On 14 February 2014, I won a very small victory in my struggle against the oppression of political beliefs in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections.
On 10 February 2014, I received two notices from the mail room, indicating that both the November/December (#35) and the January/February (#36) issues of Under Lock & Key were being rejected. The reasons given were that these publications supported "disobedience and insurrection."
Due to the fact that ULK #35 was already on the banned publication list, I was not permitted to appeal this rejection, however, I was permitted to appeal the ULK #36 because it had not yet made the master list held by NCDAC.
I brought up a constitutional argument about how prisons cannot maintain a list of banned materials, my right to my political beliefs, and the fact that a prison can not ban a publication just because it does not approve of the organization it comes from. This was decided in a court case called Williams v. Brimeyer, 116 F. 3d 351, 354 (8th circuit 1997). I also argued that ULK does not promote insurrection and disorder, yet uses prison issues to promote peaceful change to both prisons and the outside world through education and the study of politics.
Surprisingly, when mail came today, issue 36 of ULK had been returned to me. Sometimes you just have to stand up for what you believe in and not give up. For anybody who faces the rejection of the ULK newsletter, I would like to make known, that ULK does not contain a significant security risk to prisons, and therefore is constitutionally protected. If your newsletter has been rejected, I strongly recommend that you fight for it on this basis. Do not allow anyone to silence the struggle.
I've been confined in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) 23/1 lockdown for a mysterious dangerous weapon which was claimed to be found in my cell. I am considered to be a leader of a Security Threat Group (STG) and my political views and my choice to pursue activism, and communism, has unlawfully become an institutional justification to deny my access to you, to educational reading material, and more importantly I've been buried alive in a seg unit.
I'm escorted with full body restraints and a dog leash as if I am an animal. The administration claims that MIM(Prisons) is a threat to the order of the facility, yet no hearing officer has ever been able to point out or identify any indirect or direct word or words that encourages, promotes, or glorifies violence. On the contrary, oppression and injustice of any kind is not accepted or welcomed in the MIM(Prisons) publications. Anyone or any organization that fights for justice, fights for fair treatment in and out of the prison system, and anyone that opposes a system built on oppression and slavery will be considered an enemy of the state. I will not abandon MIM(Prisons), nor my constitutional rights to pursue education, equality, justice and freedom as a human being.
The conditions of my people are a direct reflection of the bigotry and intentional misuse of authority by the government of the United States of Amerika. The prison system in Michigan took college courses out of the prison while claiming not to have money.
By classifying someone (as an STG) the state receives more money from the government. Once a prisoner has been given the label of a "gang member" the prisoner has to remain in maximum security (level 5) where the prisoner has to go 3 years misconduct-free before the STG Coordinator will interview the prisoner and determine if s/he will be let off of STG. The problem is 85% of prisoners classified as STG aren't gang members, and have been classified STG because the system uses it as a disciplinary scare tactic to flip prisoners against each other, and as a way to justify "selective treatment" towards prisoners who refuse to accept oppression, corruption, injustice, racism, etc.
MIM(Prisons)'s publications stand as a lifeline for freedom fighters in prison and therefore MIM(Prisons)'s publication has been placed on the prison's restricted list. I can not find the words that will truly capture the magnitude of my appreciation for you and the supporters of MIM(Prisons). But please understand that I will never surrender to these legalized criminals clothed in the fabric of the department of corrections.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) picked up my pending case challenging inadequate medical services and unconstitutional conditions of confinement in 2011. We're expecting a trial date in 2015. We are attempting to force Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) to change its policy and practice of housing the mentally ill in isolation for extended periods of time. State prison is extremely poor, prisons are understaffed and riddled with security flaws. I am an adamant critic and am vocal about its policies and practices, therefore the administration has made my life here in prison severely difficult.
I am also working on my criminal convictions. I've navigated myself through multiple tiers of appeals. I really had a hard time exhausting all my state remedies in the Arizona State Courts. It took me almost eleven years to figure out, but most recently I filed my first federal habeas corpus petition in Arizona Federal District Court. I am requesting that the federal court appoint me a lawyer to investigate the possibility of state judicial corruption against the Tucson Police Department and the Pima County Attorneys Office. Last week I filed a Writ of Certiorari. This is a petition to the United States's highest court; they only address issues involving "Constitutional magnitude." I'm asking them to resolve the Constitutional question that was left open in Martinez V. Ryan, 623 F.3d 731, 132S.CT1309(1023) of:
"Whether a defendant in a state criminal case has a federal Constitutional Right to effective Assistance of Counsel at initial-review-collateral-proceedings specifically with respect to his ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel-claim."
Because state law does not mandate Effective Assistance of Counsel during a convicted criminal's Initial-Review Collateral Proceedings (Ariz. R. Crim. P. Rule 32), I'm able to believe that prisoners in Arizona are being discriminated against because they're indigent and cannot afford effective counsel during their Initial-Review Collateral Proceedings. The United States Supreme Court only takes 3% of the cases filed each term, so the odds of them taking my case is nil, but imagine if they did. WOW, this would mean that a pro se litigant would have molded the law to conform to the needs of the oppressed here at the very bottom of society's heap. A person is only as big as his dreams.
Fortunately, it does not end there. A Section 1983 Civil Rights Action prohibits a state from discriminating pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that:
"No state shall... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the Law."
The clause is "a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike."(City of Cleburne V. Cleburne Living ctr, 4730 U.S. 432,439 (1985))
I am determined to build a strong campaign to gain Injunctive Relief in a class action seeking to remedy the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment violations caused by Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 32's past and continuing operations. Our actions, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of our conviction or sentence, therefore Section 1983 Class Action is the proper vehicle.(Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74,82 (2005).)
If you feel you were denied Effective Assistance of trial council, and a Fourteenth Amendment right to effective assistance of Appeals Counsel for your Initial-Review Collateral Proceedings because either you did not have an attorney during your first Rule 32, or your Arizona R. Crim. P Rule 32 Lawyer was ineffective for failing to investigate Trial Counsel claims and/or other substantial right claims during trial, it would be important to draft out a notarized affidavit outlining the facts in your specific case and send them to the addresses below. If we're able to gain enough affidavits, then we could proceed to present these facts to a federal district court asking them to appoint class counsel and certify our case as a class action. All we can do is try! In Strength and Solidarity, Revolution!
Send your notarized affidavits to:
Arizona Prison Watch P.O. Box 20494 PHX, AZ 85036
Middle Ground Prison Reform 139 E Encanto Drive Tempe, AZ 85281
Arizona Justice Project P.O. Box 875920 Tempe, AZ 85287-5930
MIM(Prisons) adds: Please note to not send your affidavits to MIM(Prisons). We do not have the resources to copy and mail your affidavits to the addresses listed above.
We commend this comrade on discovering loopholes in the legal system and attempting to remedy them to the advantage of the most oppressed in this country. We encourage comrades in Arizona to participate in this effort to provide more legal support to prisoners in the state (at least on paper).
And we must remember that our struggle cannot stop there. While a successful habeas corpus case may help a prisoner to be released, a release is only as valuable as what you do with your time when you've made it outside. A recently released comrade wrote of the challenges s/he will face after h parole, and the difficultes s/he will have in carrying out political work, even though s/he is supposedly now "free." The trend toward individualism of general legal counsel is one reason why the MIM(Prisons)-led Prisoners' Legal Clinic only works on issues directly related to expanding our ability to organize, educate, and build toward an end to illegitimate imprisonment altogether (i.e. communist society). We believe people should fight for their release, but that they also should struggle for the release of the world's majority from the chains of imperialism.
Related to the topic of carefully selecting our battles, we have written extensively on the limitations of focusing on fighting housing mentally ill prisoners in long-term isolation.(1) Some shortcomings of this strategy are legitimization of long-term isolation for not-yet-mentally-ill prisoners, and the fact that long-term isolation leads to mental illness in prisoners even if they entered isolation with sound mind and body. Of course we agree with the principle that mentally ill prisoners should not be housed in long-term isolation. But we take it further to say that no prisoners should be housed in long-term isolation, and we see no value in selling out some comrades on this issue in order to save others; eventually everyone held in long-term isolation will suffer mental illness. Abolish the SHU!
Understanding the historical foundations that imperialism rests upon, it's not surprising that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has moved to censor MIM material at United States Prison (High-SMU) Florence, Colorado.
As a New Afrikan, and a native indigenous warrior, I strove to show a qualitative form of unity by creating a social-political educational study class with MIM material. However, in a classic predictable anti-social way the BOP censored our materials. By the will to outlast our captors we remain committed and courageous as we strive to expand our political awareness and sharpen our mental tools.
As we study European expansionism, conquest and imperialism we find that their art of politics easily turns into their art of war. By tracking the footprints of history we find the first thing to be seized, controlled and destroyed by European settlers and conquerors is the cultural, political and educational facilities and institutions of those conquered.
By studying the mechanics of imperialistic conquest, we find that to effectively colonize a people the colonial system must thoroughly entrench itself inside the minds of that subjected people. Thus, the educational system of that people must be replaced, and repressed with an anti-social educational system that reinforces a system of slavocracy.
The masters of the means of production fear a people armed with the social weapon of political education, because true liberation education is the well of hope and power that directs and harnesses the humanism of humanity. Education for the colonized is not static nor does it exist on a one dimensional level that's academic in nature. Political, social and cultural education is forever in motion working in a dialectical relationship with materialism. Education is the catalyst for the process of decolonization.
Our brother Frantz Fanon noted: "Decolonization is the veritable creation of new men. But this creation owes nothing of its legitimacy to any supernatural power, the 'thing' which has been colonized becomes 'man' during the same process it frees itself..." Thru correct political and social education the "things" (i.e. the nigga, the pimp, the social parasite, the whore, the agent of fratricide and natural genocide, the gangster, the dope fiend, dope pusha, and every other reactionary element in our community) become true healers of humanity by finding a new sense of humanity within themselves. This is the powerful potential of education.
In Amerikkka it was a crime in the 1700s and 1800s for a slave to be able to read. We hung like strange fruit from trees for just picking up a book. This pervasive ignorance was a sturdy bolt in maintaining the system of chattel slavery, and we find the same system and pervasive ignorance in place today. So for a system that is bent on maintaining the present order of things it becomes a criminal act to possess and process any material that would induce a neo-colonial slave to bend these bars back, break these chains, challenge our minds, find our humanism and take our freedom. The class enemy understands that in the right hands, in the right minds, education would be a dangerous tool. It would become an anti-imperialist weapon of mass destruction and mass liberation at the same time. It would compel the "thing" to become "man", break the chains and rise up and slit the throat of those who presently pull the levers of control.
Our captors work overtime to repress any tendency of the birth of new age Malcolm Xs and George Jacksons. They understand that these jails and prisons are our universities and finishing schools. They know and understand there is a living contradiction between the ruling class and those of us who wear the chains of neo-colonialism. And the imperialists also know and understand there is a scientific development of opposites that's inherent in everything. Thus the material conditions will force the masses to bear the responsibility of solving the economic, political and social contradictions one day. So they can burn all the books, destroy all the libraries, kill all the wisemen, censor all the material they want, but they can't stop liberation.
On 21 May 2013 I filed a Section 1983 Civil Suit against Illinois Department of Corrections employees S. Rhone-Plaskett (Counselor), A. Winemiller (Correctional Officer), Jackie Miller (Administrative Review Board Representative), and Grievance Officer (John Doe) for the unconstitutional banning of the November/December 2012 No. 29 issue of Under Lock & Key (ULK).
This lawsuit is the second one that I have filed concerning the bogus banning of ULK and I expect to file many more in the future. This lawsuit is based on the grounds that the Defendants cannot substantiate the banning of ULK and that the banning of ULK violates my Constitutional Rights to:
Receive and own reading material;
Have freedom of speech; and
Have freedom of political expression.
Any material or support you can offer that would aid me in my battle against censorship in Illinois would be greatly appreciated. Specifically, I would count it a blessing if you would comb through your archives and send me anything you have regarding censorship of ULK in Illinois, especially the November/December 2012 No. 29 issue of ULK.
Filing lawsuits does work! Because of the pressure I have been applying by filing Section 1983s, I was allowed to have the March/April 2013 No. 31 issue of ULK, the first issue of ULK that I have received since November 2011. So keep your heads high and your hearts strong as we continue to fight the phenomenon of censorship. It is just another contradiction facilitated by the proletariat/bourgeois contradiction.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Some comrades in Illinois have been permitted to receive ULK without censorship, after much work on their end to defend their rights. In other facilities, it is still banned. Specifically, at Sheridan, Menard, Stateville, and Lawrence Correctional Centers, ULK is being censorsed for any reason from "banned in facility" (Stateville) to "promotes unauthorized organization activity" (Menard). Still, we are being banned without notice to publisher or prisoner (Lawrence) and mailroom employees at Sheridan inconsistently enforce a policy that labels are not permitted on mail pieces; we have yet to see this policy in writing in any official format.
Several prisoners in Illinois have stepped up to help out with the censorship battle in their state. We recently began engaging with these volunteers on an organized basis to help push this battle to a head. We need prisoners who are facing censorship to fight out their persynal censorship battles, like the author of this article has done. MIM(Prisons) and the Prisoners' Legal Clinic volunteers can assist, but we can't fight the battle for you.
The author of this article is correct that occasionally we will make gains, and expand space, for revolutionary organizing. We can use the legal system to make small reforms that make our job easier; for example, defending the right to receive revolutionary newsletters. But we don't expect to be free of all censorship, as it is a manifestation of the battle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is a manifestation of the battle between the Amerikan oppressor nation, and the oppressed internal semi-colonies. We use the administrative procedures and courts when we can, but ultimately we know we can't rid ourselves of censorship, or any other social ill, unless we resolve the root problem: oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, and oppression of the internal semi-colonies by the Amerikan nation. We can only make this sweeping change by throwing out the entire capitalist imperialist system itself.
You sent a "newsletter" (ULK) and "publications (several)" to me recently. I just got 2 "Illinois Department of Corrections - Material Review - Lawrence Correctional Center" for each package for a publication review. This is the first time I ever got any notice from the mail room/publication review for anything. I've been raising the issue of unofficial censorship/mail tampering because I never get responses from organizations like MIM(Prisons), the Midwest Soaring Foundation, A.I.C.-Chicago (Native American Cultural, Spiritual, Community Centers) or Prisoners Rights Research Project.
It's amusing that the Sep/Oct edition of ULK was delivered only after I filed my first mail tampering grievance, that the May/June, July/August weren't delivered and that I've never received any notice of any other withholding of my mail until after we corroborated that mail was being tampered with and you sent the censorship packet (which was held a month and unstapled/copied and I wasn't notified).
I've seen that these people facilitate, promote and anticipate ignorance and apathy. It seems an inactivate person is a pliant subject. They sincerely don't want their constitutional, Federal, State - law, regulation, policy and procedure known. I've had problems with accessing and copying IDOC/LLC policy and procedure. I actually won a FOIA issue where the institute moved the IDOC Administrative Directives and IDOC Chaplaincy Handbook from the law library to the general library and issued a verbal/unofficial directive not to allow copies be made. I filed a FOIA request and was denied because "the material requested is available in your institution's library." So I grieved saying LLC's no copy directive is in direct violation and conflict with the Illinois FOIA denying due process/equal protection of laws. Then copies were allowed. They'd also taken these administrative directives out of the general library, but after the grievance they put them back. No direct victory but a clear pressure point.
It's not what they can do to us, it's what we let them do to us. The petty tyrant works against the cause and against the people. I call them petty because they don't have power, only bequests/allotments/investments and only to enforce/proliferate the interests of those in power. The problem isn't of equality in america but heredity. Not of genes - blond and blue - but of revelation, independence and manifest destiny. Sovereignty and conquest.
On 27 November 2013 the mailroom at Lovelock Corr Center received from the U.S. post office mail that was addressed to me and sent from the National Catholic Council on Addiction. It included a letter with a 2014 calendar and a catholic prayer book. I received an unauthorized mail notification saying it was not from an approved vendor. On 7 December 2013, I was told to either pay to send it out or they would dispose of it. I am an indigent inmate so sending it out is not an option.
How is the Catholic church not an approved vendor? When I approached the prison chaplain all I was told was "oh it's only a book". I guess as an inmate our faith has no meaning. I would love to see the free world's reaction if it were their prayer book and the government took it from them and destroyed it.
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we don't think that Catholic books and calendars are doing anything positive for the revolutionary struggle, we print this letter as an example of the ridiculous mail policies found in Amerikan prisons. Censorship is generally targetted at political organizations, particularly those like MIM(Prisons) which are educating prisoners about the criminal injustice system and helping them to organize to fight for their rights. But we have seen basic educational material like dictionaries and law books rejected by the censors. And so this rejection of religious literature further proves that prisons are being used as tools of social control and punishment, not centers for rehabilitation. For this reason, we oppose all censorship of mail in the prisons and encourage prisoners to fight these unjust policies by filing grievances, and taking it to court if needed. Ask for our guide to fighting censorship in prison for more information on this.
During their August 2013 Board Meeting, the Texa$ Board of Criminal (in)Justice approved a revision to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Correspondence Rules. The rules came into effect with no warning on October 1, 2013.
This new revision restricts indigent prisoners to 5 one-ounce domestic letters per month. It also removed all references to the first 60 days a prisoner is indigent — essentially allowing the TDCJ to collect "indigent debt" indefinitely. The previous policy allowed 5 letters per week and only allowed TDCJ to recoup amounts expended during the first 60 days a prisoner is indigent. This revised policy clearly violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, especially in light of Guajardo v Estelle, 432 F.Supp 1373 (1977 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16242).
We must proactively resist this policy. Attached is an example grievance that can be filed by TDCJ prisoners. I encourage you to edit, expand, personalize, or revise it. Proactively seek out other prisoners who have the courage to resist this revision. Encourage family/friends/freeworld comrades to contact the officials below and demand that this new policy be repealed:
Senator John Whitmire, PO Box 12068, Capitol Station, Austin, TX 78711 512-463-0115
Governor Rick Perry, PO Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428 512-463-2000
Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, PO Box 13084, Austin, TX 78711-3084 512-475-3250 Fax: 512-305-9398
Attorney General Greg Abbott, PO Box 12548, Austin, TX 78711-2548 512-463-2100
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2068 512-463-0001
Speaker of the House Joe Straus, PO Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 512-463-1000
Another new policy that came out of the August Board Meeting which needs our proactive resistance prohibits prisoners from receiving stationary through the mail, starting 1 March 2014. You will only be allowed to purchase stationary through the commissary. TDCJ is attempting to create a monopoly. Once this happens, they will be able to charge whatever prices they wish for their stationary. Start organizing resistance to this policy NOW!
I haven't written to you in a while due to the fact that all my property was taken in September and destroyed. This was punishment for me helping a fellow comrade who had his food and shower denied. In fact, both of our property was destroyed by these racist pigs. All my mail, photos, legal transcripts, addresses, hygiene, radio, books, etc. So I've been in an upheaval writing paperwork up, filing this litigation.
Since that incident I've been put back into long term SHU, probably until I go home. So in the mean time I'm trying to put together a political study group - United Political Prisoners Syndicate - to try to organize against this imperialist system. Also they denied me from receiving your ULK 34, talking about how it's detrimental to security, these pigs always talking about some B.S. I'm going to appeal the decision.