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[Censorship] [Political Repression] [Abuse] [Winn Correctional Center] [Louisiana] [ULK Issue 51]
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Private Prisons Exposed, and Same as Public

UFPP for all liberation

Recently an exposé of the private prison Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Lousiana, run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was published in Mother Jones.(1) The article explains conditions which are completely inhumane, and many of the atrocities are linked to the CCA's drive for profit.

In the section about the mailroom, the author Shane Bauer mentions Under Lock & Key:

"Around the mail room, there are bulletins posted of things to look out for: an anti-imperialist newsletter called Under Lock and Key, an issue of Forbes that comes with a miniature wireless internet router, a CD from a Chicano gangster rapper with a track titled 'Death on a CO.'"

Curiously, Winn mailroom staff consider political education just as dangerous to the prison environment as electronics and death threats. This blatant censorship is not unique to this facility, and is not unique to private prisons. There are many state-run facilities all across the country where we know our mail is censored in a similar manner. Unfortunately we don't have an investigative reporter inside, and, only being able to communicate with our comrades through the mail, we are not able to combat this censorship or expose it. We post known censorship incidents on our website, but the reality is that we will never know what happens to approximately two-thirds of the mail we send in.

In reading the exposé, one might start to believe this private prison is different from public prisons. That's one of the major downsides of this piece: it leaves the reader wondering, assuming that state-run facilities are inherently better. Yet we post many articles from our correspondents inside showing that state-run facilities can be just as bad as Winn Correctional Center: lack of appropriate medical care leading to long-term health problems, lack of programming, arbitrary lockdowns, excessive use of force, lack of discretion in hiring personnel, and the list goes on.

To campaign against private prisons is to assert that state-run prisons are acceptable. It legitimizes the United $tates government as an impartial arbiter. It says that it isn't the prison that's bad, but instead just the aspect of private ownership. Yet MIM(Prisons) sees the prison struggle in the United $tates as one against social control generally — whether private or state-run.

We thank Shane Bauer for writing this horrific piece for the benefit of our fight against inhumane prison conditions. And we must look at the bigger picture, how state-run facilities fit in, and how the prison reform movement interacts with the struggle for self-determination of the internal semi-colonies and the liberation of the Third World from imperialism's death grip. Certainly imprisonment for profit must be abolished. But this phenomena could only develop inside a capitalist economy. If not this atrocity of capitalism, then there will be another one, and there certainly are. If our struggle is limited to simply abolishing private ownership of prisons, we will have wasted much time and energy that could have been spent on a broader struggle.(2)

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[Censorship] [Hunger Strike] [Education] [United Front] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 52]
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Battle for Literacy Builds Inside and Outside NC Prisons

Revolutionary Greetings,

As this missive leaves me in Revolutionary Spirits and with strong desires for emancipation I hope it reaches you in the same manner. I continue to battle the anti-literacy tactics used by these jackbooted fascist Pigs that use the word censorship as a tool to keep us deaf, dumb, & blind. The administration of these Razor Wire plantations, better known as the overseers, have the dictatorship to keep us from reading certain books and material that will liberate us from the continuing cycle of returning to these slave pens of oppression.

Nothing has changed from the tactics used in the 1900s til now, it's only hidden better. After the Nat Turner Revolt in 1831 legislation prohibiting the education of slaves was strengthened throughout the South. "In the words of one Slave Code... teaching slaves to read and write tends to cause dissatisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion!" Any publication on the topic of conscious-raising is disapproved under the violation of Division of Prison Policy Section D.0109 (f) which consists of violence, disorder, insurrection or terrorist/gang activities against individuals, group organizations, the government or any of its institutions! We are given the option to appeal the disapproval, it’s then sent to the Publication Review Committee, and 80% of the time they agree with the first disapproval. The recent publications disapproved of mine are the new issue of Under Lock & Key, The Wretched of the Earth, and Huey P. Newton's To Die for the People! The Wretched of the Earth was approved [on appeal]. I’m still waiting on the approval of the other two publications.

The Commune here at this Razor Wire Plantation came together to form a hunger strike due to conditions we are burdened with, such as the high percentage of disapproved publications. We were promised that we would be allowed to receive publications if we agreed to end the hunger strike! I must say that lately books have been coming in that would not have made it past the mail room. Before the hunger strike I brought to the attention of the overseer that decides to allow us to have the books or material sent in, that there were books in the library of this Razor Wire Plantation that encourage racism, the hanging of Blacks, but those books are OK because they are in favor of the "overseer's" ideology. When brought to the attention of this certain overseer I was laughed at when I showed him the pictures out of a library book titled The Red Summer of 1919, where a Black man was being burnt alive while a mob of whites looked on with smiles on their face. I was asked by this overseer why would those pictures bother me so much when I’m not a man of color? What I should do was mind my business and order books other than the ones I been ordering was what I was told!

So I asked myself this question: is it possible for a white man to detest racism, oppression, repression, classism and capitalism as much as I do? Yes Racism is alive and well, but when you are a victim of classism it causes you to detest Racism! In today's time you don’t have certain communities among the proletarian class that's for one race only!(*) No, the poor live with the poor and the bourgeoisies live among the capitalists. The proletarian class and the lumpen are victims of poor education, which as we know is a pipeline to these Razor Wire Plantations. The educational system for the poor is a joke! (Angela Davis said: there is a distinct and qualitative difference between one breaking a law for one's own individual self-interest and violating it in the interest of a class or a people whose oppression is expressed directly or indirectly, though in many cases he/she is a victim). Poor education is another tactic used by the capitalist to be able to exploit the proletarian class! While selling their labor just to keep the lights on and food on the table there is no extra income for higher educational opportunity! So the proletarian class education system is the framework of the capitalist! The bourgeoisie gains their strength and stability from framework of poor education for the proletarian class. With proper education and educational opportunities the proletarian class could liberate themselves from the need to sell their labor to provide their loved ones with life's necessities! The capitalist know if this was to happen then the stronghold they have over the poor would be no longer!

Most of us allow ourselves to be controlled because of fear of losing something. This fear is what the bourgeoisie uses against us to control us. These chains must be broken for emancipation to take place! It starts with the necessities of solidarity.

Being in solidarity among the proletarian class means building strong relationships and strong communities of resistance. We must get back to the foundation of movement building, which is about building relationships and sustainable communities while breaking out of the confines of single issue organizing. Our accountability lies in what we do within our own communities. Focusing on our communities compels us to understand First World privilege (i.e. if you reside here you’ve got privilege). On the contrary privilege is layered by histories of slavery, colonization, patriarchal control, etc. Our solidarity struggles must therefore find ways to address these inequalities within. This involves listening and learning from the struggles of the proletarian masses. This would take the kind of inter-communal solidarity that Huey P. Newton had in mind.

Comrades, it starts with us held captive within the gulags of these Razor Wire Plantations. How, you ask? Turning these Slave pens of oppression into Schools of Liberation! The Science of Revolution must be spread to the masses of the communities! The help of Revolutionary intellectuals is a must because the key to the people’s unity is Revolutionary Consciousness! Instead of wasting time on who is right and who is wrong, instead of not being in solidarity with the next person because of their skin color, we must come together and spread the Science of Revolution to the unconscious. Theory is made to be advanced; nothing can stay the same because the capitalists strategize ideas to continue to control change every day. When one advances the theory of Marx, Lenin, or Mao it is not in disrespect or disregard of these great Revolutionists. Lenin said: "without Revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement." We must focus on our communities. If our own communities are not strong enough to stand up to neoconservatives, then the work of those who promulgate war without end, the dictatorship of the free market, and the stealing of indigenous land will be made all the easier! With no unity among us then we are weak and not a factor! There are many organizations, groups, and cadres with different ideologies but have the same goal in mind! As long as we fight amongst ourselves then we are allowing capitalism to live!

The future of our emancipation lies in our hands people. So as I bring this to an end, I ask that you really think about our own Liberation and the well being of our communities as well as the future of education for the youth. Frantz Fanon said: "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission and fulfill it or betray it." What’s your mission?


MIM(Prisons) adds: It is timely that comrades are organizing actions to protest censorship of educational materials by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS), as we just learned that a lawsuit will be going to trial on the same issue. Comrades on the inside and outside are making moves that culminate five years of consistent paperwork battles between MIM Distributors volunteers and NC prisoners on one side and NCDPS prisoncrats on the other.

Those locked up in North Carolina recognized those efforts as our subscribership expanded during periods of time when Under Lock & Key was completely banned in the state. But prisoners did receive the protest letters sent by our volunteers and those letters circulated, sparking even more interest in ULK. As efforts build on both sides of the fence, MIM(Prisons) will continue to support and promote this campaign against illegal censorship and political repression. As this comrade argues, this is an important battle because it contributes to our efforts to make revolutionary science accessible to the oppressed masses.

* While we agree with this comrade's points about education and censorship, we do not seem to agree on our analysis of class and nation in the United $tates. In recent analysis, published in part in Under Lock & Key 51 we show that the class make up of different nationalities in the United $tates are different and that segregation of communities is on the increase. We stand in solidarity with the comrades' actions in North Carolina across national lines for their common interests as prisoners. And while this is an example of class preceding nation, we believe that nation overall is the principal contradiction in this country. This is partially because class contradictions are so weak in the richest country in the world. And recent events around police brutality and prison abuse have shown us uprisings that are very homogeneous in their national makeup. And this is where we see the most radical fractures in our society.

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[Censorship] [Western IL Correctional Center] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 53]
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Another Subscriber Harassed

I'm writing in regards to the letter you received from a Florida prisoner in January 2016, published in ULK 49 as "Prison Scares off Subscribers." The prisoner was placed in segregation under investigation, which ey believes was due to receiving your publication Under Lock & Key. Well I'm from Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling, Illinois. I had received ULK 49 with no problem and yet on 15 June 2016 I received a notification from the mailroom that my recent publication of Under Lock & Key, I believe it's probably the May/June 2016 No. 50 issue, was sent to the Publication Review Committee (PRC) for "proper handling," with notification to follow. And yet here it is 22 June 2016, a week later, and I haven't received the notification from the PRC and/or the May/June 2016 issue of ULK. Amazingly 2 days after receiving the notification they came and did a shake down on my cell and messed with all my material in my correspondence box and yet nothing was found. So I ask please remove me from your subscription list.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We are always disappointed to learn that prison harassment has scared a subscriber away from receiving Under Lock & Key. But these stories help to show the potential power of independent media of the oppressed. Prison administrators are afraid of this educational tool. So it is very important that everyone who is able fight back when faced with censorship of ULK, and all subscribers should be sharing their copy of the publication. You can write to us for extras if you want to share them with others. In this way we can spread the power of one copy of the publication to reach many people and help compensate for the widespread censorship we face.

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[Censorship] [Organizing] [Valdosta Correctional Institution] [Georgia] [ULK Issue 51]
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Overcome Censorship on Tier Program

I've accomplished one of my short-term goals with the help of MIM(Prisons). I received your censorship pack on the situation that these pigs was holding my mail, from y'all and some of my family. Once I read the censorship pack I immediately put it in effect with grievances stating S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedures) and case laws. Once the administration received my paperwork with the "example of proof and service," that next day I received a bulk of mail from October and also Under Lock & Key issues.

Once that was successful, I gave my fellow comrades the game. Now I'm willing to see what else we can accomplish on this Tier II in order to make our time a little better. As I tell my fellow comrades, we need to educate ourselves to overcome our situation. With the structure of the United Front; principles of peace, UNITY, growth, internationalism, and independence. I'm still trying to learn so I will be able to lead correctly.

With this letter is a donation of 10 stamps. If I had more I'd give more, because I salute what MIM(Prisons) stands for. With that said our strive will continue. And the oppressor will not be able to mentally destroy any more.

P.S. Salute to the Black Panther Party 50 year commemoration. They paved the way!!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is providing an excellent example and leadership organizing against abuse and censorship in the Georgia Tier program. The state is trying to alienate people from each other, cause extreme psychological damage, and use it as a tool to repress any upliftment and organizing. But we do not have to lie down and just take it. As this comrade demonstrates, we can still come together to fight specific injustices, and use that work to build with others. We look forward to seeing this comrade's work grow and contribute to the United Front for Peace in Prisons.

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[Censorship] [Union Correctional Institution] [Florida]
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Censorship and Grievance Appeals Ignored in Florida

Other publications routinely and completely banned are: Black and Pink (newspaper), Community Church of Boston (we grieved the rejection, now get 1 or 2 then start over again), and Prison Legal News newsletter is banned outright.

Although ULK48 is still officially rejected, it was delivered to me today. Note: the petition about Florida grievances you provided to me was sent to all provided addresses and have been ignored. Any hints as to what's next?


MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this update from one of the many comrades in Florida who have tried to use the petition to demand their grievances be addressed. We are unfortunately not surprised to hear that there has been no response to these petitions. There is no real justice in an imperialist system that locks up oppressed nations and resisters while giving big payouts to the criminals who run the government and corporations. The system is not set up to provide rights to prisoners. However we can sometimes gain small victories by using the imperialists' laws and regulations against them. And in this case, with campaigns like the demand for grievances to be addressed, we can also use this opportunity to educate people about the system that we are fighting.

Because of this we do not expect instant results, and in fact can not expect that campaigns such as this one provide relief to people after just sending in a few protest letters. However, the collective force of many people sending these to the same addresses might have an impact on conditions prisoners actually face. We ask our comrades to send us an update in every state where we have a grievance campaign so that we can assess if there is further action that can be taken. If anyone else in Florida has had success, write in and tell us what you have done so that this comrade and others can learn from your experience. If you have received no response, let us know that as well. And if you have other ideas about next steps for this campaign, please share them with us so that we can continue this fight.

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[Censorship] [River North Correctional Center] [Virginia]
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Fighting Censorship for "Gang Material"

It has been over 90 days since I filed an appeal over ULK 47 and I have received no reply. I filed the appeal for ULK 48 on 29 February, also receiving no reply. As for the theory journals, they have not been delivered nor have I been notified of their rejection. It seems that at this facility communism of any form is heavily censored.

I did get your guide to fighting censorship and I reference the case law and the gang definition in each appeal I file over a rejection of ULK. It has been most useful, however, it has done little to curb the level of political and religious censorship happening here at River North Correctional Center.

I was told that ULK 48 was rejected due to gang material being found on pages 8 and 18 but no further description has been provided. Being that gangs are typically imperialistic in their actions where related to violence and criminal actions I suspect that any anti-imperialist group wouldn't promote gang activity.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This censorship of Under Lock & Key in prisons with the justification that it promotes gang material is becoming more common. And of course it is very difficult for prisoners to appeal this censorship when they have no access to the material to disprove the "gang material" claim. This comrade is correct to point out that the biggest gangs are the imperialists, who carry out organized violence and criminal actions around the world. What the prisons claim is promoting gang activity is in fact MIM(Prisons) promoting a United Front for Peace in Prisons, urging lumpen organizations and their members to come together and end the struggle between prisoners in favor of unity to fight the injustice system. Those in power will always come up with labels to put down those who resist, whether it is "terrorist" or "gang member" or "criminal." But we know that the real terrorists and criminals are the imperialists. Write to us for a copy of our guide to fighting censorship.

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[Censorship] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana]
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New Afrikan Books Censored in Louisiana

On 13 February 2015, the books Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Dubois, The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, and Blood In My Eye by George Jackson arrived at the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. They were sent to me by a family member directly from the Amazon.com as per the requirements of this institution. However, I wasn't notified of their arrival until six months and two weeks later. Added to that outrage was the rejection of the absolutely essential, must-read piece of literature for the New Afrikan Guerilla, Blood In My Eye.

The institution, perhaps on some "legitimate self-interest" grounds, could have possibly raised a plausible objection to the book. For it is known throughout the corrections racket that the book "Blood In My Eye" has been known to elevate the consciousness of the oppressed captives subsisting behind its walls. And of course conscious elevation equals prison population deflation, I get that. What I didn't get was this institution rejection the book on the grounds that it contained nudity or sexually explicit material. Yes you read that right. The book by Comrade George was rejected, according to this institution, because it contained nudity or sexually explicit material.

I of course immediately appealed the decision through the administrative remedy procedure. Three and a half months later - mind you that policy only allows 40 days for a response - I received an answer. Amazingly the book was now being rejected because it "contains material that could lead to inmate unrest for racial reasons." Not the nudity issue I addressed in the appeal! If it wasn't for the fact that I understand how the administration does battle, they would have totally thrown me off course with that move. But they didn't so I continue to fight on. Just another episode in the never ending series of "Administrative Justice". A Luta Continua.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for continuing the fight in face of the prison changing rules and reasons, failing to follow their own policies, and unjustly denying em educational material. We should all strive to have this same attitude of perseverance when we are repeatedly put down by those in power. We will lose most of our battles right now because we do not have power. This is why our tactical battles, like the one against censorship, must always be in the context of the larger struggle to overthrow imperialism. Only when we have a government that is serving the interests of the majority of the world's people, rather than one serving the minority of wealthy people, will we be able to implement real justice. This power will not come with a few petitions and legal battles, but these campaigns are part of the long hard work we do at this stage of the struggle.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Graterford] [Pennsylvania]
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Censorship Victory in Pennsylvania

I have received some good news. Executive Secretary of Corrections Shirley Moore-Smeal of Pennsylvania DOC has fired two of the mailroom staff here at this prison. These staff were found to be stealing and discarding mail from prisoners that they didn't agree with or didn't like the contents of. The study group material was among the mail these two staff stole and destroyed. Ms. Moore-Smeal made it clear to all staff here at this prison that prejudice or bias displayed against any prisoner regardless of political viewpoints, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. will not be tolerated unless a significant security or penological interest warrants it. You might remember me sending you a letter to forward to Ms. Moore-Smeal, concerning this issue or something very similar.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is very good news, and if this comrade or anyone else in Pennsylvania has a copy of an order from Ms. Moore-Smeal about censorship and discrimination please send it to us. If this order exists in writing it will be very useful in appealing future censorship. Of course we know these victories are temporary and often reversed or ignored so we will take advantage of it and encourage our Pennsylvania comrades to write in to request study material while they can. Be sure to let us know what work trade or payment (stamps and checks accepted!) you can make in return.

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[Censorship] [Legal] [ULK Issue 49]
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All Censorship Should be Appealed

I would like to comment on one recurring theme I've observed in recent issues of ULK. I've noticed a willingness from prisoners who seem to accept a prisoncrat's word that they cannot appeal the censorship of your - or others' - literature. I have yet to encounter a prison system which does not have a process for screening books, magazines, etc. While they may be loathe to follow those procedures, we need to force them to at least go through the motions of properly reviewing our literature, as once that review is completed, then we can take our complaints to the local federal courts. While they don't always afford us the relief we deserve, sometimes we do prevail, and if nothing else our lawsuits are expensive to defend. At some point the attorney general's office will tire of defending policies which don't comport to the state's own regulations. If we continue to give up at the first sign of resistance, we will never accomplish any of our goals. Those who are unwilling to defend their rights deserve none.


MIM(Prisons) responds: There are no rights, only power struggles, so we agree with this comrade that it is important that everyone step up to fight the censorship battles that are preventing revolutionary material, or any other mail, from getting in to the prisons. Unfortunately many states do have "unappealable" (per policy) censorship. For example, in Texas the [email protected] Power book was recently banned. Per Texas policy, this book is effectively censored forever. We are pushing comrades in Texas to take this to court to not only get the book in to prisoners in Texaztlán, but to attempt to change this policy across the board.

We are not so optimistic that the attorney general's office will tire and give up, and in fact we know that even in victory the courts and the government are likely to just change the laws on us rather than let us win. But we do agree that these battles are sometimes winnable, and it is persistence that pays off. At the same time, everyone taking up these legal battles should use their fight as an opportunity to educate others about the struggle, and why we are facing so much censorship of anti-imperialist educational material. In this way, even if we lose in the courts, we have made good use of our time by helping others to learn from the fight and building resistance outside the legal realm.

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[Censorship] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 49]
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Prison Scares off Subscribers of ULK

I request that you stop writing or sending me any of your publications. I am not involved in promoting, recruiting, security threat groups of Latin Kings, promoting hunger strikes, or any other disruption of the institution. I received a notice of rejection or impoundment of publication on 1/7/16. Also on 1/7/16 I was placed in confinement under investigation that I believe your publication caused. Therefore, I wish not to have any involvement with this publication or MIM Distributors.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We have removed this writer from our subscription list but we print this letter to show people just how far the prisons will go to try to intimidate people and stop them from learning from anti-imperialist literature. Unfortunately this persyn never even saw a copy of ULK and so does not know just how far off the claims are. There are no prison policies or laws that legitimately allow for the isolation of a prisoner due to receipt of educational material, nor can literature like ULK identify a prisoner as a security threat. However, we know that the prisons see revolutionary education as a threat to security because of the consciousness this brings. A conscious prisoner is more likely to fight for eir legal rights, and to advocate for the rights of others. A conscious prisoner is more likely to educate others and organize them to fight for their rights. And so, the prisons consider this a "threat to security." What we really threaten is the security of their system of social control. We respect that there are some who are not ready to suffer for this struggle, but for all those who stand strong and maintain their right to receive ULK, in spite of reprisals, we know that sometimes even this is a revolutionary act.

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