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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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[Political Repression] [Civil Liberties] [Control Units] [Gang Validation] [ULK Issue 81]
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South Carolina RHU Targets Leaders for Isolation, Repression Against Policy

Pursuant to South Carolina Constitution Article I, § 1, All political power is vested in and derived from the people only, therefore, they have the right at all times to modify their form of government.

Pursuant to S.C. Const. Art. I, § 2, The General Assembly shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government or any department thereof for a redress of grievances.

The South Carolina Department Of Corrections Current Mission Statement quoted as follows:

“Protect the Public, Protect the Employees, Protect the Inmates”

Current SCDC policies, procedures, and practices serve to create an environment in direct conflict and opposition with their “Mission Statement”. Furthermore, SCDC’s “Mission Statement” should be expanded to include educational and rehabilitative goals. The entire system needs to be restructured to meet all the needs and goals effectively and efficiently. “Protection” is just one of the many needs.

The current course that the SCDC leadership is following is constantly creating a “hostile and dangerous” prison population. Continuing in this direction can only lead to disaster. This system has experienced more violent conduct and behavior in the past 12 years (remember the 2018 Lee riot) than in all the years prior, and with the current administration in place, and no incentive to promote good behavior, we can only expect the cycle to continue. [editor: the author does not provide a source to support this claim]

Security Detention (S.D.)

Pursuant to SCDC policy Op-22.38, Restrictive Housing Unit § 9.4:

“The inmate is identified as a high-risk security threat group member and has committed a level one (i) disciplinary offense, or is believed to be in a leadership position within a security threat group and has coerced another inmate(s) to commit any acts or behaviors listed in Sections 9.1-9.3 of this policy…”

As of 12 August 2022, I myself as well as many others were taken out of the general prison population and placed in Segregation (“RHU”) and reclassified as a Security Detention (“S.D.”). No one committed a level (i) offense or any disciplinary offense nor were we given a 48-hour notice informing us that we have a classification review for “S.D.”, per SCDC policy Op-22.38, § 9.7 and 9.4. SCDC Deputy Director Dennis Paterson is targeting so-called gang members, religious leaders, anyone that confidential inmates (“C.I.’s”) inform them about.

Majority of the affected prisoners are being punished for the same offence(s) twice. I myself from 2010-2017 was held in RHU as a validated STG-SD. The DDO have me as well as others back in segregation for the same thing. We haven’t committed no level 1 offense or any disciplinary infractions. So where is the evidence to support this violation?

Pursuant to Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 1155. ct. 2293, 132 L. Ed. 2d 418 (1995):

“the Supreme Court declared that prisoners have a liberty interest in avoiding confinement conditions that impose”atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life“…”

Also see Burnette v. Fahey, 687 F.3d 171, 180 (4th Cir. 2012); Incumaa v. Stirling, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 11321; Wilkerson v. Goodwin, 774 F.3d 845, 854 (5th Cir. 2014).

SCDC is constantly targeting gang members, religious leaders, and prisoners who have influence. SCDC either sends these prisoners out-of-state to private prisons, placed them in segregation as Security Detention, transfer them to other institutions, or SCDC also goes as far as to put propaganda on prisoners’ names so that violence can come upon them. SCDC administration has a habit of setting rules, and then applying them in ways that are in complete contradiction to each other.

Security Detention prisoners have no access to basic life necessities such as:

  • Proper hygiene products (only state issue hygiene)
  • Adequate bed lining (only a thin mattress, 1 blanket, 1 sheet)
  • Cells are never clean
  • No telephone use
  • Mail is limited and censored
  • No adequate food or nutrition
  • No proper medical treatment
  • No proper mental health treatment
  • No rehabilitation
  • Employee’s are verbally and physically assaultive
  • PREA Violations (Excessive strip searches, frisks, etc.)
  • Constant cell searches and things taken
  • No adequate ventilation (No heat or air)

The list can go on…

Is it not ironic that when the United States is victorious in war, the first thing they do is provide aid to our “enemies”? We do everything we can not to oppress them for fear of a future rebellion or attack. When it comes to people in prison in this country, there is no end to the oppression.

I myself demand to be released from segregation due to no evidence to support Deputy Director of Operations’ (DDO) allegations to S.D. me. Per SCDC’s own policy:

“If an individual has been validated as an STG member, but has not committed or been implicated in any disciplinary infractions or STG activities, that individual would typically, although not always, receive a classification of Validated-GP… If an individual has been validated as an STG member, and has committed disciplinary infractions, that individual would typically receive a classification of Validated-SD…”

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[U.S. Imperialism] [Civil Liberties] [National Oppression] [ULK Issue 81]
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The Faux-Democracy of the U$A

I’m listening to an N.P.R. news report. An “African-Amerikkkan” woman is ruefully recounting the January 6th, 2021 right wing attack on “our” democracy. I wanted to laugh and cry that this sister was so lost that it was pitiful. So many confused and deluded people, even at this late hour, don’t know that Amerikkka has never been a true democracy, in the way that most people have been led to believe. Amerikkka has assassinated more legitimately elected leaders, around the world, than all other world’s states combined. They have installed dictators who starve the childred, and propped up those colonial/neo-colonial police states so that the First World can live like royalty on the stolen labor and natural resources of those Shanghai-ed and enslaved societies. Throughout the past century, these overthrown dictators always seek refuge in the U.$. or Britain. The rats always run back to the nest. (From Baby Doc, to Jair Bolsonaro, the Shah of Iran, and many more.) That is not what truly civilized, freedom and justice-loving democracies do. That is what Nazi police states do.

Even if Amerikkka could be a democracy – which it never can – it would not be “our” democracy. Judge Roger B. Taney declared as much in 1857 or so. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist reiterated this, in 1987 or so. It is now 2023. It’s time to wake up. Marcus Garvey clearly stated, in 1923 or so, what most people still have not heard: The first piece of toilet paper was invented in 1786 or so. It was called “The United States Constitution.”

In 1940 or so, a lot of Amerikkkan leaders, at the highest levels of U.S. government and industry, supported Adolf Hitler. The antics of ex-President Donald J. Trump and many U.$. leaders of government and industry (and many millions of oppressor nation Amerika alongside their oppressed nation allies) proved that, in 2021 – and for the foreseeable future, I’m sure, – the status quo shall remain!

Truly, the most productive years of my life were the 9 years that I lived on various “Indian” reservations and on “hippie” communes, which modeled much of our lifestyle on First Nations’ (Lakota, Diné, etc.) beliefs, and some African and Gaelic beliefs. There was the occasional Taoist or Buddhist, but we all realized we are all guests in our First Nation sisters’ and brothers’ home.

I gave up on Amerikkka in the early ‘90s. I wanted my kids’ mom to come away with me to Indonesia or somewhere in the South Pacific (Fiji, the Solomon Isles), but she would have none of it. She still believed that the U.$. was a good country; like so many naive “dreamers” today. I honestly believe that many migrants who come to the U.$. are not seeking freedom; they’re seeking money, and are probably loaded down with contraband they’ve stolen from someone else, or are on the run from justice. The rats always run back to the nest.

I used to think that if Africans made significant cultural and economic ties to First Nation sovereign communities, that, by now we could have established our own sovereign communities; but very, very few Blacks that I broached the subject to would even consider living around a “bunch of poor ass Indians,” and struggling to build a community from scratch, when there’s a McDonald’s right around the corner. Besides, the Alaska and Wyoming wilderness is not Stacey Adams and Cadillac-friendly. I guess it was just too big of a sacrifice to make for the honor and love of our children. We don’t want to empower the police state, but who can live without Tangueray and Louis Vuitton?!

If the U.$. would switch the military/police/prison budget over to health and education, and give the paltry health and education budget to the pigs and politicians, Amerikkka could quite possibly be a good country. Maybe even a great country! But after 500 years of this shit, I’m not gonna hold my breath. Like I said, Amerikkka has destroyed every nascent, true democracy that opposes white supremacy.

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[Prison Labor] [Civil Liberties] [Legal] [Private Prisons] [Indiana] [Washington] [ULK Issue 80]
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Campaign to Raise Wages in Geo Group Prisons

It is with immense frustration that I write to you on the behalf of ALL offenders that are in the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) prisons that are run and operated by The Geo Group Inc. (a private prison corporation). Prisoners here are receiving “State Pay,” which consists of the following:

A-Pay $0.25/hour
B-Pay $0.20/hour
C-Pay $0.15/hour

The level of unequal wages from The Geo Group Inc. regarding this effort is appalling. Indiana Government Officials have unfortunately failed to address the problem and have allowed the “State Pay” wage disorder to continue.

In the State of Washington, on 27 October 2021, a Federal Jury ordered The Geo Group Inc. at the ICE Processing Center (formerly the Northwest Detention Center) liable under the State Minimum Wage Act (MWA). In Washington, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit alleging that The Geo Group Inc. was violating the state minimum wage law. The U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan ordered The Geo Group in Tacoma, Washington to pay their detainees $13.69 hour. These are immigrant detainees. These immigrant detainees were represented by four (4) law firms. Names of the law firms are as follows;

  • Schroeter Goldmark & Bender – Seattle, WA
  • Open Sky Law PLLC – Kent, WA
  • Menter Immigration Law PLLC – Seattle, WA
  • Law Offices of Robert A. Free – Nashville, TN(1)

We believe that our pay here, less than 2% of the pay received in Washington, is discrimination by The Geo Group Inc. here at the Indiana Geo Facilities.

On 26 January 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr (D) signed an order and stated… “to stop corporations from profiting off of incarceration that is less humane and less safe”. We believe that The Geo Group Inc. is violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace. State prisoners may not be entitled to State Minimum Wage, but there is NO exception for private for-profit detainees, prisoners, or offenders here. The Geo Group prioritizes profits over rehabilitation, making us ALL less safe.

Indiana Government Officials and The Geo Group Inc. have to remember that we are in an inflationary economy. Us prisoners here at The Geo Group Inc. facilities here in Indiana are getting overwhelmed, over-worked, and frustrated simply because we do not have the same income or access to resources as others. We have material needs such as hygiene, property, food, etc. that cannot be met due to the “State Pay” wages that have NOT kept up with the exorbitant price of living.

At the Indiana Department of Corrections commissary from the Indiana Correctional Industries Plainfield, IN Distribution Center, the prices of our needs are increasing dramatically due to the inflationary factor. NO prisoner in The Geo Group Inc. private run prison(s) who gets State Pay should ever cower in fear of his/her employer‘s power to silence legitimate points of view of their wages.

The State of Indiana and/or The Geo Group Inc. needs to raise the starting pay wage significantly to a reasonable wage. It is time for the State of Indiana and/or The Geo Group Inc. to make the financial adjustments and changes.

We believe that there are laws, ordinances, policies, rules, acts, statutes, procedures, or even regulations that have been violated or criminalized by our Constitution in the Fair Labor Standards Act (F.L.S.A), Administrator of Wages & Hour Division, U.S. Deptartment of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Labor Management Relations Act, etc. We know Indiana Government officials Governor Eric J Holecomb, Commissioner Robert E Carter Jr, Deputy Commissioner/Chief Financial Officer Dan Brassard, are the individuals who control our scale wage that makes the financial adjustments and changes in our “State Pay” for the The Geo Group Inc. to pay our wages.

A raise in starting pay will be a positive thing allowing more offenders to find satisfaction in their careers and it can allow more workers to make a living wage and contribute to the broader economy. Our facility jobs are not a free pass to wipe our slates clean, they are an acknowledgment that we have to change our lives to be more accountable and the State of Indiana and/or The Geo Group Inc. is what will allow us to do that. A productive offender in the Geo Group facility with a fair wage will perform better work ethics, do things properly, and have better responsibility.

We as prisoners are entitled to be paid minimum wage or a fair wage for our labor keeping The Geo Group Inc. facilities up and running, like preparing and serving food, running laundry, maintenance, landscaping, mowing, sanitation, administration clerks, etc. We are not asking to be put on an indefinite leave of absence means or that ALL Geo Group contracts be terminated. We are exercising our rights, which are workers rights, and show that we have a right to stand up for each other and for justice for Geo Group Inc. prisoners who work at their facility and receive state pay wages.

Please take into consideration, when we do get our “State Pay” the I.D.O.C takes 15% right off the top. This money goes into our re-entry account which we receive back upon our release back into the community. This gives us a little financial assistance. Now here is this Geo Group Inc. offender who has a C-Pay job, which is $0.15 an hour, works 6.5 hours a day, 5-days a week, comes out to be $19.50 per month. Now the State takes 15% for re-entry which comes out to $2.89. This leaves you only $16.32 a week to buy hygiene, property, food, paper, pens, etc. And if you went to go to medical or dental, that’s a $5.00 charge and the medication is $5.00.

Please also investigate the Geo Group Inc. in Tacoma, Washington where they are paying immigrant detainees $13.69 an hour. This is discriminating against us offenders and manipulating us due to what they pay us as “State Pay” here in Indiana.

  • State of Washington Attorney General – Bob Ferguson filed lawsuit against The Geo Group Inc. in 2017 [Washington v. Geo Group, USDC, W. Dist. WA. Case No. 3:17-cv-05806RJB]
  • Detainees filed lawsuit in 2017 with assistance of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender and Robert Andrew Free [Nwauzor v. Geo Group, USDC, W. Dist. WA, Case No. C17-5769RJB]

Thank you for your time and patience.


MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we want to remind our readers that a very small percentage of prisoners in this country are in private prisons, and most of them are immigrant detention centers like the one in Washington discussed. As the author above argues, there are potential legal differences in how labor is considered in private prisons compared to most prisons. And economically it is very different because corporations like Geo Group are making money running prisons for the state, but using basically free labor to do much of that work. This is a very dangerous combination that economically incentivizes mass incarceration.

In our 2018 survey of prison labor across the United $tates we found that wages for maintenance work typically ranged between $0.14 and $0.63 per hour. Though of course in some states prisoners do not get paid at all for working to maintain the prisons. This puts Indiana at the low end of states that do pay. But as this comrade and others have recently pointed out, inflation is hitting hard in the form of commissary prices. Therefore to have wages at the low end from 5 years ago is far from adequate when most prisoners need to buy supplemental hygiene and food, not to mention minor comforts.

Based on the information we can find online, the Geo Group stopped having prisoners work right after the court decision, so no prisoners are getting paid minimum wage. In addition they appealed to delay back-paying those who had already worked in the past.(2)

Notes:
1. Prison Legal News, December 2021 Vol. 32 No. 12 pg. 26 and April 2022 Vol. 33 No. 4 pg. 30. published by the Human Rights Defense Center
2. Alanna Madden, 6 October 2022, Ninth Circuit takes up Geo Group appeal over underpaid detainees, Courthouse News Service.

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