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Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [Campaigns] [California]
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DOJ Likes to Pick Bad Apples

California Petition
Dept. of Justice response to grievance petition

In this response to a grievance petition from California sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ), they minimize the widespread scale of corruption of the grievance system in the California state prison system. Instead they are asking for facts and dates related to single incidents or perpetrators.

In "Bad Apples" in the Pig Pen we explained why a focus on targeting individual pigs is incorrect in most cases in our struggle because the problems we address are societal. Although societal problems manifest in individual pigs, focusing all of our energy trying to get one or two pigs fired from our facility doesn't significantly impact society as a whole.

One may argue that the DOJ just needs a place to begin their investigation. However, the petition makes it clear that this problem is widespread throughout the system. Realistically they could interview prisoners at random for details and receive enough information to begin an investigation. Their narrow and sterile approach to "justice" is just a cover for their interests in maintaining the status quo.

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[Campaigns] [Legal] [Organizing] [Censorship] [Scotland Correctional Institution] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 18]
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Legal Mail at Scotland Opened

I am a prisoner at Scotland Correctional Institution in Laurinburg, North Carolina. I am writing to you because of the fact that the legal mail that you sent out to several prisoners here [containing a letter MIM(Prisons) sent to the Director of Prisons regarding ongoing censorship at Scotland CI] was opened by the mailroom staff and treated as regular mail.

Even though the mail had "Legal Mail" stamped on it, the mailroom staff still opened it. By DOC policy I have to witness them opening my legal mail, and I have to sign for legal mail. By them opening this legal mail, they violated DOC policy and broke Federal law.

This requires some sort of action. I am filing a grievance on this matter and when I receive a response I will send it to you.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This letter is just one example of the long history of mailroom staff at Scotland CI unjustly censoring, banning, and trashing mail from MIM(Prisons), with the collusion of Assistant Superintendent Karen Stanback. While this comrade is filing grievances and organizing other prisoners around the issue, another comrade in North Carolina is working on bringing a case against the NC DOC to hopefully reformat the whole censorship and grievance system. If you want to get involved, or support this case, get in touch. Both methods are correct and necessary if we want to combat censorship.

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[Campaigns] [Scotland Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Staff Assault Prisoner, Ignore Grievance

In August 2010, Sgt Lowry grabbed me from behind and started choking me. It is on video tape. I was in my cell and unit manager Covington had my cell door opened and lock-opened. He asked me to dress and exit my cell. I step out my cell door. I was then grabbed from behind and choked. They acted out of retaliation from two officers being in a confrontation with another convict earlier.

My case is a sure assault on a convict. I have witnesses, plus I wrote RN Barrett up for denying me medical attention. I finally received medical attention on August 20, eighteen days after the assault. I've been trying to receive further medical attention and medical has not made any attempts at scheduling or assisting me with my neck injury I sustained from being choked. The facility and the medical department at Scotland Correctional are working together against my claim of assault. I have written various letters to assist superintendent Stanback concerning this matter. I have not received step two from grievance even though I signed off on step 1 a month ago. No one is answering my paperwork.

My case is very strong against them. This is why they are avoiding me. Hoping I will get tired of writing or pursuing the issue. I just need the proper legal back-up. I would appreciate your advice or referral in this matter.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Unfortunately it is typical that prisoner's grievances are ignored by staff, especially when they directly accuse a staff person of wrong doing. For this reason we are working with USW comrades on a grievance campaign. We have petitions set up for several states and need prisoners to help expand this across the country. Contact us for more information and to get a copy of the petition for your state (or to get a generic petition that you can customize for your state).

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[Release] [Campaigns] [Organizing] [Texas]
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Fighting Parole System in Texas

January 2011 will be a legislature year in Texas. A petition has been put on the internet to ask our state leaders to reform the Texas parole board system, a tyranny agency ruining thousands of lives, in prison and in our own society. For some years now, since the mysterious death of David Ruiz (a Brown brother who achieved federal action to demand prison reform in Texas) we continue to raise awareness of the new and old injustices of the "justice" system as it pertains to parole.

Texas prisoners are not granted parole, even though they have done everything possible to be eligible for parole as required by their Inmate Treatment Plan (ITP). When the judge, the lawyers for both sides, and the offender all agree to a sentence, why does the parole board have the right to deny the parole because they decide the prisoner hasn't served enough time? Doesn't make sense or seem fair, does it? Prisoners have a time calculated date which is the parole eligibility date and those having met their ITP requirements should automatically make parole on that date. As the system works now, prisoners can not know whether they can exercise their special review rights, effectively ask for a review, or even know why or if they have been turned down, because they do not have access to their files. It is impossible for anyone to know if they have been falsely or wrongly accused of a transgression while incarcerated. If information has been erroneously placed in the file that may actually belong to another prisoner, or if their parole is being thwarted by a campaign by others they won't know. They can not know if rules have been violated or if evidences that would prove their worthiness for the privilege of parole is actually in their file.

Good time is currently not calculated or used to achieve parole or financial compensation for prisoner labor. At present it is awarded but discounted as part of the parole process (ignored and not honored), meaning modern day slavery is going on. The system currently continues to vindictively punish even the "ideal" prisoners who have been rehabilitated (which supposedly is the goal of the incarceration) making them wonder why they keep trying and causing them to lose all capacity for hope as the promised parole is disregarded and becomes one setback after another. In addition it callously wrecks the lives of families and children of prisoners who suffer needlessly while trying to find some reason for the parole board's coldness and tyrannical practices acting above the laws of the land.

Taxpayers are being robbed of funds by the corrupt parole practices. Prisoners in Texas seem to be the exception to the 13th amendment of the U$ constitution abolishing slavery as a large amount of capital is raised by the prison work generated by the incarcerated people now in prison. However, in the united states of america we should not allow slavery for state and corporate profit. It is criminal in itself to keep prisoners incarcerated for financial benefit by enslaving inmates past their parole eligibility date when they prove that they have gotten rehabilitated and qualify for parole release.

If you want to help change these parole injustices, please have your families and friends go to the following website and sign the petition: www.petitiononline.com/tcb123/petition.html
Also please have them write each one of their representatives.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this prisoner that the parole system in Texas, and throughout the criminal injustice system in the U$, does not work, not even by the laws of this illegal government. We find the demands in the petition agreeable in that they would lead to a general reduction in imprisonment in Texas.

However, disagree with the common misperception that the U$ prison monstrosity is driven by a desire to exploit prison labor. Certainly the workers benefiting from their well paid jobs running the prisons have an interest in denying parole, and the politicians who want the votes of the workers and their families, share this interest. But as we explained in an article on the U.$. prison economy, prison labor can offset some of the costs of imprisonment, but prisons are not profitable. They are a tool of the government that both provide jobs for the mostly oppressor-nation labor aristocracy workers while providing social control of the mostly oppressed nation population that is incarcerated. The U$ prison system is a massive suck on superprofits extracted from the Third World to pay staff and provide basic needs for those imprisoned. This is one of the costs of operation the imperialists are willing to pay, not something they are making money off of. That an industry has developed around this massive project is only a product of this reality that helps tie labor aristocracy interests to the imperialist state.

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[Control Units] [Campaigns] [High Desert State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 16]
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Wrongful Validation in California Leads to Support for Grievance Campaign

I am a prisoner at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) and one of 60 prisoners who were wrongfully validated in August 2009. Z-unit is notorious for its disregard for prisoner's rights. Likewise HDSP and CDCR are disproportionately validating prisoners as gang members and associates, regardless of their actual affiliation.

In the past 3 years HDSP has validated over 110 "Hispanics" off of C-yard. Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) is very prejudice and racist here in HDSP. All validations here are racially motivated. All IGI workers here are white and the new Lieutenant is Mexican but wants to be white. The validation system is a sham. The most bothersome thing is in R&R the COs ask you who you roll with. If you say no one they'll ask you where you live and when you tell them they declare that you are a northerner or southerner just because of your region of habitation.

CDCR validation procedures are vague and overly broad. HDSP is not following court orders nor administrative regulations. Information from informants and debriefers is being taken and used as 100% fact. Some of us are issued validation points for a drawing. However we are not given any notice of what is considered gang related. So how are we supposed to know what is against the rules? Instead this is being utilized to validate us and confine us to the Security Housing Unit (SHU) for life. CDCR is using "kites" [written notes] to validate us. If a prisoner is caught with your general information, CDCR uses that as a validation point, saying you committed "gang activity." How do you get a validation point for someone having your name!? Anybody has access to your information as COs post this info on our doors. This whole process is ambiguous.

CDCR has a motivation for all these unjust validations. On January 25th, 2010, California legislators passed a new law (Senate Bill xxx18) in regards to new credit earning for prisoners. General Population prisoners are now receiving half time credits. While SHU and ASU have to do 100% of the time they were sentenced. CDCR is wrongfully validating prisoners as a tactic to ensure their job security. Many general population prisoners will be getting kicked out because of the overcrowding issues but ASU and SHU prisoners will be stuck with the COs needing to guard them. It costs $50,000 to house a SHU prisoner so of course the "Green Wall" wants to line their pockets with "Green Money."

There are many inhumane conditions of confinement here in Z Unit. Prisoners are kept in their cells 22 hours a day with no windows, TVs or radios. Prisoners are not given adequate winter clothing. It rains, snows, and an average temperature stays below 30 degrees and the only things we get is a jacket. Prisoners are forced to strip buck naked in the snow and freezing temperatures. Lastly, staff complaints and grievances are often trashed or just not answered. In ULK 15 (July August 2010) your feedback to a prisoner regarding grievances not being handled property was to get involved in a petition campaign for grievances. I want to get involved along with other prisoners here! I look forward to your response.

MIM(Prisons) adds: CDCR has a long history of ignoring grievances and it is in this state that the grievance campaign started. It has now expanded to many other states. Contact us for more information and to get a copy of the petition for your state (or to get a generic petition that you can customize for your state).

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[Campaigns] [Potosi Correctional Center] [Missouri]
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You Say We're Not, But We Are

06/21/2010

In this response to the Missouri petition, the Deputy Warden of Potosi Correctional Center (PCC) "argues" that staff at PCC do not violate the First Amendment rights of prisoners held there. When it's a pig's word against a prisoner's, the trend in Amerikan society is to trust their own.

While this administrator likely considers this case to be closed, we instead view his correspondence as another example that there are no rights, only power struggles. To build public opinion in favor of national liberation struggles, we draw out, collect, and expose these flaws in the "justice" system. We also try to push people to change their minds against reformism as an ultimate goal, and to respond to these examples with actions to build a new society. Put in work!

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[Organizing] [Legal] [Campaigns] [California] [ULK Issue 14]
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Address Our Grievances! Campaign Spreads

In Under Lock & Key issue 13, we published an article announcing a campaign about the improper handling of grievances by prison staff. Below is an update from the California comrade who originally turned us on to the campaign.

I initially mailed out my own petition to the CDCR Director Level back in Nov./Dec. of '09 as part of the first wave of petitions. This was done under the auspice of its originator. However some time after the first wave went out, the persyn who devised this plan was subsequently taken to the hole. It was rumored that it was exactly because of this persyn's legal maneuvering that he was sent to the hole. Anyway, back in January '10 I received a response. As it turns out, these petitions were never investigated or even looked into as we requested. The Appeals Coordinator at the Director Level simply re-routed my petition back to the Warden's office here at this institution, at which time the warden here implied that the appeals which I had pending were screened back to me because I basically failed to comply with inmate appeal regulations. This is of course total bullshit! The "W." pretty much just issued me a de facto "695 Screen Out Form" without ever really looking into the matter, thereby sweeping the matter back under the rug.

I then decided that someone needed to step up to the plate and pick up where this petition's originator left off. I began by tracking down as many people as I could find who'd participate in the legal action. I tracked down about eighteen people, of which only three others besides myself received responses. As it turned out, we all got the same document with seemingly no other action taken.

I then proceeded to make as many copies of the original petition as I could obtain. I was only able to make 20. Of these 20 I only had twelve more people agree to mail the petitions out. As of today nobody's received any responses.

I contacted the Ca. Prison Law Office, useless. The Ombudsman, useless, no response, and a few other organizations claiming to offer inmates assistance (Critical Resistance? critically useless). I didn't bother with Internal Affairs or the Inspector General as they are both connected to CDCR and seemingly cover their asses. The DOJ is a different story. However, they will only take action if it can be proven that civil rights abuses are taking place en masse. Since only four of us received responses, the DOJ will not take action.

So it hasn't turned out as we hoped [with an investigation into the failed CDCR grievance system]. I suppose it wasn't a total failure, though, as we have proved yet again that the inmate appeals procedure in the Ca. Dept. of Corruption is nothing but an obstacle placed in front of prisoners' path to the U.$. judicial system.

MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's initiative to pick up a worthwhile project, after state repression stopped the original leader, is commendable. Others who have this kind of initiative should be working with the United Struggle from Within, the MIM(Prisons)-led anti-imperialist prisoner organization. Comrades have been working diligently to expand the scope of the campaign and we now have petitions prepared for CA, MO, OK and TX. If you are filing grievances about any issue and they aren't being handled properly by staff, consider becoming a part of this campaign and spread it to your people inside.

This comrade's analysis of the success of the campaign is completely accurate. We can hope for an investigation into the corrupt grievance system, but if it doesn't happen, then we have instead successfully exposed yet another flaw in the Amerikkkan "justice" system. It is important to not give up even if we feel like nothing will happen because these exposures are agitational points that we can rally people around. Also, like this comrade pointed out, if we send in enough petitions to the DOJ s/he believes that they may respond. So continue to send in your grievance petitions and get with MIM(Prisons) to get involved!

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[Campaigns] [Kern Valley State Prison] [California]
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Seeing Through the Bureaucratic Runaround Tactic

04/22/2010

The above memorandum is a response to a petition for the correct handling of grievances signed by dozens of prisoners held in the Kern Valley State Prison KVSP) Administrative Segregation Unit. In it the Appeals Coordinator does the job s/he was hired to do: ignores the complaints of the prisoners, baselessly denies any accusations of illegal activity, and employs the bureaucratic runaround tactic (in this case advising the prisoners to seek redress within the same system they are complaining about).

Shortly after receiving this memo, the USW leader of this campaign in KVSP did follow the advice given and filed a group appeal on a 602 form. To our knowledge, he has not yet received a response for this group appeal.

Regarding a complaint about the failed grievance system, we do not expect the Appeals Coordinator to admit guilt. But it can be valuable to go through their steps to seek remedy to create a clear example that their system does not work. The CDCR Office of Internal Affairs "concluded the issues can more likely be managed at the institution" rather than the state level. What? Obviously it can't; that's what the whole petition is about. And the Appeals Coordinator says to file a 602 regarding the corrupt 602 system.

For those trying to find a strategy to combat the injustices of the prison industrial complex, we recommend working in the Maoist framework toward a world without oppression. You can do this by contributing to MIM(Prisons), spreading the grievance campaign, or starting/joining a Maoist cell in your own area.

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[Campaigns] [McConnell Unit] [Texas]
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TDCJ: File Grievance to Fix Grievance System

04/09/2010

This is a response to the grievance petition a Texas participant sent to the TDCJ Ombudsman Coordinator. The same information was mailed as a response from the TDCJ Executive Director as well.

"If you wish to comment on the effectiveness and credibility of the grievance procedure, write a letter or send an I-60 Request form to the grievance investigator on your unit, or file a Grievance regarding that issue...

"If you have already pursued this issue through utilization of Step 1 and Step 2 of the Offender Grievance Procedure; no other administrative remedies are available to you on this issue at this time and you may pursue the matter in any manner you choose outside the Agency."

Basically, the TDCJ administrators claim no responsibility for a grievance procedure that is completely broken. These letters show that they will not grant us what is just without a power struggle. We push forward the campaign for the proper handling of grievances as a means of bringing these lines in the sand into plain view.

History shows that the most effective way to end all oppression — including the oppression of mishandled grievances, and beatings endured because of filing grievances against staff — is to work toward building a communist society. History also shows that the best way to do this is by organizing ourselves into revolutionary factions and building public opinion for national liberation struggles.

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[Legal] [Campaigns] [California]
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Prison Law Office and Grievance Petition

https://www.prisoncensorship.info/imgs/20100311.jpg

Above is a response from the Prison Law Office (PLO) to the petition for proper handling of grievances in California. Without addressing the systemic reasons for oppression, the PLO's efforts to fight against parole denials and revocations is futile on the group, and especially international, level.

The PLO "represent[s ] all California prisoners who have 'a major mental illness' under the class action lawsuit known as the Coleman case." In effect, Coleman v. Schwarzenegger led to the conclusion that "severe" overcrowding of prisons is the reason why most prisoners have no access to mental health care, and nominal efforts are being made to reduce the prison population. However, we know that imperialism, capitalism and national oppression are why mental health resources are inadequate within CDCR, and why prisons in Amerika lead to mental health issues in the first place. Prisons in China under Mao led to greater social awareness and responsibility, not mental illness.(1)

We challenge single-issue organizations to broaden their perspective. Parole assistance may lead to "freedom" for hundreds or even a few thousand individuals. But if we are organizing as internationalists, we can affect more people in a more profound way, and for a longer period of time. We do this by building communism. The least the PLO can do is recognize the importance of the grievance campaign and join it.

Notes:
(1) Prisoners of Liberation, Allyn and Adele Rickett

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