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Under Lock & Key

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[Campaigns] [California]
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MIM(Prisons) Support for Hunger Strike was Critical

I must commend you on your continued effort to keep the masses informed. I did receive the latest Under Lock & Key after all the demonstrations reached their pinnacle. People are now in the recovery stage, preparing their total being to reach a strengthening height. I also received the chronology of events leading up to the suspension of the protest. Mail was, and continues not to be a priority as far as delivery is concerned, so it’s basically, we get it when we get it. So much was in flux, so, patterns have not set in. I just moved back to this address, we were scattered all over the place.

There are many occurrences that occupied ones time, so I am in the process of hopefully catching up in extending my profoundest respect and gratitude to all the support we received in this massive and historical action. MIM(Prisons) definitely played a critical role in helping propagating and educating the masses which helped us breach through the enormous machinery of our adversarial relations. This large scale struggle would not have been possible without the giant sacrifices of people from civil society. Even as we pursue justice in recognition of our plight, we must remain cognizant to the larger picture of oppressed people. This struggle is basically an aspect of the struggle in civil society against a surveillance state and the erosion of civil liberties.


MIM(Prisons) adds:We have received feedback from a number of comrades since the latest phase of the struggle went on hold saying they are putting the updates we sent to good use for further organizing and building. We are currently working to continue those efforts to reflect and build on what has been achieved.

The movement to end torture in California prisons has certainly reached impressive levels. About time, we might add, after many comrades have faced the torture of the Security Housing Units for decades. And many different types of people and organizations have been pushing this common cause in the ways that they can. Our focus is on facilitating prisoner organizing, and this is a strategic decision in this movement because we see prisoners as the motive force behind it. With all the hard work and important contributions from various sectors, prisoners must continue to come together and stand solidly for this cause for it to succeed. We act in united front with all who oppose torture and demand an end to long-term isolation across the imperialist United $nakes of Amerika.

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[United Front] [Campaigns] [High Desert State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 35]
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Peace and Solidarity Protest in Nevada

September 9, 2013 has come and gone, and while the turn out was significantly improved over last year, there is still room for much improvement. This is, of course, reflective of the general malaise which has infected the population concerning prison conditions and prisoner solidarity. But it is also the result of an inability to reliably communicate between units and custody levels here at High Desert (HDSP).

The turn out for this unit was approximately 8% but this may or may not be representative of prison-wide participation. There appears to have been significant participation from our brothers and sisters at Ely State Prison and our utmost respect and gratitude goes out to you all for standing with us. There have been some indications here at HDSP that there is a storm on the horizon and there is currently some discussion and preparation in anticipation. But we must wait until events begin to unfold before embarking on any course of action. This includes pushing September 9, 2014 harder and longer this year.

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[Campaigns] [United Front] [Hancock State Prison] [Georgia] [ULK Issue 35]
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Peace and Solidarity Fast in Georgia

It was a good fast day for me on the most recent day of Peace and Solidarity, a powerful underground movement. I am in the midst of a lot of things right now and I may be getting transferred soon, I don’t want to put the re-mailing cost on you, because I know that there are a lot of people who look forward to your paper. I am also enclosing a few stamps to help out with the financial element of the movement. I’ll get in touch as soon as I move.

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[Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 35]
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Tactical Move in Texas Grievance Campaign

Our struggle here in the belly of the beast continues! I’m writing to update you on the recent communication I received from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning the petition I sent them in regards to the grievance system. In the DOJ’s response to my petition, they wrote, “The Special Litigation Section only handles cases that arise from widespread problems that affect groups of people.”

I have not received a response from the many other mailing resources you indicated on the petition. Therefore I suggest that those engaged in fighting against this unjust Texas grievance system gather all petitions and send them to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, PHB 950, Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC 20530. Comrades, let’s flood their office with these petitions!


MIM(Prisons) responds: The imperialists will use every excuse in the book to justify their oppression. So one piece of our struggle involves making it harder for them to make excuses, which further exposes them as the willful oppressor. In that light we are promoting this comrade’s suggestion as a next step for the campaign in Texas.

UPDATE: Texas prisoners also need to send formal complaints letters/I-60’s to the Central Grievance Office, PO Box 99 Huntsville, TX 77342-0099. Also, MIM(Prisons) has a new guide available for the Texas grievance system combining the information from a couple supporters of this campaign.

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 34]
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CA Strike Suspended: CDCR Will Not Meet 5 Core Demands

Red book prisoners

6 September 2013 – Yesterday, the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective released a statement announcing they had ceased their hunger strike to end torture in California prisons after two months. This came about two weeks after San Quentin prisoners had ceased their strike, announcing they’d entered into negotiations with the warden about conditions in the Administrative Segregation Unit (Ad-Seg). We do not yet have information on strikers at the Corcoran SHU, or anywhere else prisoners may still be striking. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported that before the Short Corridor Collective stopped, 100 people were still on strike, 40 of whom had gone for two months straight.(1)

According to the Collective’s statement, they have suspended their strike in response to a pledge by state legislators Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock and Tom Hayden to hold a legislative hearing into conditions in the Security Housing Units (SHU) and the debriefing process. MIM(Prisons) is not optimistic of the outcome of such hearings. Ammiano held a hearing in August 2011 in response to the first of three mass hunger strikes around this struggle, and nothing changed, leading to the second hunger strike that October. Back in 2003, our comrades as part of the United Front to Abolish the SHU attended a legislative hearing on the conditions in the California SHU and the validation process. They published an article entitled, “CA senate hearings on the SHU: we can’t reform torture.” Ten years later, little has changed. These hearings keep happening, but they are little more than pacifying talks by those in power. The facts have been out there, the state has known what is going on in these torture cells. So what is the difference now? And how can we actually change things?

CDCR Done Addressing Problems

Before we look at how we can change things, let’s further dispel any illusions that the CDCR or the state of California is going to be the source of this change. In the latest iteration of the strike, an additional 40 demands were drafted around smaller issues and widely circulated to supplement the 5 core demands. On 26 August 2013, the CDCR released a point-by-point response to the demands of those who have been on hunger strike since July 8. The announcement by the CDCR cites a 5 June 2013 memo that allegedly addresses many of these supplemental demands. Others are listed as being non-issues or non-negotiable.

As to the core demands, the CDCR once again disingenuously stated that they do not utilize “solitary confinement.” Whatever they want to call it, holding people in tiny rooms for long periods of time (many have spent decades) without humyn contact, without being able to go outside, without any programs to engage in, is torture. They then put forth their new Security Threat Group (STG) program and Step Down program as answers to the central demands around long-term isolation and the debriefing process. We previously published an analysis of these programs exposing them as only offering more flexibility for the state to repress prisoners. In its short life, we have already begun to receive reports of prisoners being returned to SHU after participating in the Step Down program, confirming predictions that it would be the equivalent of a revolving door.

This CDCR announcement implies that we should not have hopes for negotiations or actions towards real change from CDCR. The Criminal Injustice System will not reform itself; we must force this change.

The Struggle Against Torture Continues

At first glance, the fact that this struggle has been waging for decades with little headway (especially in California) can be discouraging. However, our assessment of conditions in the imperialist countries teaches us that right now struggle against oppression must take the form of long legal battles, despite claims by the censors that we promote lawlessness. Sporadic rebellions with lots of energy, but little planning or longevity, do not usually create change and the conditions for armed struggle do not exist in the United $tates. We are therefore in strategic unity with the leaders who have emerged to sue the state, while unleashing wave after wave of peaceful demonstrations of ever increasing intensity. All of us involved have focused on agitation to shape public opinion and promote peace and unity among prisoners, and then using those successes to apply pressure to the representatives of the state. These are all examples of legal forms of struggle that can be applied within a revolutionary framework. Lawyers and reformists who can apply constant pressure in state-run forums play a helpful role. But make no mistake, prisoners play the decisive role, as the strikes are demonstrating.

Control units came to be and rose to prominence in the same period that incarceration boomed in this country. As a result, in the last few decades the imprisoned lumpen have been a rising force in the United $tates. Within the class we call the First World lumpen, it is in prisons where we see the most stark evidence of this emerging and growing class, as well as the most brutal responses from Amerikans and the state to oppose that class.

In California prisons in the last three years we’ve seen that with each successive hunger strike, participation has more than doubled. Just think what the next phase will look like when the CDCR fails to end torture once again! And as a product of this rising force in prisons, support on the outside has rallied bigger each time as well. As we said, this outside support is important, but secondary to the rising imprisoned lumpen.

Over 30,000 prisoners, one-fifth of the population in California, participated in this latest demonstration against torture. Many who didn’t strike the whole time wrote to us that they, and those with them, were on stand-by to start up again. These grouplets standing by should be the basis for developing cadre. The 30,000 plus prisoners should be the mass base, and should expand with further struggle and education.

If you’re reading this and still wondering, “what is it that MIM(Prisons) thinks we should do exactly?” – it’s the same things we’ve been promoting for years. Focus on educating and organizing, while taking on winnable battles against the injustice system. Fighting to shut down the control units is important, but it is only one battle in a much larger struggle that requires a strong and organized anti-imperialist movement. We run our own study programs and support prisoner-run study groups on the inside. We provide Under Lock & Key as a forum for agitating and organizing among the imprisoned lumpen country-wide. We have study materials on building cadre organizations, concepts of line, strategy and tactics and the basics of historical and dialectical materialism. Each of these topics are key for leaders to understand.

Organizing means working and studying every day. In addition to the topics above, you can study more practical skills that can be used to serve the people such as legal skills, healthy living skills and how to better communicate through writing and the spoken word. Prisoners are surrounded by potential comrades who can’t even read! We need Serve the People literacy programs. Combining these practical trainings with the political study and trainings promoted above will allow leaders to both attract new people with things they can relate to, while providing guidance that illuminates the reality of our greater society.

Principled organizing builds trust and dedication, which are two thing that comrades often report being in short supply in U.$. prisons. Principled organizing is how we can overcome these shortcomings. It is not an easy, nor a quick solution. The opponent we face is strong, so only by studying it closely and battling strategically will we be able to overcome it.

Whatever other tactics comrades on the inside decide to take to continue this struggle against torture, the need for building, organizing, and educating is constant and at the strategic level. Without that the movement does not strengthen or advance. If you’re taking up this work, we want to hear from you and we want to support you in your efforts.

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[Campaigns] [State Correctional Institution Frackville] [Pennsylvania]
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Fighting "Lost" Grievances in Pennsylvania

I am having a terrible time with the grievance system at SCI-Frackville along with the misconduct appeal system both in population and in the hole where I’m presently confined.

In general population I have the option of putting my grievance in the grievance box on the housing block or in the grievance box in the chow hall. I always use the chow hall. Only the grievance coordinator has a key to the grievance boxes so all grievances get processed. The problem begins when the grievance is responded to. All responses are sent to the housing units and “stolen” by the guards on the units. Then when we complain about not getting a response, we are told we have to write to the record office and “pay” for another copy. By the time that is done, the time for appealing the response has expired, precluding you from appealing the response. Our final appeals must be sent to the “Chief Grievance Coordinator.” On four occasions, she claimed she never received my final appeal that I placed in the mailbox with a postage paid envelop. Misconduct appeals are placed in the inmate-request-slip box. A guard has a key to that box, and on six occasions I was told I never appealed my misconduct sanction.

I definitely need a copy of the grievance petition to have prisoners copy and send out.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the grievance system in prisons across the country, where prison workers conspire to “lose” grievances so that prisoners have no recourse to challenge misconduct. The grievance petition is one tool to help with this fight. We now have petitions for 10 states, and we are looking for prisoners who can customize the petition to their own states as needed. This petition can also be a tool to educate other prisoners. You can share it with those who see the effects of the unjust grievance system, and talk to them about how this relates to the overall criminal injustice system and the need for prisoners to step up and do something. This petition is a small action they can take right now, but they can also get more involved in studying and struggling over issues of bigger change to fundamental injustice. This is one way we can share the anti-imperialist movement with people through practical struggle that impacts their lives right now.

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[Organizing] [Control Units] [Campaigns] [Ely State Prison] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 34]
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Food Deprivation Battle in Nevada Draws Broad Support from Prisoners and Retaliation from Staff

Regarding the dietary petition you sent to my friend, we had those 10 filled out immediately, well 9. I sent one to the law library to get 10 copies made. From these 10, I had 9 more signed within a day. I tried to send it to the law library to have copies made again. I was informed that I would not receive copies because the law library would not copy blank forms. The form was returned ripped, with my cell # written on it in permanent marker. Of course this was a lie. Ely State Prison does copy blank forms, they just don’t want me copying the petition and/or distributing it.

However I erased my name etc. from the form, sent it out to a comrade of mine in San Diego, and I asked for 30 copies so I could distribute them. This comrade sent me 100 copies. I did receive these copies, and have been passing them around, and have received many more signed copies. I and another are also attempting to send copies to individuals in other institutions. However, my mail is now being read and I have been informed that if I continue to distribute and push the petition I will be written up and my transfer request denied.

I have been housed at Ely State Prison (ESP) since 2002. ESP is a supermax where we are locked down 24 hours a day. I have spent 8 years trying to get a transfer. I was finally approved last month, and this threat to keep me here is their way of trying to force me to stop passing around the petition. I am not going to stop with my effort to have these petitions signed. If it costs me my transfer so be it, I’ve been here almost 11 years, I can handle more!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just one more example of how Amerika uses long-term isolation as a form of social control against those trying to organize for better conditions, even small reforms around basic needs. This comrade’s determination to continue the fight against food deprivation, even with the threat of ongoing long-term solitary confinement, is an example for prisoners everywhere. This campaign has gained support among prisoners in Nevada because it is a clear problem for all prisoners, and one that we can reasonably expect to win. We do need to be clear when spreading campaigns such as this one that this is just a small battle that must be part of a broader effort to educate and organize prisoners against the criminal injustice system. Only an anti-imperialist movement with the long-term goal of a system where no group of people oppresses another group has a chance of putting an end to the criminal injustice of imperialism. The oppressed, united under this goal, must build a new state that applies proletarian justice, making depriving people of basic food and medical care a crime that is punished and eliminated.

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[ALKQN/PLF] [Campaigns] [United Front]
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LK Leader Calls for Unity

I am sending my revolutionary greetings to you in Black & Gold. I am an enforcer of the Latin Kings and I am extending an invitation to all Latino inmates to join forces with us to protect one another against all forms of aggression and discrimination. We should build solidarity and unity in a united struggle against this system of oppression. We must fight for our civil and human rights. I am encouraging you to unite with the ALKQN in our United Front against the capitali$t Imperiali$t United Slaves of Amerika. We should join MIM(Prisons)’s United Struggle from Within and start study groups.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We welcome this comrade’s support for United Front work against imperialism. This statement echoes the call to Build a United Front for Peace in Prisons, which was first initiated in 2011. A number of organizations and individuals have signed on to the United Front, and we encourage the ALKQN organization as a whole to take the leadership to a bigger stage and formally become a signatory to the UFPP. We believe that the politically conscious leaders of the ALKQN, including this writer, agree with the five principles of the UFPP: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism, and Independence. And for the leadership of large organizations such as the ALKQN to come together and declare to the membership that these are core principles of their LO will send a powerful message to individuals and other LOs across the country.

For those interested in joining the United Front for Peace in Prisons, send your organization’s name and a statement of unity to MIM(Prisons). Your statement can explain what the united front principles mean to your organization, how they relate to your work, why they are important, etc.

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[Abuse] [Campaigns] [Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Medical Care]
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Hunger Striker Dies in Corcoran

billy sell rip
Original art by Billy Sell of the torture cell
he died in at Corcoran State Prison.
On Monday, 22 July 2013, 32-year-old Billy “Guero” Sell died in his cell in the Security Housing Unit at Corcoran State Prison. Prisoners near him reported that he had been requesting medical attention while on hunger strike, but his requests were ignored.(1)

MIM(Prisons) has joined the many organizations and individuals who are demanding that the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) address the medical needs of prisoners throughout the hunger strike. These people are hired as public servants, and yet they allow people to suffer and die by denying basic medical care. We don’t know what the cause of Billy Sell’s death was, but we know a number of comrades who have known conditions that are not being addressed during the hunger strike. While those on strike are not getting the state-mandated medical checks.

In our years of experience advocating for U.$. prisoners, it has not been uncommon for Amerikans to say “let them rot” or even become belligerent towards us for something as benign as handing out a flier. It is no surprise then, that our comrades are reporting similar attitudes from the staff who are overseeing their well-being in California prisons.

This kind of oppression is exactly what the current prison movement needs to combat. There is a social force opposing the lumpen of the oppressed nations. And the only way to stop this abuse is for the lumpen of the oppressed nations to organize as a counter force, which means organizing in a different way than they have been in recent decades. Ensuring prisoner health requires survival programs organized by the oppressed populations themselves. These are rights that prisoners supposedly have in this country. But as we know, no rights are guaranteed unless you fight for them.

As the strike in California passes the 20-day mark, the tens of thousands of people who have completed their solidarity strikes need to be building more long-term institutions - study groups, health campaigns, legal assistance clinics, etc. These are the first steps towards building independent institutions of the oppressed, which are necessary because the existing institutions of the state will kill us.

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[Campaigns] [Hunger Strike] [Martinez Detention Facility - Contra Costa County Jail] [California] [ULK Issue 34]
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Martinez Hunger Strike Ends with Partial Victory

On 07-19-2013 all MDF hunger strikers suspended their hunger strike. Below are the demands that were met by MDF command staff:

DEMAND #1 was granted in full. Classification shall tell you in writing what you are being held in Ad-Seg for as well as program expectations to be released from Ad-Seg.

DEMAND #2 Command staff is working to come up with a free time schedule that follows title 15 standards. One part of this that is granted in full is that all detainees will be given an opportunity to empty their trash can EVERYDAY.

DEMAND #3 had 3 parts. Two parts were granted in full. MDF medical/mental health staff shall no longer conduct ANY type of appointment on the intercom system nor at detainees’ cell door where private medical issues are heard by others in violation of medical privacy laws (HIPPA). The third part of allowing Ad-Seg detainees’ to reach medical triage on the phone systems, as all other modules do, is still being worked on with command staff.

DEMAND #4 Command staff informed classification to ONLY house mentally ill inmates on D-module as a last resort.

DEMAND #5 was granted in full. ALL MDF detainees’ will be allowed to purchase ink pen fillers from canteen. Also necessary photo copies will be made for detainees’ filing court documents. These will be implemented in a reasonable time frame.

It is in good faith that we suspend our hunger strike and that MDF command staff will continue to implement our 5 Core Demands. MDF command staff has been very open to our ideas. With the exception of DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE who tried to guide detainees’ into refusing water as well as food.
We hope all other hunger strikers can get some much needed relief on their demands. If this does not occur we will resume our hunger strike.
Special thank you to our loved ones on the streets, all organizations and media outlets who covered our struggle, as well as Sarah Shroud, Shane Bauer- Welcome home & Dan Horowitz, Nicole, Lesli and Mikes sister.


MIM(Prisons) responds: See the original article announcing the Martinez demands where we address the shortcomings of their demands, which included segregating mentally ill prisoners. The victories here are small reforms riding on the coat tails of the central struggle here, which is to shut down long-term isolation. Control units were originally created to separate leaders from the general population. But this division has been two-fold in that now the interests of those in control units are not felt as dearly by those in general population. Even so, the last few weeks have shown a great level of consciousness among the whole prison population about the inhumane conditions those comrades in SHU and Ad-Seg face. We hope those who stood up in Martinez continue to support that struggle, which is really central to the prison movement itself. Without a prison movement, prisoners have no real means of addressing abuse, which can be so common in prison.

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