward. We know there are a lot of people in SNY who have snitched. But we also know there are plenty of people in GP who can't be trusted. We don't let the pigs define who we trust by their housing categories, instead we hold all people to the same standards and require everyone to demonstrate their trustworthiness in practice.
This is a comment on the United in California article from ULK40. It is crucial MIM(Prisons) recognizes SNYs work or have worked with the prison administration against other prisoners. While as Maoists we know no oppression is overcome until all oppression is overcome, we can't possibly ask anyone affected by their actions to turn around and work with them. Would Mao have worked with Deng Xiaoping? I don't know Saif [the author] but the idea that there are "some good strong comrades" on SNY is not a convincing argument to administer against the overwhelming evidence of SNYs helping pigs at every opportunity. Even if it's by his exposing himself as a "leader." You're a man not a "leaf" if you can't hold on to the branch and fall, I can accept that, but we'll keep climbing without you.
While I don't promote violence against SNYs and in fact wish them well in any anti-imperialist work. I would strongly advise anyone against incorporating any SNY inmate into any work that may lead to repression from any government entity.
SNYs should keep using MIM(Prisons) as a guide in their work. But in promoting unification of SNY and "mainline" convicts in general terms MIM(prisons) blurs a crucial line. SNYs can challenge their SNY status administratively. I am a General Population inmate. Do you have "sensitive needs?" I don't. I can be housed around anyone, accept people who don't want to be around me, i.e. people with "sensitive needs."
Being scientific in our assessments of individuals involves being honest. SNYs work to reinforce the stigma that all GP convicts are inherently violent by allowing the administration to use them to say "if this inmate is housed on a GP line it may jeopardize institutional security." This stigma in turn imposes harsher restrictions on GP inmates and SNY inmates reap the benefits of the distinction....jobs, rehab programs, vocation, education, conjugal visits, etc. are given priority on SNYs, especially on the level IV yards.
MIM(Prisons) should analyze the SNY/mainline distinction in the same manner as oppressed nations within the U.$. It is my personal assessment that SNYs chose to work with the administration against other prisoners. They get to the SN Yards and realize that "no, the administration is not your friend" and then want to whine about it. Their issues are distinct from ours and while there are issues with the administration that are shared on both sides, I would not risk my standing with other GP prisoners by helping someone who is likely to have hurt them.
SNY/GP unity is not possible. The promotion of this idea undermines MIM(Prisons) credibility on GP yards. UFPP doesn't rely on this theory because SNYs chose to not be housed with us. So theoretically they can continue to uphold the principals on those yards, while we do ours.
MIM(Prisons) responds: For those new to ULK, we have explained our line on SNY in the movement in more depth elsewhere. We completely understand the reactions that many have to our position on working with those in SNY after the torture that so many people in California have gone through at the hands of the state prison system, with the complicity of many who went to SNY. Yet, practice seems to be proving our line correct both in terms of the contributions that SNY comrades make to building USW, and the direction that the CA prisons system is going overall. We do not take this question lightly, nor does working with SNY comrades mean we take security lightly. If this issue is important to you, please write to us to get a more extensive discussion of this topic.
The above comrade's contribution to this long-stading debate over the role of SNY status in the pages of Under Lock & Key is a unique perspective because unlike most anti-SNY writers, s/he advocates that SNY prisoners can do good anti-imperialist work, as long as they do it separately. The argument that SNY prisoners cannot be trusted or united with is based in the idea that all SNY prisoners have debriefed and sold out comrades on GP. But we know that debriefing is not required to get SNY status. This writer is correct that the administration plays SNY against GP, but we can't let them dictate who we work with. We must make that decision ourselves based on each individual's work and political line.
The author asks if Mao would have worked with Deng Xiaoping, as an example of working with enemies. And Mao already answered this question: yes. Deng was kicked out of the Communist Party of China and readmitted under Mao's watch. Communist China's prison system was focused on re-education, not punishment and ostracization. People who betrayed the revolution or took actions that harmed others were locked up to study and learn from their mistakes. This is a revolutionary model that we should emulate, even while we don't hold power.
One of the most damaging aspects of U.S. prisons today is the control units. Control units and solitary confinement are the state's biggest guns in their torturous arsenal. Control units are called SHU, SMU, CMU and a variety of other names depending on what state one is in, but they all work to employ torture on the captives held therein.
When we look to the history of the U.S. prison system we find that the oppressed nations held within have always suffered greatly at the hands of Amerikkka. Prisoners in the United $tates have suffered unpaid labor, lynchings, beatings, floggings and assassinations to name a few. Although much of this still continues — at times more concealed and shrouded than in the past — there are other new methods of national oppression which are employed in this new era of United States domination. I suspect that post-Obama (so-called "post-racial Amerikkka") we will continue to see more of these concealed forms of oppression which inflict the same harm, but which slip through under the radar of the average First World citizen. This makes liberals feel warm and cozy and allows them to believe "progress" is obtainable in the imperialist center.
One such method employed on prisoners in dungeons within the United Snakes is the use of the control unit. The control unit is a modern-day torture chamber, but it cannot be advertised as a lethal killer of mostly Brown or Black minds because the liberals might even turn their noses up at such a revelation. Instead the public must be told that control units are only used on incorrigibles, savages, foreigners, gang members or the sensationalized terrorists.
Who is Locked in Control Units?
Like our ancestors who may have been asked what got the shackle around their ankle, what got them branded with their owner's name on their face, or what got that noose wrapped around their necks, our answer, like theirs, is that it is the nature of our oppressor to seek to eliminate all rebels and revolutionaries who oppose the oppressor nation. This is ultimately what places one in a control unit.
Of course we are up against a sophisticated oppressor nation and the placement of prisoners in control units is wrapped in flowery language. We are told it is for "gang activity" or a "threat to the safety and security of the institution." I am sometimes given a chrono stating I'm "actively engaged in a criminal conspiracy that threatens the institution, staff and other prisoners." This to the untrained mind may sound like justification for torture. Not only is this character assassination not true, but nothing justifies torture, absolutely nothing!
It was only after I began to write articles that spoke up for prisoners, and began filing appeals and lawsuits on behalf of all prisoners, that I was targeted for placement in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU). In short, when I began to resist state repression was when I was isolated in solitary confinement. I was allowed by the state to commit minor crimes and fight other prisoners, until I started to become politically conscious. I am not alone.
Most who work to advance and organize their nation, speak up on behalf of others, or engage in jailhouse lawyering will end up in a control unit. This is a common practice in colonized society: those who resist and who are politically influential are imprisoned under a colonial oppressor.
Why Does the State Have a Validation Process?
Our oppressor must devise ways of placing us in control units, and in California it uses the validation process. The validation process attempts to lend a legal aura to torture and national oppression by claiming to undergo a fair and unbiased process to validate someone as a "gang affiliate." This process is about as unbiased as asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
The fact that the validation process continues to use things as ridiculous as a birthday card, an Aztec drawing, or a book written by George Jackson as evidence of gang activity proves that there is nothing unbiased about this validation process. The kourt cases which supposedly stopped the prison from using these items show how much of a joke the injustice system is and how much it really is an extension of an oppressive state. Our victories will never come from massa's kourthouse.
The validation system helps pacify prisoners into thinking that there is a legitimate process they are undergoing to end the torture. That somehow if we are patient and do as we are told that we might get out of the SHU. This of course is ludicrous. We will stay in SHU until our oppressor feels we no longer resist, until they feel we are broken. Sometimes they want to train their agents and attempt to capture all who associate with us out on the mainline, as if we were live bait. But so long as we remain resistant to their oppression, we will not be allowed to freely associate with others. The validation process only works to uphold our national oppression.
The Step Down Program is More Repression
When we go to committee in California SHUs we are given a form called the "CDCR Advisement of Expectations." This form gives a list of supposed STG behavior which includes "participating in STG group exercise, using gestures, handshakes, possession of artwork with STG symbols." Note that we are not informed what STG symbols are.
We basically cannot socialize with anyone, or we might be accused of STG behavior. We are not told who is validated as part of a STG or given any information about STG behavior. We are simply told we better not associate with STGs or engage in their behavior. The state will decide if we are behaving properly and allowed to proceed in the Step Down Program. They claim they are the experts.
I have heard of some being put on this "Step Down" Program, but the state is picking and choosing who they put in the program. In my opinion it is a pacification program and I am not going to participate in it. Participation masks the oppression of the state while also allowing them to attempt to coerce me and any participants of being guilty, of confessing guilt, even if only guilty of what they deem to be incorrect thoughts.
Recent news of a federal class action lawsuit challenging policies and conditions at the Pelican Bay SHU is welcome and something we all should be following. Ashker et al. v. Governor of California et al., No. C 09-05796 claims that being held for more than ten years in SHU is cruel and unusual punishment and that the validation process is a violation of due process.(1) But here's the kicker: if you have joined the Step Down Program you are not included in this class action. So already we see how the new Step Down Program is serving the state by making it more difficult for prisoners to challenge their conditions.
My behavior is no more incorrect today than it was the first day I was captured and housed in the SHU. The state will not be let off the hook and I refuse to step down from resisting oppression. The Step Down Program continues the same oppression that the validation process started: it attempts to justify what the state is doing to the oppressed nations.
What will End the Validation/Step Down Program?
The Step Down Program is not only similar to the validation process, but here in California many prisons are still using both methods, so we need to end them both.
From the beginning I saw the need to struggle for closing the SHU. From the first hunger strike I knew that if we don't close the SHU altogether, the state will just have us fighting the same problem under new names for decades via strikes/lawsuits. This will never accomplish our goal. We need to keep all justifications for the use of solitary confinement in our scope. No matter why someone is held in solitary confinement, it is always torture and it should always be opposed.
At the same time we have made improvements in many prisoners' lives and some have gotten out of SHU, and I am happy for this. However validation and Step Down Programs will keep us locked in the SHUs until we can make resistance to oppression a hip and common thing. When hunger strikes occur more often than once every ten years, and peaceful protests are as frequent as spring cleaning, then maybe we will finally end validation/step down programs.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Most civilians would say that controlling gang violence is a good thing, and that perspective is exactly what the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is relying on for its gang validation and Step Down Programs. The assumption is that all groups classified as gangs are engaged in criminal activity, and anyone in contact with the gang must be a member.
Let's put aside for now the reality that the U.$. military and police force is the biggest gang in world history. If anyone is organized in criminal activity and terrorism, it's them. That any U.$. government agency claims to be against gang activity without being critical of itself is just a joke.
Lumpen organizations that are not necessarily revolutionary are also targeted as gangs, whether or not they break U.$. laws. The real threat is not the activities that the lumpen are engaged in, but that they have any level of unity and organization. STG labels and Step Down Programs criminialize the association, not actual crime.
The U.$. government will do everything it can to protect its international hegemony. Controlling any potentially subversive population within its borders, especially the internal semi-colonies, is a high priority, no matter how much they dress it up with fancy titles and administrative process.
Things have been pretty rough here at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). A prisoncrat-orchestrated racial riot has put me in administrative segregation since July. KVSP's "A" yard (the only general population, non-honor yard) has been, more or less, on a constant lock-down since the beginning of the year. This lock-down is due to racial tensions that have been exacerbated by the prison's state-sponsored security threat group, also known as the goon squad, or simply the gooners.
The best way for the prison oligarchy to remain in power and thwart any organizing or political dissent is to keep us all fighting amongst ourselves. Of course this is nothing new for many of us, but for some reason we all find ourselves locked down time and again, pointing fingers (and unfortunately, knives) at one another instead of using our minds of reason to see that clearly this whole war/mess has been instigated by the very pigs that always have the most to gain. It's extremely frustrating to sit here watching the same pattern of senseless fighting and rioting occur while the pigs laugh, crack jokes, and generally play us against each other for their sick jollies and political agenda.
This madness on "A" yard at KVSP and elsewhere in the state is definitely part of a much bigger political agenda. One of the results of the 2013 general hunger strike is that, slowly but surely, a lot of those guys have been returning to the main lines after spending ten, fifteen, or twenty years back there in the SHU. Well, CDCR can't just let those beds remain empty so we've been seeing the gooners dropping fallacious gang validation packets on people for all kinds of erroneous reasons. And the best way to "prove" gang conspiracy or activity is to run us all into these stupid racial riots. The fucked up thing about it is that it's working. Every time we all go out to the yard and fight each other is another victory for the pigs, and another bus load of "gang members" heading to the SHU torture units and thus, the very "evidence" CDCR points to as justification in keeping those control units open and full.
This white vs. Black violence needs to stop for the benefit and health of both our people. Let's stop and remember that it should always be blue vs. green! It's time for peace on these yards. Don't forget who the real enemy is.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's call for peace on the yards underscores the importance of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We need organizations to come together behind bars to stop the pigs and the imperialist system in general. A United Front is comprised of groups with different views and goals, that have a common enemy. It doesn't require everyone to agree on everything, and in the case of the UFPP there are just five key principles around which groups have unity: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism and Independence. If your organization is interested in putting an end to the fighting amongst the oppressed and ready to take a stand against the oppressor get in touch for more information about the UFPP.
On 9 September 2014 I was the sole participant in my facility in the day of remembrance of the Attica uprising. I attempted to get another dude to participate who I've been been chatting up lately on limited and general political issues. He agreed at first, then pulled out at the last minute. This did not offend me or make me look at him differently. He is 36 years old and even tho he's older than me, I understand that he's not as strong. So it is what it is. Maybe next time.
As I dumped my tray in the morning and again at dinner (lunches are passed out at breakfast), I informed the pigs that I was fasting "in memory of my people." I caught curious glances only, but no comments. The morning meal was hash browns, fried eggs, sausage, and cold cereal, which is one of the best breakfasts here at California State Prison - Los Angeles County.
Wen I dumped it I knew someone somewhere around me didn't appreciate that I chose to do that instead of giving it to them. I didn't receive any questions or comments about it, and I didn't make a scene about it. But as the fast ended I ate some cookies first and I guess the sugar was too much of a rush because I got all sick. But it was nothin'.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Even solo protests like this one can get the attention of potential allies and put enemies on notice. No doubt some people wanted the food this comrade dumped, and this means he got their attention.
We have to make sure we take advantage of this attention and explain the philosophy behind our actions. We can use the opportunity to make clear to everyone, friends and enemies, the reasons behind our protests so that we maximize the educational value. Anti-imperialism will not be obvious without explanation. It is this explanation and discussion that is the most time consuming, and also most important part of our work at this stage of the struggle.
We hope this comrade's actions help trigger conversations with others in h facility, which will lead to organizing for peace within prisons. In a broad sense, we recommend starting organizing in your facility now for the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity 2015.