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[Campaigns] [Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility at Rock Mountain] [California] [ULK Issue 29]
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Grievance Campaign Progress in California

I want to share with you and the other ULK readers the response to the 602 petition I sent to the Secretary of CDCR, and to the Ombudsman Sarah Malone. There was no response from the Ombudsman's office. But Matthew Cates forwarded my petition to Warden Paramo who in turn delegated it down to Associate Warden Straton, who came to interview me in person.

Associate Warden Straton did not make any excuses. He said, "You're absolutely right, the 602 appeals system is severely screwed up, however, we just forced appeals coordinator Cobb to retire early, and we replaced him with Mr. Olson who is approximately 6 to 8 weeks behind in processing our 602s. Just try to be patient as we try to straighten this mess out."

I do believe Associate Warden Straton is being sincere, but only time will tell for sure. I just had a family member file a citizen's complaint on my behalf, which all ULK readers should have their family do because, by law the Warden must send a response to anyone who files a citizen's complaint, even if it's just in the form of a letter.

My plan is to create a paper trail using the Form 22 as a verification that I've placed my 602 appeals in the metal 602 box in my housing unit. Then once the Warden sends my family his response I'll have the proof I need for court to show that he was made aware of the problem but failed to correct it.

We did get 75 copies of the grievance petitions made, but the program worker who was making them got busted on the second set and lost his job. But 75 made it to Sacramento successfully.

Also I just wanted to thank you for that article in ULK about us SNYs being part of the greater whole. Just because we came to this side doesn't mean we're not fighters for the greater good. In fact, that's one of the reasons I came to this side, to avoid the petty politics and work towards better living conditions for all.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is making good use of the California grievance petition which addresses the mishandling of 602s (grievances) in California prisons. Inspired by California, this campaign has spread to many other states, with petitions now customized for Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas. We don't expect big changes to come from this petition; we know this is a battle for small reforms within a fundamentally corrupt system. But the grievance system is the primary way that prisoners can legally fight for their limited rights, and often these rights are tied up with survival and freedom to organize and educate others. We must defend these rights as a key tactical battle in building the anti-imperialist movement within the criminal injustice system.

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[Campaigns] [Kern Valley State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 29]
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Reforming the Reforms

prisoners are always wrong
I was glad to see petitions available concerning the grievance process here in California. Please send me one of those in the self-addressed stamped envelope I've enclosed. I'd also like to say a few words on the grievance process here in California.

The main problem with the grievance process is at the informal level, when a prisoner has to get two responses from staff on a CDCR 22 form. Unless you're challenging something out of the Title 15, the CDCR 22 must be filled out. That's very hard to do, considering most staff just throw them away. The CDCR 22 is designed so that officers can sign it at the door, verifying that it was sent, and give the prisoner a receipt. However, even with the receipt, if the prisoner does not have two staff responses, the appeals coordinator will reject the grievance. The Title 15 Section 3084.3 (b), (c), and Section 3086 (e)(2) allow them to do that.

What we should do is file a grievance on those three Title 15 sections I just listed, requesting that they be changed to state: "One or two signed CDCR 22 receipts requesting remedy or supporting documents that also show that the staff member to whom the CDCR 22 was mailed did not respond within the time limits detailed in Section 3086 (f)(4) and (h) shall be receipted in lieu of requested supporting documents pursuant to Section 3084.3." The legal argument for this is the 14th Amendment (access to courts) and Title 15 Section 3084.1 (right to appeal).

Just jump through the hoops until the grievance is exhausted. Then, write the Prison Law Office and the ACLU and tell them you'd like their help in filing a §1983 suit. Since it's a major issue, a prisoner advocate group will probably pick it up, and the petition distributed by MIM(Prisons) could be used as evidence.

Another good grievance would challenge the Title 15 Section 3123 (b), which gives CDCR the power to limit the law library hours to whatever it wants. Here at Kern Valley State Prison, the law library is open 2 days a week. The Title 15 should be amended to say: "Each law library shall remain open five days a week, for not less than six hours per day." The 14th Amendment should also be cited for that grievance.


MIM(Prisons) responds: CDCR Form 22 is a reform to the CDCR grievance system that was rolled out December 2010 in response to the campaign to End the High Desert State Prison Z-Unit Zoo.(1) Participants of this campaign sent petitions to CDCR administrators and legal protection groups such as the Prison Law Office and the U.S. Department of Justice. An investigation was conducted, prisoners were interviewed, and even some of their demands were met.(2)

But this contributor shows how our struggles for reforms, and even our victories, will be met with more and more red tape under the current power structure. Form 22 was supposedly designed "so that our requests may be answered in a timely fashion by COs, with a receipt. Now we have a clearer paper trail to use should K9s decide to implement their underground rules."(1) But still, there's nothing stopping the COs from simply throwing Form 22s away.

This contributor's suggestion to change some of the language of Title 15 may be an improvement on the current grievance system in California. But until COs and prison administrators acquire a proletarian morality that values the well-being of all people, they will figure out ways to continue to oppress those who they deem as unworthy of basic humyn necessities, and their higher-ups will cover for them. This proletarian morality doesn't develop from procedural changes in prison operations, no matter what documents we amend. Material conditions shape our worldview, and until the material conditions that support national oppression are abolished, the oppressors will continue to justify their sick behaviors.

While we fight for reforms to improve our current conditions, we must accept the necessity of total social change, namely the change from capitalism to socialism. Until then there will always be a trade-off; where one group gains, another loses. We must allow our own acquired proletarian morality to infect our political work and inform the orientation of all the battles we take on.

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[Campaigns] [Civil Liberties] [Legal] [National Oppression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 28]
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A Victory for Prisoners' First Amendment Rights

U.S. vs. California constitutional rights
[The following article begins with excerpts from an article by a California prisoner, which gives a detailed historical account of relevant case law, and was originally published by San Francisco BayView. Also available on our website is the full court opinion for In Re Crawford.]

Greetings. The struggle is long and arduous, and sometimes we do etch out significant victories, as in the case of our brotha in In re Crawford, 206 Cal.App.4th 1259 (2012).

It's important to emphasize that this victory is a significant step in reaffirming that prisoners are entitled to a measure of First Amendment protection that cannot be ignored simply because the state dislikes the spiel. New Afrikan prisoners have a right to identify with their birthright if they so choose, as does anyone else for that matter — Black, White or Brown. ...

[California prison officials] have gone so far as to boldly proclaim that the term New Afrikan was created by the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) and that those who identify as or use the term are declaring their allegiance to the BGF, which has been declared a prison gang. They have sought to suppress its usage by validating (i.e. designating as a gang member or associate) anyone who uses the term or who dares mention the name George Jackson. ...

Our brotha's case In Re Crawford was filed June 4, 2012, and certified for publication June 13. In a brilliant piece of judicial reasoning, a panel of justices in a 3-0 decision finally reaffirmed a prisoner's First Amendment right to free speech and expression, stating:

Freedom of speech is first among the rights which form the foundation of our free society. "The First Amendment embodies our choice as a nation that, when it comes to such speech, the guiding principle is freedom — the unfettered interchange of ideas — not whatever the State may view as fair." (Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2806). "The protection given speech and press was fashioned to assure unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people ... All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests." (Roth v. United States (1957) 354 U.S. 476, 484."

The programs embodied in the New Afrikan Collective Think Tank, New Afrikan Institute of Criminology 101, the George Jackson University and the New Afrikan ideology itself are inclusive programs emphasizing a solution-based approach to carnage in the poverty stricken slums from where many of us come. The CDCR Prison Intelligence Units (PIU) have sought to suppress these initiatives simply because they do not like the message. They have marched into court after court with one standard line: New Afrikan means BGF and these initiatives are promoting the BGF. In re Crawford continues,

As recently noted by Chief Justice Roberts, "[t]he First Amendment reflects 'a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.' [Citation.] That is because 'speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government.' [Citation.] ... Speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection." (Snyder v. Phelps (2011) 562 U.S. _,_ [131 S.Ct. 1207, 1215].

In re Crawford is a very important ruling because the justices said these protections apply to prisoners as well. ...

George Jackson cannot be removed from the fabric of the people's struggles in this society any more than Malcolm X can or Medger Evers or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Harriett Tubman or Sojourner Truth or Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks or Frederick Douglass, or the countless others who've fought and struggled for a brighter future for generations to come.

What CDCR and its PIU are trying to do is make a run around the First Amendment by shielding its suppression activity under the guise of preventing gang activity, just as it's done historically, which gave rise to Procunier v. Martinez (1974) 416 U.S. 396, 413.

In In re Crawford, CDCR argued for an exception to the Martinez test for validated gang members. The court declined to make such an exception, holding: "Gang related correspondence is not within the exception to the First Amendment test for censorship of outgoing inmate mail."

The fact that they even argued for such an exception shows their mindset. Their intentions are to suppress that which they believe to be repugnant, offensive and that which they believe a prisoner ought not be thinking! In their minds we have no right to think or possess ideas, concepts or vision beyond that which they believe we should possess.

Until In Re Crawford, these highly educated judges were sanctioning this nonsense with twisted, perverted rulings permitting a newspaper article or magazine layout or book to be used against a prisoner for validation purposes [to put them in torture cells - editor]. They issued twisted rulings like those in Ellis v. Cambra or Hawkins v. Russell and In Re Furnace, where the petitioner was told he has no right to his thoughts and the First Amendment only protects a prisoner's right to file a 602 [grievance form].

These kinds of fallacious rulings ought to be publicized so as to show the skillful manipulation of the law by those sworn to uphold it. In Re Crawford reestablishes that First Amendment protections apply to prisoners and that we too enjoy a measure of free speech and expression. We ought not be punished with fabricated notions of gang activity for merely a thought!

However, if we are to continue to meet with success, we need our professors, historians and intellectuals to step up and provide declarations that we can use in our litigation, defending our right to read, write and study all aspects of a people's history, like Professor James T. Campbell did in In Re Crawford. This is the only way a prisoner can challenge the opinion of a prison official. ...

Much work remains to be done, like stopping the bogus validations based on legitimate First Amendment material. We know that many individuals are falsely validated simply for reading George's books or a newspaper article, for observing Black August or for simply trying to get in touch with one's cultural identity.

These legitimate expressions should carry no penalty at all. You're not doing anything wrong, and a lot of brothas who've been validated simply shouldn't be. Nor should folks be frightened away from reading or studying any aspect of history simply because the state doesn't like its content. Judges who issue fallacious opinions permitting prisoners to be punished for reading a George Jackson book or researching your history should be exposed.

Literary content and cultural and historical materials are not the activities of a gang; they are political and social activities that we have a right to express, according to the unanimous decision in In re Crawford.

The First Amendment campaign continues to forge ahead, although we still don't have a lawyer. The campaign still exists, and we anticipate even greater successes in the future. ... We've cracked one layer of a thick wall. Now all prisoners should take advantage of this brilliant ruling and reassert your rights to study your heritage, Black, White or Brown.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The issue in this case was one that we have experienced first-hand as well. For example, in 2008 a letter from a comrade in California was censored before it could reach us because it discussed the New Afrikan Collective, which allegedly was a code word for the Black Guerrilla Family.(1) But in reality, the New Afrikan Collective was a new political organization in New York focused on bettering the conditions of New Afrikans as a nation, with no connections to any sort of criminal activity.

The first thing that strikes us about this case is a quote from the proceedings cited by the author above, "Gang related correspondence is not within the exception to the First Amendment test for censorship of outgoing inmate mail." Unfortunately this is not part of the final opinion explaining the decision of the court, and it is specific to outgoing mail from the prison. Nonetheless, it would logically follow from this statement that anything that can be connected to a gang is not automatically dangerous or illegal.

"Gang members" have long been the boogeyman of post-integration white Amerika. The pigs use "gang member" as a codeword to excuse the abuse and denial of constitutional rights to oppressed nation youth, particularly New Afrikan men. And this has been institutionalized in more recent years with "gang enhancements," "gang injunctions" and "security threat group" labels that punish people for belonging to lumpen organizations. Often our mail is censored because it mentions the name of a lumpen organization in the context of a peace initiative or organizing for prisoners' humyn rights. While criminal activity is deemed deserving more punishment with the gang label, non-criminal activity is deemed criminal as well.

As the author discusses, it becomes a question of controlling ideas to the extreme, where certain words are not permitted to be spoken or written and certain symbols and colors cannot be displayed. So the quote from the court above is just a baby step in the direction of applying the First Amendment rights of association and expression to oppressed nation youth. Those who are legally inclined should consider how this issue can be pushed further in future battles. Not only is such work important in restoring rights to people, but we can create space for these organizations to build in more positive directions.

Part of this criminalization of a specific sector of society is the use of self-created and perpetuated so-called experts on gang intelligence. Most of our readers are all too familiar with this farce of a profession that is acutely exposed by the court's opinion in this case. The final court opinion calls out CO J. Silveira for claiming that the plaintiff's letter contained an intricate code when he could provide no evidence that this was true. They also call him out for using his "training and experience" as the basis for all his arguments.

The warden's argument is flawed for two reasons. First, the argument is based solely on the unsupported assertions and speculative conclusions in Silveira's declaration. The declaration is incompetent as evidence because it contains no factual allegations supporting those assertions and conclusions. Second, even if the declaration could properly be considered, it does not establish that the letter posed a threat to prison security.

As great as this is, as the author of the article above points out, they usually get away with such baseless claims. More well thought out lawsuits like this are needed, because more favorable case law is needed. But neither alone represents any real victory in a system that exists to maintain the existing social hierarchy. These are just pieces of a long, patient struggle that has been ongoing for generations. The people must exercise the rights won here to make them real. We must popularize and contextualize the nature of this struggle.

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[Abuse] [National Oppression] [Censorship] [Calipatria State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 28]
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Lessons from Trayvon Martin Case Relevant to Fighting Oppression in Prison

I received issue 27 of ULK along with MIM Theory 13, thank you. I've already read the ULK and I appreciate all the articles. A few months back you sent out a letter to the warden here over an issue of ULK I did not receive. Although I never received the issue, I did talk to a lieutenant who claimed that MIM was banned. I didn't pursue it because I had passed the time limitation to raise the issue, but I've since received the most recent issues after that. I believe it was issue 25 I didn't get. Your letter got their attention.

Other than that it's business as usual with the oppressor. Just last week the pigs slammed a young Black male (22 years old) to the ground and charged him with assaulting a "peace" officer. The prisoner was attempting to enter the housing unit when one of the pigs asked to see the watch he was wearing.

The young man being a rebel without a cause chose to ignore the pig and proceeded to walk into that building. The pig and his cronies blocked the door and told him he wasn't going anywhere until he showed them the watch. The young man backed off and requested to speak to a sergeant. This simple request pissed the pigs off. They proceed to escalate the situation immediately.

As the sergeant was making his way across the yard one pig rushed the guy and slammed him to the ground. This caused some of the prisoners to act out verbally and tell the pigs that the force was unnecessary. The whole thing was a set up from the start. While one pig was confronting the guy another was on the walkie talkie reporting something (most likely a lie), and then two pigs came out of the building and the only Black pig out of the crowd of six or seven pigs chose to slam the young Black male. When I read the article "Trayvon Martin National Oppression Debate" it hit home when Soso stated: "Every persyn in this country sees the stereotypes of Black youths as hoodlums..." as a result any "unarmed Black youth can be killed by cops and vigilantes while the imperialist state does nothing."

Here lately the pigs have seemingly been trying to incite the masses. It's summertime and out here in Imperial County, California (which is less than five miles from Yuma, Arizona) it's extremely hot. Triple digits regularly, the pigs have been forcing us to wear state issue clothing to the chow hall and the shirts must be tucked in. When it was winter and cold we were not allowed to wear thermals to the chow hall. Now that it's hot they're forcing us to wear stuff that will make you hotter. Furthermore, they have launched a campaign of constant harassment. Searching cells everyday which is causing folks to complain. As of yet no one has written a 602 [grievance form] and me personally I don't have any grounds to write one as I have not been harassed. I try to lead by example and share the literature with the brothers of the struggle.

It seems as if we've lost a generation or two. There's a shortage of revolutionaries, at least here at this place. Only time will tell if the masses wake up. I often imagine myself coming up in the era of George Jackson and the likes. I attempt to put myself in those guys' shoes, and I try to emulate what I picture them being. I'll close on that note, power to the people.

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[Control Units] [California]
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Commemorating California Hunger Strike, Continuing Fight Against Control Units

I'm writing to contribute to the continuing exposure of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)'s corrupt capitalist-imperialist system locking up human beings in long-term solitary confinement for decades.

As we know, the anniversary of the 1st hunger strike just passed 1 July 2012. We must remember the three soldados who lost their lives in this battle for our basic human rights and to end all indefinite isolation units (SHUs and Ad-Segs).

And to all who participated and those who gave and continue to give us moral support over our torturous and inhumane conditions of being segregated and placed in solitary confinement, known as CDCR's SHUs and Ad-Segs "Crypts", indefinitely with no rights or due process.

It's also very important we don't forget about the women and girls locked up in women prisons, Central California Women's Facility Chowchilla, Valley State Prison for Women, California Institution for Women, White Oaks, CRC, etc. I can't imagine the hardships and torturous conditions these women/girls have to endure. I would bet my life on it that thousands of these women/girls are also locked away in isolation confinement crypts. So let's walk side by side with our equal counterparts women and girls who are being isolated to indefinite SHUs, where concerns around living conditions of mental/physical torturous behavior fall on deaf ears.

I know this first hand because I've been in solitary confinement indefinitely since 1993 and counting. All we're asking for is to be treated as humans. Our 5 core demands are very reasonable.

But as the world now knows, California CDCR continues to deny that we are human by placing us in their "crypts" based on lies and making it a priority that we don't get basic necessities: medical, mental health treatment, human contact with our family, and sunlight.

I ask everyone who is a part of this struggle to join the fight to eliminate unjust solitary confinement.

The prisoncrats will never admit they are terrorist dictators who are allowed to run California's prisons with no honest oversight or accountability for their terrorist ideology, behavior and actions. They falsely use so-called "prison security concerns" to label thousands of human beings as prison gang members or associates to justify decades of isolation practices.

Attorney Peter Schey, from the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, has filed a petition to the United Nations concerning our solitary confinement. There is also a separate federal civil rights action in motion. This will take time, as we know how the court system operates.

Don't give up hope, this is gonna be a long battle and journey. A lot of us are stuck in these "crypts" until real change comes. It's up to us to protect the new generation - so they don't have to go through torturous inhumane isolation.

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[Censorship] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California]
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Targeted for Censorship but Wins

I write in solidarity with those involved with the censorship campaign. Power to those who down to struggle, and up to win. Today while on the kennel cage rec yard I was approached by a California State Prison Corcoran (CSPC) employee representing a flawed mail room, carrying an envelope addressed to the young cadre sent from MIM Distributors containing MIM Theory 7 in one hand and a CDCR 602 appeal in the other.

After months of going back and forth between the Appeal Coordinator and the mail room, utilizing a combination of the institutional informal correspondence system and the appeals procedures, CSPC finally figured out that I was building a paper trail capable of exposing their mail censorship practices against those they deem paper-terrorists.

The staff gave me the MT 7 journal, after previously saying that the journal was a violation against California Correctional Regulations for supposedly inciting riots and so on. They instructed me to either withdraw the complaint or settle it if I wanted the MT 7. Of course I settled it to preserve the right of the appeal for the breach of settlement agreement. Because of their COINTEL B.$. they've delayed my study group participation, and I've got a lot to do to catch up. But with hard work comes hard results.

Comrades should note that this incident of CSPC issuing me MIM Theory 7: Revolutionary Nationalism is proof that not only are they profiling MIM Distributors with bogus censorships claiming safety and security, but also their claims hold no weight in the people's court.


Campaign info:
MIM Banned in CA!
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[Gang Validation] [Organizing] [Security] [California] [ULK Issue 27]
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Prisons Create New Tools to Validate, Prisoners Seek New Methods of Protest

Recently I received notice of change to regulations number 12-03, publication date 25 May 2012, effective date 10 May 2012, that is said to affect sections 3000, 3375 and 3375.6. It states the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) seeks to establish requirements for an automated needs assessment tool to be used to place prisoners in programs that would aid their re-entry to society and reduce their chances of reoffending by identifying the criminogenic needs of offenders.

The presentation appears to be harmless, but it is not harmless for those ignorant enough to boast about their gang involvement, family criminality, and other sensitive factors that will become readily available and quickly cross-referenced and correlated with information contained in intelligence files. In addition, the information gained from the compass core assessment official record can be used as an "administrative determinate" under 15 CCR 3375.2(b)(11) in addition to 3375.3 (9)(4)(A) & (B) which is the foundation not only for validation but for intelligence analysts.

Issuing a list of demands to prisoncrats telling them what their validation process should be is ludicrous, as is the idea of telling your body when it should have the urge to excrete. Cats are quick to want to make demands without any leverage, though prisoners no matter where they are confined, have economic leverage that they are not willing to exercise because cookies are of more immediate import.

Since the 1880s the concept of boycotting, or organizing to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with prison/jail stores or commissaries, has been a very powerful tool. In California it deprives the CDCR of a source of revenue. It also affects the bottom line of prison profiteers, whose profits are guaranteed by what amounts to cash transactions for hundreds of millions in profits and revenues, courtesy of prisoners who lack the will to sacrifice luxuries for a while in order to exercise necessary economic leverage, to compel some administrative change.

Prisoners in California should remember that canteen goods originally were purchased at wholesale prices and then marked up 10% and the proceeds over the costs and expenses went into the prisoner welfare fund to finance many programs and activities that benefited prisoners. This changed with the rise of Pete Wilson, the governor who used prisoner welfare funds to help finance a re-election bid which opened the flood gates for all sorts of misuse of the foundational purpose of the prisoner welfare fund.

The validation process is a means of control and manipulation that I have noted that some general population prisoners and sensitive needs yard (SNY/PC) prisoners embrace as a sort of badge of honor, only to belatedly find out the effects. In ULK 26 an Oregon prisoner points to the most significant problems with the divisive nature in the development of LOs who are in competition with each other.

It's common for me to hear cats hollering that they are Blood this, Blood that. Crip this or Crip that, Norteño, Southsider, Bulldog, skin head, nazi, etc., trying to tout some bogus gangsta facade that ordinarily would land them on Corcoran SHU 4B and validated. These boastful cats are easily co-opted and manipulated. Their delusions of grandeur provide Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) with a wealth of intelligence via their eyes and ears on the tier.

A perfect example is the Corcoran prisoner's statement about cats in ASU I (Administrative Segregation) laying down in fear of IGI retaliation for exercising their right to file an appeal! Typically conversations over the tier are recorded when IGI doesn't have a reliable agent to make note of what he sees and/or hears. As to the idea of not taking a cellie as a form of protest, the typical response is privileges taken for 90-180 days and 60-90 days of early release credits are taken. Cats who are addicted to sports programs or television or canteen will cave in every time because they lack the will to sacrifice luxuries for the cause.

Prisoncrats treat gang membership or association as a tool of extortion used in their agenda of touting the violent nature of street or prison gangs.

The CDCR is rife with crooked officials and staff and the secretary, governor and legislature are unable and unwilling to purge itself of those who regularly falsify reports. Supervisory staff/officials fail to address the problems so as to encourage the misconduct and repression. At the same time they are quick to feed a naive public a laundry list of bogus incidents to justify the administration's unwillingness to reform itself.

I try to examine all aspects of the criminal injustice system to see what tactics we can utilize in our struggle effectively, even if I have to employ them alone. I sacrifice luxuries already so I know it's possible and a little something for all to consider.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises a good topic of discussion: it's important we evaluate the tactics that will be effective in fighting prison repression. There are a limited number of protest options available to prisoners, and some will be more effective than others. Whichever tactics are best may vary by prison or state, but the fundamental task of building unity for the struggle remains the same across the entire criminal injustice system. Comrades in California continue to strategize on the best ways to build on the recent prisoner rights activism there. Join United Struggle from Within and work with other anti-imperialist prisoners so that we aren't stuck employing tactics on our own, but rather in a united front across facilities, organizations and nationalities.

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[Abuse] [Censorship] [California State Prison, Corcoran] [California]
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The Corcoran Report: Rolling Back the Few Hunger Strike Victories

This report is on the conditions at California State Prison - Corcoran 4A SHU (CSP-COR). It is written with the purpose of sharing with comrades locally and nationally the demise of the movement here at CSP-COR, and what will be necessary for comrades of the United Struggle from Within (USW) to regain momentum uniting those capable of being united in the struggle to abolish the Security Housing Units (SHU).

The author has been housed at CSP-COR SHU on an undetermined SHU sentence that resulted from a battery on a peace officer with serious bodily injury. This was an event orchestrated by Kern Valley State Prison's corrupt guards. Any prisoner who has been somewhere within the California prison system knows the history of CSP-COR and the high degree of guard corruption; everything from murder and police brutality to conspiracy against prisoners for complaining against officials. Here at CSP-COR I've personally witnessed staff abuse the power bestowed upon them by California and its California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) union for the purpose of keeping their foot on prisoners' throats and preventing our freedom of speech.

There is a code of silence practiced by the majority of staff at CSP-COR, dubbed the Green Wall, and it's alive and well here in 2012. Where once it was isolated to those in green (correctional officers) it has now spread to those within the medical department (nurses, doctors, and psych staff), the legal library, the mail department, the food services department, and the religious department. This is not to say that every person who works for the CDCR is a part of the Wall; there are individuals who can be used to expose the system for what it is. But the state's institutions seem to be uniting its forces more these days against prisoners for the sake of covering up the problems and sweeping important social issues under the rug.

On 4A, the law librarian prevents any access to his facility unless a prisoner has a deadline from the courts or a state. The prison law library is the most important resource for prisoners, providing literature that guides the ability of prisoners to more effectively prosecute cases in the judicial branch of this government. Prisoners need things like computers, copies, typewriters, reference material, etc. The CCPOA knows this and take away prisoners' access to one of the most important resources they have through understaffing and budgeting. Political power in the hands of prisoners presents a threat to the financial security of every vampire of the U.S. prison complex. And because it is not only a possibility but also a social reality, the state and the union seek to stall the success of the prison movement, particularly in the area of free speech, free assembly, and right to grievance which becomes free protest.

I've also witnessed officials censor prisoners' mail because the contents of the correspondence or periodical didn't sit well with the agenda or idea of the state-union establishment. Often a pig in the position of sorting incoming/outgoing mail is issuing, withholding, or completely disposing of a prisoner's mail for malicious reasons. Brothers at Corcoran SHU have a difficult time just corresponding with the outside world. Officials with their personal vendettas, and most times negligence, confiscate materials such as stationary packages sent to a prisoner from their family. They then turn around and try to trade the material with another prisoner who has filed a grievance against them in exchange for the prisoner's silence on the subject of the grievance.

They trash mail that may expose the reality of the state-union corruption. Most times they secure the support of the public by declaring the "security" threat as a threat to the public. But if the matter was placed under the microscope where the real public could hear and see the position of prisoners, they'd be forced to recognize that the blood of prisoners are on their, the public's, hands.

California uses a department regulation 3135(c)(1) in order to validate censorship practices in its prisons holding that the material is "...of a character tending to incite murder, arson, a riot, or any form of violence or physical harm to any person, or any ethnic, gender, racial, religious, or other group." Most times, though, this isn't even the case. It isn't the security of the public that is at stake, it is the financial security of the labor aristocracy that is at stake.

After the Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) hunger strike prisoners received a number of small concessions from the state. Here they've already begun to renege on their deal. They allow brothers to wear their personal kicks and at times purchase new kicks. There are clear color pen fillers on the store, beanies are issued in the winter, and someone from the psych staff walks around once a week and passes out a sheet of paper with eight to ten puzzles and a calendar for the Jewish month. But CSP-COR officials don't even recognize the elements with the most material substance of the PBSP core demands. There is no group yard, the cages do not have pull up bars, and the ab-roller equipment that was issued has been banned. The canteen has not been expanded, there haven't been any added TV stations, and prisoners still can only receive one package per year.

The guards are banning Prison Legal News and MIM(Prisons) publications, but allowing religious periodicals like the Trumpet. Any attempts by prisoners to come together to figure out how to curb such BS is interfered with by means of vandalizing cell inspections, shortening food rations, confiscation of property/privileges, and bogus rule violation reports. Take, for example, an event that occurred where various Special Needs Yard and Disciplinary Detention prisoners of Black, white, and Latino nationality were on the cage yard exercising together, calling out their routine in cadence to coordinate the exercise routine. The yard pig approached the group and interrupted their exercise stating they'd have to cease the group work out as it was gang activity. The prisoners objected asking, "was the Marines a gang?" The pig wouldn't answer, so they continued exercising. The pig called the building where these prisoners were housed and instructed 4 coworkers that the prisoners involved in the exercise routine were to have their cells vandalized.

This is a brief description of the abuses taking place at CSP-Corcoran. There are a few class actions being initiated and a certain USW comrade is organizing prisoners (peacefully) around a campaign to oppose mail censorship. The USW comrade said it all started with CSP-Corcoran censoring MIM(Prison)'s correspondence.

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[Campaigns] [California]
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Bringing Grievances to Higher Level Wins Again

Every since my filing of the MIM censorship suit I haven't been able to get a 602 [grievance form] processed, and I was pretty good at filing them and winning them prior to the MIM suit. Since I've been at this prison the only 602 I was able to get acknowledged and processed was one concerning the law library, and only after two months of either having them "screened out" for one reason or another or simply being ignored. It was only because I finally got tired of their b.s., went over their heads and mailed a "retaliation and conspiracy" petition to Sacramento along with a quick letter explaining my situation.

Afterwards I not only got a letter from Sacramento telling me they'd sent it back to appeals court with instructions to properly process, but I got a letter from here basically reprimanding me for going over their heads; but it got the job done.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of perseverance in the face of repression, following in the footsteps of a similar victory in Kern Valley this month.

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[Organizing] [Heman Stark YCF] [California] [ULK Issue 27]
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MIM(Prisons) Too Dismissive of Rebellions

In ULK 25 you printed an article of mine about prisoner struggles in the Youth Training School (YTS) in Chino, California. I'd like to comment on your response.

The main points in your response criticize our efforts to better our own conditions. And that's MIM(Prisons)'s common ideology as I've noticed from the material of yours I've read. MIM(Prisons) is quick to condemn and downplay rebellious actions as premature, saying the rebels ain't "ready" and lack unity of the masses to obtain success. But I don't believe that's always the proper analysis of the rebellions you speak against. Ultimate victory is obtained through action, by taking chances. Is it proper revolutionary conduct to sit on the sidelines and cheerlead, even in the midst of war? That makes me think of the Muslim Brotherhood. They failed to participate in the revolt that happened in Egypt, but they were quick to celebrate the victory, they were quick to want to enforce their ideologies in the new government. True revolutionaries must, at some point, get their hands dirty.

To constantly speak against taking action, for lack of proper political education (or for whatever reasons), is to tell Rosa Parks she should've just moved to the back of the bus. It's the same as telling indigenous peoples they're ignorant for fighting back against the oppressors to preserve their way of life, or to tell the rebel fighters in the African and Arab countries to lay down their arms because MIM(Prisons) doesn't feel those citizens are ready. But as we've seen, many oppressive governments have been toppled successfully.

When Fidel and Raul Castro, Che, etc, invaded Cuba they did it with only 82 men. But they only had 22 left after the first ambush. They lacked the loyalty of the masses, took a chance, and succeeded!

In the situation at YTS I admit we were young and lacked the proper political education, and as I've said, I now see all our energy should've been focused on the system itself. But our technique was a success according to our young, uneducated ideologies at the time. Our goal wasn't to try to change the whole California Youth Authority system itself, but to reform YTS, to make our living conditions better, to get things back that had been taken from us. The power was in our hands, the hands of the people. Administration clearly saw that and eventually relented to our demands. The administration's intent was to pacify us, but in my article I never said anything about being pacified. The "few bones" thrown to us did nothing to calm us down. And in the process we learned something of value: we learned an art of war against the system, and how to organize, even if you do choose to call it focoism. Experience in war, even if that battle is lost (ours wasn't), is intrinsically valuable for the preparations of future battles against the oppressors. "Talk," verbal education, can only go so far. Experience is the ultimate teacher. And it's my experience at YTS that has now made me hungry for revolutionary education. I now study politics and try to get my priorities in order to help clean up the hypocrisy of the injustice system. I doubt I'm the only one that's been motivated as a result of my experiences. So wouldn't you call that a victory?!

Any patriot whose ever lost a battle will tell you he's learned something of more value than just how to shed blood.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this writer's commitment to struggle with us over this issue after reading our response to h article in Under Lock & Key. This is a good example of Unity-Struggle-Unity. We must fearlessly tackle our ideological disagreements and questions while working together for change. Theories can only truly be tested in practice, and so in this way we agree that experience is the ultimate teacher.

This is a debate over the lessons of experience, not one of "talk" vs. experience as this prisoner represents. The article we printed talked about the YTS Chino prisoners who engaged in "race riots" where nations fought nations because they were being punished already for violence. The prisoncrats eventually saw the wisdom of resolving the situation by improving conditions rather than increasing repression. Certainly all of the youth involved in these struggles learned some valuable lessons. Most important is the lesson about the arbitrary nature of punishment meted out by the criminal injustice system. But we look to the practice of prisoners across the country and see that violence among prisoners generally leads to more violence and repression by the prison pigs, not the administration giving in to demands.

If we really want to learn from practice we must look at more than just one situation and draw scientific conclusions from history. It is likely that more than one individual prayed for change to the conditions in YTS Chino during this time, but we don't conclude that praying to god results in improvements in prisons just from this one experience. Similarly we can't take this one situation as evidence that violence among the people will lead the oppressors to lessen oppression when this is contradicted in the vast majority of prisons.

MIM(Prisons) does walk a line between supporting just struggles of the oppressed wherever they break out, and drawing lessons from the struggles while trying to push them to ever more advanced and successful levels. While we struggle against focoism, we have a bigger problem of inaction due to fear among the prison masses. So we recognize the positive aspects of immature rebellions that serve as breeding grounds for more advanced comrades and strategies. When these struggles present just demands we will support them, but we should not blindly cheerlead for every outbreak of rebellion.

The case of Cuba is a good historical example where we would defend their just struggle against imperialist aggression while pointing out that their revolution ended up dependent on Soviet imperialism and this hindered their ability to develop socialism and advance further in the interests of the Cuban people. This is a scientific analysis of history that must be undertaken so that we can learn from successes and failures. Many times in many countries people take up armed struggle without Maoist leadership and people's support. We resolutely support these struggles when they oppose imperialism, but we don't want to mislead people by suggesting that this is the best path to follow for other struggles.

This comrade's development of political awareness out of his experience at YTS Chino is a victory for the oppressed. But to sum up that history overall as a victory would imply that random violence among the oppressed wins victories from the oppressor. What makes it useful to retell these histories is to say here's what was righteous, and here's what was backwards or immature in our approach, to apply those lessons to our future struggles and share them with those who find themselves in similar situations today so that they can do better than we did.

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