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[Revolutionary History] [Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [National Oppression] [Security] [Attica Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 84]
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Book Review: Tip of the Spear

Tip of the Spear book cover
Tip of the Spear Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt
Orisanmi Burton (Author)
University of California Press
October 2023

“without understanding carceral spaces as zones of undeclared domestic war, zones that are inextricably linked to imperial and officially acknowledged wars abroad, we cannot fully understand how and why the U.S. became the global leader of incarceration that it is today.” (1)

Tip of the Spear is the story of the organization and flourishing of resistance to American imperialism as it developed in the New York state prison system in the 1960s and 1970s, including the time well before the four days of Attica in 1971. Professor of anthropology Orisanmi Burton does many things in this book, a lot of which we’ll only be able to mention briefly or not at all, but MIM(Prisons) has already sent out many copies of this book and is prepared to send out many more to enable further study and discussion of Burton’s very worthy research and ideas.

We are asking our readers to send their own feedback on this book, to write up their own local histories or stories applying the framework below, and to popularize this understanding of U.$. prisons as part of the imperialist war on the oppressed peoples of the world that we must unite against.

Prisons are War

Burton begins his investigation with George Jackson’s observation that Black people “were defeated in a war and are now captives, slaves or actually that we inherited a neoslave existence.” (2) Prison conditions don’t originate in the law or in ideas but in the historical fact of defeat in a war that still continues.

But what kind of war is it? One side surrounds the other and forces it to submit daily, the way that an army laying siege to a city tries to wear down the resistance of the population. These sieges include not just starving prisoners of food but of social life, education, and culture. In maintaining its rule the state uses the tools of counterinsurgency to split the revolutionary ranks, co-opt the cause and re-establish its rule on a more secure level. On the other side, the prisoners have themselves, their ability to unite and organize in secret, and their willingness to sacrifice for the cause – the attributes of a guerrilla army. (3)

prisons are war

Burton spends an entire chapter, “Hidden War,” laying out the strategies the state pursued when its naked brutality failed to prevent prisoner organization and rebellion. After the smoke cleared at Attica and wardens, politicians and prison academics had a chance to catch their breath, they settled on four strategies to prevent another Attica from happening: (4)

One, prisons were expanded across the state, so that density was reduced and prisoner organizing could be more effectively disrupted. If a prisoner emerged as a leader, they could be sent to any number of hellholes upstate surrounded by new people and have to start the process all over again. The longer and more intense the game of Solitaire the state played with them, the better. We see this strategy being applied to USW comrades across the country to this day.

Prisons were also superficially humanized, the introduction of small, contingent privileges to encourage division and hierarchy among prisoners, dull the painful edge of incarceration somewhat, and dangle hope. Many prisoners saw through it, and Burton makes the point that the brief periods of rebellion had provided the only real human moments most prisoners had experienced during their time inside. For example, Attica survivor, John “Dacajeweiah” Hill described meeting a weeping prisoner in D yard during the rebellion who was looking up at the stars for the first time in 23 years. (5) Burton sums this up: “the autonomous zones created by militant action… had thus far proven the only means by which Attica’s oppressive atmosphere was substantially ameliorated.”

Diversification went hand in hand with expansion, where a wide range of prison experiences were created across the system. Prisons like Green Haven allowed prisoners to smoke weed and bring food back to their cells, and permitted activities like radical lectures from outsiders. At the same time, other prisons were going on permanent lockdowns and control units were in development.

And finally, programmification presented a way for prisoners to be kept busy, for outsiders (maybe even former critics of the prison system) to be co-opted and brought into agreement with prison officials, and provide free labor to keep the system stable by giving prisoners another small privilege to look forward to. To this day, New York, as well as California and other states, require prisoners who are not in a control unit to program.

All of this was occurring in the shadow of the fact that the state had demonstrated it would deploy indiscriminate violence, even sacrificing its own employees as it had at Attica, to restore order. The classic carrot-and-stick dynamic of counterinsurgency was operating at full force.

Before Attica: Tombs, Branch Queens, Auburn

Burton discusses Attica, but doesn’t make it the exclusive focus of his book, as it has already been written about and discussed elsewhere. He brings into the discussion prison rebellions prior to Attica that laid the groundwork, involved many of the same people, and demonstrated the character of the rebellions overall.

The first was at Tombs, or the Manhattan House of Detention, where prisoners took hostages and issued demands in the New York Times, denouncing pretrial detention that kept men in limbo for months or years, overcrowding, and racist brutality from guards. Once the demands were published, the hostages were released. Eighty corrections officers stormed the facility with blunt weapons and body armor and restored order, and after the rebellion two thirds of the prisoners were transferred elsewhere to break up organizations, like the Inmate Liberation Front, that had grown out of Tombs and supported its resistance. (6) Afterwards, the warden made improvements and took credit for them. This combination of furious outburst, violent response and conciliatory reform would repeat itself.

Next Branch Queens erupted, where the Panther 21 had recently been incarcerated. Prisoners freed them, hung a Pan-Afrikan flag out of a window, took hostages and demanded fair bail hearings be held in the prison yard or the hostages would be executed. The bail hearing actually happened and some of the prisoners who had been in prison for a year for possibly stealing something were able to walk out. The state won the battle here by promising clemency if the hostages were released, which split the prisoners and led to the end of the rebellion. Kuwasi Balagoon, who would later join the Black Liberation Army, was active in the organization of the rebellion and learned a lot from his experiences seeing the rebellion and the repression that followed after the state promised clemency. (7)

At Auburn Correctional Facility on November 4th, Black prisoners rebelled and seized hostages for eight hours. Earlier, fifteen Black prisoners had been punished and moved to solitary for calling for a day off work to celebrate Black Solidarity Day. After the restoration of order, more prisoners were shipped away and the remainder were subject to reprisals from the guards.

In each case, prisoners formed their own organizations, took control, made demands and also started building new structures to run the prison for their own benefit – even in rebellions that lasted only a few hours. After order was restored, the state took every opportunity to crush the spirits and bodies of those who had participated. All of this would repeat on a much larger scale at Attica.

Attica and Paris: Two Communes

Burton acknowledges throughout the book a tension that is familiar to many of ULK’s readers: reform versus revolution. He sees both in the prison movement of the 1960s and 1970s in New York, with some prisoners demanding bail reform and better food and others demanding an end to the system that creates prisons in the first place. But in telling the story of Attica and the revolts that preceded it he emphasizes two things: the ways reforms were demanded (not by petitions but by organized force) and the existence of demands that would have led to the end of prisons as we know them. On Attica itself, he writes that the rebellion demanded not just better food and less crowded cells but the “emergence of new modes of social life not predicated on enclosure, extraction, domination or dehumanization.” (8) In these new modes of social life, Burton identifies sexual freedom and care among prisoners emerging as a nascent challenge to traditional prison masculinity.

Attica began as a spontaneous attack on a particularly racist and brutal guard, and led to a riot all over the facility that led to the state completely losing control for four days starting on September 9th, 1971. Hostages were again taken, and demands ranging from better food to the right to learn a trade and join a union issued to the press. Prisoners began self-organizing rapidly, based on the past experiences of many Attica prisoners in previous rebellions. Roger Champen, who reluctantly became one of the rebellion’s organizers, got up on a picnic table with a seized megaphone and said “the wall surrounds us all.” Following this, the prisoners turned D Yard into an impromptu city and organized their own care and self-defense. A N.Y. State trooper watching the yard through binoculars said in disbelief “they seem to be building as much as they’re destroying.” I think we’d agree with the state trooper, at least on this. (9)

Burton’s point in this chapter is that the rebellion wasn’t an attempt (or wasn’t only an attempt) to get the state to reform itself, to grant rights to its pleading subjects, but an attempt, however short-lived, to turn the prisons into something that would be useful for human liberation: a self-governing commune built on principles of democracy and solidarity. Some of the rebels demanded transport to Africa to fight the Portuguese in the then-raging colonial wars in Mozambique and Angola, decisions were made by votes and consensus, and the social life of the commune was self-regulated without beatings, gassings and starvation.

Abolition and the Concentric Prison

Burton is a prison abolitionist, and he sees the aspirations of the Attica rebels at their best as abolitionist well before the term became popular. But he doesn’t ignore the contradictions that Attica and other prison rebellions had to work through, and acknowledges the diverse opinions of prisoners at the time, some of whom wanted to abolish prisons and some of whom wanted to see the Nixons and Rockefellers thrown into them instead. (10)

The Attica Commune of D Yard had to defend itself, and when the rebelling prisoners suspected that some prisoners were secretly working for the state, they were confined in a prison within a commune within a prison, and later killed as the state came in shooting on the 13th. There was fighting and instances of rape among the prisoners that freed themselves, and there were prisoners who didn’t want to be a part of the rebellion who were forced to. And the initial taking of the guards constitutes a use of violence and imprisonment in itself, even if the guards were treated better than they’d ever treated the prisoners.

Burton acknowledges this but doesn’t offer a tidy answer. He sees the use of violence in gaining freedom, like Fanon, to be a necessary evil which is essential to begin the process but unable to come close to finishing it. Attica, even though it barely began, provides an example of this. While violence is a necessary tool in war, it is the people organized behind the correct political line in the form of a vanguard party that ultimately is necessary to complete the transformation of class society to one without oppression.

Counter-intelligence, Reform, and Control

The final part of the book, “The War on Black Revolutionary Minds,” chronicles the attempts by the state to destroy prison revolutionaries by a variety of methods, some more successful than others, all deeply disturbing and immoral.

Some of the early methods involved direct psychological experimentation, the use of drugs, and calibrated isolation. These fell flat, because the attempts were based on “the flawed theory that people could be disassembled, tinkered with, and reprogrammed like computers.” (11) Eventually the state gave up trying to engineer radical ideas out of individual minds and settled for the solution many of our readers are familiar with: long-term isolation in control units, and a dramatically expanding prison population.

There is a lot else in this book, including many moving stories from Attica and other prison rebellion veterans that Burton interviewed, and who he openly acknowledges as the pioneering theorists and equal collaborators in his writing. Burton engages in lengthy investigations of prisoner correspondence, outside solidarity groups, twisted psychological experiments, and many other things I haven’t had the space to mention. We have received a couple responses to the book from some of you already, which the author appreciates greatly, and we’d like to facilitate more.

^Notes: 1. Burton, Orisanmi Tip of the Spear: Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt p. 19 All citations will be of this book unless otherwise specified.
2. Jackson, Soledad Brother, 111–12 cited in Burton p. 10
3. p. 3
4. pp. 152-180
5. Hill and Ekanawetak, Splitting the Sky, p. 20. cited in Burton, p. 107
6. p. 29
7. p. 48
8. p. 5
9. pp. 88-91
10. p. 95
11. p. 205
^

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[Palestine] [Civil Liberties] [Elections] [ULK Issue 84]
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Lurch to the Right or Revolution

Seems clear that the United State’s lurch to the right is a done deal. On a quantitative scale, how much so is still an open question, but it is an astonishing thing to see and one we better get better at grappling with.

The Biden administration has recently vetoed a UAE brought emergency meeting to vote on a Gaza ceasefire in Israel’s “unceasing” assault on Gaza. Time magazine of 10 December 2023 and virtually all U.S. media describe it as a campaign to eliminate Hamas. Always the materialists, they never forget to remind that it is due to Hamas terrorist attack of October 7, its alleged sexual assault and taking of hostages etc. In fact, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Robert A. Woods states as his reasons for vetoing this emergency resolution that it was “an imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality and would not move the needle on the ground in any concrete way.”

Woods goes on to state the U.S. couldn’t understand why the authors declined to include language condemning “Hamas’s horrific terrorist attack” and “the resolution failed to mention Israel’s right to defend itself.” Indeed the U.S. did propose adding language about its “role in diplomacy, increased opportunities for humanitarian aid, encouraging release of hostages, the resumption of pauses in fighting, and laying the foundation for peace” the Time article wrote. But Wood says the “recommendations for peace were ignored.”

The Time article was further confirmed by a clip of Wood’s speech aired on Democracy Now! (11 December 2023), which then went on to play a clip of Jamie Raskin’s outrage of U.S. society’s obvious lurch to the right in regards to the ousting of an MIT president for trying to defend bourgeois free speech. However, Democracy Now! makes no mention of Raskin’s earlier calls for the need of Israel to eliminate Hamas or his refusal to call for an immediate peace agreement or even his stance on the UN resolution for an immediate cease fire. All this clearly, even on the part of such petty bourgeois outfits as Democracy Now! to accept and adjust to this obvious social shift, but still find some space to claim to be left or progressive etc. It should be noted Amy Goodman often has Raskin on to help her with her Trump and MAGA bashing and to tell people to vote for their democracy.

Back to Woods, he states the U.S. wants a 2 state solution, but doesn’t support an immediate ceasefire as “this would only plant the seeds for the next war because Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace, to see a 2 state solution.” This stupid equivocation could only be logical to a bully on the verge of victory. Recall he told the same council it was due to the resolution not giving the U.S. its props for all the fine things, like 4 hour “humanitarian pauses” and the U.S. aid for Palestinians, not being in the resolution.

A “good thing” one could point to is how isolated the U.S. is on this and the exposure of its hypocrisy on a world scale. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated after the U.S. veto that the U.S. is “complicit in war crimes” and the vote was “aggressive and immoral.” China’s U.N. rep Zhang Jun accused the U.S. of “double standards”, “claiming to care about the lives and safety of people in Gaza.” Russian U.N. rep Dmitry Polyansky stated “our colleagues from the U.S. have literally before our eyes issued death sentences to thousands if not tens of thousands more civilians in Palestine and Israel.”

Even domestically, social democrat Bernie Sanders, who has consistently (see below) refused to call for a ceasefire up to now, now states the “U.S. should not be vetoing a U.N. (ceasefire) resolution.” He goes on to his usual duplicitous doublespeak stating “children need food” and “it’s imperative - it remains imperative that Israel puts a premium on civilian protection.” Social democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (A.O.C.) went even farther: “Shameful. The Biden Administration can no longer reconcile their professed concern for Palestinians and their human rights while also single-handedly vetoing the U.N.’s call for ceasefire and sidestepping the entire U.S. Congress to unconditionally back the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza” (Newsweek, 9 December 23)

As for the above comment of “sidestepping” Congress, she is referring to the 13,000 plus, worth $106 million, of tank ammo sold to Israel that Secretary of State Blinken et. al managed to get to Israel in an emergency sale. The Biden administration additionally has a $100 billion package in aid for Israel, Ukraine, and “other national security priorities.” So A.O.C. is likely to get her wish. As to why this sale required “sidestepping” Congress, Blinken stated, “The needs of Israel’s military operation in Gaza justifies the rare decision to bypass Congress.” He goes on, “Israel is in combat right now with Hamas and we want to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Hamas,” hence the $106 million sale of 13,000 plus ammo (shells) to Israel.

And in case anyone missed it the larger bill which needs Congressional approval is tied to the U.S. immigration issue and its border, “National Security”.

On 10 December 2023, Mitt Romney stated on Meet The Press that Biden didn’t have to tie the border policy issue to the Ukraine issue. But he did so now the Republicans will be holding him to it. Biden, obviously acknowledging he must move to the right, has recently hinted he is willing to make significant compromises on the border. He seems to be saying he needs to be able to say he had no choice. J.D. Vance has stated, “What will $60 billion (going to Ukraine alone) more do that $100 billion hasn’t done?”

In both of the last 2 presidential candidate debates, Vivek has stated he will be smoking the terrorists on the southern border and “Bibi” has to do the same.

Something we can’t go into here but worth mentioning is the conservative Center for Renewing America’s Project 2025 handbook, which is a 1,000 page “Let’s finish what we started” playbook, which is part of the Heritage Foundation’s think tank. This involves many “right flank” organizations, many new to mainstream bourgeois politics. This is to do away with the “deep-state” and in doing so avoid Trump’s 1st term pitfalls of being thwarted by those not willing to go as far as he wished. The point made here is that all Democrats and ol’ fogey Republicans realize this shift is very real and it seems a little conscious compromise is a tactic the bourgeois left is making for its own reasons. Late capitalism is not running on fumes though pixie dust no longer seems to suffice. Now the machine requires the flesh and blood of little boys and girls.

Recently heard our old friend Bill Fletcher on KPFA’s Sunday Show (10 December 2023) saying, like always, 3rd parties are a waste of time, must vote for the Democrat even though he agrees it is genocide in Gaza and Biden administration was wrong for their U.N. veto. Again, according to Fletcher, we must do as he suggested the first time and push Biden to the left.

If only Mao was here and could fight our battles for us. Obviously no real revolutionary is saying this but in practice we are saying these are not revolutionary times and I contend this is why we’re in this situation. Yes these are revolutionary times. We simply must learn and apply the stages of revolution. We may be limited by majority having no current interests in revolution. But we are in no position to be talking about a majority any way. We clearly accept objective factors. Even MIM’s 3 dividing line principles.

But contradictions (all) carry within them their very opposite. It’s a unity of opposites, mere “identity”, not absolute of contradictions. We indeed should be pushing some to the left but not bourgeois politicians who would have no interest in social change in any situation but our own nations, prison class, musicians. And we definitely should be serious about drawing clear distinctions between ourselves and the bourgeoisie with its values and world outlook. This is simply accepting the phase of revolution we’re in. Too many fear armed struggle and fear its adventurist aspects. I contend this means to fear the people or at the very least fear they are unable to grasp revolutionary theory or its requirements.

We’re in the middle of it. This rightward shift is but a shift no more to my mind than a deeper neo-Liberal shift. Only by relying on the bourgeoisie and the fakes should we care if its a rightward shift or leftward shift. Especially if out of our control.

From the outset of this flareup and resulting genocide of Palestine the pretensions of the left media and settler nations obvious new center of gravity has led it to pretend the U.S. is at least grappling with the moral consequences of innocent civilians. Yet Blinken, Biden, and Sanders as well as virtually all bourgeois outlets and mouthpieces have stated “Israel has an obligation to defend itself” Blinken 13 October 2023, Biden “Israel has the right to respond, indeed has a duty to respond” 10 October 2023, and 300 former staffers of Sanders asked Sanders (very nicely) to support a ceasefire saying “We believe in you.” In mid October, Jamaal Bowman was roundly condemned for going to Israel, to see the apartheid for himself, by A.O.C.’s and Sander’s Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). Even MSNBC’s Al Sharpton states “Gaza is not occupied.” We could literally go on and on about how this lurch is not only acknowledged but immediately dressed up and condoned by all progressives, leftists, moderate Republicans, and a great majority of this settler nation.

In the backdrop is always Trump, the MAGA movement, and settler nation chauvinism. Beside Project 2025 mentioned above, recently Trump announced the need for “ideological screening” to “bar Christian hating communists and Marxists” stating “those who come to our country must love our country.” Such is already the practice in Israel. Trump goes on to list things that would be grounds for disqualification: “If you want to abolish the state of Israel you’re disqualified”… Again we encourage all to check this out because this shift is now much bigger than any individuals or even movements. Trump was one of the first to congratulate the Congresswoman who held the 3 college presidents to these new standards.

As stated we are very much in “heightened contradictory times.” Not having the right line on the make up of the U.S. and world economy, nature of settler society, neo-Liberalism, following idiotic communists, and being afraid to rely on ourselves and our own nation has led to very bad practice for years and deprived our people of a prepared and organized fighting force. Lurch to the right or revolution.

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[Black Lives Matter] [Civil Liberties] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Police Brutality] [ULK Issue 83]
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RICO Act Tool of Political Warfare

stop cop city - drop charges

In the last month we have seen the state of Georgia bring RICO Act charges against Rudy Giuliani and others who worked with Donald Trump to steal the 2020 U.$. presidential election, as well as activists who were doing things as simple as handing out fliers opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta.

The Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 as a tool to charge people with crimes when they were having other people do their dirty work for them. Each crime charged under RICO can add years to ones prison sentence. The Georgia RICO Act of 1980 covers more crimes than the federal version. The Georgia Act makes Racketeering a felony in the state.(1) Historically, we have had multiple readers who were victims of RICO Act charges brought during the Giuliani years in New York City, and more recently in the Atlanta area, for their leadership roles in lumpen organizations, the more typical target of RICO.

Rudy Giuliani earned fame as a federal prosecutor for getting Mafia bosses in New York City convicted on RICO Act charges. He then used his reputation to become a “tough-on-crime” mayor of New York City known for “cleaning up” the city. It was during Giuliani’s time as Mayor of NYC that the infamous case was brought against King Blood (aka Luis Felipe) under the RICO Act. King Blood was charged for murders committed while ey was already in prison and received the inhumane and unprecedented sentence of life in solitary confinement. All of King Blood’s First Amendment rights to communication were denied, allowing only communication with eir lawyer and immediate family. This was not typically something a judge could sentence, but was justified via the racketeering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(d).(2) Decades later, King Blood still sits in a torture cage in ADX Florence, isolated from the world. While the RICO charges against Giuliani may provide some cathartic humor, the 79-year-old will not be facing anything like King Blood is doing.

Weeks following the Georgia RICO Act charges against Trump, Giuliani, et al., another set of RICO Act charges (and domestic terrorism charges) were made against 61 activists involved in opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta. This is a continuation of the state’s warfare against Stop Cop City, including the ludicrous money laundering charges brought against bail support fundraisers we reported on in the last issue of ULK.(3) In the recent RICO indictment, the date of the murder of George Floyd (25 May 2020) is cited as the beginning of the investigations around the so-called “racketeering.” In other words, the state was trumping up these charges against activists before there was a Stop Cop City movement. This is not about stopping any criminal conspiracy, it is about repressing any opposition to the use of lethal police force against New Afrika and oppressed people in general. It is a defense of the state’s right to wage violent war against New Afrika.

In a recent article, a comrade laid out the political nature of the law, debunking the myth that laws were developed as a way to impose morality or address inherent problems in society.(4) Rather law stemmed from the need to manage the division of humyns into classes. With Trump/Giuliani, we see the RICO Act law being used by the bourgeoisie to discipline other bourgeoisie who are threatening the image of bourgeois democracy. And in the case of the 61 activists they are using the same law to discipline youth and oppressed nations who are opposing more violent forms of state discipline.

When we go up against the courts, the police, or even the politicians, we must be prepared for war. The cops murdering us in cold blood is war. The courts and prisons putting us in torture cells for years is war. City governments in Atlanta and San Pablo, California funding cop cities where pigs can play war games is war. These more obvious forms of war, are part of political struggle. There are no rights, only power struggles. To engage in power struggles, requires giving the war two sides.

^*Notes:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_RICO_(Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations)_Act
2. Prison Legal News, 15 March 1999, Judicial Sentence of Life in Solitary Upheld.
3. A comrade, July 2023, “Law and the Courts of Late”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.
4. A comrade of Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support, July 2023 “Atlanta Criminalizes Protest Against Cop City”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.*^

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[Civil Liberties] [Censorship] [ULK Issue 83]
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TDCJ Joins List of States Using Digital Mail to Disrupt and Surveil Communications

As previously predicted by myself and various others within the prison movement, the trend around the nation’s prisons towards intrusive digital mail policies has now officially made its way to Texas state prisons, the biggest prison system in the country.

According to a public service announcement released by TDCJ on 7 July 2023, beginning on 17 Jul 2023, units will no longer accept general correspondence. Instead general mail must be sent to the digital processing plant at:

TDCJ [inmates full first and last name] + number
P.O. Box 660400
Dallas, TX 75266-0400

The public and official justification for this move towards more intense surveillance of the mail is the current drug epidemic within TDCJ. Each incarcerated persyn reading this and many out in the public have direct experience with the effects of this sad daily occurrence of overdoses, drug induced suicides, the drama daily instigating violence and intimidation amongst people in prison, the walking zombies, the toon attacks. the loss of morals and character to drug addiction. We can not act as if this isn’t occurring, and it is not my intent to justify these occurrences within this writing. However, my intention is to state that the states’ official justification (the drug epidemic) isn’t sincere.

The new policy doesn’t come as a shock to many of us. Frankly, for most of this decade prison departments across the United $tates have been doing the same thing utilizing the same justification (inmates getting drugs through the mail). The courts for their part have upheld these intrusive policies, under the pretext that departments provide alternatives for receiving mail, books, and other functions of prison life.

The sincerity of the state’s justification must be questioned due to their own actions. The daily inattentiveness regarding drug culture exhibited by the staff allows the epidemic to function. Daily, every staff member from wardens to the lowest officer on the totem pole can see, smell, or otherwise experience the elements of the drug epidemic within each TDCJ unit.(1) Most times, officers and staff look the other way for various reasons. For their own safety and security while doing a potentially dangerous job certainly is one of them, and another is certainly that officers and staff, to a very large degree prefer an intoxicated prison population. I’m not speaking about the executive branch of the agency. The people in business suits are not in tune with the attitudes and mindsets of the employees on the ground. If they were, they would know what each inmate does through observation. Prison officials choose the lesser of two evils, feeling that the drugs act as sedatives and will calm tensions within the prison which is somewhat true.(2) They opt for this instead of the contrary largely sober-minded prisoner which is more often than not harder to control.

Furthermore, TDCJ officials have banned programs and materials that would otherwise play a positive role in the fight against addiction.(3) The Revolutionary 12 Step Program by MIM(Prisons) being only one of them.

The policy will allow legal, media, and subscription mails to still come to the unit. All other mails will be received at the warehouse or will be returned to sender. This policy extends the distance between families and their imprisoned loved ones, straining relationships on top of the genocidal sentences a lot of us are serving in TDCJ and around the country. These police-state policies are helping to destroy our families.

And for those of us within the prison movement, how does this policy affect us and those on the outside who support us? I propose that organizations develop communication funds which will go to alternative communication lines. These funds would be invested towards proven cadres who can make their individual work spread amongst the people. These new communication lines would be autonomous and clandestinely utilized to forward serious organizing work.

As the state continues to clamp down on illusionary elements of democracy, we must organize ways around their various intrusive sanctions while developing the capacity to reconstruct the power relations of this society.

The time has come to liberate Our political prisoners. There have been decades of conversation, of litigation, and other passive acts of resistance with little to no results.

GENOCIDE! This policy perfectly depicts how the health and future of Our families and as a result Our peoples is at stake, under attack and reeling.

Courts have thus far upheld similar policies elsewhere. Saying that realistic penological interests are being met, as prisons use the pretext of the current drug epidemic as the reason for this policy, and the courts further assert that prisons are offering a viable alternative (the tablets).

The first units that will experience this policy are: Allred, Coffield, Polunsky, Powledge, Plane, Garza West, Clements, Halbert, Robertson, and East Texas ISF, with more to follow in the following weeks, according to the public service announcement.


MIM(Prisons) adds: As soon as this policy was implemented, the attacks on prisoner communication have started. A prisoner in Stiles Unit in Texas reported on 25 July 2023:

“We were recently given tablets and our e-messaging, phone through the tablet. I’m on Ad-Seg, in Restrictive Housing (RHU). On 10 July 2023, my wifi and e-messaging, as well as my phone were taken from me for no reason. According to TDCJ, all mail will be digital now, since 17 July 2023. But certain people were taken by surprise to wake up with none of our mail or phone. Without any explanation. We have been asking and sending I-60’s grievances about this, but still no one will give us an explanation. What can I do?”

The comrade asks if the censorship rules mentioned on the first page of ULK would apply to this situation. And it’s a good question. These prisoners mail is effectively being censored, so it would seem so. But we are not lawyers. And it is likely that this would need to be tested via the courts.

Some prisons in Texas, like Polunsky and Allred Units, are just returning to sender all mail from MIM Distributors sent to the prison, including media which according to the rules is supposed to be sent there.

Another problem comrades are facing is when we send them forms in the mail, they cannot print them or fill them out, because they are only given to them in a tablet.

As a comrade in Virginia wrote in ULK 76:

“This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.”(4)

Notes:
1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2017, “Epidemic of K2 Overdoses at Estelle, Throughout Texas”, Under Lock & Key 59.
2. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, “TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop”, Under Lock & Key 73.
3. MIM(Prisons), June 2022, “FL, TX Censor Revolutionary 12 Steps Program”, Under Lock & Key 78.
4. A Virginia Prisoner, January 2022, “A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones”, Under Lock & Key 76.

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[Gender] [Censorship] [Civil Liberties] [Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex] [Kentucky] [ULK Issue 82]
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Promotion of Homosexuality within the Kentucky Department of Corrections

First allow me to say that I am in no way homophobic and hold no bias nor any prejudice toward gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, or queer people. However, I find it inhumane that, while men can flaunt themselves around in thongs, booty shorts, leggings, mascara, eyeliner, makeup, and sports bras, I am being denied pictures of my fiance because she is wearing those exact same things. The woman who has dedicated her life to me, stands by my side through the trials and tribulations, who has weathered the storm, someone who I am going to wed.

I have been denied pictures of my fiance on vacation in a bathing suit because they were “sexually explicit” but in turn a gay man can receive pictures of another man in boxers? I am restricted from receiving pictures of my fiance in boy shorts or leggings while men walk freely past the guards and Warden wearing those and everything is fine.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System encourages homosexuality while banning intimacy with your loved one. Your visitor is not permitted to wear a dress, shorts, leggings, or tight jeans on a visit, meanwhile transgender people are encouraged to receive hormone shots to grow breasts, walking hand-in-hand around the loop with another man. In the Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System homosexuality is forced upon the heterosexual inmates where men can lay in a cell with another man in their arms, but magazines such as “Idore”, “Spicy”, “Straight Stuntin”, “King”, “Phat Puffs”, or “Sultry” are not available or restricted to purchase. Magazines with women in clothes like two piece swim suits are restricted. But why? Because they are women, or because they are what, real women?

How do you combat a whole state, let alone a prison, where the Warden is promoting homosexuality? (Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, Warden J. David Green).

I am not concerned as to what other inmates choose to indulge in, I just want to be able to receive pictures of my future wife in her boyshorts, leggings, in her intimate state, to help with my sexual release and soothe my mind, to escape, but instead I am subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and the promotion of homosexuality within the Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree that the Kentucky DOC is being intentionally cruel in its biased enforcement of rules around sexually explicit materials. This is happening in a number of states, including Texas where at the same time some prisoners are being forced to watch porn. And as we know corrections officials communicate with each other, it is likely no coincidence.

It’s a tactic the police have used forever; treat certain people differently from others in an arbitrary way and watch them turn on each other. They’ve used this against political prisoners, granting one prisoner more freedoms than eir comrades to promote suspicions that the privileged comrade snitched when in reality ey had not.

Administrators know how important pictures of loved ones, including “sexy” pictures of partners, are to prisoners. Just as the comrade we addressed in a longer piece on the nature of sex and sexuality, this Kentucky prisoner says ey has no issues with LBGTQ people. Yet, we sense the resentment here in what ey wrote. We call on our readers not to let that resentment cause you to turn on others who are not your enemy.

There is a right-wing talking point these days that the woke government is trying to turn people, especially children, transgender or gay. These identity politics are being used to manipulate people, and to get votes. If comrades are serious about fighting the “enforcement” of homosexuality in prisons, we suggest allying with gay prisoners who will likely be strong allies in a campaign to allow all prisoners to have equal rights to express their sexuality. Meanwhile, the fight against censorship of photos should connect to the fight against political censorship of mail. It should be illegal for the state to stop any mail that is not a direct threat to safety. If you are organizing around these issues we want to hear from you.

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[Organizing] [Police Brutality] [Civil Liberties] [ULK Issue 82]
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Atlanta Criminalizes Protest Against Cop City

police take lives, trees give life

The Stop Cop City struggle is ongoing.

We explored some of the developments of the Cop City struggle in our article The Struggle Against Cop City in Atlanta in ULK 81. Cop City, or the “Atlanta Public Safety Training Center” as the state calls it, has recently begun construction in Weelaunee Forest in Southwest Atlanta. This effort is funded primarily by the City of Atlanta and is to be owned and operated by the Atlanta Police Foundation. This is a pig training center with a supposed construction cost of $90 million, which will include a fake cityscape for police to learn tactics for suppressing urban resistance. This pig training center is part of a larger assault by the Amerikan state on New Afrikan communities and neighborhoods, along with the rise in gentrification, mass surveillance, police brutality and imprisonment rates. Some readers may remember the establishment of the community-run Rayshard Brooks Peace Center in 2020 and the subsequent state repression. No one can doubt that New Afrikan oppression is intensifying as the police and prison apparatus of the state continues to wreck havoc for the interests of the Euro-Amerikan nation.

In response to these developments, many diverse groups have organized against Cop City. For a while construction in Cop City was stalled because of forest defender activists occupying the intended site of deforestation, resisting raids by police to move them off the site. In this struggle an indigenous anarchist who went by the name Tortuguita was viciously murdered by police agents in a final raid of the forest.

Ongoing Developments in the Struggle

As the Stop Cop City movement continues, dozens of forest defenders and other protesters have been arrested on various felonies, from “domestic terrorism” to “intimidation of an officer.” For example, on 5 March 2023, Atlanta police arrested 23 protesters on “domestic terrorism” charges due to alleged property damage and trespassing, and that number has since risen to more than 40 over the last few months.(1, 2) These felonies are at least 20-year sentences in Georgia.

The state’s repeated arrests were an obvious cause for concern. A non-profit, the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, organized funding to bail out these protesters who were the target of state repression. On 31 May 2023, the 3 organizers of that fund have also been arrested, charged with “money laundering” and “charity fraud.”(3) This is yet another example of the state suppressing even the most legal forms of resistance.

While the DeKalb district attorney has declined to prosecute the arrests related to Cop City due to the unpopularity of Cop City, the Georgia attorney general has taken the cases and will still prosecute them.(4)

A “Stop Cop City” referendum petition has been filed (and approved on 21 June 2023) that will put Cop City on the Atlanta ballot if 75,000 signatures are produced in less than 60 days after the approval.(5) Many of the groups against Cop City have focused on this effort, which may have the unfortunate effect of completely legalizing the struggle (which is not a strategy for long-term political development).

Bigger than Cop City

As Maoists we always seek to develop a dialectical materialist perspective that correctly denotes the relations of nation, class, and gender at play. Cop City is no exception. One of the most critical weaknesses of the Stop Cop City movement is that an advanced politics (one that is revolutionary nationalist and aimed at the long-term struggle) is not yet a leading line. If this problem is not properly resolved, the movement will give way to movementism and the Stop Cop City struggle will fizzle out like the 2020 BLM struggle, becoming co-opted into liberal electioneering politics.

We must also look at the global nature of Cop City. The Atlanta Police Foundation is funded by Amerikan finance kapital, from the likes of Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Amazon, Delta Airlines, and Waffle House.(6) Prisons and policing are not a struggle unique to the United $tates. The development of these bourgeois state organs are being rapidly replicated around the world. Cop City can and will be a test run for building pig facilities among the Third World nations as capitalism-imperialism decays. The struggle against Cop City will thus also play a part in the larger anti-imperialist struggle, and this is why developing a revolutionary nationalist line on Cop City is a must in this struggle.

Towards a preliminary analysis, we can say that Cop City is an intensification of New Afrikan oppression in Atlanta. The Euro-Amerikan nation – both Euro-Amerikan kapital and Euro-Amerikan communities – is united towards the policy of increased policing, gentrification, and imprisonment of New Afrikan and other oppressed nation communities. The Stop Cop City movement requires a united front, one that includes all those groups opposed to these methods of oppression, whether these groups be New Afrikan, Indigenous, Chicano, Euro-Amerikan, etc, but maintains some form of dialectical-materialist, revolutionary nationalist leadership in order to expand scientifically.

We have readers often tell us they want to start non-profits, but the Cop City arrests show that there are limitations to this type of organization: the state can and does retaliate against non-profits who pose a threat to the Amerikan state’s interest. The Atlanta Solidarity Fund is one example, where the Amerikan state has no problem arresting protesters or even legal organizers under charges of money laundering if they pose enough of a threat to its expansionary interests.

Cop City reminds us of the need for independent institutions of the oppressed which are flexible and secure, and involve the masses at every step of operation. Campaigns like “Stop Cop City,” or “Abolish Control Units,” attack the war apparatus that is aimed at the population within U.$. borders, especially the internal semi-colonies. As the above recent events demonstrate, we must build organizations that are prepared for the repressive response of the state.

NOTES:
1. Sarah Taitz and Shaiba Rather, 24 March 2023, “How Officials in Georgia are Suppressing Political Protest as ‘Domestic Terrorism’”, ACLU News and Commentary.
2. Natasha Lennard and Akela Lacy, 2 May 2023, “Activists Face Felonies for Distributing Flyers on ‘Cop City’ Protester Killing”, The Intercept.
3. Jeff Amy and Kate Brumback, 31 May 2023, “3 activists arrested after their fund bailed out protestors of Atlanta’s ‘Cop City’”, ABC News.
4. Pamela Kirkland, 23 June 2023, “DeKalb County district attorney withdraws from prosecution related to proposed ‘Cop City’ training center near Atlanta”, CNN.
5. Joi Dukes, 24 June 2023, “‘Stop Cop City’ organizers in race against time for petition signatures”, FOX 5 Atlanta.
6. Margaret Kimberley, 25 Jan 2023, “Cop City Kills Before It Opens”, Black Agenda Report.

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[Censorship] [Civil Liberties] [Smith Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 82]
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TDCJ Expands Repression of Their Own Policies

Back in November 2022, MIM Distributors sent a copy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) PD-22 codes to a prisoner at Smith Unit. The PD-22 codes are the “General Rules of Conduct and Disciplinary Action Guidelines for Employees.” The prisoner was notified that this was “70 pages misuse of state property.” That’s funny because MIM Distributors paid for the printing and mailing of this material the TDCJ claims to be their property.

After the comrade appealed this, the Director’s Review Committee (DRC) upheld the censorship, but changed the reasoning to “received in contradiction in BP-03.91.” As we reported recently, we have already stopped mailing in the Offender Grievance Operations Manual (OGOM) because of rampant censorship of this TDCJ document.

Since the 5th revision of the BP-03.91 was released on 25 June 2021, we have featured in ULK a series of articles on the newly revised policy including promoting phone zaps, protests, and lawsuits. The focus for many was the limitation on non-nude photos, and this was the subject of multiple lawsuits. MIM(Prisons) and TX TEAM ONE recognized the broader implications of these changes and supported this campaign. But now that most seem to be getting their sexy photos okay are people going to stand up for the right to access public documents?

The relevant section of BP-03.91 (rev. 5) is IV.A.13:

“Contains records or documentation held by the TDCJ that are not listed in the attachment to the TDCJ Public Information Act Manual Chapter 2.”

It is not clear to us at this time what this includes and does not include. This clause dates back to at least (rev. 2) published on 11 February 2010. Which explains why the TDCJ has been censoring the OGOMs we send in since it was officially removed from law libraries in 2014.

While many prisoners write to us asking for legal help, we aren’t lawyers and we don’t offer legal help. We need your legal help. We need comrades in the TDCJ to get to the bottom of these issues, file lawsuits and lead campaigns. This is a very winnable battle that serves the interests of all prisoners in Texas. What we do do is support prisoners organizing against imperialism. If TX prisoners are ready to fight this we’re ready to push this campaign forward to stop the censorship of public documents and advance the campaign to get grievances addressed in Texas.

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[Organizing] [Campaigns] [Civil Liberties] [Eastern Correctional Institution] [Maryland] [ULK Issue 82]
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Small Victories at ECI, Organizers Keeping Pressure On

I appreciate all the comrades who assisted us with our struggle for change here at Eastern Correctional Institution (E.C.I.) We have begun to gain traction. Delegate Charles Otto has responded with a response from Maryland Department of Public Safety. Once I make copies I will send them to you all so that you can see the crap they’re saying. None the less the prison is beginning to change. Our visiting time has increased and so has our outside rec. They are even talking about allowing us to take pictures. We are not stupid though we understand that this is all to pacify us. But there has been something major that we have recognized. The system has now exposed their hand and now they are open for the guerrillas to attack – in one of the buildings here they are renovating due to the pressure from the people and as such they have to move people out of the building. So they must find space for these men. They are scrambling for spaces to put them. Now understanding this I have come up with an idea which is now under way. The plan goes as follows:

Mission #1 Fire Starter

Primary Objective: Exposure. We must expose the prison’s conditions to the outside world. We must present these conditions to our local politicians. We must network through our channels and use our families and friends to agitate those in position.

Weapon of Choice: Media

Mission #2 Fire Spreader

Primary Objective: Spread what you have done in your prison to the other prisons in your state. This must be done simultaneously.

Weapon of Choice: Letters, Phones, Social Media

After these missions are complete it will unleash a fire storm that will burn these prison systems from the inside out. Once comrades are released they are then to assist the cells from the outside.

It must be understood that every prison in Amerikkka has its issues and for them to be exposed in the manner we are seeking will force the people in position to react. They will then have to renovate these prisons and to do so they will have to decarcerate, releasing our brothers and sisters on to the streets because they will have no where to put them once they are forced to clean up the prisons. This is the beginning of a prison abolition movement I believe that will deliver a major blow to the system. The comrades here at E.C.I. have completed Mission #1 Fire Starter and we are now underway with Mission #2. It must be understood that it may not work every where but I do encourage all to try it.

It is time for the dragon to be released. Long live George Jackson.

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[Deaths in Custody] [Civil Liberties] [Black Lives Matter] [Censorship] [Federal Correctional Institution Tucson] [US Penitentiary Terra Haute] [Federal] [ULK Issue 82]
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Why Prisoners MUST Speak

statue of liberty communism

There’s an ongoing debate as to why prisoners must have rights to the First Amendment, the right to free speech. Prisons often suffocate prisoners from speaking about what happens in prisons, as if it is a “security” risk. While there are elements that can pose a prison interest, most times this is not true, but prisons use flimsy excuses to prevent prisoners from telling the world what goes on. Prisons, like USP Tucson, use the Las Vegas mantra, “what happens in prison, stays in prison” (even if it’s illegal).

Let me share with you an example of prisons illegally suffocating a prisoner’s right to tell the public what is going on:

A magazine called Labyrinth published a story about two Black prisoners at a federal facility, Terre Haute, who died of asthma. Apparently, in January of 1975, a prisoner died, then in August at the same prison, another Black prisoner died of asthma.

During that time, the prison (Terre Haute) had only one respirator, which was known to have been inoperative in January when the first prisoner died. It wasn’t working when the second prisoner died either.

That is negligence. The prison’s incompetence cost two Black prisoners their lives.

However, when Labyrinth tried to send their magazines to Marion Federal Penitentiary, the prison blocked it, claiming that the article could be “detrimental to the good order and discipline” of the institution. The courts disagreed, stating that the incidents in Terre Haute, a federal facility, are newsworthy and of “great importance” (Pell v. Procuiner, 417 US. 817, 830, n.7. 94 S. Ct 2800, 2808 n.7, 41 L.Ed 2d 495 (1975)).

In that incident, the necessity to report prison negligence outweighs the prison’s vague idea that anything that happens in prison are not for the public’s ears. The public has a tremendous right to know that prisoners are dying in American prisons, and more so, if those working in prisons are indirectly, or directly, responsible for it.

Prisoners must be allowed to tell society if human beings in American prisons are treated with humane dignity, or like slaves at a plantation, or Jewish prisoners at a Concentration (and Extermination) camp. Left unchecked, this is exactly where prisons will gravitate to.

A few years ago, I personally wrote an essay about a prisoner here at USP Tucson, who was murdered while in the SHU (Special Housing Unit). I wrote that the staff knew that if they put the prisoner in a cell with a certain prisoner, that he would be killed. And so it was.

After getting the essay out, I got a letter from a law firm representing the victim’s wife. They wanted to talk to me, to get information about the staff working at the time of the murder, because USP Tucson refused to release such information. Even though staff was directly responsible for a man’s death, they refused to give the attorney the information, protecting the officers that facilitated the murder.

Sadly, I did not have such intel, because while the prison population all knew what happened, and how, most didn’t know who worked that day. A prisoner who was in the SHU that period of time, however, would have known. This is not about “safety and security” …it’s about murder.

Prisoners must be able to inform the public of what goes on in prisons, because if not, then there is no counter to prison staff brutality. Prisons like USP Tucson can toss every law over their back, and treat prisoners like dogs. They can beat a prisoner, steal their property, rape them, and no one on the outside would ever know. And, if it did get out, the prison would suppress all information and “defend the shield.” The First Amendment allows prisoners the equalizer, to hold prisons responsible for how they treat those under their custody.

Let’s be clear; the prison staff do not have the right to torment or torture prisoners, they prevent society from knowing about it; but unless prisoners get the word out, prisons will almost always violate humane treatment.

Left unchecked, prisons will always gravitate to persecution, torment, or torture. There must be a level of accountability by prisons, otherwise there would be no fear in allowing prisoners to speak.

So, let me share another recent example of why it is critical for prisoners or captives to speak. It is all too easy to prove that if prisons prohibit prisoners from writing, it gives the prison staff a green light to neglect their responsibilities.

On Friday, 18 November 2022, USP Tucson put the entire prison population on an institutional lockdown for an unknown incident. The week prior, on November 13th there was a “code red” because a prisoner at a different facility acquired a gun and would have shot an officer except the gun didn’t fire because the bullets didn’t match the gun.

Now let that marinate for a bit: how the heck did a prisoner at a federal facility acquire a gun, and what pushed such a person to that extreme? Shouldn’t that be an issue that the prison needs to look at, as far as how staff treat prisoners? It is not always just a prisoner’s fault: it takes two to tango. What did the officer do to provoke a man to such an extremity of hate that he had to get a gun? But prisons won’t look at that. There are other essays that could be written on that, but that’s for another time.

After that incident, on Sunday November 18th, another incident involving staff resulted in an immediate and excessive 30-day lockdown. All prisoners were restricted to their cells (the word “all” really needs to be defined as certain situations clearly show that the prison did not go by their own rules) with no outside movement except to the showers every 2-3 days. But, in this, there were numerous violations by the staff at USP Tucson, most with what may be legally called “deliberate intent.”

Earlier, I was attempting to make a compelling argument about the reasons why it is critical for society to hear from prisoners. Most times people think that once a person goes into a prison they lose all of their rights, this is often told to society by people working in prisons.

This is a lie.

Prisoners walk into Amerikan prisons with most of their rights, including the First Amendment, which is the freedom of speech. This is critical in the prison environment because left unchecked it will always result in prison abuse by staff. I might sound extremist when I say all, but history has clearly shown that if prisons are left to do what they want without any check on humane treatment, it always gravitates to neglect and abuse of the prisoners.

So the First Amendment allows prisoners to voice their grievances whether the prison likes it or not, to the people on the outside who have an interest in what goes on in prisons. We did not lose the right to say what is going on in prisons, in fact, who has a greater experience than us. Often times, courts use a “hands off” approach on these issues, usually deferring to the “expertise” of prison officials. I get that, but expertise does not mean these prison officials use humanitarian elements in their decision making.

So, I gave you a real example of a situation that happened here at USP Tucson; we were put on lockdown on Friday November 18th for what was identified as a “staff assault” in a separate dorm. The prison identified the perpetrator, moved him out of general population then it turned to the rest of the prison and punished them severely as if we all had a hand in it. This is called mass punishment and it is frowned on by many countries, yet the United $tates continues to use it.

I mentioned in the first part the numerous violations that USP Tucson may have committed in what is termed “deliberate intent.” This means there was no mistaking the actions the prison took, it was intended to cause harm. Here are some of the violations:

  1. The warden never issued a memo for the official reason the prisoners were on a 30-day lockdown. If a person or people are to be punished, he or they must know why they are being punished so they can challenge it. This may very well be a violation of their due process – another constitutional right.

  2. USP Tucson prevented prisoners from filing a grievance or a “BP.” When prisoners asked for them, the counselor flatly refused. This alone, is illegal.

  3. Unit Team (Unit manager, case manger, counselor) avoided all prisoner questions, except legal calls or when passing out disciplinary charges. Unit team was working the entire time we were on the lockdown, but deliberately refused to do their job, avoiding all prisoners asking for help or assistance.

  4. Unit Team refused to pass out paper, envelopes or writing instruments, prohibiting prisoners from writing. Here is the deathblow to the First Amendment. If a prisoner is refused these elements, there is no way he can communicate to the outside world.

  5. USP Tucson violated their own policy, forcing kitchen workers to work 10-12 hours a day – every day – to prepare and clean the cafeteria. Prisoner medical orderlies, laundry workers, and selected prisoners were forced to work, but the prison refused to allow the dorm orderlies to clean the showers. This implies that the staff deemed certain prisoners “less of a security risk” than others, even though 99% of the prison population had nothing to do with the incident.

    And let’s touch on the “incident” of the “staff assault.” Here is what happened, in a nut shell. USP Tucson brought a prisoner that is on a high care level, with clear and documented psychological issues, from a high-level prison. Hh has only been on the prison grounds less than a week, and the prison decided to take away his medication. Why? That makes no sense! He obviously needed it for a reason.

    So, when the prisoner was refused his medication, he got angry, and assaulted an officer. This had nothing to do with the rest of the prison population.

  6. USP Tucson never allowed prisoners a clean shower. At the point of this essay, each unit had eight shower runs the last 4 weeks. Each of the ten shower cells were used, on average 80 times and not once did staff allow the dorm orderlies to clean it, and the showers were toxic each time prisoners had to step in there.

  7. USP Tucson prohibited the sale of stamps, nor would distribute stamps, nor would take letters without stamps. This, for 25 days, prevented prisoners from any contact with the outside world. Another deathblow to the First Amendment, and obviously, quite illegal.

This act, the one just mentioned, may be the most malicious because unless you had stamps before November 18th, you had no way to communicate with loved ones, an attorney, a church, the media, or anyone. USP Tucson violated prisoner’s First Amendment for almost a month, and ignored every request and offer to rectify the situation.

Prisoners with no stamps had no way to let loved ones know that they were okay, or alive, or if USP Tucson was beating prisoners, stealing property or doing all sorts of things to them. When families and loved ones called the prison, many were told that we were on a “COVID-19 lockdown”. That was a lie. With no accountability, staff were free to be inhumane, for almost a month. This includes a “shakedown” where the prison took easily tens of thousands of dollars worth of personal and legal property from prisoners and threw them away or took them to their families for Christmas.

When the prisoners lose their First Amendment, when prisons like USP Tucson rob people of this protected right, it immediately opens the door to mistreatment. It always happens. Without fail. It is said in a case law, Thomburg v. Abbot, that

“A prison ban on prisons sending letters that complain of internal conditions in the institution restricted the First Amendment in two ways: one, the prisoner’s right to free speech is curtailed and two, the public’s right to know what is happening within the prison system, a right that can only be fulfilled through an informed press, is restricted.”

For four weeks, I didn’t have the chance to tell people what USP Tucson was doing to us. For 25 days, I could not let my mother know that I was still alive. For 25 days I could not tell society that these federal prison staff officers had denied us humane showers, stole property, and practiced slave labor.

For 25 days we were tortured and nobody knew until now.

This is why prisoners MUST write. And just wait until you read what I share after the four weeks ended, and we were finally able to find out everything that happened around the prison.

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[Aztlan/Chicano] [Campaigns] [Security] [Civil Liberties] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Videos] [ULK Issue 81]
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FREE JV!

Joey Villarreal

The state has once again kidnapped the comrade Jose Villarreal (JV) on trumped up charges. After over a decade in the deepest dungeons of Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit, JV was released to the streets in January 2017 following the historic California hunger strikes and the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) between the largest lumpen organizations in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) at the time. This is the second time JV has been arrested since eir release. In addition, ey has faced armed raids by the pigs at eir place of residence.

The first arrest following eir release from Pelican Bay was on 2 August 2020 from an incident where JV may have saved someone’s life, but was charged as an accomplice instead. Eir arrest this winter was almost completely fabricated, with no basis in reality. And due to having been a certified member of a “Security Threat Group” (STG) in Pelican Bay ey faces gang enhancements on both sets of charges. Gang enhancements are a way to punish the oppressed for free association with others in their nation.

While the circumstances of the 2020 arrest are suspect, as are any when a revolutionary leader is targeted, the 2022 arrest is based on fabricated testimony rather than an actual incident. This testimony is coming from someone who presented emself as a revolutionary Chican@ nationalist. If the 2020 incident was a setup, then JV diffused it by eir righteous actions in a dangerous situation. Perhaps the state learned its lesson and decided it must fabricate charges in a he-said/she-said case.

In the six years since eir release from CDCR, JV has become most well known for eir radio program Free Aztlán on Poor News Network’s KEXU 96.1 FM in Oakland, California. Over the years JV featured Chican@ authors, researchers, artists and activists of many stripes. They advocated for the “kids in kages”, the migrant field workers, prisoners, and even did a series on the abuse of young people in spiritual movements targetting Chican@ nationalists. Ey was a regular promoter of the book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán and the struggles for national liberation around the globe. JV also was apart of Aztlán Press, which published the second edition of Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán.
Listen to the CPA(MLM) announcement (starting at 8:00)

On the last episode of Free Aztlán before eir recent arrest, JV hosted the public announcement of the founding of the Communist Party of Aztlán (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). Eir track record of advocating for national liberation, and eir support of the foundation of the Party in particular, is clearly behind the state’s machinations to imprison JV once again on trumped-up charges.

While MIM(Prisons) recognizes CPA(MLM) as a fraternal organization, it is no secret that we promote a cell structure strategy of organization. We’ve received push back on this in the form of calls for a centralized organization, a movement that spans the country, and a center for training and developing scientific leadership. These are some of the things the CPA(MLM) felt that Aztlán needed. They felt a party was needed to combat/compete with the parties that now mislead the masses under bourgeois political lines.

JV’s connections to various projects, and the connections between different chapters of the Republic of Aztlán are public record on the internet. We do not promote this form of organization. We see the hybrid of online and irl (real life) organizing to favor the strengths of the state over the weaknesses of the masses.

Lest we need reminding, the repeated targeting of JV exposes the lengths to which the state will go to suppress even a young emerging movement like CPA(MLM). JV has been tireless in eir work in the Chican@ community to promote positive change. No proletarian court would convict em of a crime. A socialist justice system would uphold JV as the best-case example of what someone can make of emselves after decades in an oppressive, abusive, torturous prison system.

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