During a documentary interview with a citizen from Mexico regarding the flow of illegal drugs across the border into the united states, the Mexican said, rather matter-of-factly:
“We don’t have a drug problem in Mexico. The united states have a drug problem so Mexico have a problem trafficking drugs into the united states. For the united states to be the greatest country in the world, it seems everybody has to be high in order to live there.”
As social beings, the environments that we inhabit are essential for both our survival and human development. And social environments influence our behaviors and informs the mechanisms we use to survive the social stressors that push us towards drug usage and addiction as a means of coping. Otherwise, one may literally commit suicide.
The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), as a micro-societal reflection of what’s occurring in the macro-society, is wrestling with imprisoned men addicted to drugs on a scale rivaling the crack-era (epidemic). And in some respects, actually surpassing that horrible 1980s into the 2000s phenomenon. And the elements that catapults the present epidemic to rival the crack epidemic is the cocktail of mental illness and severe emotional instability, with a dosage of western social liberalism mixed in. The result is a generation, both younger and older, socialized into a neo-Nigga mentality born out of social backwardness or retardation, a strong sense of love abandonment, while simultaneously carrying the epigenetic traumas from this country’s imposition of myriad forms of violence on us in perpetuity. Out of this is produced The Nigga Creed: “Fuck it! Deal with us!”
In the MDOC, brothers are high strung on K2 in a liquid form that is free-based (or vaped, as it is euphemized) from paper. The phenomenon is akin to crack in that tiny pieces of K2 laced papers sell for $3 to $5, meaning the high is cheap like crack. And because the K2 high doesn’t last long, it is chased after just like crack addicts chased crack. Also like crack, brothers sell all of their possessions to acquire K2 (nicknamed Twochi; or duece). But it’s worse than crack in that (1) guys don’t know nor seem to care what they are smoking; and (2) duece makes them hallucinate or have episodes of passing out, tripping, paralysis. violent possessions and overdose.
During a phone conversation with a comrade imprisoned in the Florida prison system, he shared that K2 had ravaged the Florida system years previously. That K2 had gotten so bad, the groups on the yard had to come together and ban K2. Unfortunately, at the present juncture in Michigan prisons, this is not possible because the groups that have the yard (NOI, MSTA, Sunni, Melanics, other lumpen organizations) are betraying the people and what they say they stand on as it is these very groups dealing in and using K2 – quite literally without consequence.
K2 is not detectable so one cannot drop a dirty urine for it, unless, which is frequently the case, it is laced with Fentanyl or PCP. And sadly, in addition to K2. somehow, brothers have found themselves hooked on meth (ice).
The ramifications of this reality has been staggering. There is an absence of activist personality, the so-called pro-Black prison vanguard groups have become apolitical and anti-radicalism. At the facility where I’m housed, I am absolutely the only prisoner advancing political education through our study group, the Sankofa Commune, which has existed since COVID lockdowns.
Brothers in the MDOC are struggling and we find ourselves in terrible shape. The conditions born out local poverty and state institutionalization as a result of poverty, is traumatizing culminating in degrees of mental and emotional instability. Requests for mental health therapy sessions go unanswered and drugs are the only outlet, aside from violence, that mends, however temporarily, the pain experienced by the broken men. Four murders have occurred on this prison within a year. Chemical warfare and chemical suicide are hard at work. Live from the MDOC!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is the latest article on the scourge of K2 that’s been hitting the prison population hard, dating back at least 10 years.(1) That is very inspiring to hear the report from Florida of groups coming together to ban it. We’d love to hear more about this and try to promote this model elsewhere. For those who don’t know, we released our Revolutionary 12 Step Program last year, so those who are interested in organizing alternatives where they are can get a copy of the pamphlet from our Free Political Books to Prisoners Program or on our website. Unless of course you’re in Texas or Florida where it’s considered a security threat.(2) Where the pigs don’t even pretend to not be trafficking drugs.(3)
We would also advise comrades that in moments like these when the traditional leadership roles of the oppressed nations in prisons (such as the NOI) are partaking in anti-people behavior as described to use dialectical materialism to try and see how to solve this problem. What is our analysis of mass imprisonment? What is our analysis of groups such as the Nation of Islam? In a given situation, is the contradiction between these organizations and the anti-imperialist forces of USW antagonistic or non-antagonistic? Should they be antagonistic? If they are antagonistic and we decide that it shouldn’t be, how can we turn it non-antagonistic? Given our political line, and our strategy of USW in mind, what should be done?
Notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2017, Epidemic of K2 Overdoses at Estelle, Throughout Texas, Under Lock & Key No. 59. 2. MIM(Prisons), June 2022, FL, TX Censor Revolutionary 12 Steps Program, Under Lock & Key No. 78. 3. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop, Under Lock & Key No. 73.
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:
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.
USP Tucson prevented prisoners from filing a grievance or a “BP.” When prisoners asked for them, the counselor flatly refused. This alone, is illegal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As a first time writer for MIM(Prisons) I must confess that, it’s absolutely a blessing to have found such a space/medium to expose what’s currently taking place within the Georgia Department of Corrections (G.D.C), hereinafter “Georgia industrial slave complex”. Because honestly, with every issue of Under Lock & Key, I thirst to develop a political cadre, in order to establish a vanguard party among the (lumpen) prisoner class.
Here at Telfair State plantation, there’s no real sense of political consciousness among the masses nor is there any form of unity among the street tribes, whom all proclaim to have been birthed out of Black struggle to combat against oppression from a political perspective to protect their community. To which I ask, isn’t the slave plantation environment currently their community? Then why is it that their claims, tends to seem as though nothing more than “persuasive rhetoric” produced from the tenets of a force with every form of materialistic/imperialist reason to divide the common? and yet, it gets worse.
There’s a massive staff shortage at the root of many Georgia industrial slave sanitation failures and the problems don’t stop there. It’s beyond the crisis point and something needs to change. Because there’s a real humanitarian crisis. In which homicide and suicide rates has already reached “unprecedented levels.” At Least 25 slave prisoners deaths on plantation compounds in 2020 were suspected homicides, 7 at Macon State plantation, according to “G.D.C.” and 19 slave prisoners supposedly killed themselves in 2020, twice the national average.
The “G.D.C.” annual report for fiscal year 2019 (there was a lack of access for 2020 FY report) reveals constant churn. According to the OF, 78% of the department’s new hires are (overseers) “Corrections Officers,” and 71% quit before the year ended. Gov. Brian Kemp, just proposed a 9.1% pay increase for plantation(overseers) guards that would raise their entry level salary from $27,936 to $30,730. The experienced staff are leaving as fast as they can to get out of here. What we’re left with is kids trying to supervise slave prisoners they’re afraid of and that has a domino effect. Without adequate staffing, the maintenance begins to suffer, food service suffers. Because they don’t feel safe, it’s created a circular problem.
Access to healthcare is more limited than ever and mental health counselors are afraid to come in the dorms. Under-staffing has led to more slave prisoners being stationed in temporary holding cages, going extended periods without food, water or even bathroom visits. Often we’re left in those cages to urinate and defecate on ourselves. If the situation persists, lives will continue to be at stake. It’s just a matter of time before we see causalities among the staff and slave prisoners.
Urban street tribes have filled the power vacuum. The G.D.C. estimated it housed 15,000 tribe members; nearly a third of it’s total population. In the five previous years, authorities said tribe members were responsible for 1,700 assaults in Georgia industrial slave plantations. The pandemic has only made the situation worse, as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the slave plantations. Recently 24 slave prisoners tested positive for the virus; 3,100 have been infected so far, 88 have died. Another 1,482 staff members have test positive and two died from the virus, according the the G.D.C Those figures are likely 10 times below the actual number of infections, according to a recent study by the Center of Disease Control & Prevention.
I believe (the G.D.C.) is tolerating levels of chaos we have not seen in the last 20 years. The scale of the problem is so great that federal interventions is necessary and warranted. (Side note, the Department of Justice continues investigation into Georgia prisons.)
Please family, friends and those on the inside report on what is happening inside the walls of Georgia Department of Corrections prisons. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in September a state-wide civil investigation into conditions at facilities across the state. The DOJ investigation is focused on determining whether state prisoners are reasonably safe from physical harm at the hands of other prisoners. DOJ is also investigating whether the state offers reasonable protections for LGBTQIA prisoners from sexual abuse by corrections officers and other prisoners. If you or someone you know has information that could raise awareness to this cause, submit tips to:
DOJ email [email protected]. Dept. of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington DC 20530
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade’s report echoes what is being reported from Alabama from prisoners organizing there. Georgia is one of the five states with a higher incarceration rate than Alabama, and of course both are in the Black Belt south. Prison systems across the country are crumbling and failing. It is our purpose to support those who are trying to organize for change amongst this chaos. These contradictions create opportunity for change.
If you did not receive a copy of the JFI petition to the Department of Justice that we mailed out with Under Lock & Key 78, write us to get copies and use them to organize a collective voice in your prison. It is only by independent, collective organizing that we can stop these unnecessary deaths and abuses.
April 2021 - The San Quentin (SQ) administration has been running two modified programs on Death Row under the guise of social distancing since the pandemic began. Both look so good on paper, but how they look on paper and how they really work are the only things six feet apart and the result was putting many six feet under.
Death Row’s seven group yards were divided into 14 yards back in the first quarter of 2020. That was accomplished by sending half of East Block (EB) out one day, then the other half the next day with Death Row prisoners warehoused in Donner Section (DS). Which side of EB DS went out with switched at least three times – before, during and after spikes of COVID-19 on Death Row and throughout the prison. In addition to the switches thrown on the tracks of this crazy train, at no time was there a maximum allowed number of prisoners set for each of the yards. Requests to set a maximum number per yard and prepare daily lists by going cell to cell through both sides of EB and the DS tiers (as is done for ‘walk-alone’ due to the limited number of cages) were ignored all the way to Sacramento. Does CDCR prefer the truth be released at half capacity perhaps? Appeal#SQ-A-20-01123 remains unanswered since it was sent for final review on 14 July 2020.
No emphasis on social distancing regarding the shower program in DS exists anywhere but on paper as well. The Daily Program Status Report (PSR) fabricated 14 July 2020 explains only four showers can be used at a time. It conveniently omits the fact there are only four showers total. These consist of steel mesh cages – each sharing a mesh wall with the other. Three are approximately 3 1/2’ x 3 1/2’. The fourth is designed to accommodate a wheelchair. Nobody using these showers can be 6’ away from the prisoner in the adjoining cage. Perhaps CDCR hopes to bring in waterboarding. That would certainly be the effect if you wear a mask in the shower.
Prisoners can refuse to go to yard unless there’s a unit search. Prisoners can even refuse to shower, opting for an in-cell ‘bird bath.’ However, the San Quentin administration is now moving all Death Row prisoners from DS to EB. So, the four shower cage problem disappears as if in a mist of droplets, because the EB showers only accommodate one prisoner at a time.
It ‘seems’ all the moves are deemed safe and if that is indeed true, there is still no purpose for a 14 yard program except to keep something looking good on paper. It’s not working good at all if you read about it on this paper though. That’s because this explains how CDCR managed to execute prisoners even during a moratorium.
Even with my release date approaching, the spread of COVID-19 in prisons means that there remains the very real possibility that not only myself, but many others may not make it out of here alive.
The outside public may raise an eyebrow at this statement, and to an extent I understand why. Their reaction might be, ‘Do the crime, do the time – along with everything that comes with it.’ Granted, prison isn’t intended to be a steel and concrete paradise. From the moment you wake up to the time you close your eyes you can expect to be perpetually stressed, depressed, anxious, isolated – a whole range of negative emotions. But does that mean that we should be subject to a form of roulette that could be tantamount to a death sentence?
Most casual readers of articles concerning incarceration in the U.S. are aware that there is an overcrowding issue in their jails and prisons. The facility where I am housed is no exception. FCI Petersburg Medium has a population of 1,500 spread among three buildings containing twelve housing units of 120 men each. We are housed two, sometimes four to a cell about the size of a handicapped parking space, with a toilet and a sink thrown in. Remaining socially distant is out of the question. Despite the feeling of sitting on a powder keg, prison strangely felt like a sort of protective bubble from the effects of the pandemic raging unchecked on the outside. I never would have perceived it in that manner before.
In mid-September 2020, the first cases were reported in the building furthest from ours. There was a heightened tension in knowing it had finally arrived, yet it was still this nebulous thing that felt like a problem of the outside world. The outer defenses had been breached, but some of us are still safe. We wonder at the fate of the others – who has it? How many? Did they recover or not? Official answers are few, and it seems deliberately so. They do not want to create a panic, so rumors abound.
We immediately enter into a lockdown period, meaning complete cell confinement save for a ten-minute shower three times a week. This experience is psychologically taxing, however it is a reasonable precaution. I am struck by the fact that during this period, none of us are tested for symptoms despite a memo proclaiming daily testing. This is a disaster in the making, but with protocol typically disregarded by staff in day-to-day operations, it does not come as much of a surprise. After fifteen days, we are allowed a degree of freedom once more, to collect our meals, to venture outside … with a sense of foreboding. I found myself wondering, ‘is it too soon?’
Eight days later, on the 6th of October, more cases were reported, this time in the building next to ours. Still a separate place, but nearer now. The feeling it evokes could be compared to hiding from someone with no possibility of escape, and being able to hear each footfall resonating ever louder as they close in… it is unnerving. The protective bubble has turned into its opposite, and we are trapped. We are immediately placed back on lockdown. I didn’t have a chance to let anyone know why I won’t be calling anymore, so I hope they will infer the reason why and not be overly alarmed. Thoughts such as ‘Am I still being thought of? Do they care?’ become amplified, as anyone who has experienced being alone with your thoughts in isolation knows it can be challenging at times. I begin mentally preparing for the days ahead. I look forward to any word from the outside.
Twenty days in, and suddenly, voices emanate from the ventilation system: In the unit above ours, we are informed that someone is showing symptoms. It is here. They have moved the affected person to a separate cell for monitoring, but it is still in the same unit. We all continue to breathe in and share the same recycled air. Is there nothing else that can be done? There is less talking now. My cellmate and I cover up the vent as a precaution, but it does not block out the sound of muffled coughing that has now begun in earnest somewhere above us. I don’t know what will come next, but I’ve prepared for all eventualities.
As Revolutionaries and Communists, we must organize and agitate our fellow captives to demand that our health, safety and human rights be respected by the prison and medical staff. A tall order, knowing that our oppressors are here merely to collect a paycheck and the additional hazard pay that has undoubtedly accompanied these lockdown measures, but a just fight during these trying times.