The conditions continue to be much better here at Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas since I filed that lawsuit on the recreation/lockdowns/food. But of course that could be reversed at any moment so I continue to push it and continue to use it as a tool to organize/mobilize the prisoners to take group action.
We are working on a mass grievance campaign at the moment, to follow up on some of the issues that are in the lawsuit but the administration hasn't adequately addressed. It's really pretty minor stuff, as the main thing was them cancelling rec every day, and they have stopped doing that. But I feel like you're either moving forward or you're going to move backwards, you know? And the real value in a group action like a mass grievance campaign is what it does to raise the consciousness of the group.
There is definitely a lot more interest since people here have seen that we CAN fight back. But the general consciousness level was so low here and the prisoners were so beat down and demoralized that it will take a LOT of work to develop any widespread activist mentality.
I'm going to enclose a copy of a form letter I typed up and sent out to about ten civil rights organizations already. It's pretty self-explanatory. Just trying to get some more support on this lawsuit. And I know your funding is very limited plus you aren't lawyers there, so you're not going to be able to help directly. But I'm sending it on the off chance that someone there might know a lawyer with sympathies towards the cause who might be willing to do something.
Like I explain in the letter, we don't necessarily need actual representation. This is a pretty straightforward case and they are going to want to settle at some point. Obviously they are — that's why they immediately started running rec again once I filed it. They know the records are going to show they were just flat out lying about these so-called staff shortages. But with a lawyer putting additional pressure I think we will get better terms on any settlement and a settlement will happen quicker.
I want to get these improvements locked in with a legally binding written agreement asap so that I can move on to other projects. So if you do happen to know a lawyer or have any other ideas for what you might do with this letter, please keep our struggle here in mind, okay? Thanks.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The pdf linked to this article is a copy of the author's letter ey sent to ten civil rights organizations. The letter outlines the conditions in Connally Unit regarding an egregious lack of recreation time and lack of adequate food. The author is asking for a lawyer to intervene in order to push the lawsuit to a quick settlement. If you are able to assist this struggle, please write to MIM(Prisons) and we will put you in touch with the leader of the suit.
by a West Virginia prisoner November 2015 permalink
For my essay I chose Frederick Douglass. I admire his inner strength, free spirit, and intelligence. I believe that he could see opportunity in every situation. For example, when his oppressors became so irate of his learning to read and write, he knew that things that are restricted are usually worthy of pursuit.
He overcame so many obstacles with so few resources, and he gives me motivation and inspiration to overcome and succeed, although my difficulties are minor compared to his. He was a great man and an unsung hero of freedom fighting. He must have thought to himself that it was better to risk death and fight for his freedom, than to conform to the wishes of tyrannical beings.
He fought and won. So much was against him and yet his spirit refused to be broken. He knew how powerful words can be. He learned them and mastered them. And once he'd won, he didn't let the realm of success lull him into complacency — a realm where many men venture and are swallowed, ending their reign of greatness. No, Frederick Douglass was a mossless stone; he never stagnated. Douglass continued pressing forward, not only bettering himself, but also bettering those he came in contact with and helping other oppressed individuals.
His written word will echo through the generations, inspiring thousands and perhaps millions. The American education system gives him only a cursory glance, then moves on to lies about founding fathers. Imagine if they lingered longer or more often on Frederick Douglass, and the valuable influence on those impressionable minds he would render. Frequently, I wonder about a stronger, less passive and more spirited generation. Like Frederick Douglass.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Frederick Douglass was born into slavery around 1818 in Maryland. Ey escaped slavery and went on to become a prolific writer, speaker, and newspaper publisher. Eir primary battles were against slavery and for wimmin's right to vote. Douglass had a similar path to radicalization as many readers of ULK, even though ey lived almost two centuries ago.
Douglass was taught the alphabet at around 12 years old from eir slavemaster's wife. Even though ey was discouraged from reading, sometimes with violence, Douglass continued to study and taught many others how to read as well. With the ability to read, Douglass became politicized through reading newspapers, which helped em develop into an internationally-acclaimed writer and speaker against slavery and oppression.
Even in the face of censorship and lack of programming, many U.$. prisoners build themselves and others up in the same way Douglass did. Present-day prisoners are not allowed to come together in a group to study, for "security threat concerns," which parallels Douglass's experience of having eir weekly literacy classes disbanded by the clubs and stones of slave owners. Nowdays, those who try to teach in spite of restrictions are locked in isolation toture cells.
Without good literacy skills, one can't file a lawsuit, or write grievances, or understand the prison handbook, or read Under Lock & Key; get the picture? Various sources state that 60-70% of U.$. prisoners are functionally illiterate.(1) Illiteracy affects the majority of prisoners, and thus hinders the organization of the majority of our subscribers' peers. Passing on an issue of ULK does little good if the recipient can't understand it.
Statistics from the prisoncrats themselves state that prisoners have a 70% chance of recidivism if they get no help with their literacy, whereas prisoners who do receive literacy help have a 16% chance of recidivism.(2) We wonder, why aren't there more programs for teaching reading comprehension and writing skills in prisons? It's clearly a continuation of the same exact national oppression faced by Frederick Douglass's generation.
That we are still having a conversation about building literacy among New Afrikans should give us a clue of the ineffectiveness of reformism and the necessity of complete communist revolution. After gaining state power, one of the first steps of this revolution will be to establish a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations (JDPON), so that the most oppressed people in the world can dictate to those who have been oppressing others for centuries how society will be run. As was done in communist China under Mao, one of the primary functions of this dictatorship of the proletariat will be to build literacy at every single level of society, and especially among those who are furthest removed from the benefits of the economic system. One can't fully participate in society's development without literacy, and we need as many people as possible to participate.
We want to do as much as we can now to speed up the transition from capitalism to communism, and reading and writing are essential to this task. Building literacy also fits well into our immature Re-Lease on Life program, so those who are released can have a better chance of success and hopefully also a better chance of staying engaged in political work when on the outside. Even though MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within are on a much smaller scale than a JDPON, or even a single nation-state, we can still contribute to this goal while we build for a society where advanced literacy is taught to everyone systematically.
Douglass is just one individual example of a larger social phenomenon: when higher education meets a lack of opportunity, it produces radicalization and objection to the status quo. We know there is much more we can do to increase the reading and writing skills of oppressed nation lumpen in U.$. prisons, and to foster this politicization. But since MIM(Prisons) can only reach people with written material, we need our comrades behind bars to do the work on the ground. Anyone who is already teaching others basic literacy skills should get in touch with MIM(Prisons) to help us develop this Serve the People program. If you already have a study group, try to think how you can expand it to teach literacy as well. Tell us what materials we can send you to help you teach reading and writing to others. It is one of the ways we can improve the material conditions of our fellow oppressed peoples, and one way we can uphold the legacy of Frederick Douglass.
I have an active case in the Federal Courts suing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for violation of BP-03.91 Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules, and the corrupt grievance system denying prisoners access to courts. I have filed a lawsuit under 42 USC Section 1983 against TDCJ.
If you would like to help me stop this corruption aimed at Texas prisoners, send any grievances, unsworn declarations, and other process documents you may have that can be used as evidence in the two above mentioned U.$. Constitutional violations to MIM(Prisons). Be sure to write "Dunham v. Wainwright, et al. Case No. 1:15-cv-1018-RP" on the top of each document. Your evidence will help prove deliberate indifference because it shows officials knew of the problems and failed to act. MIM(Prisons) will then forward your documents to the Court Clerk at Clerk Court, United States District Court, c/o Case no. 6:15 cv 869, 300 Willow Street, Suite 104, Beaumont, TX 77701-2217.
The Texas Attorney General handling this case for the defendants is Gloria Chandler, PO Box 12548, Capital Station, Austin, TX 78711. Please feel free to send her ALL of your complaints so that she may realize the wide range and depth of behavior and activities. I doubt she is receiving enough complaints at the present time. MIM(Prisons) will also be forwarding your complaints to the Attorney General, and be sure to again write "Dunham v. Livingston et al. Case No. 1:15-cv-1018-RP" on the top of your complaint.
Since filing this case, state employees' actions under color of law has put me in fear for my life. I need your support so they know I am not in this alone.
In war a campaign is a series of actions which lead to an ultimate aim. Campaigns can be thought of as an organized strategy in which certain steps or operations lead to the end goal of victory. Often when people are taking on an adversary, victory will not be accomplished in one shot. When the odds are stacked against you it is necessary to create a plan which, through a series of small steps, one arrives close to the intended goal. This piecemeal advancement is a campaign.
Currently ISIS has a campaign where it is taking ground in the area of what is known as Iraq and Syria. In their campaign they are taking over key areas like airports, oil refineries, major roads or sea ports. By doing so they have obviously decided that each of these areas will lead to lightening their opposition's hold on power and of eventually seizing power in that region of the world. Rather than focusing on overthrowing the Iraqi government outright or flooding Baghdad with troops and attacking the "Green Zone" (the U.S. base) outright, they have developed a campaign to take smaller steps which may lead up to seizing that area.
U.S. imperialism has been waging a campaign for total global influence in which they can act with impunity. They do this by setting up 1000+ bases around the world. And they coerce countries with economic embargoes, assassinations, coups and the installation of puppet governments. Blackmail is used from information that was illegally stolen off the internet or through U.$. spy agencies. Every bit of information they obtain buys them more influence, a step forward in their campaign of destruction.
Prisoners and former prisoners within the United Struggle from Within mass organization have also initiated a variety of campaigns which address our daily struggles. Every struggling people anywhere in the world needs campaigns to address their particular needs, and prisoners are no different. For us struggling prisoners there are certain forms of oppression which prevent us from developing politically or are outright neutralizing us so we must find ways to resist and overcome them, and campaigns ensure this.
Prisoners in California have the Agreement to End Hostilities which is one of our main campaigns at this time. The End to Hostilities is an essential step that needs to continue so that our goal of mobilizing the entire prison system becomes easier. We cannot mobilize people against a common enemy if they are wrapped up in fighting each other. Stopping the violence between prisoners allows us to begin to move forward for our real interests and combat our real threats. This campaign should also spread to other states, and it will. The Agreement to End Hostilities will spread state to state just like lumpen organizations themselves have spread.
A California campaign that is also country-wide is the struggle to abolish control units. Solitary confinement is another small step in a larger process. Control units are designed to destroy our most advanced cadre; it cannot be explained in any other way. So in my opinion the control units are ground zero for the struggles of the prison movement within U.$. borders today. If we cannot save our cadre in U.S. prisons it is a huge defeat. In order to mobilize the prison system for humyn rights struggles it would be a lot easier if most of the politically advanced prisoners were not sealed off in control units.
The grievance campaign is another way that we enable imprisoned people to work toward humyn rights so that they can continue to struggle on that revolutionary path. Things like the struggle for indigent envelopes which the comrades in Texas are raising is a part of our USW campaigns because if we are able to write letters we can struggle and join correspondence study groups and contribute to ULK so we cannot be limited by the state. Just because we may not be in Texas we still support those comrades because it is a USW campaign.
Our campaign in solidarity with Palestine was an exercise in USW flexing its internationalism. When a people are suffering from crimes against humynity, even the most brutal dungeon will not prevent acts of humynity. I think our solidarity with Palestine was also a sign of our anti-imperialism. We have our own struggles in each prison against brutality, solitary, medical care, etc. We have our distinct struggles for national liberation of our respective nations. At the same time we are anti-imperialists and we know that all of our oppression can be tied to U.S. imperialism. Imperialism extends oppression around the world and creates the circumstances where Third World people cannot survive in their home countries. These people often migrate to the metropole in search of sustenance, when not contained within militariazed walls.
Do Campaigns Teach the People?
Campaigns are absolutely educational. We learn from practice. When we partake in a campaign we not only realize what we can accomplish, but we also realize how to better coordinate our efforts.
The campaign does a couple of things, it allows us to battle our oppression while it teaches us different forms of struggle. We often learn new methods to struggle because of this. For example in a previous ULK I read about some comrades who, after struggling on different grievances, decided to create their own legal self-help organization.
From our campaign to raise awareness on the inside and outside the dungeons sprang the Strugglen Artists Association (SAA). The SAA is for artists to create revolutionary cultural works and for Propaganda Workers to bring these cultural contributions to the masses.
From our campaign to close the SHU sprang the statewide California hunger strikes. These actions helped to catch the eye of many within the white left who previously did not support the prison movement like some are starting to do now. From this publicity came various prisoner support groups and media struggles to assist our actions.
From these examples that I have listed came independent institutions. Our campaigns created these institutions of the people. They were created without the assistance of our oppressor enemy. It is hard to see these things develop without our campaigns, so as you can see the campaign creates even more opportunity to struggle and gives us momentum to continue on our road forward.
Take away the campaigns and we are left with nothing but isolated impulsive acts which get us nowhere but unorganized disarray. Campaigns direct our actions toward our greatest potential.
Our Goals in Campaigning
Our goal as anti-imperialists is a socialist revolution. But the more immediate goal of USW within U.$. prisons is to revolutionize the dungeons. This will take a series of actions, or to be specific it will take campaigns.
Prisons are merely one component of the state. But they are one of the most important components because it is within prisons where the most vital social forces are found. Prisons will produce the fiercest fighters in the future revolution.
The campaign is a military concept. In many ways it is a revolutionary war which awaits us because the oppressor will never hand over its power. According to Mao: "The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them."(1)
Oppressed people will be victorious, and prisoners, once revolutionized, will ignite and charge the people. We have seen in hystory the power and raw force that ex-prisoners have infused into social justice movements within U.$. borders. The most advanced parties' political organizations and movements of the internal semi-colonies were filled with ex-prisoners and lumpen, so it is this element which must be mobilized. The people must "go deeper," as Lenin taught, to obtain the most revolutionary element which is less influenced by imperialism. Campaigns up! Conflicts down!
I want to inform you about a new torture tactic being used here in the Security Housing Units (SHU). Since August 3 [2 weeks ago] the staff have been doing what has been termed "security/welfare checks" which entails staff walking by every prisoner's cell every 30 minutes 24/7 and pressing a button that has been installed next to our cells. Due to the design of the SHU the sound everyone and everything makes is louder than it should be and at night we are woken up every thirty minutes due to staff opening/closing the pod door, which is extremely loud, stomping up the stairs to the top tier and back down, and making a loud bang sound when hitting the button next to our cells as they are hitting metal on metal.
During the day it's the same thing except the wand makes a high-pitch beeping sound when hitting the button. So 24/7 it's non-stop excessive noise that doesn't allow us to sleep longer than 30 minutes without being woken up. I feel like I'm living in a dream 24/7 as I'm always stirred and feeling the effects of being denied sleep and not being able to go through my normal sleep cycles. Anyone with common sense can see this is cruel and unusual punishment. The ironic thing is staff say it's to prevent suicides. Yeah let's make a bunch of excessive noise all day and night and not let anyone sleep longer than 30 minutes at any given time, that should prevent suicides. If it's driving relatively stable prisoners crazy I'm sure it's pushing those with mental health issues over the edge.
Also by doing this, even though it's misguided and unnecessary, the CDCR is admitting that the SHU makes people more likely to commit suicide if they need to check on everyone every 30 minutes. I have filed an administrative appeal on this to have it stopped or modified and plan to file a lawsuit if we are not allowed to sleep normally again. In the mean time I'm writing friends/family to call the prison/CDCR head quarters and complain about this, and I'm writing all prison organizations and public servants to make them aware of this new form of torture being conducted.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This sleep deprivation torture tactic has been reported on from San Quentin for some time, and we recently received word from a comrade on pending litigation on this issue:
"I am challenging a blatantly obvious psychological torture program put in play by Jeffrey Beard, Secretary of the gulag system in California, as a payback to the SHU guys for the hunger strikes. The CDCR had to throw us, death row, under the bus too, to make it less obvious who the target really is.
"There is a program whereby they come and shine lights in eyes, bang and yell, using a 'beeper' stick to hit the cell tray slots, every 20 to 30 minutes, all day and night.
"In my moving papers I proved it is utterly pointless as stated, as a suicide prevention program. Anyone knows you can commit suicide during the half hour between walks, and also in our unit it takes them over 20 added minutes to get the keys, get shields, and race in and pounce on a guy hanging by the neck. It is specious.
"So I filed saying this is far too onerous to be a mere act of stupidity, it is a malicious torture of the SHU units only (including PSU, psych wards, all lock-up units). If this does not cause suicide, what would? Ha!"
This latest tactic of inhumane sleep deprivation reinforces our point that the settlement of the Ashker v. Brown lawsuit will do nothing to end torture in California prisons. As the comrade above points out, this is not rogue COs, this is facility policy. We received reports over a year prior about the new Guard One torture program. As one comrade pointed out at the time, most deaths in cells are due to medical neglect.
We view the latest behavior by guards at Pelican Bay as a form of retaliation against the prisoners held in SHU, to show them who is in charge and that torture is alive and well in spite of the "successful" settlement. Exposing this consistent mistreatment of prisoners in California is a must to counter the narrative that the modern prison movement has succeeded in transforming the CDCR, or the conditions they submit their prisoners to, in any way.
The acute threat of this form of torture requires an immediate response.
A concerted effort has been taken up by a number of groups supporting the California prison movement to contact the warden to demand an end to this torture.
Write to: Warden Clark E. Ducart Pelican Bay State Prison P.O. Box 7000 Crescent City, CA 95531-7000 email: [email protected] call: (707) 465–1000 ext. 9040
We, under the union of the United KAGE Brothers, joined with the Prisoners Political Action Committee (PAC), welcome you to our communion. We aim to unite and unionize internationally the peace movement – under the Agreement to End Hostilities – as an ad campaign from prison to the street.
As people of all colors, races, creeds, genders and sexualities, we stand in solidarity with the following pledge:
Contribution to Peace
I contribute to peace when I strive to express the best of myself in my contacts with others.
I contribute to peace when I use my intelligence and my abilities to serve the good.
I contribute to peace when I feel compassion toward all those who suffer.
I contribute to peace when I look upon all as my brothers and sisters regardless of race, culture or religion.
I contribute to peace when I rejoice over the happiness of others and pray for their well-being.
I contribute to peace when I listen with tolerance to opinions that differ from mine or even oppose them.
I contribute to peace when I resort to dialogue rather than force to settle any conflict.
I contribute to peace when I respect nature and preserve it for generations to come.
I contribute to peace when I do not seek to impose my conception of God upon others.
I contribute to peace when I make peace the foundation of my ideas and philosophy.
The Cesar Chavez Peace Plan
The National Coalition of Barrios Unidos Summit in San Antonio, Texas, produced the Cesar Chavez Plan in April 1996. It has become the central organizing vehicle for the Barrios Unidos Movement.
Development of community peace agreements and truces.
Implementation of a viable violence-prevention model.
Creation of “barrio enterprise zones” for youth-centered economic development.
Public policies to create alternatives to incarceration and the root causes of youth violence and police brutality.
Organization mobilization of youth-centered network to access resources for violence prevention.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We are glad to see two groups coming together to develop plans for building peace in prisons. They sent us the above in response to the United Front for Peace in Prisons and the 3-year old Agreement to End Hostilities in California prisons. The agreement was formed by and for the major lumpen organizations (LOs) in the California prison system. It has been historic in bridging the divide between the LOs and the various political organizations, who are all echoing the call and working to build the prison movement in the interests of the oppressed.
I thought I'd share how it works up here in Ad-Seg. I trip on how I've been going at it since the end of September. I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, from request forms, to 22 [inmate request] forms, to 602 [inmate appeal] and no good results. The appeals here are quick to catch a mistake and return it. First off, I am not a lawyer, second I'm a CCCMS mental health prisoner. But that does not mean anything here.
Anyhow, I wrote Sacramento, letting them know that I never wanted to do a 602 but it concerns my back brace and prescription glasses. And they're in my property at the property room. I had to pay for those 2 items in state and I needed them so I was OK with that. Now I'm just asking for what's mine and it's a need. I use a cane and have a vest. I bought some glasses from another prisoner who wanted hygiene, but I'm not supposed to do that.
Nobody listens here and the 602 process is meaningless. I don't know what else to do.
MIM(Prisons) responds: California was where the demand for grievances to be addressed began five years ago. It has since been taken up by comrades in a dozen other states. The focus is on petitioning state and federal officials responsible for the care of prisoners. In doing so, comrades are attempting to rally prisoners together as a group to defend their basic rights, like the ones the writer above describes; basic medical care and property rights.
But there are reasons why the arms of the injustice system are so unaccountable. Their central task is to control certain populations, and they must be given leeway to achieve that task. If their task was about justice, then obviously injustices like the ones above would not be tolerated. So we must rally together to ensure the rights of all are respected. Yet, ultimately, we must build a system that serves the interests of those who are oppressed and exploited by the current imperialist system that dominates our world. Petitions will not prevent these ongoing abuses.
I hope this helps some how people in Texas, California, and Florida with how their grievance procedure is done. We have nothing compared to what I read goes on in those places. I filed 26 ICRs (informal complaints) and 11 NOGs(Notice of Grievance) in 2015. A five year low for me. The most serious grievance I made was a staff member trying to kill a litter of kittens.
Chillicothe Correctional Institution (CCI) is an old army base. It's 100 years old. There's 74 acres inside the fence with 2800 prisoners here. It's Ohio's oldest, largest, and most inmates prison. There are approximately 40 cats (outside cats) that we take care of that CCI refuses to help. We found homes for 14 last year.
Most of my grievances last year were to fix things or get things like fixing lights and coffee makers, to getting trash cans and clocks. But I've had years where it's been a lot worse and I've dealt or helped deal with problems closer to what I read in ULK.
It's nice having an institutional inspector who takes pride in his numbers. He likes having one of the lowest number of grievances compared to the other 29 institutions while in some instances having 2 times the number of prisoners. In doing that, he plays with the numbers a little, but that's how I get things done for myself and others. Commissary won't reimburse someone for a $2 copy card that was defective? Well, here's the claim (an NOG). Once he gets it, looks at it, he calls you up to his office. He then says if you take this NOG back, I'll copy anything you need. In another case, he's given out stamped envelopes, just so he does not have to log the grievance and keep his numbers down. For a small compensation grievance like this it's easier to do this than to put through the paperwork for a credit to your account. Quicker too.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade sets a good example pursuing grievances that are both large and small. And it's a very good tactic to take advantage of any opportunity to win a case, even if it's just for a few copies. Our victories and losses will come and go over time, but we must remain vigilant in fighting for our rights and seeking opportunities to gain some organizing space and resources. Our struggle is a long one, with the goal of overthrowing imperialism not likely to come in the near future. Let's take advantage of these small victories to help build unity and strength to fight the bigger anti-imperialist battle.