The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out
[Organizing] [Censorship] [ULK Issue 58]
expand

Importance of Effective Communication

When it comes to organizing people in society from within a prison, we find ourselves confronted with many obstacles. Seeing as no major struggle is won without wide mass support, it becomes imperative that we (prisoners) overcome the obstacles placed in our path to cripple our efforts to reach the masses about the prison struggle. In order to gain the masses' support from behind bars we must first reach them and grab their attention. The first obstacle we face as prisoners is censorship.

Unfortunately, censorship is a reality for prisoners more than it is for anybody in society. Authorities can frustrate our efforts in so many ways that you have to admire their ingenuity. Mail can be "lost", thrown away, never delivered or delivered to the wrong person, held under investigation for weeks and so much more. With so many ploys at their disposal it seems a daunting task for us to confront. Luckily for us appearances aren't everything. True, once the letter leaves your hands there is almost nothing you can do to ensure it makes it to its destination. What you can do, though, is maintain detailed records. It's simple, and takes minimal effort, and is an effective way of holding the authorities accountable. Once you have a record established of who, what, where, why and when you mailed something, you can make a case for mail tampering.

What should your mail log have at minimum? First, who you wrote. Second, what you sent them. Third, where you sent your mail (office, school, home address, etc.). Fourth, your general (no need to go into details here) reason for contacting them. Finally, when you placed it in your facility's mail here, you want full date and time if at all possible. On my mail logs I have an additional space or two for which shift and which officer I turned my mail in to. Of course, you may decide to add more details, the above is only a basic formula. Censorship may still happen but you'll be better positioned to confront it. Don't forget, make duplicates of your records, at least two.

Following censorship, the next greatest obstacle is communication. Not just communicating our struggle, but effectively communicating it. Anybody can write a letter full of expletives, angry words and denunciations of cruelties and deprivations. Angry letters will normally push someone away from your cause, where a sensible, well-composed and measure-toned letter will at the very least garner a polite decline. Angry letters rarely garner any response. Sometime before you start reaching out to organizing the streets, you'll need to organize behind bars. My advice is to form a committee or council.

Here in Colorado, we have a small committee (just 3 members) in which we discuss, formulate, criticize and launch our ideas and efforts. Most progress in the prison struggle began with organizing behind bars, reaching out to the streets, effective communication, creating solidarity and achieving a goal together. A formula for success: A.E.H. (Agreement to End Hostilities), movements to end long-term solitary confinement, more humane treatment and so much more.

For us organizing the streets, mobilizing the masses isn't a very difficult task. Censorship and effectively communicating our plight, vision and end goal is the most difficult. Censorship is the authorities' go-to obstruction tactic and besides maintaining records, lodging complaints or lawsuits, there is not much in your control to discourage them. On the other hand, effective communication is wholly in your control. What's the point in overcoming censors if you can't present your case when the opportunity arrives? You already know the answer, but I'll still confirm it – there's no point. Organize yourself first. Mail logs, duplicates of all letters, documents, essays and such. Communicate in an intelligible manner with personality, and don't get disheartened at rejection. Often times it's only a question of pitching the right pitch to the right person.

Note: Prisoners may request Constitutional Rights of Prisoners from their facility's law library as loan material. Related information as well as litigation guidance related to disciplinary matters may be purchased from Prison Legal News, PO Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 83460: "The Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual," by Dan Manville, 2nd Edition, for $49.95 + $6 s&h.

chain
[Censorship] [Arkansas] [ULK Issue 59]
expand

Censorship in Arkansas Under Guise of Fighting Drugs

Effective August 7, 2017, envelopes will no longer be provided to inmates. Please ensure that you write your return address on the correspondence itself; otherwise, the inmate receiving the mail will not have the return address.

This is a further attempt to reduce the introduction of drugs into our facilities. It is for the health and safety of the population as correspondence is being soaked/laced with illegal drugs. Correspondence will be copied and only the copies will be provided to the inmate (should this not be effective in eliminating the introduction of drugs into the facilities, further steps maybe taken including allowing only email or postcard correspondence with only one side of the postcard being copied.) I appreciate your assistance as we attempt to keep your loved one safe! - Director Wendy Kelly

This is the current tactic of repression in a so-called attempt to eliminate drug usage. It's really Arkansas Department of Corrections's ploy to increase the censorship of all incoming mail. I'm asking all supporters and prisoners' families to write Director Wendy Kelly to protest this insane act of censoring prisoners' mail. So effective 7 August 2017, we prisoners of ADC will only be given copies of our mail. This act seems to be the state's way of censoring Arkansas prisoners' mail and an effective method to slow the Arkansas grievance petition. Write to protest: Director Wendy Kelly, Arkansas Department of Correction, PO Box 8707, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71611.

chain
[Censorship] [Education] [ULK Issue 56]
expand

Capitalist Copyright Laws Stifle Education

hueynewtonreader
MIM(Prisons) recently received notification from the publisher Seven Stories Press that we are in violation of copyright laws by making a PDF of The Huey P. Newton Reader available for free on our website. Copyright laws are a capitalist invention to enable the holders to make more profits. In the case of books, it's publishers (and sometimes the authors) that are making money on these copyrights.

For most of what gets printed these days, trashy novels, bourgeois interpretations of history and the like, we don't care that distribution is limited by copyright. But when it comes to revolutionary literature, especially that which is relevant to the people least able to afford it, we see clearly how copyright laws stifle education. Books about Huey Newton, founder and leader of the Black Panther Party, need to be more widely available.

MIM(Prisons) explicitly publishes everything under a creative commons license which invites everyone to build on, copy and share all that we write. We're not making money on our work, we're putting all of our money into spreading revolutionary education. And we want to encourage others to do the same.

Education should be free for everyone. This includes educational material like books. Intellectual property rights laws stifle creativity and education and also directly harm the welfare of the people. Patents keep drugs restrictively expensive by prohibiting anyone but the inventor from manufacturing the drugs. This system of legal restrictions and secrecy inhibits creativity and the advancement of society by preventing people from building on inventions made by other people. Meanwhile, people suffer.

It's only in a capitalist society, where profit is king, that we need these sorts of intellectual property restrictions. In a socialist society, where the goal is the welfare of the people, we will prioritize the most efficient and effective formula and distribution of life-saving drugs, educational material, and everything else that is good for humynity.

We are sympathetic that small publishers of political books like Seven Stories Press are in a difficult space to earn money. With new book releases it will often take a lot of book sales just to make back the cost of the printing. However, this doesn't make us sympathetic to copyright claims on a book that was first printed in 2002. Perhaps access to an electronic PDF is curtailing some sales of the physical book, but if free access is getting more people to read this important book, we think that's a victory.

We hope that Seven Stories Press will re-evaluate their goals. On their website Seven Stories claims: "Our credo is that publishers have a special responsibility to defend free speech and human rights, and to celebrate the gifts of the human imagination wherever we can." They have published some important and controversial books including the Dark Alliance series about the CIA and crack cocaine, All Things Censored by Mumia Abu Jamal, and the annual Project Censored's Censored report. Yet by shutting down the distribution of an important book about the ideology of the Black Panther Party in order to preserve their profits, Seven Stories is working counter to their credo.

chain
[Censorship] [Campaigns] [Chuckawalla Valley State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 54]
expand

Censor Victory in Chuckawalla Brings Pride

I start this letter sending out all my respects to all involved in educating and enlightening those persons such as myself.

These past couple of weeks have been a little hectic. Here at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, we have had difficulties with the administration censoring our mail.

I am most grateful for the letter of support your people wrote to Warden Seibel. It gave me support as to what direction to push my 22 form [Inmate/Parolee Request for Interview, Item, or Service].

With that I am proud to say that they called me back within 24 hours, saying I "will no longer have any problems receiving [my] mail" :)

Finally, yesterday my name was called to pick up Sept/Oct. 2016, No. 52 issue. Honestly I was shocked, empowered to know the feeling of winning these people is such a childish move on their behalf. I sat in the dayroom reading the publication with honor and pride.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This victory came through comrades coming together and filing appeals and paperwork on the inside and the outside. This comrade should be proud for standing up for eir First Amendment rights and following through on the bureaucratic process that is often there to wear you down.

However, this is not the first time Warden Siebel has assured us that the censorship issue has been addressed. So we must remain always vigilant. Our rights only exist to the extent that we struggle for them. And Amerikans will continue to oppress others as long as imperialism remains in place.

chain
[Download and Print] [Organizing] [Civil Liberties] [Religious Repression] [Abuse] [Censorship] [Political Repression] [Campaigns] [California]
expand

Downloadable Grievance Petition, California

California Grievance Petition
Click to Download PDF Of California Petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC)
2590 Venture Oaks Way Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95833

Prison Law Office
General Delivery
San Quentin, CA 94964

Internal Affairs CDCR
10111 Old Placerville Rd, Ste 200
Sacramento, CA 95872

CDCR Office of Ombudsman
1515 S Street, Room 311 S
Sacramento, CA 95811

U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, PHB
Washington DC 20530

Office of Inspector General
HOTLINE
PO Box 9778
Arlington, VA 22219

And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!

MIM(Prisons), USW
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140

*Petition updated September 2011, July 2012, and October 2013, February 2016, November 2016*

chain
[Censorship] [Evans Correctional Institution] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 54]
expand

Stop Wasting ULK on Censorship

This letter is to inform you to discontinue sending out the Under Lock & Key newsletter to me here. There is a very repressive regime established at this prison and indeed the entire state. The censorship of our materials goes without challenge. Why? Authorized violation of so-called rights! The grievance procedure is designed to be a stalling mechanism and as it stands now is actually depriving the prisoners here of redress of grievances and access to the courts!

I do not want relevant/useful information appropriated or destroyed by these foolish people so please do not continue to mail any of your publications for now. I am furious at these methods and practices this system is using to block our awareness and consciousness but I am unable to offer a real challenge because these South Carolinians are fast asleep! I grow weary of the incessant thought of the problem. Merely writing or filing actions to the courts who, with every degree of bias/prejudice, turn blind eyes. We need some direct action! Do not let our papers go to waste brothers and sisters! I do not have any reliable sources out there. Yet, but I guarantee I soon will.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is always sad to hear from comrades hard at work behind bars who want their Under Lock & Key subscription terminated due to censorship problems. We appreciate this comrade's desire to save us the cost of sending in a publication that will only be censored, but we have also noticed that in prisons that are usually censoring our literature, occasionally things will slip through. So if you are in this situation, we are willing to continue to send ULK, in the hopes that it will get to you.

If we look at the last 10 issues of ULK, the rate of copies reported received in censor-heavy states like South Carolina and North Carolina are the same as the average across the country. The reports of censorship in those states are higher, but we still have more people reporting ULKs received. We have also had isolated victories after appealing censorship in both states in the last couple years. Of course, if more subscribers told us which issues they received and which they did not, we would have more information so we could make a more accurate assessment. So please let us know specifically what you have received every time you write us.

Ultimately it is a tactical question of when we want to exclude a facility or state from our mailing list because we think we are just throwing money away. Overall, we know that only a small fraction of the prison population is exposed to Under Lock & Key and we will always face state repression in our efforts to expose them. So we have chosen tactics that increase our chances of exposing the greatest number of people.

This writer is setting a good example by fighting this censorship on all the fronts possible. And trying to organize others as well. Conditions change over time, and organizing is a dialectical process that involves many failures. This letter underscores the need for outside support for our comrades' battles behind bars.

chain
[Control Units] [Organizing] [Censorship] [California] [ULK Issue 53]
expand

California November Updates: Stamp restrictions, Santa Clara strike success and Ashker settlement update

In our last update letter to United Struggle from Within (USW) comrades in California, we announced that the California USW Coordinator would be working with the California USW Council to provide better, more regular updates in ULK to coordinate our campaign efforts in the state. This will also reduce the need to send out separate letters except in time-sensitive instances. This issue of ULK is the first with such a CA-focused section.

One issue that came up among CA USW recently is restrictions on mailing stamp donations. This was happening at CSP-Sacramento, and more recently reported from West Valley Detention Center. In ULK 36 (3 years ago), we printed a report from San Quentin where they successfully campaigned against the same issue through a combination of 602 appeals and letters to the press exposing these restrictions on freedom of expression.

Appeal #CSQ-J-13-03205 was submitted October 27, explaining exactly how operational procedure 608 article 7 was being illegally circumvented. This appeal was rejected by appeals coordinator puppet M.L. Davis on November 1. Davis offered to process the appeal if appellant directed a CDCR 22 to the mailroom. Davis also demanded appellant remove copies of Article 7 and OP0212 which are in fact the official rules/directives regarding "items enclosed in incoming first-class mail."

If readers have other examples of successful tactics around this issue, or rules to cite, send them to MIM(Prisons) for the next issue.

Santa Clara County Strike a Success

In "Broad Participation in September 9 FAM Prison Strike" we refer to the challenge of organizing in California with more comrades in county jails not under CDCR control. Perhaps this will be a temporary setback though, as prisoners organized a recent strike in Santa Clara County. On 17 October 2016, over 300 people went on hunger strike, according to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. The demands were around ending solitary confinement, inadequate clothing, a faulty appeals/grievance process and the overcharging at commissary. The strike was suspended after less than a week, when the sheriff's department agreed to the demands. Comrades will maintain the strike in suspension until the changes are actually made. MIM(Prisons) commends the organizing efforts of these comrades and the focus on key campaign issues of solitary confinement and the grievance process.

Ashker Settlement Hearings Done, SHU Victims Decrease

The number of people being held in SHU has dropped sharply since the Ashker settlement (see "Torture Continues: CDCR Settlement Screws Prisoners" in ULK 46 for more background). The review process has been completed, and 1,512 of the 1,557 people covered by the settlement have been released from SHU according to CDCR, with the remaining given dates for release. The number in SHU cells in California is about 1/6 of what it was before the settlement, with less than 500 SHU prisoners as of August 2016 (according to CDCR statistics). But we know a number of our readers are still in SHU, and many more are in other forms of long-term isolation in California, which is not covered by the settlement.

We must remain vigilant now to continue the fight against solitary confinement in California. As we've always pointed out, these reforms with such narrow focus only make it harder for those who remain in these torture cells to get out. SHU cells represented less than a quarter of the prisoners in California in long-term isolation according to our last count prior to the recent decrease in SHU (see www.abolishcontrolunits.org/research). But as the comrades in Santa Clara have demonstrated, this battle is still alive in the hearts of prisoners.

chain
[Censorship] [Campaigns] [California] [ULK Issue 53]
expand

Censor Watch in California

Organizing in other states around September 9th seems to have triggered censorship of ULK in California. Chuckwalla Valley State Prison censored issue 51, which was the last issue before September 9th calling on people to organize something for that day to promote peace and solidarity. The original reasoning was that it "contained Disturbing and Offensive content in the entire publication." Upon our appeal, the warden upheld the decision and specified that it was the article on page 1 that ey felt was inspiring a work stoppage. California Health Care Facility was the other facility that notified us of censorship of issue 51 for posing a threat to the facility, but we have not received a response to that appeal yet. We also received word from some comrades at Kern Valley State Prison that they did not receive ULK 51, but no notification of censorship has been issued.

Outside the realm of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), we also had problems in Orange County last month. Orange County Jail and Theo Lacy both returned ULKs saying prisoners were not there, when some of them are still in custody. While the same laws apply to county jails, we must come up with tactics to address them in addition to CDCR.

Chuckwalla seems to be going hard on mail interference. One comrade reports that not only were ULK and SF Bayview newspapers censored, but so are books sent from eir family. Another comrade, who has also had letters from MIM Distributors censored, sent us a copy of a form 22 ey submitted with a response from mailroom staff A. Salas, dated 29 September 2016:

"Bayview is currently under Division of Adult Institutions review for all issues, to be placed on the list of Dissapproved Centralized list.[sic] If a publication was received with your name on it then you would have been issued an 1819, so if you haven't received an 1819 then you haven't received a newspaper. MIM Distributors is also under review by DAI to be put on the Centralized Disapproved publications list."

MIM Distributors mail was banned by CDCR in 2006, until a Prison Legal News lawsuit was settled in 2007. The ban contined to be utilized until 2011, and effectively cut us off from most California prisoners for 3 or more years. Since then censorship in California has been relatively low (though certainly not non-existent). We cannot afford to lose access to our comrades in CA again. So please be vigilant in appealing censorship and sending us updates. They do not have any basis for a systemwide ban according to their own rules, but as we know there are no rights, only power struggles. So keep up the fight to freely associate with MIM(Prisons) and others on the outside!

chain
[Censorship] [Union Correctional Institution] [Florida] [ULK Issue 54]
expand

Florida Prison Ban on MIM Pubs

Please be advised that Florida Department of Corrections has banned all MIM publications. At this time I'm not able to file an informal or formal grievance or appeal as to do so will result in immediate property and mail restriction with a stretch of disciplinary confinement to back it up. Enclosed are the latest rejection slips.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We are seeing many rejections from Florida prisons, although ULK is still getting in to a few folks. We need jailhouse lawyers who are being censored in Florida who can help take up this fight through the grievances and into the courts. Your work will impact many in this state with so many people behind bars. Get in touch with us if you can take up this censorship battle. And for anyone on the streets reading this, we really need lawyers who can support these lawsuits from the outside. Check out our extensive documentation of censorship in Florida (and elsewhere) from our Amerikan Censorship Documentation Project

chain
[Censorship] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 53]
expand

Battling Censorship in NC Prisons

As the comrade whom recently filed an civil case against NCDPS stated “there are no rights, only power struggles.” Currently a prisoner entrapped in the cages of North Carolina, I testify his comment as truth. Censorship within NC prisons has been expanded from safety examination to harassing and illegal.

Censorship has become as a tool to cover up the corruption, tyranny, and oppression. Not only outgoing and incoming mail, but also phone calls. When an incident of corruption occurs, these facilities will not allow prisoners to utilize commissionary to purchase stamps, envelopes, or paper. Following the stoppage of canteens, warehouse officers will cease the issuance of paper and envelopes for those of us who are indigent.

The continuous banning of ULK, and similar publications is a problem, but not our only problem. Those of us who are experiencing these conditions, we have to create a vanguard. And the comrades in Texas, California, and the like, we must create a voice. Where is the unity? Where is the solidarity. We have to construct a united front. It doesn’t only occur in North Carolina. Maltreatment of prisoners occurs all across Amerika. We must step up to cease these problems. Our sons, daughters, the future generations, we must fight so they aren’t subjected to these circumstances.

Censorship in North Carolina has risen to the point where it’s an impossibility for my loved ones to receive a letter. Censorship in North Carolina has elevated to the plane where legal documents are not reaching their intended destinations. NCPDS has become so oppressive to where there isn’t a law library in any correctional facility throughout the state.

NCPDS attempts to counter-attack, more appropriately worded as prevent, a rise of consciousness. The preventative measures began with stripping us of the tools which was used to enslave us: politics, economics, and jurisprudence. As the historic figure Fredrick Douglass wrote to Gerril Smith, the abolitionist, in his letter entitled "No Progress Without Struggle":

"The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions, yet made to the august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Mr. Fredrick Douglass continues:

"Those who profess freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are he who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand."

Is the prison industrial complex not the contemporary plantations? Are those of us who are locked away in the penal systems of Amerika, denounced, then deprived of their rights? Dr. John S. Rock, an accomplished physician and lawyer, who was the first New-Afrikan attorney admitted to the bar of the United $tates Supreme Court said, "The greatest battles which they have fought have been upon paper."

We are stripped of our rights according to their principles, laws, and constitution. North Carolina this is the time to support each other, to unite and form organizations, on the inside and outside to voice against the oppression. You are not alone. For all of those whom are oppressed, we have one common objective: to end it! Comrades, please aid your assistance by advice.

The first step is organizing!
One for all, all for one!


MIM(Prisons) responds: We previously reported in ULK 52 on a former prisoner's lawsuit against North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) for censoring Under Lock & Key. Since that article we have not seen any updates on this front.

In the meantime, Director of Rehabilitative Programs and Services Nicole E. Sullivan recently responded to our appeal of the censorship of ULK 51. In eir response, Director Sullivan acknowledges that ULK has a policy against violence and insurrection in our newsletter, ey still says peaceful protest when no other administrative avenue has provided any relief is a threat to safety and order. The real threat to safety and order is the deplorable conditions of confinement that prisoners in North Carolina and across the country are forced to live in. It seems Director Sullivan sees prisoners as inanimate objects rather than people.

As ridiculous as this response is, we need a lawsuit to get NCDPS to budge on its censorship of ULK in the short-term. Getting ULK into the hands of prisoners is one major way we work toward addressing the long-term problems of oppression that NCDPS is able to operate under.

Also as part of our long-term strategy, we need to go beyond Frederick Douglass and the "prison industrial complex" analysis. While Douglass did provide inspiration for many, when it was time to decide between New Afrikan self-determination and integration with Amerikkka, Douglass affirmed eir loyalty to empire and was even appointed U.S. Marshall of the District of Columbia. This was at a time when others, including Harriet Tubman, were organizing separatist movements and independent institutions for New Afrikans, post-Civil War.(1)

We oppose the line that prisons are set up for profit (the analysis of the "prison industrial complex") because not only is it simply not true that the prison boom is motivated by profit from prisoner labor, it also glosses over the primary purpose of prisons: to control oppressed populations.(2) When we have our historical analysis ironed out, we will be better able to take on our oppressors and win!

Notes:
1. Butch Lee, Jailbreak Out of History: the Re-Biography of Harriet Tubman, Second Edition, Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2015.
2. MIM(Prisons) has written extensively on the myth of the "prison industrial complex." Send in a SASE for more on the topic.
chain